Masayoshi Son is the new (old?) Steve Jobs

Entrepreneur Extraordinaire
Every brand has a different image in each country.  Buick’s stodgy US image is very different from it’s young, fast moving, technologically adept image in China.  Yahoo is so pervasive in Japan that you almost get the idea that Yahoo is The Gateway to the internet. Seriously.  Every Japanese person you meet has Yahoo! Japan as their home page.  It feels at times like it’s almost illegal to set it to anything else.  Yahoo sites took the top spot in search with 3.5 billion searches in 2009. According to qSearch research, Yahoo! Japan Sites had almost double the traffic and searches than Google Japan.  Yahoo! Japan Message Board is tops in a country where message boards are used on a daily basis. Yahoo! Japan Answers is #1 in Japan.  Yahoo! News is huge.
More importantly, in a country where mobile dominates PC usage by a longshot, Yahoo Japan Mobile is the default portal for Softbank (ie iPhone the #1 phone in Japan and exclusively on the Softbank network)  And on and on.  You get the idea. Yahoo is both pervasive and indispensable in the #3 economy (just behind #2 China but with 9% of China’s population) in the world.
On to my point. much like 7-11 Japan purchased the mother company, Southland corporation, I think Yahoo! Japan should take over Yahoo! worldwide.  Masayoshi Son has already proven himself as one of the top business minds in the world.  Think about it. As Softbank was a major shareholder of Alibaba, when Alipay was siphoned off by Jack Ma, Who got a better deal, Yahoo! USA or Yahoo! Japan?  (ie Son)
Yahoo! USA had no idea what to do when Jack Ma shifted ownership of Alipay to an other company he held.  Despite holding 39% of Alibaba shares caved in on Alibaba’s first offer and Yahoo! USA lost almost 30 percent of shareholder value overnight. Meanwhile, wily Masayoshi Son, like the fox he is, said nothing but waited and leveraged his network in Japan as bait for Jack Ma to give a better offer. Although details were not disclosed, investors agreed that Mr. Son got the better deal and Softbank shares gained.
Yahoo! Japan is in a much better position that Yahoo! USA and that is directly due to the genius of Masayoshi Son.  He was also the one to take iPhone to Japan despite all saying it would not succeed due to Japan’s advanced cell phone market, yours truly included.  He did take iPhone to Japan and also turned it into the #1 phone.  Masayoshi Son took Vodafone’s billion dollar loser (former J-Phone) and turned it into the hottest moblie company in Japan.  This was after Vodafone had put everything it could, as the world’s #1 moblie company into it.  To such a degree that Vodafone lost over $25 billion in 2005 mostly due to the J-Phone debacle in Japan.  Son picks the whole company up for a cool $16 billion usd and turns it around in a flash.  This despite the fact that J-phones network quality was far inferior to Docomo and KDDI. iPhones constantly dropped calls, had terrible reception away from central cities and had a much smaller footprint in the all important storefronts in Japan.
The next Steve Jobs coming from Japan is actually not that surprising as it is well known that Steve learned from his mentor Akio Morita, the president of Sony.  He was so fascinated by the Japanese creativity, design, attention to beauty, engineering, ingenuity and manufacturing quality at Sony that John Sculley straight out stated that, “Steve Jobs wanted to be Sony”.
Mr. Son has turned around impossible situations, seemingly, effortlessly in the past (Vodafone, KDDI fixed line business, for example) started, and successfully sold, technology firms from way back when he was a student at Cal Berkeley, knows mobile, Asia where much of future growth lies, has the personal fortitude and a vision for the future can I, as someone who has followed him for years, think he has that Steve Jobs magic of getting the porridge just right.  I hope he is allowed a shot at Yahoo! USA before it’s too late.  Next up, Kodak…
-Paul Salo
Oct. 31, 2011


  1. Interesting idea. It’s uncanny how much Jobs and Son had in common. I read a WSJ article talking about their conversations while working together bringing iPhone to Japan. Brendan


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