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Career Success
SEP 6, 2006

Forbes CEO Conference No. 2: Our Presence in Asia

By Yoshito Hori
Copyright GLOBIS

Though my panel discussion was scheduled for only an hour, and with four panelists, I knew I wouldn’t be getting many turns to speak. I had to make every chance count. 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.

“History 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. The demand-and-supply balance will collapse, and investments will become more expensive.

“Investment in Japan, which is not currently in the spotlight, is comparatively cheap. Private equity funds are still receiving a fair amount of attention, but 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. The old JapanーToyota, Cannon, and Nippon Steel Corporationーcontinues to generate record profits, but 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. I felt I was able to 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, 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. I thought back to my media training and remembered to smile.

The press conference meant we arrived late to lunch. I took my seat by my name card, next to Professor Shimada. “Check out that screen,” the professor said, pointing. “Your face has been up there several times.”

There was my face on the front cover of Forbes. Apparently, the image was programmed to appear for about five seconds every two or three minutes. I started feeling a little self-conscious. I knew, however, that this could only help bring attention to GLOBIS, so I was fairly pleased.

I was certainly 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.

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. I met several people from YEO I hadn’t seen for about years, and it was great to hear how they’d moved up in the world. Members of the New Asian Leaders Executive Committee of the Davos Conference were also there. I met people from Russia, India, Australia, Malaysia, America, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Germany. Nearly everyone started off by commenting on my presentation. Of course, I knew they were just being polite, but it was a great way to get a conversation going.

The program for the third 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 generation that established Asia’s economy. These entrepreneurs had gathered their wealth through real estate, distribution, and manufacturing. They wielded political power to enter telecommunications, freight, and infrastructure enterprises, and were expanding into China. Now they had passed the baton to the next generation.

I imagined a completely different breed of entrepreneur 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 to the next generation, as well, but he projected the forcefulness of someone who has endured many difficult times. Although he was shorter than his son, it was he who 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.