Hi, nice to meet you! I’m Tazu Yamada, Kansai Area Manager of My Eyes Tokyo. I’ve delivered some news articles and interviews with wonderful people from the area including Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe in Japanese, but today I will try to tell you what I saw and felt in English for the first time.
Today’s topic is “Hack Osaka”. Do you know what it means? It’s a subtitle of the big international conference called “Global Innovation Osaka 2013” which was held in order to discuss how Osaka should be changed right before the opening of the innovative complex facility called “Grand Front Osaka“
On February 14 (Thu), Global Innovation Conference Osaka 2013 “Hack Osaka” was held at the Osaka City Central Public Hall, almost 100 years old historic architecture.
This conference was organized by the Osaka City government. They are aiming at turning the city into an international hub of finance, information and human resources. As many as 400 global innovators such as consulates in Osaka, startups and investors participated in the event.
After the video message from John V. Roos, US ambassador to Japan, Dave McClure delivered a keynote speech. A spearhead of the Silicon Valley Angel troop called “500 Startups” preached about “Comparison of innovative areas in the world with Osaka”.
“Don’t fear failure! Failure is an essential for innovation! YOU MUST BE THE NAIL!” He banged his fist on the stage and stimulated our shyness and hesitation. Also he touched on the magnitude of risk to Japan when we fail in something and appealed for the need for systemic reforms in Japan.
Then the panel discussion started. Its theme was “Challenge the global innovation”. The MC was Hiroshi Menjo, Advisor to Osaka City, panelists were ▽Takuma Iwasa (CEO of Cerevo, home appliance startup) ▽George Kellerman (500 Startups) ▽Toru Tokushige (CEO of “Terra Motors“, electric motorcycle manufacturer) ▽Allen Miner (Chairman & CEO of “Sunbridge“, promoter of the globalization of Japanese IT companies). They discussed “Why Osaka? Why Osaka now?”.
One participant asked panelists a question, “It often happens that my bosses say no when I try to do innovative things. What should I do about that?”. Panelists answered, “Innovative ideas tend to be like what those kinds of people say no to”. We had such a lively Q & A session.
・Osaka is full of possibilities, but I don’t have any basis for proving it. Osaka has enough human resources, know-hows, many different industries, financial functions etc for innovation. So we hope innovative businesses would be generated here.
・The nail that sticks out gets hammered, but I don’t believe that is negative. If the nail sticks out too much, there is no way to hammer it.
・Compared to Tokyo, Osaka is free of constraints because it’s far from the national government.
・There’s no person who is from Osaka among the panelists. I think it’s important for you to hire “strangers” if you want to make innovation happen.
・From the home appliance guy’s perspective, Osaka is resourceful. There are many factories in the city. You don’t need to pour water on a vacant lot; you can look for a land which buds are coming out of.
・I feel there would be people potentially who want to join the venture companies.
・Compared to overseas, I feel a sense of limitation very much here in Japan. So go overseas! “What you think” and “what you do” are the important things. I start in on it if there’s a 60% chance of success. Some Chinese startups do even if there’s only a 30% chance of success. So just do it!
・I really feel how quickly people in the rising nations do and decide something.
・There’s just a few time differences between Japan and the rising countries. That’s our advantage.
・Turn to the niche market. For example, Roomba, a series of robotic vacuum cleaners, has many uses such as cleaning a bathroom or gutter. Your product might be needed by certain people or certain places, so change the direction you look at a little bit so that an innovative business can be created.
After the discussion, Menjo (Advisor to Osaka City) and Toru Hashimoto, Osaka City Mayor, had a talk on leadership and transmission of information with each other.
Hashimoto said, “Government does institutional design so don’t ask them to be leaders. What leaders do is to do things that organization members or employees cannot do. Bring up a man who fails after he/she challenges something. Stretch points – that is important.” Hashimoto also said that sometimes it’s necessary to dramatize it when you tell something to people.
Finally Hashimoto made a statement called “Osaka Innovation Vision“. He declared in English – even though he says he is not good at English – that Osaka Government will develop an innovation platform which connects technology and ideas in the world with Osaka and create new values and make Osaka open to innovation. The conference finished with a standing ovation.
Osaka Innovation Vision
“As Mayor of Osaka, I, Toru Hashimoto, declare a promise to create a city that is open to innovation and overflowing with opportunities.”
“This spring, the city will see the grand opening of an epoch-making base for knowledge creation in the newly developed Umekita district, located right in the center of Osaka.”
“We will establish an innovation platform that will attract ideas and technologies from all over Japan and the world and create new values to share with the world.”
“As a result, Osaka will be an innovation hub where new talent will gather and successful leaders will be born from all over the world.”
Isao Tokuhashi, editor-in-chief of My Eyes Tokyo, also participated in the event. The reason he came to Osaka all the way from Tokyo was “to see the wonderful innovative people”. That’s it. But he wrote what he felt about the event seriously after its news coverage was aired.
After I watched the coverage (http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/mv/wbs/newsl/post_35321/), I recognized our ultimate goal – To revitalize Japan.
We’ve been running My Eyes Tokyo for over six years so that people in the rest of the world know about Japan. Also we started its Japanese edition in order to tell how the world looks at Japan to our fellow Japanese. It’s because – in the words of the panelists – we hope that more “strangers who love Japan” would come to Japan and would like to contribute to cultivate an environment that accepts those people.
*Strangers who love XXX” – The word one of the panelists mentioned at the event. All of them are not from Osaka; some of them are even from the US, but they said that they would make innovation happen to Osaka with love. That’s the reason he said they are “Strangers who love Osaka”.
Now we are focusing on “English”. Of course we don’t think it’s a sufficient condition for creating such an atmosphere of tolerance, but it must be essential. For example as the coverage said, 500 Startups in Silicon Valley attracts many ventures from foreign countries such as Japan and Taiwan and they make pitches to raise funds from investors.
If Japan tries to attract startups from all over the world, the spread of English is a must. We should see the reality, rather than being overwhelmed by emotional nationalism (But it’s incredibly foolish if you learn English and forget your mother tongue. It’s worse than the case of not being able to speak English).
Osaka City Mayor Toru Hashimoto said that he wants Osaka to be a place where many different people come and go. A good example is exactly like Silicon Valley. If you want Japan to be the “Mecca of innovation” like Silicon Valley, first of all you must create a place like Hashimoto mentioned.
The concept of My Eyes Tokyo is to contribute to making Japan into a place where “Japanese who are in crisis” and “strangers who love Japan” work together in many places.
My Eyes Tokyo will continue to hack Tokyo, Osaka and Japan!