You grew up in the United States, but moved to Japan right after college. What drew you there?
I originally moved to Japan to study Chinese archaeology in the feudal Japanese context, with no firm plan of what would come after grad school. I never imagined that I'd wind up in finance and spend the next few decades in Japan, but that's what happened. I just needed to go out on a limb and be open to possibilities. I think that’s an essential part of creating a really satisfying career—or founding a business, for that matter. When you take bold steps, equip yourself with adequate tools, and surround yourself with creative thinkers, good things happen.
Tell us a bit about your current role at SoftBank Investment Advisors.
My role here is a bit unusual in that, instead of investing, I focus more on the mechanics of our investment process—looking at how our portfolio companies will transition to the public market. I think the founders we work with all have an essential willingness to be bold. It's my job to try and help them connect the dots between that boldness and elements that lead to success as publicly traded assets—not just in terms of the IPO, but helping them actually transition effectively into what’s needed to thrive as a public company.
Is there a particular philosophy that shapes your work with founders?
I try to perform two equally important functions. One is operational—that’s about making sure everything is running smoothly. The other is advisory, and to me that is about demystifying the private-to-public transformation process. I want founders to be clear about the original function of public markets, which is to connect risk initiators with providers of capital. Public markets have become synonymous with algorithms and high-frequency trading. That’s certainly part of how they function today, but the essential purpose is still there, and that’s what I want to focus on.
What’s required to be successful in this global context?
I think it starts with having an organization that is inherently comfortable with authentic diversity. That’s one of the things I love about being here. People have these fascinating backgrounds, and they’re each so distinct from each other. You can’t fake that, and if you don’t bake it in from the beginning, it can become difficult to cultivate as the company grows.
What people have inspired you in your career?
I'm pretty fascinated by military history, and I've been particularly inspired by John Boyd, a fighter pilot in the US Air Force who spent the latter part of his life as a strategy consultant at the Pentagon. His ethos was that when you're dealing with really complicated problems, you need to decide if you want to be somebody or if you want to do something: Do you want accolades or accomplishments? It's actually a pretty huge distinction. So I’m always looking for the doers in really big innovations, not just the ones who got the credit. That’s part of what I love about this work. We’re here to help the doers.