Koki Uchiyama is a veteran of Japan’s tech ecosystem, as one of the developers that launched one of Japan’s first search engines, Nippon Search Engine. He ultimately made his name as the founder and CEO of Hottolink, one of the leading social media analytics services in Japan. These days, Uchiyama has relcoated to the U.S. and set his sights on the future of blockchain as both a founder of Tokyo’s University’s Blockchain Innovation Lab and the founder of Famiee, a social innovation nonprofit working to provide services for Japanese same-sex couples via blockchain-certified marriage licenses.
What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about blockchain-based innovation currently?
Cryptocurrency is just one application of blockchain technology. Lots of people are attracted by the money. People see that and they cannot see the essential potential of the technology behind the money.
When browsers and the world wide web were invented, people said, “‘put the company brochure on the computer.” Twenty or thirty years later, the lifestyle of human beings has been changed by the internet. I think the same thing will happen with blockchain. So many mistake blockchain with crypto money and they want to get rich. But beyond that, in 10 years, 20 years, big innovations will come by blockchain technology.
What are the fields in which you think blockchain has the most unrecognized potential for impact?
The fair distribution of wealth. Right now the person who invests money in a company takes the profit and is the winner. Money is often valued as the most important contribution for the growth of a company. But workers are also contributors to growth. Users can also be contributors to the growth of the service, or partners. Workers or partners or users are not investing money, but they are investing their time or their work into growth. Now they can be rewarded by the tokens.
This is DAO, Distributed Autonomous Organizations. It’s not a corporation, it’s a community. And if that project becomes big and their token is listed on crypto exchanges, everybody will be rewarded. DAO is a big trend in the blockchain industry that can change the concept of the investor.
What is a major challenge facing the Japanese tech ecosystem right now?
The Japanese market is disconnected from other countries’ markets because of language. Even if Japanese entrepreneurs are very talented and have success getting market share in Japan. After that, they try to go outside of Japan and by then their competitors have already secured the market.
The diversity of the team is also key. If we look at companies in Japan, almost all the team members are Japanese. It’s very hard for them to leave Japan at that time. They need to hire another person who knows another country’s market, but those hires do not know the concept of the software or the history of the company, and often do not work well with the core team.
Looking back now, what is a misstep in your career as an entrepreneur and how have you recovered from that misstep?
Starting my company in Japan. If I had started my company in the U.S., I think I would probably be a leader in the IT revolution. I experienced the history of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, but my career was limited in the Japanese market. For Web 3.0 I don’t want to repeat that mistake. Blockchain innovation is happening all around the world and we can easily provide the services on the blockchain to the people around the world. So I want to replay my life agin in Web 3.0.
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