I often hear, “You’ve been traveling abroad a lot recently.”
As manager of GLOBIS Capital Partners (GCP), a venture capital (VC) firm with about 40 billion yen, and over 80% of the investorsーthat is, our customersーlocated overseas, it’s natural that I’d be traveling. In terms of independent venture capital in Japan, no other company manages funds as large as ours. Now and then, companies backed by major corporations such as JAFCO and SOFTBANK, or listed on the stock exchange, may manage relatively large funds, but it’s quite unusual for a company the size of GLOBIS.
We are able to significantly expand our fund based on overseas investment. If only Japanese investors were to fall under our umbrella, our funds would most likely be limited to between one and two billion yen. From this perspective, we have been extremely lucky to have access to overseas investors and gain expertise through a joint venture with Apax.
In short, GLOBIS has been able to display strength in VC because of our global perspective and networking.
The same can be said for our business school. The scale and quality of GLOBIS University, has already made us one of the top three schools in our field in Japan. Here too, our relationship with Harvard Business School (HBS), including the utilization of teaching materials and curricula, gives us a major advantage. In fact, GLOBIS is now one of the largest patrons of HBS. Another big plus is our well-established joint MBA program with the University of Leicester in England.
Thus, even a small company like ours can achieve a position of strength by adopting a global perspective and cultivating overseas alliances. This is why I emphasize the need to solidify our English language abilities and maintain a global perspective when I address the company at the beginning of the year. In order to raise the English language ability of our staff, I am strongly encouraging them to attend lectures at the GLOBIS International School (GIS), which offers an MBA curriculum in English.
In any event, we must travel overseas for our ongoing work, and this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. There are several things we are trying to achieve abroad.
1. Conduct presentations and investor relations
Over 80% of the financial contributions to our existing funds come from overseas investors. Clearly, visits to investors are absolutely vital. This was also one of my objectives for this current trip.
2. Enhance our presence and extend our network
I have been invited to speak at the Davos Conference, technology and venture capital conferences, and other gatherings (for example, CEO conferences hosted by Forbes and Business Week). Conferences and speeches are the perfect venue for us to get the word out about GLOBIS.
3. Build relationships with overseas partners and alliance partners
We periodically meet with Apax, our venture capital partner; HBS, our curriculum partner; and other alliance partners, such as the University of Leicester, with whom we maintain MBA collaboration. It is also important for us to visit affiliates and companies in which we invest so that we can exchange ideas with other venture capital enterprises. These trips provide opportunities for discussing such matters as contracts related to funds, accounting, and the operation of overseas enterprises.
4. Construct an overseas network
I was previously the founding representative of Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization (YEO) Asia and a board member of NAL (New Asian Leaders), which is part of WEF (the World Economic Forum). I am currently a member of the Harvard Business School Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. By leveraging my these principle networks in which I serve as director or secretary, we can construct an overseas network for GLOBIS.
5. Speak at business schools in Europe and the U.S.; Host recruitment dinners
I give speeches at business schools abroad so that future business leaders will better understand Japan and GLOBIS. Obviously, I also actively seek out and recruit MBA holders. This was why I was traveling to Chicago, Boston, New York, and London on this trip.
6. Participate in interviews with European and U.S. media
I am working to establish a relationship with the press by appearing on BBC television and Bloomberg at the Davos Conference. I was also interviewed by Fortune magazine in New York last year.
7. Participate in overseas seminars
Some things can only be learned abroad. I travel overseas to participate in training sessions. I am currently attending seminars sponsored by the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and YEO.
So obviously, I have to travel overseas pretty often. Since this costs both time and money, I try to combine several objectives every time I go abroad.
As for the objectives of my current overseas trip, which coincides with my participation in the HBS Alumni Association’s Board of Directors meeting(#4), I decided to conduct briefings for investors in New York and London(#1), and also recruit for our business school (#5). This business trip has become a veritable round-the-world affair, passing through Chicago, New York, Boston, and London before returning to Tokyo. This was perhaps my 10th world marathon, so I am used to it. However, the weather is intensely cold in these countries, so I was determined to take good care of my health during this trip.
I headed for the United States on January 17, aboard a flight from Narita to Chicago. Unable to sleep, I was leisurely pacing around the cabin when the flight attendant alerted us to a fantastic view of the aurora. I think we were somewhere over Anchorage. Looking out of the window by the left exit, there it was. I have traveled overseas often, but this was the first time I had seen the aurora, typically only visible during winter nights.
These faint, light green curtains of light stretched out thinly across a sky of total blackness. For a while, I leaned over with my eyes glued to the window, like a child, totally absorbed by the view, immersed in a world of fantastic beauty.
I arrived in Chicago later that morning. Despite what I had heard about global warming making winters in America warmer, the city was as freezing cold as I expected at -12°C. My VC colleagues and I did a final check of materials we had put together for the next day’s investors’ meeting, and then I set out to buy a hat and scarf for protection against the cold.
Just before 4 o’clock, I headed to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, where I was scheduled to speak, and then returned downtown for a 7 o’clock dinner that included students from the University of Chicago. The event was quite lively and a lot of fun.
By 7 o’clock the next morning, I was on a flight bound for New York. Right after touching down, I held an investors’ general meeting, starting around 2. The investors had come from as far away as Los Angeles and Michigan. I can’t thank these people enough for being willing to travel so far. Three of us, including myself, had come from Tokyo.