It’s been a while since I was last in New York, and it was warm for the beginning of March, with plenty of fog. Looking up, you could see the many skyscrapers disappearing into the cloud, like an illusion. I walked through the New York fog and drizzle to meet investors and venture capitalists.
This business trip is to the East Coast of the U.S., one night each in Boston and Chicago, and then two nights in New York before heading home. In Chicago, in addition to meeting investors, I gave a speech and held a dinner with students from Midwest business schools. In Boston, I gave a speech at HBS (Harvard Business School) and then held a recruiting dinner. The next morning I met with potential investors. Moving on to New York, I briefed a gathering of investors about the management of the fund, met Mr. Alan Patricof for a meal, and then was interviewed by FORTUNE magazine. Interest in Japan is rising, and with the outstanding performance of our fund, we are receiving a very positive response. I have pretty much met all my goals for this trip.
When I think about it, I have recently taken a lot of overseas business trips. The week before last I was in Korea, last week in Malaysia, and now I am on the East Coast of the U.S. I was just in Europe before Korea. At the end of the month, I will be returning to the U.S., this time to the West Coast.
With all the travel, my biggest concern has been keeping fit and healthy. There was a period a couple of years ago when I had a lot of opportunities to go abroad because of a tie-up with Apax and fundraising. I spent more than half the year on overseas business from 1998 to 1999. At that time, I logged in seven trips over a period of a little more than 6 months. I crossed the Eurasian continent six times, and the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean six times each! I also went to Australia and Hong Kong.
I think it was sometime in 1998, during a meeting with an investor, my nose just would not stop bleeding. I didn’t know why, but I suspect my nasal membranes were quite damaged. Later that year in December, I went to Israel for training at Apax, and while I was there my eyes became congested with blood, making it difficult to open them. On my way back from a meeting at a venture capital firm in Jerusalem, I asked a professional at Apax in Israel to stop by the pharmacy, and we picked up some eye medicine.
It turned out he had once been a pilot in the Israeli air force and knew all sorts of tips about staying healthy, which he shared with me. According to him, the interior of an airplane is completely different than natural surroundings. First, the air is extremely dry. This affects the nasal membranes and causes your eyes to dry out. It is vital to always have some kind of eye drops and to have a mask to cover your nose. The next issue is electromagnetic waves. During long flights electromagnetic waves build up inside your body. After you disembark, it’s a good idea to walk on sand, barefoot if possible, or get into the water. Then there is air pressure, which is very low inside the cabin, so you have to watch how much alcohol you drink. The space within a plane is very constricted, and you just sit there, so it’s important to move around as much as you can. He gave me all these precious tips.
Since then, needless to say, I always make sure I have a mask and eye drops with me whenever I board a flight to prevent nose bleeds and dry eyes. I make an effort to drink lots of water and to move around while on the plane. In addition, I always make sure that I stay at a hotel with a swimming pool and try to swim as soon as possible after I disembark to rid my body of electromagnetic waves. Although the former pilot did not mention this, one of the more formidable challenges of overseas business travel is the time difference. You have to be prepared to handle this.
Whenever I’m traveling on business abroad, I try to swim every day, not only just after disembarking, as part of my effort to stay fit and healthy. I try to do all my work without taking a nap after lunch, and then try to sleep deeply at night. Of course, this means I wake up early, but if I can get in a sauna and a swim soon after rising in the morning, then I arrive at work in tip-top form.
I managed to swim five times on this four-night trip. I checked into my hotel in Chicago, got into my swimming gear and a robe, and headed straight for the pool. I got up every morning to head for the pool to take a sauna and then swim. This seemed to get rid of jet lag while also ridding my body of anything that might throw me off, and got me off to a great start every morning.
Working overseas mainly entails speeches and meetings with investors, and you can’t just switch off. In fact, I’ve found that these meetings go a lot better for me when I can feel the comfortable sensation of that slight muscle ache that comes after a nice swim (and swimming also builds up my body).
For a change of pace, I visit museums and galleries or go to sports events. When I’m in the middle of fundraising, I am constantly on my way somewhere. Flying, unpacking, meetings, repacking, over and over again, and then repeating the same things to different investors—you just end up hating it, to be honest. One of the most memorable diversions I had during times like this was watching a pro basketball game (NBA) in Philadelphia. I just felt completely renewed. The previous day I had been able to catch Mozart’s opera, “Don Giovanni,” at the Metropolitan Opera House. I hardly seem to get any time off during the day, so I don’t get to visit many art galleries, but when I do get the chance, I try my best to go out.
I will be traveling a lot overseas this year, since I will be speaking at conferences and have responsibilities as the director of New Asian Leaders (NAL) of the WEF (World Economic Forum), among other things. Even as I dedicate my efforts to managing GLOBIS and pursuing venture capital investments I intend to fully apply myself to participate in overseas commitments as well.
For politicians, overseas trips during sessions of the national assembly have been banned. Overseas trips for politicians are sometimes referred to as “junkets,” as if the primary purpose was to just have a good time. If this image of overseas business trips should ever bleed into private companies, I fear that Japan’s internationalization and overseas presence abroad could take a dive.
It seems this is a year in which I will be looking outward. While maintaining my health and being active in boosting our presence abroad, I am ready to learn as much as possible. They’ve just announced the final call for my flight at Narita. Time to shut down my laptop and get right to the gate.