世界で活躍するグローバル・リーダーを bimonthly (隔月ごと）にYGCでインタビューしていきます。全て英語でインタビューを行いますので、是非最後まで頑張って読んでいきましょう！
- Can you briefly explain your profession?
The keyword of my profession is ‘medical device.’ I conduct research using medical devices where the objective is to assess them through animal testing and preclinical studies at Stanford University. Though not directly involved, I am committed to enhancing my knowledge in digital health, regenerative medicine and pharmaceutical fields.
- What is your role at Stanford University?
In addition to the research I conduct as mentioned above, I also lecture a course on medical business management, educating ways of commercializing ideas from medical device startups at Stanford. In putting this experience to use, I am one of the founding members of Japan Biodesign, Stanford University’s development and training program for innovations in medical devices, partnered with University of Tokyo, Osaka University, Tohoku University, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Japan, and The Japan Federation of Medical Devices Associations.
- What are other businesses and researches are you engaged in?
Back in my home country and in the realm of academia, I am a visiting professor at universities across Japan: University of Tokyo, Tsukuba University, Shizuoka University, Osaka University and Hiroshima University to name a few. I lecture courses on fostering entrepreneurship, take charge in organizations that build community eco-systems, teach students in general and take part in many other activities.
I am also involved in non-profit work and organization. I have co-founded US-Japan MedTech Frontier in building a trans-pacific eco-system of medical devices between Japan and the United States. The mission here is to raise awareness of Silicon Valley-method of medical devices development in Japan, and match businesses through fundraising. Further, I serve as a chair of a corporation that promotes medicine-engineering collaboration of medical devices towards small-to-medium-sized enterprises.
As far as business goes, I am an advisor to many large Japanese companies and several U.S. – Japan venture capital firms. I, myself invest in some of these ventures.
In 2013, I established a venture capital firm that specializes in medical devices. Back then, setting up ventures in the field of medical devices was considered to be 90% impossible in Japan. But my conviction was that if it can’t be done, then show that it can be done. To say that it is impossible based on past events is easy, but to prove that this is not the case, I teamed up with Hajime Oshita and launched the first venture that specializes in medical devices in Japan. And just recently, the investors were able to exit their investments successfully.
Moreover, I am in the midst of establishing a university with my fellow Japanese volunteers at Silicon Valley: Silicon Valley Japan University. Currently, we offer short-term and remote (to Japanese educational institutions) courses on entrepreneurship on a regular basis. Our motive was to create opportunities for passionate individuals who wish to take on many challenges in the United States.
- Besides professional skills and knowledge in your field, what other qualities do you think are essential in executing your job?
Medical expertise is a must. In gaining this expertise, I spent nine years in clinical practice as an interventional cardiologist, of which the last four years I spent in a rural district as a family doctor.
Another essential quality is no doubt the power of networking as it is unrealistic to achieve things on one’s own – there are limitations as to what a single person could do. Perhaps if people support your ideas and join forces, this would all be feasible. Thus, your good nature is dependent upon your networking skills. It all starts with gaining trust and then building the best team. In that respect, I am extremely conscious of this ideology.
- You are an innovative medical professional renowned both in Japan and the United States. What was the most difficult challenge you have faced in undergoing your cross-border researches and innovative businesses?
With respect to launching new businesses, I often stand on the entrepreneurial side. I work side-by-side with many entrepreneurs in various ventures. The challenge here is that even though the business may ‘have value to the patients,’ without proper implementation of capitalization strategy, it fails. Basically, the effective ideas would not even reach the patients in need of certain cares. I’ve actually experienced such unsuccessful attempts. In preventing this, the only way is to learn from the mistakes and to gain more knowledge to make it work. The most expeditious way of taking the step is really to just “do it.” Do as you go. Again, I was unable to achieve this on my own and hence, I teamed up with the most distinguished business people and started new venture capital firms.
- Do you think there are enough people in Japan considered as global leaders?
I think it is increasing – the reason being that many people are starting to realize that there may be consequences of spending the rest of their lives in Japan.
In my case, before I came to the United States in 2001, I was involved in a medical practice in an extremely rural region of Japan. By stepping out of Japan and going to the United States, I was able to clearly see what Japan was really like. By contrasting both the U.S. and Japan, I was able to objectively see the positive and negative aspects of Japan. That was when I realized that Japan could not continue with the things as they are and so, I took actions by starting ventures and establishing new corporations. I am sure that there are many people like myself out there who have made this same realization and take actions on their part. It may be true that the number of students who study abroad from Japan may be declining, but people with strong will and aspirations do go out abroad and such people with global perspectives certainly seem to be on the rise.
- What triggered you to come to the United States in the first place?
It all started when a certain doctor from a private hospital encouraged me to go to Stanford. I was foremost a graduate of Jichi Medical University in Tochigi, Japan. I come from a low-income family, but I wanted to somehow get a college education. I then learned that Jichi Medical University offered six years of free tuition and even get paid for attending, in return for working at a local public hospital for nine years after graduation. Additionally, another condition was that I was to be engaged in a medical practice in an isolated, rural region of Japan.
By the time I completed my nine-year service as a doctor, I approached the doctor (mentioned above) famously known for his catheterization studies in hopes of learning more about the hospital worldly renowned for cardiovascular treatments. He asked me what I wanted to do next, but I was scolded after responding that I wanted to deeply immerse myself in local medical practices for the rest of my life. He then strongly advised that since I dedicated nine years to my country, it was time to get out and pursue big dreams. I was finally convinced and though I still had doubts about being able to survive overseas, I replied to him that I have always wanted to live abroad. After that, it wasn’t very long until he introduced me to a particular university through his connections. That university was Stanford and the rest is history.
- In your opinion, what are some of the things Japan excels in and falls behind in?
Japan once took precedence in manufacturing good, quality parts, being attentive to minute details. That however is now being outpaced by South Korea or Taiwan.
When envisioning the future, Japan’s strengths lies in the fact that its population is ageing. Yes, this is a weakness as this entails medical costs to rise while tax revenues decline, but what does this imply? Adversity is opportunity in disguise, and as the nation that has the largest ageing population in the world, why not take this opportunity to start thinking of new business models and if successful, exporting them to our neighboring countries that also face this phenomena? Wouldn’t you think that that is one of Japan’s future assets?
- What is your definition of a global leader? Further, what do you think it takes to become a global leader?
- What is your definition of a global leader? Further, what do you think it takes to become a global leader?
I think the moment you stop utilizing the word ‘global’ is when you truly become a global leader. By being conscious in trying to associate yourself with being ‘global,’ you essentially are not yet global. In fact, ‘global’ is not a commonly used word in the U.S. When thinking business, the United States, China, Israel, and European Nations are inevitably considered. Now, Japan is an island country which perhaps why the Japanese tend to think independently from other nations. But the U.S. is traditionally referred to as a melting pot, especially in the Silicon Valley region, and the idea of ‘global(ization)’ is something that just comes naturally within the nation.
As with what it takes to become a leader in general, it is imperative to be able to communicate with many people from various countries and backgrounds. Consequently, it is vital to know the global language of English. In addition to this, I believe the most important factor in becoming a ‘global leader’ is naturally taking leadership with great consideration, eagerness and initiative.
- What are some of the things this generation of students and young people should know to start preparing for the future to be a globalized individual or leader?
Without a doubt, start by learning English! No matter how great your motivations or intentions are, without any communication skills, how could you even make friends? The more elements and channels of communications, the deeper your ability to be empathetic and understanding. People would also understand and open up to you. Knowing English is substantially like breathing air: it is the minimum requirement.
In fact, I actually seriously began to study English after I got here (in the U.S.). So I advise you, the earlier the better!
- The Japanese people tend to lack the English skills necessary to engage in the global community. What do you think is the solution to this problem?
For some reason, it is challenging for Japanese to easily absorb the English language. Which is why I think it is important for individuals to establish their ‘value proposition.’ “This is how I think I can do better than any other people,” “This is how people can benefit from talking with me.” In other words, you want to ‘sell’ yourself out there. For example, if are good at (computer) programming, embrace that ‘value’ and probe into your specialty. If you possess something that you are good at or have what it takes to excel from others, without strong language skills, I am sure that you will get the recognition you deserve. In my case, having the experience as a medical doctor became one of my value propositions.
- Who is your ideal leader (or what is your vision of an ideal leader)?
Having an unquestioned charisma. Not just any charisma, but the type where people would follow you merely because ‘you said so.’ How awe-inspiring is that?!
Take for example, Soichiro Honda (the founder of Honda Motor Company). As a person, Honda may not have been an elitist, but there must have been many people who would have lent him a helping hand just for the sake of his existence. But for this to take effect, you need to carry your mission and take actions and attitudes worth respecting. There may be days where you may get the needle after someone has done something wrong. A respectful leader would follow up the next day and be solicitous towards that person. It’s all a matter of being considerate toward others that makes a person charismatic.
- Your message to students who wish to pursue their goals and dreams on a worldwide scale:
The future is dependent upon the young generation. The dilemma is, there seems to be many young people who go on the defensive and just wait for things to happen. The Japanese examination system could be the basis for this: students who are able to accurately answer as many questions as possible within the given time frame are considered outstanding. On the contrary, should they be asked to create questions or problems, the students may hesitate.
What I am trying to say here is that no one can predict the future nor fathom what could even happen. What we could do is try and create the future ourselves and that is where the young generation currently stands. My advice (and earnest requests) to the young generation are the following:
- Ask yourself if the things considered to be common sense now may rather seem impractical;
- Create your own version of the future and your own idea of a common sense; and
- Be proactive and produce things that do not exist now, but are in great need
My only regret is that these may not necessarily be achieved so long as you’re currently in Japan. You’ll know if you come to universities in the U.S., but without being proactive, it is rather unsound to be considered a ‘leader.’ To this extent, I will be honest and tell you that it may not be a breeze when students come over the U.S. to study. But I can tell you that there are only so many things you can learn in this country and that when you do return to Japan, you’ll notice how proactive you’d become. Now that is worth studying abroad for!