The app and start-up economy

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ビルボード誌 アジア支局長 Rob Schwartz(ロブ シュワルツ)さんがいま気になるエンターテイメントや音楽、テクノロジーに関する話題を取り上げていく本コラム。第3回となる今回は「アプリとスタートアップの経済圏」についてです。(本連載は、全編英語でお届けします)

As we dive into the New Year, and a year in which Japan will come into the spotlight due to the Olympics, it's worth considering what is the best way to move forward for the economy and for individuals.

As many readers of Creatorzine may know, the desires of recent college graduates in Japan have changed considerably over the last ten years or so. Traditionally the great achievement out of university was to score a job with one of the zaibatsu, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Sony or one of the other great corporations of Japan. I'm sure those jobs are still coveted but a poll from a few years ago revealed a new champion for recent Japanese grads…. Google. This switch is more than understandable. Google is renowned for it's laidback workspace, high salary, and cutting edge business model. Having visited the Google offices in Roppongi I can attest they are like no other workplace. There was a pool table, lots of spaces to relax and lounge, lots of snacks for free and even a noodle bar. Who wouldn't want to work there?

But one fundamental fact remains, working for Google is still working for a mega-corporation and your future is largely out of your control. While this may offer a certain amount stability in one's career you'll largely have to follow the dictates of superiors. Traditionally this was not something that people questioned, either here or in the West, for one's career. But starting at the end of the last century and continuing strongly into this one a new economy started to rear it's head and offer people more control of their careers.

I'm of course referring to the start-up economy, which has now morphed to a certain degree to the app economy. The first version of this concept took hold around 1998-2002 in what we quaintly refer to as the Internet 1.0. As some will recall the idea of an “online company” or “cyber business” was rather unknown at the time. Whether e-commerce could challenge conventional commerce was still unclear. While e-commerce giant Amazon was founded in 1994, it didn't start selling music and video until 1998. In 2002 the company founded Amazon Web Services and it didn't really become a market for until about 2008. This is evidence by the fact Amazon's stock doubled between October 2008 and December 2009. But it's great success was yet to come. The stock crossed the $200 mark in June of 2011 but would go one to be ten times that (it's now over $2,000). Indeed by 2017 Amazon accounted for 4% of retail sales and 44% of e-commerce sales in the United States alone. The biggest product category in that year was consumer electronics with an estimated $8.5 billion in sales.