REALCOM, Inc.: Software Will Change the World More and More
Board Member and Chief Technology Officer of REALCOM, Inc.
Mr. Takeuchi worked with DEC Japan for nine years, developing OS-related software and spending one year abroad working in New Hampshire (1987-1988). He later joined Informix Japan as a software engineer and began working with Lotus (now IBM) in 1994. From 1998 to 2003, Mr. Takeuchi led the Lotus Notes globalization team and, in 2003, he joined REALCOM, Inc. as a board member and chief technology officer. He holds a Master's degree in Engineering (Management Information Systems) from Kyushu University, the same school from which he earned his undergraduate degree in engineering.
Q: I know you worked in the U.S. for several years while you were with Lotus (now IBM), but can you talk about why you went to the States in the first place?
Takeuchi: At the time, Lotus Notes had already been globalized and the Japanese version functioned error-free for the most part. Following the integration of new Internet standards, however, errors would occur when trying to switch to the Japanese version. The team in the States wasn't able to fix the problem on their own and our first response was to send some Japanese engineers to discuss the matter with the American team. In the process, the team in the States realized that it wasn't familiar with the specs in Japan and ended up taking the Japanese engineers onto their team. Though that's the strategy we employed at the start, ultimately, I had to climb on board. (laughs)
Q: "It's up to me now," sort of deal. (laughs)
Takeuchi: Right. Or maybe that it was better for me to get involved. I was asked to put together a team to globalize Lotus Notes just when I started to think that things were in trouble because of the radical changes. The only input I had at the time was to "put together a team that knows how to globalize.” (laughs) When asked if I had any requests, I answered that I wanted ten of the finest engineers from around the world, and surprisingly, for the most part, I got them. (laughs) My team members hailed from regions like China, Taiwan and Ireland, and as leaders with connections all over the globe, we conducted globalization of product development and testing with a global focus.
Q: Did you notice any differences between Japan and the U.S. after working in the States?
Takeuchi: The States, more so than Japan, allows engineers to take initiative. Also, there's a firmly established framework for enabling engineers to work on product development. Engineers are able to take their own ideas, implement them and even throw in new ideas along the way…it doesn't get much more engineer-oriented than that.
Q: Can you talk about why you decided to return to Japan?
Takeuchi: The reason I left Lotus and returned to Japan was to work for REALCOM. I first received an offer in 2001 but turned them down citing that it just wasn't feasible. I assumed they would hire someone else if I told them I couldn't do it, but for the next two years they kept asking. (laughs) Once I joined the company, I discovered that despite their talented staff, they didn't know how to go about developing new software and that they didn't have anyone to show them. Without a clear view of the big picture, they were merely developing whatever applications were thrown their way. There are certain benefits to working this way of course, but developing software solely with the specs you're provided won't help you build competitive products. What I did is change the culture to one that thinks before it builds.
Q: Can you discuss REALCOM's work in the States?
Takeuchi: So far, our business in the States has been to work on the development and marketing of a new product called FileServer intelligent(TM), as well as the development of our Social Feed™ service. FileServer intelligent(TM) solution enables users to cut costs and strengthen compliance policies by enhancing file server administration of unrestricted areas that cannot be regulated. Social Feed(TM) is a service that provides people with access to information they need. Social Feed(TM), currently released in an open-source beta form, enables users to select areas of interest and then obtain information from people that have specified the same area of interests. However, in accordance with structural changes beginning in 2008, our U.S firm will begin to shift its focus to product management for an existing product, KnowledgeMarket(R), and to new technology research. Though its involvement with product lines will change, our U.S. operation's positioning as a central front in developing REALCOM solutions on a global scale shall remain unchanged.
Q: What was the reason for deciding to develop business in the States?
Takeuchi: I wanted to work on the globalization of products and people. Working solely in Japan isn't feasible when it comes to software and there's absolutely no reason for limiting your market to your own country. Developing software that can sell globally and spreading your market across the globe is the only thing that enables you to manage the costs of development. Also, product globalization with a Japanese-only staff can be fairly difficult. Agenda setting is a classic example. In Japan, the white board in the office, the one that keeps track of who's in or out of the office, is the basis on which business operates. Accordingly, all the basics are shared and it becomes a question of how to hide personal projects. It's the opposite in the States as the emphasis is on the individual. The first thing companies do is to have their employees set their own agenda and then look for areas of overlap.
Q: In other words, globalization sometimes means globalizing people too.
Takeuchi: Globalization involves a lot of other things besides what I just mentioned and you have to tell yourself that "I may not know what I'm doing but I want to do things right.” It's difficult to make a global product without people with myriad backgrounds and that's why we hire people from countries like the U.S. for our Japan office too.
Q: What was it that made you globally aware?
Takeuchi: Graduate school. I visited several firms, including some Japanese ones, and no matter where I went, every firm was using DEC (digital equipment corporation) machines. Many of those firms that seemed proud to be using it and I remember thinking no matter how you look at it, the U.S. had taken the lead. I decided then that I wanted to work at a foreign firm. I had been told at the time that there would be an English test after I joined the company and that only those who were proficient in English would be able to go abroad. That's when I decided I needed to study English as there was no way I would make it abroad with my abilities at the time. I remember thinking "man, am I in trouble.” (laughs)
Q: This next one is a personal question, but can you talk about the person who's had the biggest impact on your life?
Takeuchi: My father. My dad wanted me to get involved with electronics and told me I needed to build things. One summer vacation during elementary school, he had me make a linear motor car, or a car that floats using magnets, for my summer project. And nowadays, I'm always fascinated by wind power. Put together some fan blades, a bulb, a motor, add a bit of wind and －poof― you've got power. I still can't believe that wind power is being put to practical use.
Q: You were the vanguard of environmental technology. Too bad you didn‘t take out a patent. (laughs)
Takeuchi: Though my father was talking about "electronics” when he told me to build things, "computers” are what were on my mind. The only problem was that I didn't have any opportunities to work with them. My first opportunity was when I bought a programmable calculator and wrote a program for calculating bowling scores. With the limited memory though, it was quite a challenge. (laughs) I was starved for memory. Young people today have it made. (laughs)
Q: Is there anything you would consider your life work?
Takeuchi: To change the world through software. As the bedrock for the exchange of information, Lotus Notes changed the world and I suspect it's changed the way people work too. During its heyday, attending a 4-day Lotus conference could run several thousands of dollars and ten thousand plus tickets would sell out in the span of an hour; reflecting just how big an impact it had. The Internet and the web also changed the world, but there are things that will change the world even more. I think software's future role in changing the world will be big and I'm fascinated by the idea that the products I develop might change the way people act.
(Editor: SAKAI Koji)