It’s hard to imagine an organization more resistant to change and disruption than the government of Japan. But today’s guest, William Saito has made it his mission to bring innovation to the way the Japanese bureaucracy operates. And more astoundingly, he’s actually having an effect.
William is in a unique situation as a special advisor to the Japanese cabinet, and brings the perspective of a successful startup founder to solving beuqacratic problems. We talk about both the challenges and the strategic advantages that Japan has in the coming decades and discuss a few areas where new Japanese technology has a real change of soon becoming the global standard.
Our discussion gives me hope that innovative change in Japan is is possible not only bottom-up from the startups but top-down from the government. And if the goals are aligned, Japanese innovation will be a truly unstoppable force.
It’s a great interview, and I think you’ll enjoy it.
Show Notes for Startups
Starting a company in HS & running it in Med school
Why most companies fail
Why William chose Japan over Microsoft
Government problem solving as an entrepreneurial activity
How startups and government can work together
The importance of teamwork in Japan
Why women have an important role to play in Japanese startups
The unique opportunities in health care and elder care in Japan
The most important change Japan could make to improve entrepreneurship
Links from the Founder
William’s writings, speaking dates and blog
Follow William on twitter @whsaito
Friend him on Facebook
An Unprogrammed Life
The Team (in Japanese)
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Transcript from Japan
Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.
Our guest today William Saito is changing Japan form the inside, is an adviser to the Japanese government on all things technology, and although he’s a big fan of disruptive innovation, he’s convinced that small sustaining incremental innovations are the way to go. Or rather that’s the way things are already going here in Japan. We talked about the challenges being faced by Japanese startup founders, corporate executives, government bureaucrats and talked about the best way that they can all work together to solve these problems. He’s an interesting guy and as he tells his story you’ll see that he’s clearly not afraid of challenges. And since his currently trying to change the way Japanese government operates, that’s definitely a good thing. But it’s best that you hear it directly from William. So let’s get right to the interview
Tim: Okay, I’m sitting here with William Saito, a successful entrepreneur currently president of Intecur Consultancy, a special adviser of the cabinet office for government in Japan, lecturer at both [Kale 00:01:29] and University of Tokyo, and the truth, I’m just going to leave out a whole lot of other things so we can actually have time for the interview. But thanks for sitting down and talking with us today.
William: Not at all. My pleasure.
Tim: Okay. Listen, let’s back up a little bit because you started entrepreneurship at a really early age. You started in your first company in high school with a friend right?
Tim: Could you tell me a little bit about that?
William: Well, it was back then when being a nerd wasn’t such a cool thing and we were lower than the chess club in the pecking order of things.
Tim: I remember it well.
William: Yeah. And we found that just using our fingertips we could actually create something that people wanted to pay money for. And that was interesting concept for that and it had a lot demand, so does today.
Tim: How did you do that?
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