Soracom is one of those rare Japanese startups that has the potential to become a major global player and to change the way Internet of Things devices work.

The real deployment bottleneck in the Internet of Things is not the hardware or the software, but the connectivity. There are still relatively few inexpensive, flexible and scalable ways that IoT devices can transmit and receive data. Cellular connectivity is expensive, and WiFi is largely limited to stationary devices in homes and offices.

Today we sit down with Ken Tamagawa, CEO of Soracom, who explains his solution to this problem, and it’s a good one. Soracom operates a mobile virtual network and provides widespread connectivity for IoT devices for pennies a day, and since their infrastructure runs completely on AWS their costs are significantly lower than the competition’s.

Soarcom is extremely well-funded, and they are quickly expanding globally. You are going to be hearing a lot about them in the future, so let’s get to know them today.

I think you’ll really enjoy the interview.

Show Notes for Startups

  • What are  MVNOs and why are they important  for the Internet of Things
  • Why replacing hardware with software drives innovation
  • How Japan Taxi is taking advantage of the Internet of Things
  • The most surprising thing about going global from Japan
  • The future of the IoT in Japan
  • Why play and serendipity remain important even as a company scales

Links from the Founder

Transcript from Japan


Welcome to Disrupting Japan- straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero, and thanks for joining me.

One of the most important problems of the internet of things is not the internet or even the things. The problem lies in connecting those things to the internet. In fact, much of the promise of the internet of things is based on the idea of thousands of connected devices working together. It turns out that building the hardware and writing the software has proven to be much simpler than developing an affordable, scalable, and secured network that enables these devices to communicate with home base and with each other.

Some applications use WiFi and that’s a great solution for stationary devices that operating homes or offices, or anywhere else where you can be certain to have a connection. But, many devices are mobile or need to operate whether there may not be a WiFi connection. Some applications paired with cellphones and that works well for personal devices and wearable’s and things will carry around with us. But for things like sensors and inexpensive autonomous devices, well, having a cellphone plan for each of them is simply cost prohibitive. So, right now, connectivity is the real problem for a lot of internet of things applications.

Well, Soracom has a solution and a damn good one in my opinion.

Today, we sit down with Ken Tamagawa, CEO of Soracom to talk about their solution which involves slicing up mobile bandwidth and using Amazon web services as their backbone and this enables a pay as you go remote communication package for pennies a day.

We also discuss Soracom’s global ambitions. Soracom is one of the few Japanese start-ups to raise a round of more than 20 million dollars and a lot of that is targeted on their global expansion. Soracom has something that is truly unique and you’ll be hearing more about Soracom in the years to come.

But Ken tells us story much better than I can. So, let’s hear from our sponsor and get straight to the interview.

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Tim:                     I’m sitting here with Ken Tamagawa of Soracom. Soracom is a communications platform for internet of things devices but you can explain it much better than I can. So, what is Soracom?

Ken:                     Okay. Soracom offers IOT connectivity platform. So, basically, many IOT solutions or devices need the connectivity sending data to the cloud. I noticed, like I was working for Amazon web services before I founded Soracom, and many, many customers wanted to send data to the database cloud but there is no ideal connectivity yet. So, we built connectivity platform on top of the AWS and that is Soracom.

Tim:                     Okay. You’re operating which is called a mobile virtual network, right? For example, many developers will use the use of mobile phone as a connectivity device. What you guys are doing is something very different. So, on a technical level, what’s happening?

Ken:                     So, there’s many people wondering how we provide that kind of cloud-base connectivity at the MVNO- Mobile Virtual Network Operator. So, let me talk about the mobile view of this industry fast. Telecomm operator such as the NTT Docomo and other big giant players, they usually have many, many base stations or cell towers and it’s going to be, I think, maybe 100 cell towers in Japan. They need to invest a lot of money to the cell towers and also they need to have big data center to host telecomm call network system. It’s usually very expensive.

Tim:                     Oh sure! It’s a massive capital investment. That’s why almost any country are only going to have 2 or 3 cell operators.

Ken:                     Obviously, we cannot do that as a start-ups, but we found a way to provide several connectivity as MVNO. There’s a way called the “Layer 2 connection” to the telecomm operator. So, we contracted with the NTT Docomo and we got Layer 2 Connection. So, in that set-up, basically, we are borrowing cell towers and we are hosting our telecomm call network system by connecting those cell towers with the physical network plan to the database code.

Tim:                     When you’re operating virtual network, are you paying a fixed fee monthly or yearly to operate this network on top of Docomo or you’re paying on like a SaaS basis or in a per packet or something like that?

Ken:                     This is kind of a secret though, but actually —

Tim:                You can tell me.

Ken:                It’s actually opened in the website. let me talk about the secret. We are paying the bandwidth fee to the NTT Docomo based on the bandwidth per month used from us, in that way we borrow the cell tower part of the NTT Docomo.

Tim:                Okay. So, that’s perfectly aligned with your business models. So, your cost only go up as your users and their use go up.

Ken:                Right. There are several MVNO’s using that layer 2 connection. The uniqueness of us, usually MVMO player, they use a layer 2 connection and they borrow the data center and they buy the hardware appliance of a telecomm call network. They need to invest, I think, 20 million USD for that part – hardware appliance and data center. But in our way, we use AWS cloud and then we build telecomm call network in software in a AWS cloud. That’s our core competency.

Tim:                So, in that way, since your costs were based in usage, you can price this work on products that way to your users?

Ken:                Right.

Tim:                So, what does it cost for internet of things developer to get started in Soracom?

Ken:                So, we try to be very open and programmable and pay as you go model, like AWS. So, we sell SIM-card in and also our direct web channel. Once our customer get the SIM-Card, we charge 10 Yen per day. So, basic usage fee is very cheap. So, even they continue to use for months, it’s going to cost 300 Yen, it’s almost $3 and also, we charge data amount. So, it’s a kind of pay as you go model and every month we calculate how much data they send.

Tim:                There’s so much great stuff happening in IOT these days and it can be hard to really understand how a platform is used. So, let’s dive in into a couple of used cases that are now taking advantage of what Soracom has to offer now. So, you’re working with Japan Taxi on an ad-delivery system.

Ken:                Yeah. Yeah. So, before, talking about the Japan Taxi and if you looked at our customer base within one year after our launch, we already have 5,000 customers, which include an enterprise to small and medium business and also start-ups across the industries too. So, Japan Taxi is very interesting customer. They put tablet in the backseat of the taxi and they distribute as an advertisement movie for customers. So, it was interesting. Every customer average taxi ride 18 minutes I had from the Japan Taxi. So, it’s a good way to  provide the advertisement movies. Usually, those advertisement movies are updated, weekly or in two weeks, so, as I need to have a way to distribute latest advertisement movie, then they use Soracom and especially they use like a night time to distribute advertisement movie. We have like a cheaper price.

Tim:                Oh, so the rates are different at different times or date.

Ken:                Exactly. So, they take advantage of that time.

Tim:                Okay. So, instead of having a data plan and a connectivity plan for each individual android tablet, they just connect to Soracom at less than 10th of the price and update the ads from a central location.

Ken:                Right.

Tim:                Excellent. And let’s see, what else? Safecast is a very interesting project because they didn’t start out with Soracom but they converted over last year.

Ken:                Yeah. They are providing radioactive sensor device and basically they sell that devices to the volunteers and then volunteer can place that on their house or another location. And automatically, all those devices sensing the radiation and then upload that to the cloud.

Tim:                For overseas listeners, after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 and the problems of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, a lot of people in Japan didn’t trust the governments numbers when they announced radiation. So, Safecast was this grass roots, bottom up citizen monitoring program.

Ken:                Exactly.

Tim:                Where they made these radiation monitors distributed all over Japan, but how to they linked up these monitors before using Soracom?

Ken:                So, they used to use Wi-Fi but sometimes, they don’t have Wi-Fi in the place, they want to put the sensors, and also it takes time to set-up the Wi-Fi. But, if they use cellular, they can place anytime as long cellular connectivity is available. That’s the reason why they like Soracom. Also, Soracom provides the web console to check the status of the connectivity. We provide like a API.  Safecast can use those API if you control those Safecast devices.

Tim:                Right. They don’t know what’s online, what’s not online and they could take one offline when they needed to. Why they wouldn’t take one offline?

Ken:                Right now, they create a global version of Safecast which include not only cellular but also Lora Connectivity too, and they are planning to utilize better connectivity in the various situations. For example, if the Lora connectivity is available, that devices using Lora but then now, they use cellular. At that time, they want to deactivate cellular connectivity.

Tim:                So, to save the money, they don’t need it, so they don’t use it. Are there any other applications being used now that you think are really good use of Soracom?

Ken:                My favorite used case is Tokachi bus. They are local bus company in the Hokkaido area. It’s the northern area of Japan. They have a lot of snow, right? So, they put Soracom into all of the buses and then sending the location data of bus to the cloud and they provide a smart phone application to the customer. So, customer can use the route finder system by using a bus location. So, for example, the customer wants to go to a place and they can search which bus they should take. Also, that information is detected based on the real location. If the buses are delayed due to the snow, the customer can get that notice.

Tim:                It tells people where the buses are and the best route based on reality rather than the schedule. That’s fantastic.

Ken:                Another example is a Rakuten. So, Rakuten has a credit payment system called Rakuten Edy and they use Soracom for the Rakuten  baseball game, they are selling like a beer. Those people have a credit payment terminal with Soracom. So, they can do the credit payment anywhere and also, usually baseball game is only in the weekend, so they can save money for the weekday.

Tim:                Ah, okay. So, they activate it when they are using it.

Ken:                They are different model and so….

Tim:                Excellent. Well, let’s talk a bit about you. So, we first met back when you are working at AWS.

Ken:                Exactly. [LAUGH]

Tim:                I was at Engine Yard. Times change.

Ken:                Times change. Yes.

Tim:                Before I did AWS, you went to the University of Tokyo, you got an advanced degree in the US, what made you wanted to start a company? Was this something you always wanted to do?

Ken:                Well, it’s some kind of a long, long story.

Tim:                We have time.

Ken:                So, let me talk about my career background. So, I graduated from Tokyo University with a Masters Degree of Mechanical Engineering and also the Bachelor Degree. I started my career in IBM Research. First research project I was working on smart watch, wearable computing project which is the most cutting edge product in IBM research which has an accelerometer, fingerprint sensor, —

Tim:                So, it’s like the AppleWatch before the AppleWatch?

Ken:                Exactly. It was like 2000. So, 17 years ago and which is like, I think , of the too much advanced of its time.

Tim:                They couldn’t bring it to market at a price that they could sell it?

Ken:                Yeah. One day, my boss assembled us to announce this project is canceled. [LAUGH] It was like surprising for me and in retrospective, IBM management team decided to sell ThinkPad to Lenovo. That project was funded by ThinkPad team. So, naturally, our project was canceled. We lost the research fund. But, that experience taught me, if I want to bring our product to the market, I need to know more about the management, sales, and marketing. So, I moved to the sales division and worked on the software. And then, I got a company scholarship from IBM and then I went to the Carnegie Mellon to work on the MBA and also MSE – Master of Software Engineering. That was 2006. In that same year, Amazon started AWS. Then, my friend started using AWS. It was amazing. When I first touch AWS, that was incredible. You just click a button and then you can get or take a server instantly. I’ve felt like world this is changing. But, I was sponsored by IBM and so I needed to go back to Japan. So, I went back to Japan and I think I worked in the software group for two years and then one day, I got a call from a headhunter. He told me Amazon is going to start AWS business why don’t you start that business?” Oh my God! I wanted to do that. There was a pitfall though. I had a contract with IBM, if I leave within 5 years of my graduation, I need to pay back all of the tuition.

Tim:                Sure, because they paid for all the college and everything.

Ken:                Exactly. That amount was like $100,000.

Tim:                Oh, wow!

Ken:                But then, I paid that money to IBM to join the AWS.

Tim:                So, do you really believe in this AWS vision?

Ken:                Yeah, because I really like that democratizing computing resources. I was lucky; I was in the IBM research. For me, it’s easy to get a super computing resources, but most people don’t have way to use those technology and the kind of AWS Democratizing Computing Resources. So, if you have any good idea, you can launch server quickly and then start it. It’s already like a small startup. So, naturally, many, many innovative start-ups demonstrating their powers mainly from the US, — so, Dropbox, Instagram, Uber, Airbnb, many, many technology start-ups.

Tim:                I think it really made it easy for — it decrease the cost of starting a company. You could try, try it and see for $100.

Ken:                Right. So, I already like the nature of AWS Business, it’s kind empowering, developing for people, so I put all my effort in the AWS business. So, I joined AWS as technical evangelist.  I think I deliver more than 160 presentations in 2011. So, every day, I give a speech…

Tim:                You’re out somewhere.

Ken:                Luckily, right now AWS business in Japan expanded successfully. I guess the yearly revenue is beyond 1 billion USD in Japan. So, that’s amazing, right? — within 6 years. But, unfortunately, there is no single start-up from Japan using AWS, going global, and very technically innovative products or services. No, right? I think that really is bad because I was a technical evangelist and that’s kind of my job to create innovative start-up. Then, one day, I had a beer with the current CTO in Seattle, because we had a business trip to Seattle. We are very excited to talk about what kind of a mission critical system can land on the AWS? One of the interesting idea is running a telecomm network which is very mission critical and on the AWS Cloud. We felt maybe we can make it, but most people don’t think, so that is really a big opportunity. Then, I went back to hotel, I had a jet lag and so I made some fiction press releases and which is saying, “We build Telecomm Call Network in Software on AWS Cloud and we provide very inexpensive open pay as you go connectivity on the AWS Cloud.”

Tim:                So, your imaginary Press Release.

Ken:                Then, next morning, I woke up, I read it and it seems like it’s not fiction. [LAUGH] So, that’s the beginning of Soracom.

Tim:                Okay. But your background is in technical research, you had the expertise of teaching people about the correct architecture on a cloud. So, I can understand that in an engineering point of view, you’re seeing the opportunity, but so far, your whole career has been working in very large companies, what made you decide to actually go out and start this company?

Ken:                Well, I don’t know the reason but you are right. I’m a researcher in the enterprise company. I just pass the passion in the technology but then nobody made Soracom. So, I needed to do that, right? That’s the thing.

Tim:                What did your friends and your family thinks? Were they supportive? Were they surprised?

Ken:                Yeah, this is very interesting. In Japan, after I founded the Soracom, I would say like more than 90% of people, like a first question– “Your wife is okay?”

Tim:                [LAUGH] Well, yeah.

Ken:                So, that’s the code ‘Wife block” in Japan. Actually, my wife is a kind of very supportive. If you want to do, just do it, right?” I am kind of very appreciative.

Tim:                Oh, that is good. That’s good to hear. Another thing that I think that is really exciting about Soracom is the fact that you’re going global so quickly. Let’s talk about global expansion now. You launched in the US in November of 2016. How are things has been going so far?

Ken:                Yeah. So, we chose AWS Re-Invent which is the yearly development companies of AWS. We chose that event intentionally because I’m from AWS and that was very successful. Many, many developers really like us because we are providing a cellular cloud convergence.

Tim:                So, in the US, did you set-up the same type of virtual network that you did here in Japan?

Ken:                This one is like more advanced. We have a contract with the several telecomm operators in the global. So, the sim-card in the US, you can get the connectivity in more than 120 countries. So, we do have a several contracts and several roaming settings. The sim-card can use AT&T cell tower and also T-Mobile cell tower.

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Tim:                Well, that’s interesting. Do most of your customers that are building internet of things devices are most of the used cases things that are operating in just one location? Or, do you have internet of things devices that are taking advantage of this global coverage?

Ken:                Yes, it depends on the customer. As you mentioned that most of the Smart-city type of the application, they don’t move, right? So, that’s one place. They set-up the devices and solution and it continue to be there. Another type of the solutions such as the automobile, like a very big car companies, they usually make cars in several locations but then send that to another location. Right now, what they are doing, they contract each telecomm operator in one country and then switching those sim-card, right? But, if they use the Soracom global version of sim-card, they can get connectivity in any location. It’s kind of decrease the heavy lifting work for them.

Tim:                Right, right. You just that, you can install that sim-card once and you’re fine. Like you’ve said, you can manage it off on the net.

Ken:                Also, they can get the same cloud convergence features. We have several additional services which addresses security issue, data process issues. For example, we have a Seracom canal that this allows the customers to make private, to make work very easily.

Tim:                So, globally, who’s Soracom’s biggest competition? Is it Lora-type networks? Are there other companies like Soracom out there?

Ken:                Actually, if we look at exact competitor, I don’t know any single company doing similar things we are doing at Soracom, because we are only one company built all of the Telecomm cell network on the AWS cloud, and also having additional way of services, security, and application level. But, I would say that the current competition is WiFi and other types of networks because they don’t know the merit of the cellular technology. They think that cellular is too expensive, but Soracom, we provide flexible cellular with the minimum cost.

Tim:                Sure, like you’ve said, it’s about $3 a month if you leave it on all the time.

Ken:                Right. Actually, global version we decrease the price. It is now like $1.8 per sim card per month.

Tim:                So, a $1.80 per month, if it’s on full time, less if you switched it off if you’re not using it.

Ken:                Yeah, we have like a similar condition for switching off though, but that’s right.

Tim:                Well, it sounds like things have gone incredibly well in the last three months since your launch, what’s been the most surprising thing that’s happened in the global expansion? What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from rolling out globally?

Ken:                Well, before rolling out global, I’m confident in terms of technology. We built our cell network in software, right? So, we just need to copy that software to the another region of the AWS. There are some works but not technically difficult as long as we can set-up the contract with the telecomm operator.

Tim:                Were their differences in the telecomm operators on that part of the infrastructure going global?

Ken:                Fortunately, those standards is very following on this 3GPP and other industry standard. So, that was good things. What I was afraid is, can we make very strong global team? — even we are a small company from a far-east country like Japan and I was concerned about that part. But, we had a really good opportunity to meet the people in the global. They understood our value proposition very well and then they joined us. I am very excited to have such great people in our global team. So, right now, we have more than 10 in the global.

Tim:                So, where are your offices outside of Tokyo?

Ken:                In the US, Palo Alto and Singapore, Denmark, and also France. It’s kind of very diverse.

Tim:                Okay. Are most of these offices sales or in support offices, is some of your development being done outside of Japan?

Ken:                Yeah, most of those global offices are sales and marketing. But, some of our developers are located in global too.

Tim:                Soracom is one of the few Japanese companies that has managed to raise a financing round of more than $20 million. What made that happen? Was it the global focus and the global opportunity that brought the investors in?

Ken:                Actually, in 2015 Spring, we did a series-A fundraising. It was like $7 million USD. At that time, we had a good prototype. I think investors appreciate our team and also to provide the technologies and also the market size, we are looking at those three things are very important for the series A. And after we launched our services, we quickly got the momentum in Japan. So, within 3 months, we got more than 2,000 customer base, right? Then, we wanted to expand our businesses globally. At the time, we got series-B fund raising, which was 2016 Spring and we raised like 30 million USD. So, we demonstrated our potential in global market.

Tim:                So, the investors that were investing that amount of money, was a lot of the money targeted for a global expansion?

Ken:                I think so. Yeah, because we demonstrated our potential in Japan market and also our core competency is a kind of software based. So, they thought kind of — it’s no easy, but it’s possible to bring that solution to the global market.

Tim:                Will this round take you to profitability or do you think you’ll have more fundraising rounds in the future?

Ken:                It depends, right? Now, we are very lucky we have a lot of options. We can choose. If we want accelerate very rapidly on a global expansion. That is the case, maybe we can do additional round. Then, if we want to make profitable, then we slow the place. But, I want to see how it’s grown in the global market and then we can choose the better option.

Tim:                That is a great situation to be in. Let’s talk a bit about the future of the Internet of Things. This is one area I think that globally; Japan is going to be very strong in Internet of Things Devices. There’s so much cool stuff going on here. So, in your opinion, because so many of your customers are internet of things companies, one of the most interesting and promising developments you see the internet of things in Japan?

Ken:                In Japan, there are many company who are good at hardware technology. So, they are really good at making cool, small, tangible stuff, and also recently, Japan used to be people joined the large enterprise and they don’t leave ever, for their whole lives right? But it’s recently changing, right? Many, many type of people are kind of leaving the big enterprise and then started their own company. I saw many, many great chances for start-ups because they have relationship in the enterprise company and also they have very good experiences and networking and they are good at hardware technology. But then, maybe challenge is, most of those companies are not good at software technology. So, we need to bridge hardware-centric company and software or service-centric company. That’s the reason we do our partner ecosystem program called Soracom Partner Space. So, we try to bridge those companies.

Tim:                A lot of people in Japan point to, for example, robotics, where Japan used to be far, far ahead of the rest of the world, but in the last five or six years, leading edge robotics has moved from hardware to software and Japan now is trying to catch up. So, I guess, yeah, you’re right. There is that software gap.

Ken:                I think, Soracom is located in the middle, kind of a device side and cloud side, and by doing that, we are in a good position to connect those people, not only connecting devices and cloud, we wanted to connect to people in the different world.

Tim:                Let’s talk about that because we’ve talked about a couple of real world applications of people using Soracom today, but what is your vision? What is the ultimate best use if Soracom in the future? How do you see it connecting people?

Ken:                So, we want to decrease the price of connectivity, and then empower developers. If they see cellphone and like, “Wow, this is great and I want to make that”, which is not impossible. Now, it’s possible.

Tim:                Do you have any idea of what kind of application should be using Soracom that aren’t using it yet?

Ken:                I don’t know. It’s like we are the platform. If we know that, I would do that.

Tim:                Okay. It’s fair enough.  Soracom is betting the future on global growth. Many Japanese companies have a lot of pressure on them to go global early. Do you think that’s a good strategy? What advice you have for Japanese Start-up founders about going global?

Ken:                I think it depends, right? It depends on their product and solution. In our case, our core competencies — software and the cloud, so it’s easy to bring that solution in the global market, but, that’s a different story when they do hardware. I don’t know the one answer. In our cases, if we have that advantage but we don’t go global, we will be in a very difficult position because other company can do, right? — and they can expand globally and we will stick to the Japanese market.

Tim:                So, you figured out you have to compete against these companies eventually, so it’s better to compete now than wait for them to get stronger.

Ken:                Right, exactly.

Tim:                I think that makes a lot of sense. Is there anything that you want to talk about?

Ken:                Well, so this is a bonus talk. [LAUGH]

Tim:                Exactly.

Ken:                So, I think there are several technologies you guys should start using, right? You will learn very quickly, which is beyond your imagination. I would say like 20 years ago, if you want to try new things I can say like an enterprise database, you cannot do that, you need to purchase. It’s like very expensive.

Tim:                Yeah. It will cost you over a million dollars to get that.

Ken:                But then right now, we have a plenty of really good technology services which is provided task based or pay as you go based. I think it’s very important to try to use those cool stuff and then you will see serendipity merging your experiences and then those new technologies.

Tim:                So, the advice is to play.

Ken:                Right. Right. There is something you can bring into the world, so that’s my bonus message.

Tim:                Okay, I like that. Well, listen, before we wrap up, I want to ask you 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, the education system, the way people think about risk, the laws, anything at all, to make it better for start-ups here in Japan, — what would you change?”

Ken:                Definitely, education system. We have like less software engineers compared with the US and China. So, we should put more effort on the education side.

Tim:                So, what would you change about it? Because Japan education is very strong with like Mathematics, it seems to provide a good base for software engineering.

Ken:                I think, maybe the university education. So, we should have more— professional school for the software engineering.

Tim:                They teach more practical skills?

Ken:                Exactly.

Tim:                That’s true. A lot of Japanese university, even computer science is very abstract.

Ken:                Right. So, I walk down the Master of Software Engineering in Carnegie Mellon but the most of activities are not based on the classroom, it’s more like project based. We had a real project we need to deliver by the due date for the specific customer which is Google and Bosche.  That was kind of really great experience for me.

Tim:                And Japanese universities aren’t like that?

Ken:                No, not like that. It’s like a 100% classroom probably. [LAUGH]

Tim:                I have to admit, this is something I’ve always found frustrating and a little disappointing. So, I’ve been in Japan 25 years, my whole career has been in software development and software sales and I’ve had countless discussions and arguments and design sessions with Japanese programmers. I can discuss software development with Japanese engineers, but I cannot understand Japanese professors speaking about software development. They use different words. It’s a different vocabulary.

Ken:                I think the technical theory and discipline is important and also I think that in that sense we are doing a great job in the university education, but practical engineering, how to be build a large scale of software, those things were missing in the education.

Tim:                So, you’d make a lot more real world, practical, experience in universities?

Ken:                Right.

Tim:                Excellent. Do you see that changing at all now?

Ken:                Well, actually I don’t know. I think there are some progress of course. I need to check which is the right amount of change compared to the other countries in the world.

Tim:                Any change in that direction is good, I suppose.

Ken:                Right.

Tim:                Well, listen Ken, thanks so much for sitting down with me. I really appreciate it.

Ken:                Thank you very much, Tim.

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[Interview Ends]


And we’re back,

You know, Soracom represents something important in the Japanese start up ecosystem. I mean, sure, they are getting  a lot of attention because of the amount of money they’ve raised, but the funds are result of what they are. Soracom is one of the very few Japanese start-ups that are truly a world leader in the technology they have and are aggressively expanding overseas.

They have a real-shot of becoming a multi-billion dollar global player. There are no guarantees, of course. There’s a lot of execution that needs to happen between here and there, but they’re in the game.

You know, Ken comments on digitalizing the world really resonated with me. It’s not just the move from analog to the digital, think records to CD’s, but from the physical to the virtual, think CD’s and CD players into mp3’s and computer software. Soracom is certainly not the only company providing inexpensive connectivity for IoT devices, but Soracom has virtualized their infrastructure. They don’t need to invest in buying, developing, maintaining and replacing hardware and that gives Soracom an almost insurmountable edge over their global competition.

We’ll be hearing a lot more about Soracom in the years to come.

If you’ve got some experience with IoT devices, Ken and I would love to hear from you, so come by and let us know what you think. And when you drop by the site, you’ll find out the links and notes that Ken and I talked about and much, much more in the resources section of this post.

And you know, as much as I love podcasting, which is a lot, I mean, between Disrupting Japan’s guests and our audience, I get to talk with some of the most innovative and creative people in Japan. But sometimes, it starts to feel more like a broadcast than a conversation. So, please feel free to connect on Facebook or Twitter. The address is DisruptingJapan, one word, in both cases and I’m also trying something a little unusual for a podcast — a Disrupting Japan LinkedIn Group and one that is aggressively moderated to keep up the spam and focus only on innovation in Japan.

So, whatever your social media of choice, let’s connect and let’s talk. I look forward to hearing from you.

But 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.