Research at AIIT

Dialog with an Uncertain Future / Excerp (Irregular updates)

The 19th Installment“Memories of Numeric, a Joint-Stock Company”

by Yoshihide Chubachi,
Associate Professor, Master's Program of Information Systems Architecture

I have had the experiencing of founded and managing a company. I set up the company in November 1997, right when the third phase of the so-called venture boom was settling down. I had never thought about starting a company during the boom, but I decided to do it because it was quieting down.

The company was called Numeric. It developed software on demand, undertook R&D projects with universities, and worked in consultation and education. I was president, but stepped down on taking up this position here at the Institute and left it to my subordinates.

Under its current president, the company recently decided to shutter its business. It has been exactly twelve years from founding. Since it is a bit of an emotional event for me, I want to take this opportunity to talk about my experience managing a venture business, calling on some memories from those times.

One way that Numeric was different from other venture businesses originating from universities was that it operated out of the university. So many college students back then had left the campus grounds to go into venture businesses. But Numeric was quite the opposite.

An advantage to managing a business with one foot planted in the university's research activities was that it was easy for us to obtain people to work with us from the university. Simply put, you just have fellow students in your lab help out in your work. At one time, we had seven employees like this.

We were also able to play a role in bridging the university's research with the industrial sector. We collaborated with businesses in a different style from the common, “joint research” type of collaboration between corporation and university. I can proudly credit my company for mediating many intellectual resources such as professors of the university, making a contribution to society.

What bothered me most in operating the company was the hierarchical structure of the software industry, with primary, secondary, and many more levels of subcontracting. We usually got work at the very bottom level. This left us with unappetizing situations in many ways, but I won’t go into that here since it will only sound like I’m complaining.

I later shifted my main work to research and teaching, which I continue to do to this day. People often ask me why I quit the company to become a college professor. My answer (if I might put it in noble terms) is because I wanted to contribute to the Japanese information industry from a broader perspective through education and research.

What I painfully felt as I managed my IT business was how lacking in competitiveness the Japanese information industry was. Japan has almost no software technology that is a global standard. Despite the presence of skilled engineers, the actual work that takes place is so tough, the business is mocked as a “3D” job – dirty, dangerous and demeaning.

What can I do to make the Japanese information industry happier? That might sound pompous, but it’s my overarching theme. It's a subject I’m hoping to work on as a college professor.

On a final note, I would be happy to see my students here start a business in the future. I'm hoping to meet someone who has the determination to take on challenges in a new business. Even with my limited entrepreneurial experience, I would be very pleased to offer whatever I can to anyone with such a desire.

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  • The 20th Installment

    "The Redo-able World of Digital Engineering"

    by Toshitake Tateno,
    Associate Professor, Masters Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering
  • The 19th Installment

    “Memories of Numeric, a Joint-Stock Company”

    by Yoshihide Chubachi,
    Associate Professor, Master's Program of Information Systems Architecture
  • The 18th Installment

    “Thoughts about Recent Motor Shows”

    by Noboru Koyama,
    Professor, Masters Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering