Memories with Mr. Idei vol.1: A prequel to meeting Mr. Idei


Upon hearing the news of Mr. Idei’s passing

On Tuesday, June 7, 2022, I heard of the death of Nobuyuki Idei, former CEO of SONY and owner of Quantum Leaps, through a push notification on Smart News. I had been in and out of Mr. Idei’s office for a short period of time, and he treated me very well. It was more than 10 years ago, but I thought it would be a shame to keep it in a corner of my memory as my own personal memory, so I would like to share my memories of Mr. Idei from the perspective of my life-size 26-year-old self at the time, as an expression of my condolences.

Translated with (free version)

Mr. Tsujino, who made the connection with Mr. Idei

I think it was around June or July 2010 when I first met Mr. Idei. I would like to start with the story of Mr. Tsujino, who gave me the opportunity to meet Mr. Idei.

The first time I met Mr. Tsujino was at the entrance ceremony of Google Japan. On my first day at Google, Mr. Norio Murakami, who was the president at the time, and other members of the management team gave messages to each of the new graduates who had joined the company. Mr. Tsujino, who belonged to the software engineering department at the time, also spoke at the ceremony.

Mr. Tsujino said, “I wonder if Google will soon launch its own communications satellites,” and in my heart, I wondered if a private company would do such a thing. But with Google’s business model and cash flow, they might do it. I’m in a hell of a company. I remember being very excited. At the time, this was before Android, Street View, and Chrome were released, and no one could predict how Google would evolve in the future.

Looking back, Sony was the only Japanese company that had the potential to go head-to-head with Apple, and Mr. Tsujino was the spearhead of that battle. By coincidence, when I went to New York in 2005, I was shocked to see all the people on the subway listening to music on iPods with white earphones. Mr. Tsujino was in charge of this series as well. Actually, when I was in New York, I went to Best Buy to buy one, but they didn’t have it at all, so I had no choice but to give up the idea.

On the day of the initiation ceremony, I learned for the first time that Mr. Tsujino had launched VAIO, and I was excited to think, “The people who created my first encounter with the Internet are right in front of me! I was so excited. However, since he was on the engineering side, I had no contact with him since I was assigned to advertising sales, and after that, I only saw him at company-wide events.

It was not until Q3 of 2009 that my contact with Mr. Tsujino rapidly became closer. Mr. Tsujino replaced Mr. Norio Murakami, who had been ill, as president of Google Japan. As a result, he was put in charge of the advertising sales organization, and since his seat was also in the advertising sales team, our contact increased.

A style that tries to hear everyone’s voice.

For Mr. Tsujino, who had built his career around hardware and other products, advertising sales, especially sales of managed advertising, may not have been something he was familiar with. Even so, immediately after assuming the position of president, he decided to “hold meetings with all employees,” and he really did take 30 minutes to meet with everyone, including myself, who was in my second year as an employee. Looking back now, this may have been another influence of Mr. Idei’s “cross-border” style. I remember how happy I was to have such a rare opportunity to talk directly with the president level people, even though we were only a small group of about 300 people.

I think it was probably at TGIF (a company social event) or something, but at that time Google AdWords (now Google Ads) was experimenting with various things, such as purchasing ad space on cable TV and placing ads in newspapers directly from AdWords. We were in the process of testing this. It was during this time that I innocently asked Tsujino in the Q&A corner, “Don’t you do TV ad buys and newspaper ads in Japan?” I was completely unaware of the customs and practices of the Japanese advertising industry, so I could have done that (laugh).

He replied, “There is no such thing as not doing it in Japan. Let’s form a team and give it a try. Who else wants to do it? I was very moved to see that not a few people raised their hands, and I was impressed by the fact that he was able to scoop up opinions like mine. In the end, the project never got off the ground, but it was a memorable experience for me as a newcomer. I still remember it to this day.

A rampage of emailing to Mr. Tsujino.

In 2010, due to various changes in the global organization, Mr. Tsujino resigned from Google Japan, and Google Japan has continued to operate without a president since Mr. Tsujino’s departure.

I think it was around April or May of 2010 when I learned that Mr. Tsujino was stepping down, and I decided to take the plunge and e-mail him now that I might have some time. I had the impression that he would listen to the opinions of newcomers, as mentioned above.

Back then, in 2010, the TOYOTA recall issue was a hot topic globally, and I was researching the number of searches for TOYOTA-related search terms globally for my apology ad research. Today, it is commonplace to place advertisements overseas, but at the time it was not very common. When I looked at various overseas search results, I noticed that the search results for Japan-related search terms were untouched and not monetized at all, and I realized that this was a great business opportunity.

I was not sure what Mr. Tsujino would do after he retired from Google, but I think I sent an e-mail to him stating that I was hoping that he would monetize Japan with his help because of these facts. He immediately replied and asked me to meet with him to discuss the matter. As I recall, it was the morning of the second day of the APAC Sales Conference in Odaiba, and I left the conference and headed to the lounge of the Hotel Pacific Tokyo in Shinagawa (closed in September 2010), which was just about to close.

Won’t you join us? – First time I heard about Mr. Idei.

I was very nervous to meet Mr. Tsujino in the lounge, but at the same time I was happy to have the president of Google’s Japanese subsidiary all to myself. The first thing he said at the opening of the meeting was that he was impressed by the e-mail I had sent him. He then told me that among various options for his next challenge, he was considering starting his own business, and that he would take on the challenge using the framework of Mr. Idei’s Quantum Leap company. I am ashamed to say that this was the first time I became aware of Mr. Idei in concrete terms.

I had only been with Google for two and a half years, and to be honest, I did not immediately respond to the offer, but I was very happy and my heart was almost in the right place. We then decided to go look at potential new office locations together. We arrived at Parkside Six, which is adjacent to Roppongi Midtown, and Tatsuya Kitagawa, who was working as Mr. Idei’s secretary, brought the keys and we toured the interior of Parkside Six.

Tatsuya Kitagawa, who worked as Mr. Idei’s secretary, brought us the key and gave us a tour of the interior of the Parkside Six.

Looking back on it now.

I have not looked back on my memories of those days because they are full of bittersweet experiences, but looking back now, I am only ashamed of my youthful indiscretion, saying irresponsible things without any competence or achievements, and wishing I had a hole to fill for my lack of practicality. But as I get older, I realize that 25-6 year olds are more or less like that, and it is nice to see a young person who has the vigor to express his or her intentions.

And this was still before GAFA was established, and I think it was the SONY people who were trying to compete head-on with GAFA. In fact, Google’s Japanese subsidiary was the first overseas branch of Google, and they had been looking at cell phones in Akihabara since their first visit to Japan, so I wonder if they had been targeting me in various ways since that time with their tiger’s-eye view.

In any case, there was a tremendous change in my life, and Mr. Idei and Mr. Tsujino were there to trigger it. Anyway, they seemed so cool and broad-minded. I sometimes think that my experience at that time is a foreshadowing for my life, and I will have to recover it sooner or later.

杓谷 匠杓谷 匠