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Taking Control Back from the Distributors – Allen Miner – Oracle

By Tim Romero: Serial startup founder in Japan and indomitable innovator

Today is the first episode off our new expanded format. From today, we’ll be covering both disruptive Japanese startups and detailed market entry case studies of global companies that are disrupting Japan from the outside. Oracle first came into Japan more than 25 years ago, but the challenges they faced and overcame then are exactly the same ones firms are facing today in executing their Japan market entry. Allen explains why Oracle needed a unique sales and marketing strategy for Japan, and how he managed to get buy-in from headquarters — even though Oracle already had a sales and marketing program that had proven fantastically successful in other markets. We also talk about how Oracle managed to negotiate a amicable exit out from their exclusive distribution agreements not just once, but twice. That’s an amazing accomplishment considering that many foreign companies have destroyed their Japanese business the first time they attempt it. But Allen, tells the story much better than I do. I think you’ll enjoy the interview. I know I did. [shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="7994466"] Leave a comment Partial Transcript Disrupting Japan, episode 58. I’ve got some big news for you today. Disrupting Japan is going to be twice as big, twice as informative, and twice as frequent. From today on, we’ll be sending out new episodes every single week. To do this, we’re going to be expanding the format. Half of our interviews will be with start-up founders, just like before, and half of our interviews will be with people who are disrupting Japan by bringing foreign companies, technologies, and innovation into Japan. This really makes a lot of sense because as fans of Japanese history know, foreign pressure has always been a powerful agent of change in Japan. I think you’ll find these additional episodes very interesting. And to kick things off today, we’ll get a chance to sit down and talk with my good friend Allen Miner about the challenges Oracle faced, and overcame, when breaking into Japan. I’ll warn you in advance that this episode is longer than most, and believe me, I cut things to the bone. But there is just too much great information about how to overcome both the personal and professional challenges that foreign companies face here. I felt like I would be cheating you if I edited out any more. In fact, Allen explains how Oracle successfully maneuvered out of an exclusive distribution agreement, not only once, but two separate times. This is something that has sunk more than one foreign company here. But Allen tells the story much better than I can, so let’s get right to the interview. [pro_ad_display_adzone id="1411" info_text="Sponsored by" font_color="grey" ] [Interview]   Tim: So I’m sitting down here with Allen Miner and Allen, you’ve been involved with the market entry of a lot of companies into Japan. But today I want to focus on the one that you led personally, which was Oracle Japan. So let’s back up. What was attractive about the Japanese market? What made Oracle decide that they needed to be in this country? Allen: Actually, that happened a few years before I joined Oracle. In, I believe it was 1982, Oracle was about a $5 million a year company worldwide, 5 years old as a company, and just released their first commercial version of the Oracle database software. There was quite a bit of press about, “How interesting is this relation to technology? It doesn’t require traditional programming to do data manipulation.” And the U.S. press got read by some technical geeks in Europe. And one in particular in Japan said, “This sounds really interesting. We ought to figure out if we can bring this cool new technology to Japan.” Tim: So it was a partner company pulling you in? Allen: Yeah, it was a company called Digital Computers Limited, that at the time was building DEC VAX clones. Because Oracle originally was released on the DEC VAX computer platform,

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