More than ten years before Quora and ZenDesk became famous, there was OKWave. Kaneto Kanemoto founded OKWave to address a massive problem that was unique to the Japanese internet in the mid-1990’s. Most of the country felt the situation was inevitable, even natural, but Kaneto knew it had to change.
You see, a strict code of conduct governs almost all aspects of business and social behavior in Japan, and as a result, most Japanese are exceptionally polite in day-to-day interactions. However, when the anonymity of the Internet was introduced into the mix, a very different aspect of Japanese society came to the forefront. One that involved bullying, hostility and exclusion.
Kaneto founded OKWave to address these problems on the Internet in particular and in society in general, and has succeeded remarkably at both. The Internet is a far more helpful and much more welcoming place thanks to Kaneto and OKWave.
It’s a great interview and I think you’ll enjoy it.
Show Notes for Startups
What people ask when no one is watching
How to get Japan’s biggest companies to work together
Growing up Korean in Japan
Homelessness and waking up to what is possible
The most dangerous funding you can ever receive
What is the most important difference among the current generation of startup founders
Links from the Founder
OKWave Hame Page
Friend Kaneto on Facebook
Follow him @Kaneto_Kanemoto
Davia Greeting Cards
Marie “KonMari” Kondo on Tidying Up
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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.
Almost a decade before Quora or Zendesk, there was OKWave. Kaneto Kanemoto founded the company to address what was then a very hostile and cold Japanese Internet. And along the way to his IPO, he managed to both create a safe place for Japanese to ask and answer even the most personal and private of questions and also somehow managed to get some of Japan’s largest multinationals to work together to solve each other’s customer’s problems. As the interview unfolds, I think you’ll begin to understand that Kaneto’s motivation and skill in getting people to work together comes from his being an outsider in Japan. He’s startup journey was hard and I mean really hard. I don’t mean working long weekends hard. I mean being homeless and living on the streets hard. I think by the end of the interview you’ll agree that no one deserves their success more than Kaneto does. But I’m getting ahead of our story, so let’s get right to the interview.
Tim: I’m sitting here with Kaneto Kanemoto of OKWave, which is Japan’s largest Q&A community platform with both open public forum and offerings for companies and NPOs. But, Kaneto I think you can explain it much better than I can. So, why don’t you tell us a little about OKWave?
Kaneto: Yeah, OKWave as Tim introduced, Japan’s largest Q&A site.
Tim: So you now have over 40 million active users monthly.
Tim: So what kind of things are people asking about?
Kaneto: Most of around life, especially love.
Tim: So people ask about love life?
Kaneto: Yeah. “I love my boss, what can I do? I could feel that I never stopped my feeling to my boss, so…”
Tim: “So what should I do?”
Kaneto: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Many about pregnant, how to get pregnant. Many Japanese women marry but don’t have a baby.
Tim: Okay. Now that’s really interesting because I always thought that OKWave was asking a lot of like IT or technical questions.
Kaneto: Ah, yes, yes. First time, we have a lot of IT questions like Windows but gradually people start asking about life, pregnant, love, having affairs.
Tim: Are your users mostly women? Mostly men?
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