If there’s one thing that the media likes – it’s drama. This is not specific to the United States, as can be evidenced by Ichiro Yamamoto’s inflammatory blog article that cited that the globally recognized entrepreneur and advisor William Saito had not graduated from the medical school he listed in his background. Rumors running abound, Saito did release a formal apology, saying that he did not graduate from the UCLA school of medicine. What Saito did not address, however, were the luring allegations that he was not actually a cybersecurity specialist at all, and his supposed failure to address this comes from a monumentally successful history in technology. It leaves us to wonder, as Saito probably has thought about his own startup investments, whether you need a degree or backing from a large corporation to be a success.
William Saito, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Japan in 1969, had ties in both Japan and the United States. After starting his own company in the United States at the age of 20 and subsequently sold it to Microsoft in 2004. This cybersecurity and technology background, coupled with his proto-governmental involvement with the Giuliani corporation, paved the way for his successful career as a consultant for the Japanese and American governments.
Undoubtedly his past had an intensely satisfying play on his current positions. William Saito credited his commitment to technology startups and his cyber-savvy nature to his time spent as a tech intern in the 1980’s when technology startup culture and investing was intense, competitive, and glamorous. That sort of an environment makes an impact on young minds, and so the interest in cyber startups only increased from there. What many of Saito’s critics fail to understand was that being involved with the earliest form of cybersecurity and watching it grow over time is experience – of which not even a college degree can compete with.
And indeed, his technological prowess was noticed by large corporations, governmental figures, and organizations worldwide. William Saito’s time spent with the Giuliani corporation lent him the ability to meet and speak with governmental officials across Asia as technology was wending its way into the next big boom. During his time as an advisor with the Giuliani corporation, he was reached out to by AIST – Japan’s national institute of Advanced Science and technology–and became a startup advisor there. Keep in mind that the time that he joined on to AIST was a revolutionary time in technological history. Apple and Microsoft were creating and releasing products that continuously broke the mold, and to keep up with the security demands of increasingly technical cyber startups, even more startups were working on breaking current cybersecurity molds.
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So, to see the United States – the country of his birth – growing while his parent’s country was full of underfunded and under supported but equally brilliant minds was something that motivated William Saito to act. While working at the AIST, he became involved with many of the startups that he was set to help with the organization. He was sure that these entrepreneurs could not solely be helped through this organization, so he started his own platform of his own. This is where InTecur, a venture capital and technology consultancy firm, was born from.
Supporting the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
William Saito is not silent when it comes to consulting and delivering advice to entrepreneurs. Equally, he does not believe that startups are successful 100% of the time, which is arguably what separates him from the remainder of startup supports in Japan and the United States alike. In a recent IdeaMensch article, he is quoted saying, “Failing early, failing fast, failing often, and most importantly, failing forward are how I bring ideas into reality.” Going along with an idea that Saito calls “Design Thinking”, Saito believes that many entrepreneurs are afraid of failure, and that often fear of failure is exacerbated by a societal need for perfection. This philosophy obviously hasn’t hurt entrepreneurs, especially since 25 companies that Saito has invested in have been successes.
Focusing instead on working to solve a problem is partially what motivates the entrepreneur and is how William Saito initially looks at investments. Investing in the idea rather than the successes and failures is a decent way to help young minds continue with their work. In fact, this persistence is something that Saito sites in his own work as a baseline for everything that he does. Perhaps this is why he was named a Young Global Leader in 2011 and why he served as a cybersecurity monitor for Shinzo Abe.
Even failures like the Fukushima disaster in Japan are potential learning opportunities, at least, this is how William Saito approached the disasters when they happened. Working with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a national cybersecurity counsel, they investigated the possibility of the Fukushima failure being related to a cybersecurity weakness. As countries like the United States and Japan are shifting their governmental platforms to cyber platforms, the need for heightened cyber security remains a necessity. For a government as traditional and cautious as Japan to trust an American citizen with the responsibilities of technology consultancy is telling about the capabilities of this young entrepreneur.
In town for Interpol World 2017, William Saito, special adviser to Japan’s cabinet, talks about the Japan-EU trade deal and the third arrow in Abenomics.
William Saito the Tech Guru
Saito came a long way from producing a startup from his college dorm room to being one of the most sought-after tech minds in the world. Still, there is controversy behind his actions and legitimacy as a tech guru. Most recently, William Saito resigned his position as adviser to the industry ministry and the Cabinet Office in December of 2017. This resignation did come after allegations about his medical degree. In response to those allegations, Saito honestly responded, “It is not true that I graduated from a medical school of the University of California, Los Angeles and obtained a medical license. I hereby would like to make a correction.” This apology was made public on his own website, as a way of owning the allegations. While dishonest, many William Saito fans are left wondering what these allegations actually have to do with his legitimacy as a technological kingpin.
The answer should be clear on this. College degrees and controversies aside, Saito has always had technological know-how. If he didn’t, there would have been no way that he could have turned a small technology startup into the multi-million-dollar company that it became in the early 2000’s. As for his career change, Saito saw an opportunity and took it. He did his time in the world of tech creation and wanted to ensure that future entrepreneurs had the chance to follow their dreams like he did. With just his vast technology startup experience alone, no one should be ashamed to think of William Saito as the entrepreneur and well-versed technological genius that he has always been portrayed as. As far as his truthfulness – that is up to individuals to decide based on their own moral code.