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Building a Big Data Venture: Hiro Yoshikawa, CEO of Treasure Data (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Dec 19th 2016

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A very interesting story of a big data infrastructure management startup.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?

Hiro Yoshikawa: I am a native Japanese. I was born in Tokyo in 1978 and was raised on the outskirts. Even when I was a very small kid, I loved literature. Mostly, I like Japanese novels like Murakami. Do you know Murakami?

Sramana Mitra: I do. Were you reading in Japanese or in English?

Hiro Yoshikawa: Actually both, but mostly Japanese when it comes to Japanese books. I also like learning histories of any kind. I love the history of computer. This is the underlying context of why I started this company. I was born in a typical middle class family. My mom divorced my biological father even before I was born and got married to my stepfather when I was four. I’m the only child. When I was in college at Waseda University, I got my first internship job at RedHat. I was 21 then.

Sramana Mitra: Were you studying Computer Science?

Hiro Yoshikawa: I was studying Literature.

Sramana Mitra: Why did you get a job as an intern at RedHat?

Hiro Yoshikawa: I met a few top management people at RedHat, and I was always into computers.

Sramana Mitra: What were you doing to do for RedHat as an intern?

Hiro Yoshikawa: I was actually hired by the training service division. I was actually a trainer teaching how to build the Linux servers. I went to take up a full-time offer. I was in that training service division for probably 18 months. I taught hundreds of engineers mostly from the big tech shops like IBM, HP, and Fujitsu.

Sramana Mitra: What years were these?

Hiro Yoshikawa: It was 2001 to 2002. At this time, the company was already thought of as an up and coming company, but Linux and open source itself was still seen as hobbyist. Most big companies like Oracle, HP, and most Fortune 2000 companies didn’t take it seriously yet. If you want to buy the Linux box from RedHat, you can only buy it from some geeky computer stores. You can’t really buy the serious Linux box from Dell yet. That software was still far from mainstream but it was when and where I started my career.

I was at RedHat for almost seven years. After that training service, I was moved to the business development division where I was more of a solution architect. Then I ended up taking more of a business role to help companies develop new OEM partners. This defined my professional life. The mainstream industry initially ignored us, laughed at us, or even denied us. The great thing about RedHat was that the company stayed true to its mission. They call themselves the open source company. Do you know Eric Raymond?

Sramana Mitra: No.

Hiro Yoshikawa: He’s one of the earliest advocates of the open source communities and open source philosophy itself. He’s mostly famous for his essay called The Cathedral and the Bazaar. In the essay, he claims the Linux Law. The law states that given enough eyeballs, all bags are shallow.

This is what the company believes in, which means that collective intelligence with many community members across the world would prevail proprietary software development style. Over the years since I started at RedHat, it really happened. It was an amazing experience for me. Initially, nobody took Linux and open source seriously in the enterprise IT space.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Building a Big Data Venture: Hiro Yoshikawa, CEO of Treasure Data
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