Akio Tanaka Part 1 | Backing Technical Founders & Growing Businesses In Asia


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Entrepreneurship in Japan fits the definition of the word ‘entrepreneur’. Japanese culture is one that can be described as ‘wabi-Sabi’, which literally means "frugal, simple, and expressed in a refined way’. Entrepreneurship is a newly emerging culture in Japan. The gap between the traditional business and the new generation of start-up companies is widening. A small number of entrepreneurs in Japan have gained attention and investment by large enterprises through focusing on innovation, expansion and improvement in the quality of business operations. Japan, not unlike China, has a very unique startup ecosystem, due to its somewhat homogenous society and unique ways of doing business, something not easily understood upon market entry.

Today on The Negotiation, we have Akio Tanaka, Co-Founder and Partner at Headline VC. Headline VC is a technology-focused venture capital firm that sees the world’s future through the lens of exponential technologies. The aim of Headline is to identify, fund, and partner with companies who are building these new products and services—and to make them more accessible to mainstream consumers. Akio has over 20 years of technology experience. He served as the Senior Director & CTO at Macromedia Japan; in 2005, he spent less than a year as the Vice-president and technology advisor to the CEO at Macromedia Inc.; since June 2008 he has been the Co-founder and Managing Partner at Infinity Venture Partners. Akio Tanaka is one of the most influential investors in Japan and has been known to be passionately committed to the local ecosystem.

Akio Tanaka talks about his own professional backyard and walks us through his investment methodology with some examples of the companies he likes to invest in and why. He also talks about his own startup background and the acquisition by Adobe, along with some insights on the Japanese entrepreneurial ecosystem, and some conversational dabbling into personal-interest verticals like ski equipment-on-demand services and self-storage in Japan, among other exciting topics. Enjoy!

Please enjoy!

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How Adobe was created.
  • Why geeks can create far bigger companies than salespeople.
  • Who performs better, technical founders or non-technical founders?
  • The story of Freee the Cloud-based accounting company and why it was created.
  • Why an entrepreneurial society in Japan was started.
  • Headline VC and their early-stage investments.
  • The beginning of the entrepreneurial culture in Japan.
  • Lessons learned from Groupon in Japan.

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