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Building a Big Data Venture: Hiro Yoshikawa, CEO of Treasure Data (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Dec 20th 2016

Sramana Mitra: As an anecdote, I was at MIT in the mid 90’s. Richard Stallman was there. He was one of the first advocates of open source. This was 10 years before the timeframe that you’re talking about.

Hiro Yoshikawa: That’s true. I could likely become the firsthand witness that Linux took to mainstream. 15 years later, nobody questions Linux or open source.The situation was very different when I started at RedHat. After those exciting years at RedHat, I was hired by a corporate venture capital firm called Mitsui.

Sramana Mitra: How did you get into their venture capital group? How did this connection happen?

Hiro Yoshikawa: One of the former GM of Asia at RedHat joined a Silicon Valley company where Mitsui invested. I remained very friendly with him. I visited his office very often and chatted a lot. One of the partners at Mitsui Ventures suggested that there might be an open position for their tech investment. Basically, he created the position for me. I didn’t really intend to be part of a VC. Back then, I thought that a VC job was cool. I was still in my late 20’s. I decided to take the challenge.

Sramana Mitra: This was 2009?

Hiro Yoshikawa: 2007. I spent the first two years of my corporate venture capital career based in Tokyo and covering their Asian investment. I ended up moving to Silicon Valley in early 2009.

Sramana Mitra: Still representing Mitsui?

Hiro Yoshikawa: Correct. Mitsui Ventures had a lot of global offices. They have offices in Tel Aviv, Beijing, Shanghai, New York, and Menlo Park. I was moved to Menlo Park. My role was to help the company’s tech investment including open source software. If you remember 2009 or 2008, it was the worst year in the economy, but there were several areas in the software industry that remained active in the venture communities.

One of them was data technology innovations. Innovation was truly led by open source, which excited me a lot. The platform software was at the core of what I did. There was an open source software called Hadoop which was an early success. In a nutshell, Hadoop is a data processing system running on top of Intel-based commodity hardware. It was originally developed and open sourced by Yahoo!.

Google influenced Yahoo! to develop Hadoop and open source it. I can say that combined intelligence of the data processing methods, through the two biggest Internet powerhouses, became available to everyone. It ended up opening up lots of the new data-driven business opportunities. My background was just open source platform software.

Sramana Mitra: Did you invest in any of the significant projects of that time?

Hiro Yoshikawa: I made two investments. One was OpenX. They process a lot of data for marketing. Long story short, I met a guy called Christophe Bisciglia, who founded the very first Hadoop commercialization company called Cloudera. I met him when they were raising Series B round, which was still very early days of the Hadoop innovations. In a sense, we missed the opportunity for sure. Christophe and I got along very well. We hang out together and go to vacations together. His wife and my wife remain close friends. I was totally influenced by this guy about my own startup idea.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Building a Big Data Venture: Hiro Yoshikawa, CEO of Treasure Data
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