Japan New Economy Summit: What is Disruptive Innovation?



The Japan New Economic Summitis kicking off in Tokyo this morning. We plan to bring you some updates throughout the day [1]. So stay tuned.

  • Opening Speech: Hiroshi Mikitani (Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.)
  • Keynote Speech: Andy Rubin (former SVP, Google)
  • Niklas Zennström (CEO, Atomico / Co-Founder, Skype)
  • Ben Silbermann (Co-Founder and CEO, Pinterest)
  • Jack Dorsey (Co-Founder and CEO, Square / Co-Founder of Twitter)

9:09 -Opening remarks from Rakuten CEO Mikitani. [Plays video message from prime minister]

9:15 – Mikitani: We need to be leading in innovation. We know we have great technology in Japan, but we have not been able to implement that as products. … We want to connect Japanese technology with global entrepreneurship.

9:20 – Mikitani introduces session 1, with Andy Rubin, Jack Dorsey, Ben Silvermann, Niklas Zennstrom.


9:23 – Andy Rubin on stage.

9:23 – Andy speaking about investor presentation for his Android company way back in the day. Their first VC presentation was a platform for digital cameras. In the beginning, the team was mostly engineers, with a product idea.

9:26 – Andy talks about the opportunity they saw at the time for a smart camera concept, where third party devs could create new apps for cameras. It wasn’t just an operating system, but we envisioned it being connected to the cloud with access to the internet.

9:27 – That was Android for digital cameras. Andy moves on to second iteration of their VC presentation, which was Android for cell phones. Founding team was a little more broad, with some expertise in marketing.

9:30 – Andy says in 2005 he wasn’t worried about Microsoft. They positioned Android between enterprise and low end. They knew if they wanted to move up or down later on, they could. The middle game them the most flexibility.

9:32 – [Speaking of shift from camera to smartphone] You have to be flexible, and if your business doesn’t work, you have to change. You have to make decisions quickly, and change direction instantly.

9:36 – After the Google acquisition, the services business model was advertising.

9:38 – Japan is the most interesting market from an app revenue basis.

9:39 – Andy say that Puzzles & Dragons in-app purchases caused them to have to make changes to their infrastructure to accomodate so many in app purchases.

9:40 – Mikitani introduces Jack Dorsey.


9:42 – Jack shows a video of real time visualization of Tweets during the earthquake.

9:42 – We started Twitter in the US and our first major market was Japan. It has been a major success here.

9:43 – Like Twitter made communication easy, Square makes payments and commerce easy.

9:45 – Jack speaking about early development of Square. Says its not just for individuals, and have found users in nearly every form of commerce. Wherever commerce is happening, Square is there. Not just in metro areas, but all over the country. Many new technologies hover around San Francisco, but we are all over the country. [Shows a map of US, with hotspots everywhere.]

9:49 – Jack demos Square with Mikitani-san’s credit card. Asks for a tip. (below)


9:53 – Jack says cites a small coffee house a a Square success stories. Also cites Starbucks, a Square partner. Good for big and small businesses — both can use the exact same tool. People compete on the merit of their ideas.

9:55 – It’s not just about payments, but it’s the activity between the buyer and seller. It’s being able to give them a fast experience, because with speed, the technology disappears. Technology is best when it completely disappears, when it is additive.

9:57 – Mikitani-san introduces Ben Silvermann of Pinterest.


10:01 – We thought it would be cool to share our collections online. I left Google, we got a tiny office. And we started building. It started small with a few dozen users, then a few thousand. What was special was that just by pinning things you could also find other people with the same interests as you. It connects people according to their points of view in the world.

10:06 – I think there’s something beautiful the fact that you don’t have to live in Japan to love anime, you don’t have to live in California to love skateboarding.

10:09 – Niklas Zennström now speaking on stage.


10:09 Usually disruption is a seismic shift in functionality. It’s usually done by outsiders. It’s hard for industry insiders to be a disrupter.

10:10 – Sometimes a disrupted company can be too disrupted, and that’s something I experienced with Kazaa. Unfortunately the incumbent record industry and movie studios were not ready for that, and we could not survive in that space. We were unable to create a sustainable business model

10:12 – Disruption is about making something that is easy to use, and simplifies everything.

10:16 – A third of international phone calls are made with Skype.

10:18 – Gengo is disrupting translation services. Before you would send text to a translation agency, and they send it back to you. Gengo uses the internet to crowdsource translation among freelance translators, and give you maybe a 90% cheaper price, a much faster service… And if gives people with language skills to fulfill these translations requests. It’s a truly disruptive service.

10:22 – Another example is Halo, an app that you have on your smartphone that you can use to hail taxis. It connects drivers and customers wherever they are. It’s beneficial for customers to find taxis, but for drivers it enables business.

10:23 – We heard Andy speak of iteration, and very rarely is disruption just writing a business plan and executing it. But many times, the road is just not a straight line and you need to iterate, and fail fast. If something is not working, do a course correction and make another iteration. But as long as you have a long term vision you can be successful. If an idea doesn’t work out it doesn’t mean that you have failed. … In this economy we should encourage people who create disruptive businesses.

  1. Quotes are not verbatim, but are pretty close.  ↩