Japan New Economy Summit: New trends in disruptive innovation



This is part of our coverage of the Japan New Economy Summit happening in Tokyo. See previous updates here.

Participants in the third session of the day, on new trends in disruptive innovation, are as follows:

  • Brian Chesky (CEO, Airbnb)
  • Travis Kalanik (CEO, Uber Technologies, Inc.)
  • Gary Swart (CEO, oDesk)
  • Jason Goldberg (Founder and CEO, Fab)
  • Moderator: Akio Tanaka (Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Infinity Venture Partners)

13:41 – Brian from Airbnb explains Airbnb to Japanese crowd.

13:48 – Brian says 100,000 people are styaing on Airbnb every night. Hilton has about five times that, but too much longer to grow! For Airbnb, the last
year represents the majority of its growth.

13:48 – Travis explains his Uber car service. Says it cost more than a taxi, but is very reliable and efficient. Launched in June 2010, 240 employees (across more than 30 cities). They partner with local limousine and sedan companies. They recently launched in Singapore, but Seoul and Taipei coming soon.

13:51 – Travis: We could love to be in Japan, but given the regulatory environment we haven’t been able to find a way to do that.

13:52 – Travis: Just because we are legal, it doesn’t mean the taxi industry is happy to see us. Essentially the regulators start to protect the people they are supposed to regulate.

13:54 – Travis: In Tokyo they fix the prices on private car services at 5540 yen. There are something like 90 different zones with different minimum fares, different rules. We are in cities all over the world and we haven’t seen anything like this. The government has essentially said that only rich people are able to get car service.

13:56 – Travis: These laws are set up to protect the taxi’s and your city is worse off because of it. In order for us to connect you to a car service through an app, we have to become a licensed travel guide. We have to hire certified travel guides. I don’t know why. They’re just trying to make it hard.

13:59 – Gary gives a brief introduction to oDesk.

14:01 – Gary: The world’s best companies should have access to the world’s best workers at any given time. We are a global company with 3.2 million freelancers, 1.6 million jobs posted in 2012.

14:07 – Gary says that one in three workers will be hired online by 2020.

14:08 – Jason gives a quick introduction to Fab, which he describes as the world’s best marketplace for design. Curated design as a lifestyle experience.

14:10 – Jason: FAB didn’t exist a year ago, and we’re going to have $250 million in sales in its second year of business.

14:11 – Jason: In 2010, Fab was an entirely different company, a social network, sort of a gay yelp. In 2011, they were the gay Groupon. In February last year, Jason said to his co-founder “This isn’t fucking working.”

14:14 – Fab has 13 million people, 6 million products sold, 33% of sales on mobile. 2/3 of sales are from repeat customers. 10% of sales is art, 10% of sales is jewelry. There are about 15000 different products on Fab today.

14:17 – Jason: We have a sign on the way at Fab offices that says ‘Make Mistakes’ — and this is core to entrepreneurship. Our job every day is to reimagine, reinvent. I wake up every single day fearing that we will go bankrupt, and that’s what keeps us driven.

14:19 – Brian: Everyone thought what we were doing was absolutely crazy. They said “That’s the most absurd idea, no one will let strangers into their home.

14:21 – Gary: Experience is what you get when you don’t get all the other things you want. Tell a story about borrowing money from his father in law to go towards a failed business. But he says he is better for the experience.

14:25 – Jason notes his investor says that the best time to invest in an entrepreneur is right after a loss.

14:31 – Jason: I really believe in the motto that you should fail fast. … You can’t iterate your way to a business model. You shouldn’t hold on to something just because you were doing.

14:32 – Travis disagrees: When you’ve lost believe in what you’re doing, that’s when it’s time to give up.

14:43 – Travis: How vulnerable are regulators to be persuaded by a slow growing industry… That’s the first sign that bad laws are going to be made. What is the legal construct to ensure that doesn’t happen. … There can be laws in certain cities/countries, where anti-competitive laws are not allowed to be made. And in other places regulators protecting an industry is totally ok. … What we find in most American cities is that the laws are in the right place. But you still have regulators that protect the industries they regulate. In Japan we have found that the laws are not in the right place. We have helped in changing laws in DC, and in New York. … We are trying for a law in Miami that will open the city to Uber, because right now we aren’t there. Here in Japan we are probably going to have to find a way to work around regulation, or to change the law so we are allowed to work.