Even though the panel discussion I joined was scheduled for only an hour, four panelists would be talking. Since I wouldn't be getting many turns to speak, I had to make every chance count.
I briefly introduced myself at the beginning and my turn to speak came around. I decided to use this as an opportunity for just completely laying out my thoughts. Knowing the interest of the audience was focused on India and China, I choose to grab their attention by going straight to the bottom line of my presentation.
"The past teaches us that bubble economies occur wherever the mass media shines its spotlight. Today, that spotlight is on India and China, and a bubble effect is, in fact, beginning to emerge. I completely understand the strong interest in these two countries during a time of such growth. No matter how much they grow, however, as soon as a significant volume of cash flows in, a bubble will form as the demand-and-supply balance collapses, and investments will become more expensive.
"At this point investment in Japan, which is not currently in the spotlight, is comparatively cheap. While private equity funds are still receiving a fair amount of attention, venture isn't attracting any interest at all. That's why Japan's venture capital is where the smart money is right now."
"Japan's growth is being driven by two engines: the Old Japan and the New Japan. While the Old Japan, such as Toyota, Cannon and Nippon Steel Corporation, continues to generate record profits, the arrival of a new generation of venture capital is really propelling the budding recovery of the Japanese economy."
With specific causes and examples, I explained why Japanese venture will be so hot. On occasions like this, you have to clearly and boldly assert yourself and reminding myself so, I continued to enthusiastically express my thoughts.
I think I could clearly impress them with the bright future that would follow the emergence of the New Japan in the next generation. The panel discussion finished quicker than I expected, and I left the podium feeling confident.
Professor Shimada was grinning and gave me a thumbs-up sign, letting me know I had done a good job. We were then taken to the press conference venue. Several microphones identified by TV channel had been placed on a long, thin table covered with a white cloth—the typical press conference setting that you so often see on TV. The president of Société Générale and I sat down, and the press conference began. This was a "first" for me.
Evidently local Singaporean newspapers and a TV station were participating. Remembering my media training about not forgetting to smile, I tried to "show my teeth" as often as possible between answering questions. I think I was able to remain calm and did a good job in my own way. I never did find out whether the press conference was actually broadcast.
Arriving late to lunch, I took my seat indicated by a name card. I guess the organizers thought it would be good to place me next to Professor Shimada. "Check out that screen," the professor said, pointing with his finger, "your face has appeared several times." So I looked up at the screen.
There was my face on the front cover of Forbes magazine. Apparently the image was programmed to appear for about five seconds every two or three minutes. Again and again my face appeared on this huge screen, and I started feeling a little self-conscious. I knew, however, that this could only help bring attention to GLOBIS as well as Yoshito Hori, and so I was fairly pleased.
I was certainly very grateful to be recognized as one of 500 CEOs from around the world. GLOBIS is relatively well known in Japan, but we still have a very low profile overseas. For one thing, the kinds of Japanese venture companies currently recognized abroad are Softbank and Livedoor, but even Rakuten is comparatively unknown.
The President of Indonesia gave a speech during lunch. Both the speech and the Q and A were conducted in English, which was just fantastic.
One of my goals for participating in conferences is networking. There are very few opportunities to meet this many, important people. I actively greeted people and exchanged business cards.
Later that evening, after a speech by the Singaporean Prime Minister, some of the younger participants and I went for a drink in the bar on the top floor of the building. Several people I had met at the YEO about 10 years ago were there, having moved up in the world. Members of the New Asian Leaders Executive Committee of the Davos conference were also there, along with many people I hadn't seen for ages.
Gathered in the bar were people from Russia, India, Australia, Malaysia, America, Hong Kong, Singapore and Germany. Nearly everyone started off by commenting on how they appreciated my presentation. Of course, I knew they were just being polite, but it was a great way to get the conversation going, and made it easy for me to get into the mix.
This was my second consecutive night of going out for drinks, and even though I knew that it wasn't good for me, I'm the kind of person finds it hard to stop once a certain level of comfort settles in. It's often said that it's easier to make friends when drunk, so a little alcohol can be a good thing. However, it's a warning sign when I start trying to justify myself like this. Hitting par for the course, I continued drinking and talking to the Russians and Indians till past one o'clock in the morning.
At seven-thirty the next morning, I had a breakfast meeting with my Singapore-based investors. I wasn't even hung over, I and was able to handle it pretty well.
The program for the third day then started. This day featured many billionaires, one after another, including Mr. David Murdock from the U.S. company Dole, and Mr. Gokongwei, who oversees Cebu Pacific Air in the Philippines, and the Hong Kong businessman Gordon Wu. Also present was Li Ka-shing from Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd.
The speeches given by this group of founders in their 70s and 80s had real intensity and impact. One could say they are the first generation that established Asia's economy. Entrepreneurs who had gathered their wealth mainly through real estate, distribution and manufacturing had wielded political power to enter telecommunications, freight and infrastructure enterprises, and were expanding into China. And all had already passed the baton to the next generation.
"Who will turn out to be these second-generation entrepreneurs?" I found myself thinking. I imagined completely different kinds of thoroughbred entrepreneurs would be dominating this stage in future.
The most important speaker closing out the day at the conference was the founder of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. The management baton of Singapore had already been passed onto the second generation, as well, but he projected the forcefulness of someone who has endured many difficult times, and he answered questions while fully retaining his dignity. Although he was shorter than his son, of the two, he projected genuine gravitas.
With the completion of this session, the Forbes CEO conference was over. An entertainment dinner was scheduled on Sentosa Island, but I was due to return to Japan that evening, so I decided to pass it up and started on the road home.
I have participated in many conferences over the last 10 years, but none as rewarding as this one. I had also exchanged business cards with an unusually large number people.
My goal is to establish the No. 1 business school in Asia. To do so, however, I know it would be vital to raise the profile of GLOBIS in Asia and to build a network. The only way forward is to steadily engage in these activities taking one step ahead at a time.
Starting in October, the English MBA Program at Globis International School will at last begin. This will be a major step forward toward my ultimate goal.
September 6, 2006
On the flight bound for Narita