Kazutomo Robert Hori
1965–



President and chief executive officer, Cybird Company

Nationality: American.

Born: 1965, in Washington, D.C.

Education: School of Law, Kwansei Gakuin University, graduated 1989.

Career: Paradise Web Company, 1994, cofounder, president, and chief executive officer; Cybird Company, 1998–, founder, president, and chief executive officer.

Address: CYBIRD Company, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower 22F, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-6161; http://www.cybird.co.jp.

■ Kazutomo Robert Hori's idea to charge cell-phone users subscription fees for online content helped to revolutionize Japan's mobile Internet industry. He launched Cybird Company in Tokyo on September 19, 1998. Cybird's business operations include foreign and domestic mobile content, mobile marketing solutions, and research and development for next-generation mobile platforms. For the fiscal year ending in March 2004, Cybird boasted 3.2 million paying subscribers and a market cap of $142 million, with $54 million in projected revenues.

Hori was born in Washington, DC, raised in Kobe, Japan, and studied in Japan and England. In 1994 he started Paradise Web Company, a content provider for PC users. However, the company went out of business quickly. Hori sold horse feed for three years while planning for his next venture, which came in 1998 with Cybird, which provides the content for all mobile carriers in Japan.

BUSINESS ACHIEVEMENTS

Cybird achieved its goals through a combination of unique content, marketing, international focus, and technology, as well as important partnerships, affiliations, and subsidiaries. One important achievement was the acquisition of lucrative licensing deals, such as obtaining exclusive rights from Lucas-film to develop mobile content in Japan for the Star Wars franchise, a venture called Star Wars Mobile. Cybird emphasized end-user satisfaction by providing mobile solutions that were beneficial and easy to use. Progress was made in the research and development of solutions that utilize two-dimensional bar codes and noncontact type IC cards for mobile phones.

Cybird made inroads internationally by offering consulting services and solutions for wireless-network operators throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States, and it also provided original content for local wireless-network operators in The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Singapore, Thailand, and Korea. K Laboratory, a strategic technology-planning company, was established by Cybird for research and development of software for mobile phones. K Laboratory created "on-campus mobile phone labs," run by students, which actively involved both industry and academia in the research and development process.

At the JavaOne Conference in Japan in 2001, Cybird was named the first Japanese company to become an authorized technology partner of Sun Microsystems. In 2002 the company received the first BREW Developer Award from the U.S. company Qualcomm. In addition, the Electronic Commerce Research Group awarded Cybird the Japan Online Shopping Grand Prize for Best Mobile Electronic Commerce Solutions.

BUSINESS STRATEGIES AND PHILOSOPHY

Cybird was committed to creativity, performance, and reliability. Business plans were created with an emphasis on a thorough understanding of end-user needs and recognition of the unique nature of the Internet. As Hori explained, "In order to develop relevant content and applications, Cybird conducts its own market research. Generally, when we create a new service we look for subject material that is already widely accepted by Japanese people" ( TheFeature.com ).

Hori's business philosophy was influenced by the old Japanese keiretsu economic system, whereby a "group of partners develop an industry by working in long-term, structured relationships based on knowledge sharing, consensus building and mutual benefit." Hori noted that "there must be a cycle of positive feedback between all the players, including manufacturers, operators and content providers." He added, "In Japan each player in the value chain knows its own territory and doesn't try to interfere or compete with others. All the players have an incentive to do a better job than yesterday." Overall, Cybird's reliability was proven by important partnerships, a large subscription base, and work with well-known clients like George Lucas. Hori expressed Cybird's goal for the future, "We want to always position ourselves in the center of the mobile Internet. To be someone who decides. We want to be one of the mothers and fathers of this industry, not just in Japan but the whole world" ( TheFeature.com ).

INDUSTRY IMPACT

Cybird's mobile Internet ventures dominated content for Japanese telecommunications, but, with the exception of gaming software, Japanese companies have traditionally struggled to compete in the software and content industries on the international level. Hori's achievements with licensing agreements and innovative research and development created a solid base from which to reach the international community of mobile Internet users.

sources for further information

Cullen, Lisa Takuchi, "Birds of a Feather: When DoCoMo Flies the Coop, So Does Cybird," Time Asia , June 23, 2004.

——, "Robert Kazutomo Hori" Time Europe , December 2, 2002, p. 46.

"Kazutomo Robert Hori: Founder and President, Cybird," BusinessWeek , July 8, 2002, p. 64.

Ragano, Dmitri, "Finding the Wave," TheFeature.com , http://www.thefeature.com/article?articleid=13898 .

—Lee McQueen

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