Ten years ago, everyone know that e-commence would drive most retail stores, especially specially stores out of business, and with the Amazon juggernaut plowing ahead, there were very few dissenters.

But something very interesting is going on right now. Many e-commerce companies are opening physical stores. Even Amazon, going against all economies of scale, is opening up brick and mortar bookstores in expensive locations with full-time staff. And there a good reason for this trend.

There is something very reassuring about holding a product in your own hands. And it’s something that can’t really be replaced with high- resolution photos and customer reviews.

Tomohiro Hagiwara of Aquabit Spirals has committed both his company and a large part of his adult life to bridging this gap between the physical and the digital world and is helping online retailers jump into the physical world.

Of course, Aquabit Spirals’ technology does much more than this, and Tomo tells an interesting story of how it took his company more than six years of work before they closed their first deal and became an overnight success.

It’s an fascinating discussion and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Show Notes for Startups

  • What is SmartPlate, and why is it important?
  • Why e-commerce offline needs to come offline
  • How to close global deals as a small startup
  • The difference between going global and being global
  • Why Tomo abandoned his first business to follow his dream
  • The value of accelerators in Japan
  • Why founders can’t work at big companies

Links from the Founder

Transcript from Japan


Disrupting Japan – Episode 54

Welcome to Disrupting Japan – straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for listening.

Ten years ago, it was a common knowledge that e-commerce would drive most retail shops especially small specialty shops out of business. With the Amazon juggling up, moving it full speed, there’s no reason to really doubt that opinion. But something very interesting is going on right now, many e-commerce companies are opening physical stores at expensive locations with actual products and full-time staff. Even Amazon is opening up Brick and Morter bookstores across the United States

The truth is, there’s something reassuring about holding a product in your own hands. It’s something that can’t really be replaced by high-res photos and online reviews. Tomo Hiro Hagiwara of Aquabit Spirals has committed his company, in fact, committed a large part of his adult life to bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds. But before I’ll introduce you to Tomo, let me introduce you to someone else.

Now, Tomo once had a thriving, profitable app development business that employed over 30 people, but he was committed enough to his vision of connecting the physical and digital that he turned down work and laid off most of his staff so he could focus on it. After working on it in obscurity for 6 years, he’s now becoming an overnight success. But, Tomo tells the story much better than I can, so let’s get right to the interview.

Tomo:          Okay, cheers!

Tim:            Thank you.

Tomo:         Thank you. I’m very glad to see that you’re here

Tim:                     I’m sitting here with Tomo Hagiwara, CEO of Aquabit Spirals, and thanks for sitting down with me.

Tomo:                  Yes, thank you. Nice to meet you here, and I’m very glad to meet you today.

Tim:                     Great! Now, Aquabit Spirals makes the smart play which is a physical device that allows bookmarking physical objects with your phone, I think you can explain it much better than I can. What is SmartPlate and who uses it?

Tomo:                  SmartPlate is a physical bookmark, we call. It directly carries visual content to your Smartphone directory, just thriving only Smartphone on our device. Then, our SmartPlate can connect to certain places with internet services or content directly.

Tim:                     Okay. So, I’m looking at two versions here. One looks like a card and one is about the size of your thumb.

Tomo:                  Also, we have another type — Sticker type.

Tim:                     What’s the technology that’s going on when you wave your phone ever this? How is it communicating?

Tomo:                  Ah, Okay. We use NFC technology – Near Field Communication, and also we can sample through QR code — bar code technology to the labeled content. Not only QR code and NFC but also, we can sample Bluetooth Technology – BLE. We know it well as IPCon or something.

Tim:                     On the technology level, what happens when I wave my iPhone over this SmartPlay? What’s happening?

Tomo:                  iPhone?

Tim:            For example.

Tomo:                  Please use android, at first.

Tim:                     Okay. But, I wave my android phone over this SmartPlate — what happens?

Tomo:                  Our device can deliver, can connect to sync to the internet content as I told you. So, it opens an online content directly on your browser or launches some specific application directly from the plate.

Tim:                     Okay. So, how is this different from, for example, the functionality of a QR Code?

Tomo:                  Basically, the same and if she doesn’t need to install the specific application in advance. No apps to use it. So, please imagine how to use QR code to get a content. You have to find the apps, bar code apps at first, and then, tap and launch it, and then scan the QR code. It’s now easy for everyone.

Tim:                     This requires no application to be installed on the phone at all.

Tomo:                  Yeah, right.

Tim:            And right now, it only runs on Android, not yet iPhone?

Tomo:                  Right now, yes. But, iPhone started NFC technology already on hardware, but it’s only protected on software right now. We were just waiting and we’ll open the technology for everyone.

Tim:                     Fantastic. Let’s talk a bit about how this is being used now because you got some really interesting things going on. You’re running a showroom in Osaka.

Tomo:                  Yeah, okay. That case is a retail industry and we install SmartPlate into our partners, our Brick Store in Osaka. Actually, they don’t have stock spaces in the store that means that’s just a display for all our products in the store.

Tim:            It’s literally just a showroom?

Tomo:                  Showroom, just showroom.

Tim:            What kind of store is it?

Tomo:                  It’s a DIY stall store.

Tim:            Okay. So, power drills and things like that?

Tomo:                  Right. Actually, their business started in an e-commerce site, so they’re main business is online selling DIY goods and that means we cannot pack and fill all products online.

Tim:                     So, each item, each drill or saw would have a SmartPlate underneath it. You would tap your phone to fill your shopping card?

Tomo:                  Then, if you would tap some drill in the showroom, it opens the landing page on your browser and it shows some buttons on that one screen, a youtube movie on how to use it. Another button, there is the product information from the manufacturer and another one can open shopping card online.

Tim:                     Okay, so it’s more than just e-commerce. So, a lot of information, product into — Fantastic.

Tomo:                  Right. Yes.

Tim:                     I always find it interesting when companies move against the trend. So, all the Brick and Morter retailers are opening up on an e-commerce site. But, here we are, an e-commerce company, opening up a Brick and Morter Shop.

Tomo:                  Right. There’s no inventory and there’re no cash registers.


Tim:                     Right. That’s a very innovative use of this technology for a first customer or an early customer. How did you convince them to try this? Or did they approach you with the idea?

Tomo:                  It’s my idea.

Tim:            So, you approach them with the idea?

Tomo:                  Yeah. Right. It’s about 3 years ago, I got that idea of using NFC technology in the showroom so that we can sell all our items. I got that idea in the summer and that DIY store, the CEO of that company, is my old friend. And so, I remember him — “This is good for him.” I called him in that summer and I explained my idea and he was very excited.

Tim:            And so let’s give this a try.

Tomo:                  Yeah.

Tim:                     And how did that work out for him? Is it selling well? Is it popular?

Tomo:                  In Japan? Actually, not so popular than now. This is a very brand new user experience, and probably as you know, NFC technology is not so popular in Japan. Currently, it’s only for payment, as we know, — FeliCa technology, it’s part of NFC technology. In Japan, currently, we have only cases to use NFC technology for payment. So, it’s not to give information for everybody or not for selling some items in a physical place. My case was faster in Japan, maybe not only in Japan but into the global market.

Tim:                     But, I love the idea. I supposed right now, the fact that it doesn’t run on iPhone yet is a bit of a problem for the showroom experience.

Tomo:                  iPhone doesn’t start reading NFC information right now. Probably, this is one of the reason this idea cannot hit the market well right now in Japan because Japanese mobile market has a lot of shares. iPhone has a lot of market shares in Japan, but it’s reducing right now.

Tim:                     Well, how do you get around that? You mentioned that iPhone opens up this functionality to software, would it be possible to build an app that consumer could install and then use this technology?

Tomo:                  I believe so. This is a very basic feature on NFC, given you have the right information from NFC tag, then launch to default web browser. This is a very basic function. Android, right now, we don’t have to install specific applications within NFC. I believe it will be the same on iPhone, we don’t need to install some application, and probably the OS will be started by default to read NFC information.

Tim:                     You think eventually the market will force apple to support that natively?

Tomo:                  Yeah.

Tim:                     I hope so. It does seem very safe and useful functionality. If another showroom wanted to use this technology, what’s the cost involved in setting up a system like this?

Tomo:                  We have two type of this model. It’s very simple. The one is subscription and the other one is living and sharing. On the subscription model, we charge only $300 for monthly — a monthly for 200 SmartPlates.

Tim:                     So, $300 for 200 SKU’s. Okay, that’s reasonable. I also want to talk about another project that you have up and running, simply because it seems unusual for a lighthouse account. You’ve got a partnership with a company called Travelee in Thailand — hooking up with Airbnb Rentals. Can you explain what’s going on there?

Tomo:                  Okay, this is another case in the travel industry. We install SmartPlate in Airbnb Sharing rooms and connect ways to local activity online site.

Tim:                     So, if someone wants to go water skiing or parasailing or something in Thailand?

Tomo:                  Yeah, pretty much. If you go to Thailand — Bangkok and check-in in some room, probably you want to get some information at some local activities around that room. Then, you can tap our SmartPlate, then it opens their site and you can search some activities around your place.

Tim:                     What’s the story behind that deal? — Because it’s not an obvious one. Is this another friend of yours that you convinced that this was a good idea to try?

Tomo:                  Actually, in this case, the CEO of that company is Japanese. Not only for this reason, but we had approached to all over the world 2 years ago. From before, starting up on these pages, I went to the Mobile World Congress every year for 5 years. Also, another expedition in Asia, many, many times, –and I made many human networks, business networks all over the world. I have many networks not only in Asia but in Europe —

Tim:                     Okay. So, it was personal connections you build up by networking all over the year?

Tomo:                  Basically, possible connection. But again, I’ve met some person of Explorer something, maybe 3 or 4 years ago, I made my presentation. I talked a lot of my ideas using this NFC technology, and so we made many discussions with all industries in the world. That way, I got many ideas how to use this technology in which industry.

Tim:                     Many Japanese companies today, talking about the importance of going global, — Do you find it distracting or difficult to have to deal with companies outside Japan and inside Japan while trying to manage growth?

Tomo:                  Yeah. Many of Japanese start-up says — “Yes, we wanted to go Global.” — Go to global, go to global. I mean, not to go global, but global first. We should seek global first.”

Tim:            What do you mean by that?

Tomo:                  Go global means, in many cases, at first, we will start our business in Japan and after we have our small success in Japan, then go global.

Tim:            Ah, okay.

Tomo:                  Everybody says so.

Tim:                     But you’re thinking that from day 1 you’re a global company?

Tomo:                  Yeah.

Tim:                     I like that from a philosophy point of view, but on a practical day to day level, — if someone is starting a company today, what do they do to be global from day 1?

Tomo:                  In my case, I got my idea in using this NFC technology in every industry is not from Japan but from the global market. Because I went to many experiences —

Tim:            Like tradeshows —

Tomo:                  Yeah, tradeshows all over the world. I checked that there are many technologies for proximity communications. My idea was from the global market at the beginning. So, it’s very natural for me to seek global first. Our idea is probably world’s first one that means nobody seems the same, I think. I had compared it as I’ve said. So, that’s why we can expand this idea and business to the global market because this is the world’s first one. If I copy some idea from global to Japan market, it’s easy to expand it in Japan. But, in the global market, it’s not a new idea and so we have many competitors. Probably, it will be hard to fight with them.

Tim:                     That is true. There are often a lot of start-ups, not just in Japan, but all over Asia, that are copycats of famous US start-ups. That’s not a bad thing, those companies can make a lot of money but they can’t go global.

Tomo:                  For example, some of the Taxi apps, we have many taxi apps in Asia; it’s copied from Uber, right? That’s why they start their business in local areas. Of course, it’s a success because that model is already a success in America or another region.

Tim:            Sure. It’s easy to raise money.

Tomo:                  Sure. It’s easy to raise money because it’s copied. So, a lot of startup maybe feels scary to go to global, right?

Tim:                     Yeah. Actually, let’s shift here a little bit and let’s talk about the history of Aquabit Spirals because you got an investment late last year, and so there’s a lot of articles written about you, but you’ve been working on this for a long time. You started the company in 2009.

Tomo:                  Right. Yeah.

Tim:                     In the early days of 2009 and 2010, what were you working on?

Tomo:                  Well, we started this company; our main business is a software development for a contract-based software development for our business partners. That means we don’t develop our own digital platforms or systems, and we just develop by order.

Tim:            Right: So, just a contract development?

Tomo:                  Yeah, Contract Development. We did that business for 3 or 4 years, and so that’s why we can develop everything on the internet – some website, smartphone application and everything — we can develop by ourselves. It’s for our partners and not only for our business. I wasn’t satisfied by that business, only developmental partners.

Tim:                     Right. It’s not rewarding, but how did you make that change? Because almost every software development company in Japan dreams about becoming a real software company, whether in control of their own products and in control of their own customers, — but, it’s hard to make that change. It’s hard to give up that cash flow. How did you do that?

Tomo:                  Good question. Of course, it’s hard for me, too. But, I did — just did.

Tim:            How big was the company when you made that shift?

Tomo:                  When we did that contract-based development, our staff was increasing to 20 starting members on that timing. But now, we only have 7 members, so we reduced.

Tim:            Yeah. That’s cutting a lot of staff.

Tomo:                  I didn’t do well doing two things at the same time, I mean, — contract-based development and new development for our original platform, and so I couldn’t do both things at the same time. That means our sales amount of contract-based development is reducing, — Of course, because we started to think about another thing.

Tim:                     It sounds like you pivoted the whole company. You reduced the size of the staff; you were turning away a lot of work because you wanted to focus on products. That’s a hard thing to do! I think, most companies can’t do that.

Tomo:                  Yeah. Probably so.

Tim:                     So, what year was that? When did you decide that you’re going to focus on products?

Tomo:                  My company name is Aquabit Spirals. Aqua means water, it’s a physical element of things, and the Bit — is a digital data. Aquabit Spirals means connecting Aqua — that means the physical with digital and make a spiral that creates a new value. It’s Aquabit Spiral.

Tim:            So, Spiral like DNA spiral?

Tomo:                  Right.

Tim:            Ah, okay.

Tomo:                  A contract based development on Smartphone was not creating new value connecting physical ways to digital. It’s just a development.

Tim:                     Well, that’s always the trade-off. I mean, if you have skilled engineers, you can always make very steady, good money doing contract development. But, you’ll never achieve your own dream. I supposed that’s the trade-off. Achieving your own dream, building your own product is incredibly risky.

Tomo:                  Risky — But, important thing for CEO is “Don’t forget the mission of that company.” I noticed that our mission is connecting physical to digital, but development — just a development for our customer is not that thing. So, I noticed that “Oh, I have to change something. I have to rework our platform business to connect physical to digital.” Then, I go to many conferences and find many technologies, and a lot of many technologies, cases and a lot of new ideas

Tim:                     So, you started the company in 2009 doing contract development, what year did you decide to pivot to working on your own products?

Tomo:                  Maybe the end of 2009, established maybe the end of 2011.

TimS:                   That means you were working on this project or similar projects for a couple of years before you started gathering funds and attention. Actually, the first time I heard about you guys was spring of 2015, when you were part of the Orange Fab incubation. Tell me a little bit about that. Was that accelerator program was an investment? Was it just coaching? What was it like?

Tomo:                  Orange Fab Asia was a big turning point for me and for our business because, as I told you, I got some idea at the end of 2011 and then we started to develop our product that connects physical to digital. At first, it was browser based and we had developed over 2 or 3 years for this product.

Tim:                     Accelerators and incubators are often filled with people who are just out of college, they might have an idea — but, you guys had experienced developers, you’ve been working on this project for 3 or 4 years. Why did you decide to go into the Orange Fab incubation proper?

Tomo:                  Before this first company, I did my first business for long time over 15 years. From 1995, I established my first company and I did a lot of development on the internet.

Tim:            Yeah. The PPP, right?

Tomo:                  Right, the 3P Development Factory. It was my first business, and so I have a lot of experience over 20 years in this internet industry. So, that means I did by myself over 20 years. I did not what is set-up ecosystem and what’s the meaning of getting money from investors. I have no idea about that because I could do my business by myself. Then, I established this company but it’s still my private company. It’s my idea, we developed that system by ourselves, and we could do anything on development.

Tim:            So, what did you want from OrangeFab?

Tomo:                  I wanted to know what is startup ecosystem. That program is driven by Orange, — Orange is a French company. As I told you, I focus not only in Japan but the global market from the beginning. Of course, I have no connection with acceleration program or startup ecosystem in the world. My connection is only in the business side.

Tim:                     Okay. So, you’re really hoping to build up your network and learn more about what it was like to run a startup?

Tomo:                  Yes.

Tim:                     Did they invest in your company or was it simply coaching and advice?

Tomo:                  Simply coaching. We had many mentoring, and so they gave us chances to pitch to foreign investors and potential partners.

Tim:                     You also went into the Tokyu Acceleration Program. For foreign listeners, Tokyu is one of the biggest private railway companies in Japan, but they’re much more than that. They run department stores and all kinds of things. So, you’re kind of an accelerator junkie.

Tomo:                  No, because Tokyu Acceleration Program is open innovation program held by big companies. That mean we can get a lot of opportunities to approach Tokyu Group Companies. They have many, many group of companies, not only railways, — but retail industries, tourism, hotels, and airline industry. It’s a kind of collaboration.

Tim:                     So, even though they called it an accelerator, it was more of a chance to pitch to all of the different divisions within Tokyo?

Tomo:                  Yes.


Tim:                     Well, that would be a great thing to do and you’ve been successful at it, right?

Tomo:                  They’ve started our first test marketing program at the end of last year. Right now, we started another test marketing from dry, and now we’re preparing for the next one, right now, for this autumn. Also, we have many approaches from many group companies right now.

Tim:                     So, it’s a big chance of collaboration in the future as well?

Tomo:                  Right. Also now, we are expecting to get investment from that group company in the future. Not now, in the future.

Tim:            Okay. Step by step.

Tomo:                  Yeah, step by step.

Tim:                     Let me ask you a kind of personal question. Startups are still quite new in Japan and you graduated from Waseda, which is one of the best universities in Japan. Instead of going to work for one of Japan’s big corporations, like most of your classmates did, — you decided to go out on your own and form a digital agency. What did your family think about that? Were they supportive of that?

Tomo:                  Actually, my family did their own business.

Tim:            Ah, okay.

Tomo:                  So, it’s very natural for our family doing our business. My father’s business is selling cars, — new cars and old cars — and now, they are running a car showroom in my hometown. My past experiences were to sell something in my life. I was 9 or 10 years old, I sell used car to my school teacher.

Tim:            Wow. So, you started selling really young?

Tomo:                  Right. Yeah.

Tim:                     But, do you know there is something very common? I find most successful young entrepreneurs had at least one role model within their family.

Tomo:                  Actually, my father started another company, maybe two or three companies in Hisai. Also, my mother had another company.

Tim:            So, both of your parents were entrepreneurs?

Tomo:                  Right. Yes.

Tim:                     So, you’re in a very unusual situation where both parents were really happy when you decided to start your own company?

Tomo:                  Yeah. I think so.

Tim:                     But, most of your classmates went and joined large companies, right?

Tomo:                  Actually, I joined to a big company, — it’s Recruit. Do you know Recruit?

Tim:                     Sure. Recruit is the largest recruiting head-hunting firm in Japan.

Tomo:                  After I graduated Waseda University, I started to work in Recruit as sales.

Tim:                     So, you’re trying to be a normal productive member of the society?

Tomo:                  Yeah.

Tim:            What happened?

Tomo:                  I spinned off. It was my fault, big fault. I couldn’t make good relationship with team members in big company because I did by myself ever since, and my sales was not so bad — sales result, so I misunderstood. Probably, I’m genius. Probably, I’m a top sales man. It was misunderstood, I understand it right now.

Tim:                     I think this is something that a lot of entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs at heart, — have trouble within big companies. I’ve worked for big companies, too. I’ve worked for Zurich Financial, I’ve worked for Fujitsu, — and it’s hard. The big difference is that most people focus on their job, they care about their job, and they try to make their job more efficient. But, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs at heart tend to look at everything. They will say, “Why don’t you guys do this?” or “I can do this and we can change this and we can approve this.” In our minds, it’s a wonderful thing but everyone around us finds us very annoying.

Tomo:                  That’s why we cannot work for so long time in big companies, especially in Japan, they have many rules in the team but sometimes it’s meaningless. That rule is not for making new values but just for keeping same thing.

Tim:                     Yeah, just keeping the status quo, — keeping things the same.

Tomo:                  Keeping same thing. It’s very difficult to explain.

Tim:                     No, it’s a really good point. Please take your time. Because the fact is, there’s a lot of people working at big companies that are entrepreneurs at heart.

Tomo:                  Why I decided to leave big company over 25 years ago? I did something for my customer, which I believed that this is good for our relationship and good for their business. I did something. But, my boss had not evaluated the same.

Tim:            So, he did not evaluate it the same way?

Tomo:                  Yeah. I went to the headquarter of that company and I claimed to another boss, “I did something like this–”

Tim:            Yeah. It benefited everybody.

Tomo:                  But, another boss said to me, “Okay, I understand what you did and what you believed. I understand, but this is a team and this is organization. So, I cannot do something for you right now. Go back to your office.”

Tim:            And follow the rules.

Tomo:                  Right.

Tim:            It’s hard, I know. I can’t do it anymore, either.

Tomo:                  But now, I understand, because now, I have a team. And I have a boss on my team so now I understand. But I couldn’t understand because I did a good thing, I believe. But they couldn’t understand. It’s a big gap for me.

Tim:     Listen, before we wrap up, I want to ask you what I call my “Magic Wand” question, and that is, if I gave you a magic wand, and I said you could change one thing about Japan, anything at all, you could change the attitude towards risk, you could change the education system, you could change financing to make things better for start-ups in Japan. What would you change?

Tomo:      Maybe this is a beautiful question.

Tim:    It is. Again, we don’t do it live. Have a drink, think about it.

Tomo:    Yes, we have a big market in Japan so that’s why we really can’t have access only in Japan.

Tim:     Sure, yeah, it’s a big enough market. A lot of companies don’t have to look outside Japan.

Tomo:    One of my friends in Israel is a serial entrepreneurial and he started one of his companies in China. And Ail Baba invested into his company so that’s why that company is going to have success in Chinese market. When we met in Israel, I asked him, “Why did you start up the business in China?” It was a very natural question for me, as Japanese. And he answered, “Why? I don’t understand that meaning, why.” Because imagine our market in Israel. Israeli market is—we don’t have a big market in Israel in my country. That’s why everybody, every entrepreneur thinks, at first, “Which country is the best market for this business?” That’s a beginning setup, he said so. So I noticed, “Oh, that’s why we have a big market in Japan!” So we started everything in Japan and we don’t go to the foreign countries.

Tim: So you would use your magic wand to change start-up founders’ thinking to be that the entire world is their market.

Tomo:  No, no, no, no, no, I have a next story. So he said to me, “To grow faster. The global market is fast,” he said to me. And I understand growth. And the next question is why Japanese cannot do that. So it’s just a language, I think.

Tim: Really? I think I’m going to disagree with you on that because if you look at Japanese history and if you look at these incredible disruptive companies in the 60’s like Seiko, and Honda, and Sony, their language skills weren’t really particularly good but they built global brands and global markets on their own.

Tomo: Those companies, for example the entrepreneur of Honda, Soichiro, maybe he couldn’t speak English well, probably. But surely, one of those members can speak English, of course. And most Japanese can speak English–now we have internet, right? So we can access all the information in the world. It’s easy to access to the global market and get information and correspond with people in the global market. If we understand English well, we can get all of the information in the world and we noticed what is moving and what is changing in the world. That means opening the eye.

Tim: Do you think it’s improving? Do you think more Japanese start-up founders—

Tomo: I believe so. I believe so. If I have a magic wand, all of Japanese start-up entrepreneurs can speak English as same as native speakers.

Tim: That would change things.

Tomo: Because then they can communicate directly with all the people in the world.

Tim: That’s an interesting take. Because I think that most Japanese say they want to go global, they know it’s important, but the lack of English makes them a little afraid.

Tomo: Afraid. If I understand the world, no fear.

Tim: The start-up founders would not be afraid, they would not be shy, to go overseas.

Tomo: Okay

Tim: But it’s getting better.

Tomo: Getting better, yeah, getting better.

Tim: This has been a fantastic discussion. I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to edit this down to 30 minutes but thanks so much for sitting down with me. It’s great!

Tomo: It’s very good time for me too.

And we’re back.

You know, some of the best conversations I have with our guests, and some of the best insights, happen after I turn off the microphones. Now, normally I just kind of weep quietly to myself about the missed opportunities, but in this case, Tomo made me promise to make an addendum on how he would use his magic wand.

The importance of speaking English is not just being able to communicate with stake-holders and gather overseas market information. It is, as Tomo explained, to explain your passion in your own words. And for early stage start-ups, this is how substantive deals get done. Early on, most of your business partners, they will like your product or service, sure, but when they decide to work with you, it’s because they believe in you and the team. A global mindset is not just about market entry, or having a distributed virtual team, or outsourcing manufacturing to China.

It’s more about not defining markets geographically at all, and certainly not restricting yourself to a whole market. Of course, that’s much easier said than done. And founders from places like the U.S. and Japan have the luxury of a large home market. But the steady stream of start-up success from small nations like Israel and Singapore tells us that there really is something to this idea of not going global but being global. I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from Tomo and Aquabit Spirals very soon.

If you are part of a start-up that’s either going global or being global, Tomo and I would love to hear from you. So come by DisruptingJapan.com/show054 and let’s talk about it. When you drop by, you’ll find all the links and sites that Tomo and I talked about and much, much more in the Resource section of the post.

And I also want to let you know that our second anniversary live show is coming up on September 13th at Super Deluxe in Roppongi. If you’re on the mailing list, you’ll be getting updates and information. And if you’re not on the mailing list, well, you really should be on the mailing list. You can sign up at the site and you can also get the event info there or on our Facebook page.

And most of all, thanks for listening, and thank you for letting people interested in Japanese start-ups know about the show. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for listening to Disrupting Japan.