This week the richest man in Japan, Masayoshi Son, hit the headlines for meeting Donald Trump and telling the world he would be investing $50 billion in America and creating 50,000 jobs. That one announcement has made him $2 billion richer in 3 days as Softbank’s stock shot up 6%.
It’s difficult for any startup entrepreneur to relate to an investor talking in billions. But Masa also began Softbank as a startup, and his amazing story of how he got started gives a good clue to how he became a billionaire.
Here is his story in his own words:
“I started Softbank in 1981. When Softbank was only two or three months old, I decided that I needed to show the end users and dealers what software was available in Japan. There was a consumer electronics show in Tokyo, and I made a reservation for the largest size booth, the same size as Sony, Matsushita, and Toshiba.”
“I purchased the space, and I called all the software vendors I could find, maybe just a dozen at that time. I told them that I had bought the space, I was going to prepare the flyers, I was going to have decorations, displays, a model PC, and I was going to pay for everything. I told them, you guys can be in my booth for free.”
“At the consumer electronics show, I had a booth the size of eight small booths. I had a huge sign that said, “Now the revolution has come for software distribution for PCs.” I had more people come to my booth than Sony did. My booth was always packed, jammed with people. And they all said how good it was.”
“My plan was that a bunch of people would sign up to establish outlets and another bunch of people would order software through Softbank. In fact, I got almost nothing.”
“Nobody signed up for a dealership. Zero.”
“Actually, most of the software vendors who attended the booth would tell people, if you can’t make up your mind today, here’s my card. You can call me directly if you decide to buy my software. So I was cut out of the deal completely. I probably made back one-twentieth of the cost of the booth.”
“After that, many people were laughing at me. They said, that guy’s really dumb. He’s a nice guy but dumb.”
“I said, OK, I’m dumb. But I’m going to keep at it, and someday, somebody will find out what I can do and what real software distribution means.”
“Actually, one person did call me from Osaka a few weeks after the show. He said, we’re starting a big PC shop, and we need software. Please come and talk to me. I said, sorry but I’m too busy to make the trip right now. Actually, I wasn’t busy. There were no customers. But I didn’t have the money to go to Osaka.”
“He said, my company’s name is Joshin Denki. Have you heard of us? I said, no. It turns out it’s the third largest home electronics dealer in Japan.”
“That afternoon, the person from Joshin Denki called me again. He said, you were too busy to come to Osaka. It’s completely by chance but tomorrow our president is going to Tokyo. It’s really by chance because he has some other business to do there.”
“The next day the president arrived. He told me that he had come all the way to Tokyo just to see me. The company had started a big computer shop two weeks before, and it needed software.”
“He asked me many questions: How much capital do you have? How old are you? What kind of business experience do you have?
“I told him, I have very little money, very little business experience. I have no product, nothing. What I do have is the greatest enthusiasm, the greatest desire to succeed. If you want to be the number one PC dealer in Japan, you have to find the number one guy in software distribution. That’s me. I have no evidence, but I strongly believe in myself.”
“He said, wow, you’re an interesting guy! And he gave me exclusive purchasing rights for all the PC software for Joshin Denki.”
“After I got Joshin Denki, I went to many other department stores and electronic shops. Have you seen Joshin Denki? They’re the largest PC dealer in Japan now. And do you know why they’re so successful? Because they have the software! And I have the exclusive on that software. So if you want to succeed, please talk to me. And they all opened accounts with me very quickly. In one month, I got most of the biggest dealers in Japan as my customers.”
“Before I got Joshin Denki, I had almost no sales. Then right after I got Joshin Denki, I got about $150,000 in sales to them. The next month, I started to do business with many other stores and that amount doubled. The next month, a 50% increase. And the next month. In one year, my monthly revenues went from about $10,000 to $2.3 million.”
Imagine that. He took one risk. Everyone said he was dumb. He stood firm. He got one call from that risk. He stood firm. He went from zero to $2.3 million in one year.
That’s the secret to Masa’s success. He makes a stand, and the rest follows. He went from that first failure and success and has since gone on to make one stand after another, going from zero to a net worth of $20 billion. His meeting this week was simply another stand. One worth another $2 billion.
What are you making a stand for?
“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”