In this episode of The Negotiation, we had the opportunity to talk to someone who has decades of experience working with some of today’s top tech company’s in both Japan and China, Gen Kanai. Gen is a Japanese-American who has worked with Toyota USA, Sony USA, Sony Japan, Digital Garage, Mozilla, and most recently, Animoca Brands.
Throughout this discussion, Gen gives us a history lesson on why eBay failed and Yahoo won with an auction platform in Japan, and how Google won in Japan in spite of itself simply because Yahoo Japan chose them as their preferred search engine instead of the Yahoo US - favored, Bing. We talk about how Twitter has been such a large success in Japan and that anonymity is an underlying reason why. We also discuss the impact China can have on a US-based tech company through a look back at why, after a trip to China, Snapchat’s CEO demanded changes to their platform that their user-base simply wasn’t ready for. We end the show with some important takeaways on how to be success-ready when entering Asian markets like China or Japan. Enjoy!
Today on The Negotiation, we speak with Gen Kanai, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Animoca Brands and Mentor at Chinaccelerator.
Regarding the challenges of entering the Japanese market, Gen says that Japanese customers generally do not pirate software and content. Japan “can be a very profitable market if you can crack the market.” At the same time, it is a challenging market, with many non-Japanese companies having failed in Japan. eBay is a prime example of a failure, while Google, Twitter, and Snapchat fared better due to a number of factors that Gen enumerates.
Sales cycles and establishing stakeholder trust are generally much longer processes in Japan, but the payoff is the incredible loyalty that Japanese consumers have for successful companies in the country. On the other hand, during his five years working in China, Gen has found that it is particularly difficult for foreign entities to enter the consumer segment “for a whole host of reasons”.
Asked about his experience working with Mozilla and expanding to other markets, Gen says that the best part about his involvement was interacting with users. Community is incredibly important for Mozilla since it is a non-profit organization with a fraction of the budgets of Google, Apple, Microsoft, and other companies that provide competing browsers. Mozilla enjoys a user base made up of Firefox fans who not only love the product, but also the company’s non-profit mission and the fact that Mozilla does not make money off of its users directly.
On the other hand, the most challenging part of Gen’s job was dealing with countries that were completely closed to Firefox such as South Korea, thanks to technical decisions made by the Korean government around internet banking, stock trading, and any other kinds of secure transactions. During Gen’s time, online technologies in Korea only worked with Internet Explorer.
Mozilla’s open-source, non-profit business model can still be emulated today, with some caveats. Mozilla rose “out of the ashes of Netscape” when the latter company failed. Sergey Brin struck a deal to feature Google as the default search engine with a fraction of the ads from its search results being paid to Mozilla. Things changed when Google opted for more ownership with the creation of Chrome, but Firefox remains a lucrative product that is able to make “north of $100 million a year” for as long as it can navigate the ever-evolving trends and standards established by the top internet companies of the day.
What is The Negotiation?
Despite being the world’s most potent economic area, Asia can be one of the most challenging regions to navigate and manage well for foreign brands. However, plenty of positive stories exist and more are emerging every day as brands start to see success in engaging and deploying appropriate market growth strategies – with the help of specialists.
The Negotiation is an interview show that showcases those hard-to-find success stories and chats with the incredible leaders behind them, teasing out the nuances and digging into the details that can make market growth in APAC a winning proposition.