The next morning, I had to leave the Boston hotel by 6 o'clock to head for London.
Upon arriving at Boston's Logan Airport, I made my way to the check-in counter only to discover that my British Airways flight to London had been canceled. "That's just the way it is," I thought and boarded the bus to travel across the terminal and transfer to an American Airlines flight.
At airport security, my bag was thoroughly examined for nearly a half hour, and even my lip balm and hand lotion—both nearly used up—were confiscated. Security at the Boston airport was particularly tight since it had been one of the points of departure for terrorists who had hijacked flights associated with 9/11. But understanding all this didn't make the experience any easier.
I finally boarded the American Airlines flight, and several hours later, we had crossed the Atlantic and touched down in Heathrow Airport, where I boarded the Heathrow express train into central London. It was already after 11 at night when I reached the hotel, so I just showered and got ready for bed.
Of course, it was actually Monday morning in Tokyo, and I was suddenly flooded with email. After I'd dealt with enough of the messages, I was finally able to call it a day.
The next morning, I finished replying to the email deluge from the previous night and took a break in the swimming pool. I hadn't been able to find time to swim in New York and Boston, and therefore felt somewhat stiff.
The European general investors meeting, involving investors in GLOBIS based in Europe, was scheduled to begin at noon. European-based investors were drawn from six cities in as many countries: London (the U.K.), Zurich (Switzerland), Munich (Germany), Oslo (Norway), Reykjavik (Iceland) and Paris (France).
Some of the readers of this blog may have a hard time imagining who these investors are, so let me provide a little background. They are largely divided into the following groups. For reference, I'll also include the ratio of capital contributions that make up the GLOBIS fund.
1) Public pension institutions (5%)
2) Private pension institutions (25%)
3) Life, damage insurance companies, banks and other private financial institutions (20%)
4) University and foundation funds (5%)
5) Government-related banks and investment institutions (10%)
6) Individual investors (10%)
7) Funds of funds (25%)
To be able to meet investors besides those in Japan in my mission to raise funds, I had to travel across the globe to dispersed locations in North America, Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Middle East. Consequently, over the last 10 years, GLOBIS has established three funds and today manages funds at the scale of 40 billion yen.
Fund No. 1, established in 1996, consisted of funds gathered from five domestic investors.
Fund No. 2, launched in 1999, was a joint venture with Apax (Apax Globis Japan Fund) and in setting this up, I first began to look toward overseas investors to raise funds.
Getting this fund started required me to cross the Atlantic Ocean seven times, the Eurasian sub-continent six times, and the Pacific Ocean five times, a very grueling schedule. By the end of these fund-raising road shows, I was either heavily jet-lagged or simply exhausted, and it took awhile to physically recover to anything resembling normal. It seems like it took nearly half a year to get completely back on my feet.
On the other hand, I only had to visit the U.S. and Europe once to raise funds for Fund No. 3 (Globis Fund III), which was structured just last year. I cut back the number of targeted investors to those already investing in GLOBIS or who had previously contacted me with strong interest in Japan. This made it possible to make fewer trips overseas. In addition, our funds have performed strongly over the past 10 years and I felt my continuous annual visits to investors were starting to bear fruit. There certainly was no need for last-minute trips to pamper investors, like a student cramming for an exam.
Here is the geographical breakdown of investors in GLOBIS.
The U.S.: 50%
Asia (excluding Japan): 10%
This is a genuinely worldwide operation. All it would take would be the addition of investors from Australia and the Near or Middle East into this mix and I'd be able to virtually cover the entire globe, but these opportunities have not yet surfaced.
The London general investors meeting brought together investors from Munich, Oslo, and of course London. I was deeply indebted to each of these investors for having come all the way to London. Some had been with me since setting up Fund No. 2 while others were new investors who came on board with Fund No. 3.
As with the general investors meeting in New York, I made a presentation. I do not know whether I was able to completely explain everything, but this presentation took twice as long as that in New York and I responded to every question. Any inquiry I was not able to handle directly at the session I promised to answer by email.
I thanked the investors, and after saying my goodbyes, I accompanied a venture capital colleague on a courtesy call on our partner Apax. We finally finished with our greetings sometime after 3 in the afternoon. My next stop wasn't until about a quarter past 6 at the London Business School (LBS), where I was scheduled to speak.
I got to thinking about how I could best spend my time until then, and considered visiting a shop on Jermyn Street, the site of a gentlemen's outfitters where I purchased tailor-made suits every year. Then I remembered about the strong pound and weak yen, and was dissuaded from shopping. I ultimately headed for the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square to leisurely view famous works of art.
I left my belongings—suitcase, umbrella (there had been a light shower) and coat—at the cloakroom, and for more than two hours, I thoroughly enjoyed a relaxed walk through the galleries, including a special "Manet to Picasso" exhibition. I even had time to take in the video commentary. This was indeed a time of luxurious abandon.
The permanent exhibitions were also a rich treasure. I've been to the National Gallery more times than I can remember, but I am always surprised at how I continually experience paintings in new ways. For example, I had absolutely no interest in Christian-influenced paintings before, when I had been most drawn to the periods from Impressionism to Cubism (which corresponds to the "Manet to Picasso" period). This time, however, I also felt strongly pulled toward the religious paintings on display.
The artist who had perhaps the biggest impact on me this time was Turner. There is a genuine depth in Turner's work; it struck a chord within my heart and I couldn't drag myself away. As I whiled away the time, the moment for my speech drew closer. I retrieved my things from the cloakroom and headed to the meeting.
About 50 students and other people had gathered in the LBS classroom. Until now I had always addressed audiences in English, but today, for some reason, I was supposed to speak in Japanese. To be honest, I had wanted to give the speech in English, but I took the positive attitude that everything would work out just fine. Then, as I had done in Chicago, New York and Boston, after asking for questions and what they would like to know, I took time to carefully answer everything.
Afterwards, I headed to a dinner session. It was a stand-up affair, and I enjoyed the hospitable atmosphere with a beer or a glass of wine in hand. I felt that I was meeting a few talented people who just might join GLOBIS in future. When the party ended, I decided to meet up with a friend who lives in London for a quick trip out.
I didn't get back to my hotel until well after midnight. I had finally checked off every item in my round-the-world business trip. All in all, I thought I had done a pretty good job. Just as planned, I had done as few meetings as necessary with the emphasis on quality over quantity.
The next morning, London experienced its first sunny day in a long time. In the taxi on the way to the airport, I phoned my home in Tokyo. After a quick chat with my wife, I spoke to each of my sons, starting with the oldest and ending with the second youngest. My sons get cranky if I leave anyone out. My youngest son is still just one year old, and needless to say he can't talk on the phone yet. I tried to call home everyday during this business trip. My wife says that my children get a lift, even from one phone call.
I don't have any overseas business trips scheduled until April. I intend to concentrate for a while on strengthening our domestic base.
On the flight back to Narita, I took a seat on the left side of the plane so that I might be able to catch a glimpse of the aurora. I looked out the window several times, but to no avail; instead of the soft curtain of green light, only the endless pitch black of night greeted my gaze.
January 26, 2007
On the flight for Narita