All Careers are Coincidences

(Recording of a speech given at an MBA EXPO, November 30th, 2013)

As this talk is supposed to be about how great it is to do an MBA, let me start by saying that when I actually got to business school, my first thought was "Is this it?" Whoops.

People may tell you business school is hell, but actually working in business post graduation is worse by far. In school I was quite shocked at what I could get away with. Naturally the more you take on the more responsibilities you'll have to juggle, but I still feel like there is a lot less pressure there than actually being at a company.

At any rate, there was a time I did management work for an advertising firm and I remember putting in hundreds of hours of overtime during peak seasons. I recall thinking, "this is why people go insane." Compared to that, business school is like skipping through paradise.

Wanting to strike out on my own, I started my first business while still in school. About five hours away—ten hours round trip—from me was some Native American land. Due to historical circumstances the land had been specially set aside for them, and people of the Hopi and Navajo tribes now live there. I decided to invest in native jewelry and then sell it back to Japan. 

I was paying about half what I sold it for, and sometimes the business was so good I would make ¥500,000 in a month, keeping about half for myself. It was pretty lucrative for something I was just doing on the side, and it was certainly enough to keep the bills paid.

Apart from that, I found Thunderbird students to be really internationalized, so I figured I would start a translation service. I borrowed anyone interested and we would translate together in English, but there were also a lot of students who spoke Japanese so I was never short on man power. On good months I made ¥700,000 or so.

My operating costs were about 60%, with the last 40% left over for me. I really couldn't complain.

Naturally I was taking classes while doing all of that, but I still wanted to get involved in something larger. I began an internship in Silicon Valley not long after. 

I stayed there for about three months, from the end of 2003 to the start of 2004. This was around the time Friendster (a social networking service founded in California in March, 2002) was getting popular and people were really starting to get interested in social networking.

This was before mixi or GREE and the like existed at all. At the time a number of Japanese companies were rushing to America to find out what all the social networking hype was about. It seems those with the gift of foresight knew already by 2004 that social networking would be a hit on mobile devices.

And as everyone here knows, it was later that year that mixi and GREE were born, and two years after that they came to dominate the social networking scene.