Tokyo Startup Stories: Orb, Masa Keith Nakatsu

In 2015, Wahl & Case CEO Casey Wahl published his first book of interviews with the visionary founders behind Japan’s most successful startups, The Quiet Comeback.Now he’s back with a second volume, featuring in-depth interviews with 21 more innovators of the Japanese startup scene.  This second book, published in March 2018, is so far available only in Japanese. We are excited to offer exclusive highlights of the interviews in English, outlining the concept behind each enterprise, the founder’s brush with the “valley of despair”, and points they consider key to their success–a rare peek into how tech founders on the other side of the Pacific differ and align with their Silicon Valley counterparts.(read the first blog post of the Tokyo Startup Stories series here)

Masa Keith Nakatsu


How Orb Came to Be

The only reason there isn’t long lasting peace across the globe is the periodic recurrence of economic bubbles. Coming to that conclusion as a university student, Orb Founder and ex-CEO Masa Keith Nakatsu decided that capitalism’s lack of adherence to the principles of natural economics were to blame.“Every other system in nature has a limit on it’s resources. Money is the only resource [in capitalism] that is unlimited. I have always strived to devise or find a post capitalist system.”  After getting some professional experience under his belt, he began to consider more deeply what paths he could take to get there and found three distinct possibilities: become a politician and propose a new economic system through government; become a scholar in the vein of Satoshi Nakamoto and write books exploring bitcoin and beyond; or become an entrepreneur.“My father and grandfather are entrepreneurs. There’s technology and business in my DNA. I decided to become an entrepreneur on January 1, 2004.”

The Valley of Despair

Realizing that, although well-timed, his Silicon Valley content curation venture Musavy was going to have to start cutting some of its core team.“The first person I had to let go was a data scientist with a PhD from Todai. For all of his analytical thinking and reasoning, his output just wasn’t good enough. When you’re a startup you have to be squeezing maximum output out of the tiniest stockpile of resources.”The fate of a business is decided within two years in the SV.  “I was grinding my teeth for the whole two years from the stress,” he says.


   Masa Nakatsu's Attuned Motivator Profile

read here for more information about Attuned motivator profiles

Key Insights

The importance of diversity in the workplace is something that has left a lasting impression on him ever since his time in the truly diverse Silicon Valley. “Innovation is born of true diversity,” he explains. “You can’t build a product of universal appeal without a diverse team.”“If I had started Orb basically as a Japanese venture that happened to have foreign employees, all communication would have to be conducted at least twice [in Japanese and English]. That would represent a loss of speed and ultimately a loss of productivity.”

Parting shot  

Masa believes the Japanese tendency toward perfectionism is one reason that more Japanese ventures aren’t truly global players.“If you make something perfect, then you’re done.  Japan has been losing time for more than 20 years, getting trapped in their heads by perfectionism, while the world passes by. These years have been lost.”