How Silicon Valley is losing the Battle for Asia

The majority of the 4 billion people living inside a circle encompassing China, India, NE Asia and SE Asia—over half the world’s population—have not yet grasped the internet, but most of them will have within the next decade or two. How they do so, on what terms, and through which platforms, will go a long way to defining the winners and losers of the next wave of the web, and actually the very nature of the internet itself. So can we ask the question: how well placed are Silicon Valley companies to benefit? The battlefield is a diverse patchwork of countries with distinct languages and cultures, varying degrees of connectivity infrastructure, diverse digital media landscapes, and contrasting political regimes with business environments that range from: mature but essentially open … [Read more...]

The Japanese advertising industry in a nutshell

In this article I try to unravel one of the marketing industry’s most enduring mysteries: why Japanese ad agencies have succeeded in holding on to such a dominant position in the Japanese market, despite all the efforts of the major global agency networks. I believe the answer lies in a fundamental difference between Japanese and western audiences and the models the agencies use to approach them. (A new follow up to this post can be read here) The western agencies' strategy paradigm I entered the advertising industry off the back of 4 years studying physics at Oxford University, so I was more than a little predisposed to reductionist theories. I was therefor relieved to find a rational framework for solving communication problems, loosely referred to as  the ‘account planning … [Read more...]

Growth Hacking for brands and how to grow a hybrid team

I was recently interviewed for a Japanese creative industry magazine "Project Design" to talk about the relevance of "Growth Hacking" (Japanese article here), the approach to growing web and mobile startups that has come to prominence in recent years, to established and non-web businesses. I was interviewed in Japanese, but wrote up the main threads of the conversation in English below. First of all though some context. Why was I being interviewed about Growth Hacking? I have been a involved a lot with startups one way or another. I have had numerous startups as clients over the years, companies with a good product-market-fit for Japan for whom my company has effectively been the growth team for the Japan market. Also through my role as a mentor for 500 Startups, Silicon Valley's top … [Read more...]

Renault-Nissan Alliance is the pathfinder corporate hybrid and can overtake Toyota

I predict that by 2020 the Renault-Nissan Alliance will have replaced Toyota as the #1 car maker. Already 8.1m units annually, or 1 in 10 cars sold globally come from the group, which was established in 1999 through an unprecedented cross-shareholding agreement, that left both sides of the alliance incentivised to help the other succeed, without the respective corporate and brand identities being consumed by the other. A key factor in the success of the group over the last decade has been the creation of successful hybrids of the two company's strengths, where strengths are shared and weaknesses mitigated both ways. For instance, operationally the "Nissan Production Way" was adopted by Renault's manufacturing facilities, leading to productivity gains of 15% on the French manufacturer's … [Read more...]

Brasil x Japan: the ideal hybrid?

Although the stereotypes associated with Japanese and Brazilians are poles apart, the two countries in fact share a special relationship based on the very human ties of historical emigration. Now they are starting to explore the potential of combining the mutual strengths of both nations in the future. Japan's is arguably the most "progressed"  society on the planet, demographically more mature than any other, and one of the most advanced in terms of technology, infrastructure, healthcare provision and with a massive, capital intensive economy. In contrast Brasil (spelt the Portuguese on purpose!) has a young demographic, labour-intensive economy destined to grow into a superpower, but lacks many of the technological and infrastructural know-how that Japan has at its fingertips. … [Read more...]

The explosion of hybrid humans, and what it means for us

I recently discovered this little gem of a video describing Japan's trend towards greater ethnic diversity. It is interesting to note the not inconsiderable numbers of immigrants living in Japan, around 2.3m out of a population of 127m as of 2010, the vast majority of which are Asian. Taking the UK as a yardstick, like Japan an island nation that was never colonised by immigrants in the way that say North America was, at least since prehistorical times, but which started its journey of multi-culturalization a good century or two before Japan did, in its 2001 census 85% of the population described themselves as "white british". So Japan still has a long way to go, but it is on its way. All immigrants contribute to the cultural diversity of a country, but not necessarily to the … [Read more...]