AIKON Advisor Mas Sakamoto on Blockchain in Japan

Blockchain and cryptocurrency adoption is reaching far and wide in Japan, so far and wide that financial experts are predicting blockchain technology will fuel the country’s next economic boom. Back in April, the government in Tokyo passed a law recognizing bitcoin as legal tender, and in September regulators in the country endorsed 11 companies to operate cryptocurrency exchanges. Plus, one third of adults in Japan have used already used a cryptocurrency wallet.

As a global company aiming to make Blockchain easier for everyone, we’re always looking at different markets with high potential for blockchain-driven and ultimately, decentralized economies, to come to fruition. With the guidance of our advisor Mas Sakamoto, Silicon Valley veteran and Japan tech native, we know we’re in good hands.

A former IT executive, Mas has many years of experience in international and new business development, strategic planning, US-Japan partnerships, venture capital investment, new business incubation and cross-border operations with P&L responsibilities. Most recently he’s done M&A, fundraising, and coached startups from Japan and the US.

We spent some time with Mas to officially welcome him to the AIKON family, and share his insights about the future of blockchain in Japan, Silicon Valley and beyond.

AIKON: What do you think needs to happen within the blockchain industry and in business, in order for society to become a decentralized economy?

Mas: Number one, I think decentralized architecture is inevitable. Things happen at the edge. I am a believer that you can’t plan everything, you have to first allow things to start happening, like how certain communities are becoming structured around tokens. Then they create value and start to become more legitimate and suddenly we’re unleashing big value. I think that is important, and that’s why I like AIKON very much.

AIKON: What was it that really stood out to you the most about AIKON and the team that made you want to get on board?

Mas: The biggest factor is Stefan Roever, AIKON’s CEO. We go back many years. Having been in Silicon Valley for a number of years and investing in Silicon Valley, I believe it boils down to the jockey, especially in the early stages. The jockey must have the insightfulness to identify opportunities, have the technical background, and have the management skills. I think this combination is very rare in Silicon Valley. Stefan possesses all three attributes, which I think are prerequisites for a successful startup. So when he said he was starting AIKON, and given that blockchain and an API token community is sort of a perfect storm right now, I said this is great! He’s identified the opportunity. He has the technology platform for it, and he’s totally involved in it.

AIKON: As you know, AIKON is aiming to serve make it easier for developers across the globe to use Blockchain. How do you think this could affect Japan’s blockchain market? Financial leaders there are predicting blockchain will lead to the country’s next economic boom.

Mas: Given the fact that sales and marketing have always been a huge challenge for Japan, AIKON will certainly help Japan reach the global community essentially, due to the nature of its blockchain and token platform.

Also, I am seeing a growing gap between the speed of development in blockchain applications and token economies between, and therefore, believe AIKON will be able to bridge this gap in a way similar to some of the use cases we are developing with Hadron.

AIKON: What was your journey from Japan to Silicon Valley like?

Mas: I started off in Japan with a company called NEC. I worked there for four years, way back in the late ’80s. Then I got my MBA and took a leave of absence. Later, I found myself going back to the same company. Then things started happening in the early to mid ’90s. Rules of competition changed drastically. Stock options, M&A, and Silicon Valley came into the picture. So the company decided on creating a venture fund, and they needed to create an office here in Silicon Valley. So I raised my hand and moved from New York. After landing in Silicon Valley, I helped create several other corporate venture funds for the company. After leaving the company, I continued doing work around M&A, early stage investments, incubation, and coaching entrepreneurs.

AIKON: Do you have any major concerns about what the future holds for the Silicon Valley ecosystem?

Mas: There’s really no leader. Yes, there are top performing companies and people that are leading like Larry Page, for example, but it’s not like the old industries where IBM was the leader. I think the infrastructure is going through some painful cycles, especially in terms of housing here and the cost of living.

AIKON: What are your thoughts on decentralized social networks or different ways that decentralization can help in matters of privacy?

Mas: I liked the fact that social networks are helping with forming the direction for society as a whole. I go back to my days in Japan where consensus building was actually being done in the trains during commuting time. What I mean by that is when you ride the subways and trains in Japan, they have these advertisements hanging on the ceiling promoting what’s hot today. When I saw that, I said, ‘this is actually consensus building. Everyone’s needing it and everyone wants their opinion, but the opinions seem to be in line with what’s hanging on the ceiling’.

When I first came to the US, I thought that the dissemination of information is fairly lagging here because people don’t ride trains, and they listen to the radio, but mainly music. So there’s really no way of media becoming that consensus building. Fast forward to today, I think social networks have become that fortunately, or unfortunately. I sort of get my headline news from Facebook. Of course, I read the paper, as well. I think the promising piece, as well as the danger is that the world has figured out that you can’t form consensus and opinions through a social network. There are a lot of false headlines out there. Social networks have huge influence. So decentralization in a way from a network perspective is there. However, decentralization in terms of the thinking process, may be centralized more and more.

AIKON: Fascinating perspective! We love gaining these great insights from our international community of advisors, partners and developers. Almost all of Asia is really moving forward fast with Blockchain adoption as has Eastern Europe, parts of the Middle East and Latin America. As you know, we are working hard to empower developers everywhere to be able to use Blockchain easily and we really appreciate your insights and effort bringing our project to Japan.

Mas translating as our CPO Marc Blinder demonstrated how simple makes it to use smart contracts and cryptocurrency to 33 Japanese investors at the AIKON office.

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