Creating a Business School and Venture Capital Firm in Japan

Mr. Yoshito Hori (HBS’91), chairman & CEO of Japan-based Globis group, was on-campus with students Thursday, January 21 to share his perspective on entrepreneurship, success and progress of his Globis enterprise. Prior to Globis, Mr. Hori worked for Sumitomo Corporation where he was in charge of new business development and foreign trade of production-plant facilities. He has been featured on the cover of Forbes and in the Wall Street Journal as one of Japan’s most successful executives.

The event was a combined effort by the Asia Business, Entrepreneurship and VCPE clubs at HBS. Addressing a group of EC and RC students, Mr. Hori shared his learning from HBS days and answered questions ranging from his favorite class in school to challenges faced during his entrepreneurial journey.

An engineer from Kyoto University, Mr. Hori entered HBS in 1989 as a member of Section I. His focus throughout school was on courses and activities in entrepreneurship and venture capital. In fact, he still remembers forming the initial plan for his company in front of the Baker Library. Mr. Hori envisioned creating the right ecosystem for budding entrepreneurs in Japan, an effort he realized would not come without the right knowledge-driven environment and venture funding. He also soon realized that an important precursor to his plans would be to create a business school in Japan.

Drawing inspiration from the case-study method at HBS, Mr. Hori spoke to the MBA Chair and professors about the key ingredients required to set up an educational institution. Soon after his return to Japan in 1991, Mr. Hori invested a small amount of money in starting Globis Management School (GMS) with 20 students. Thirteen years later, the school has 8,000 students who are located across three facilities in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, and is rated the number-three business school in Japan.

Along with establishing the business school, Mr. Hori realized the need to gather venture capital to fund business plans from professionals and Globis students alike. However, fundraising under the 1997-98 Japanese economic conditions was a challenge, especially without established credentials. In a strategic move, he joined hands with Apax Capital Fund to get access to its global capital, global knowledge and technology transfer that had, up to then, been a limitation in Japan.

Today, Mr. Hori is the founding partner of the Globis Incubation Fund and Apax Globis Japan Fund. Other Globis initiatives involve corporate education and training for managers in Japanese companies like Toyota and Sony publishing and Globis Management Bank to link companies in Japan with aspiring managers.

Mr. Hori’s vision is to make GMS the top business school in Asia. His strategy for the business school focused on brand creation through advertising and communication, service guarantee through the tuition-back program instituted for students who were not satisfied with the results, and expanding into markets outside Japan potentially by acquiring other schools. Throughout its development, the school has retained its focus on human capital management, which was built largely by Mr. Hori and his team through the communication of their vision and values, and offering competitive compensation.

Hori’s VC fund, Globis Capital Partners, is currently ranked the best-rated VC fund in Japan by foreign investors. His vision is to establish the fund as the top fund in Asia. He has written four books on his experiences: Six Dimensions of Life, Personal Mission Statement, The Case-Method Approach to Strategic Entrepreneurship and Venture Management Revolution. Hori also has an active blog.

Answering students’ questions about the key factors observed in successful entrepreneurs, Mr. Hori emphasized identifying the competitive advantage, laying sound strategy and hiring the right talented people. Finally, he felt that a venture capitalist’s strength is in his judgment, which is often also aided by intuition.

Mr. Hori also talked candidly about the major steps in his own pursuit of entrepreneurship. Spelling vision, strategy and identification of resources and capital as integral first steps to any business plan, Mr. Hori talked about the importance of contingency planning. Regardless of how prepared he was, unexpected issues often confronted him, but his ability to be flexible proved a valuable asset in such situations.

He also offered perspectives on identifying regional advantages while developing one’s business plan. As an example, he spoke about the differences between the U.S. advantage in software, telecom equipment and biotech space and Japan’s leadership in mobile equipment, fast and cheap broadband, electronics and robotics. He also spoke about the benefits Silicon Valley has in the entrepreneurial ecosystem with its support structures and knowledge capital over the last 30 to 40 years. Mr. Hori felt that similar mature environments are still developing in other parts of the world, including Japan.

As a final word, Mr. Hori urged students to think “as big as possible.” The clarity of his vision and accomplishments, along with the simplicity of his personality and communication style, made the session truly memorable for the entire student group who were privileged to meet Mr. Yoshito Hori.