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Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son’s Decision Making Framework



Masayoshi Son says he first came up with this framework when he was 26 years old. And the 30 years of success is the proof of the validity of it. He continues to revise and improve on it. It is an lifetime pursue.

The formulation of his framework is base upon:

  1. Lanchester’s Law
  2. Sun Tzu’s Art of War
  3. Masayoshi Son’s original thinking

The framework has five pyramid levels, from top to bottom: Ideology, Vision, Strategy, Leader’s Competence, Tactics. Each level has then five attributes:

  • Ideology: Road, Sky, Terrain, Leader, Systematisation
  • Vision: Summit, Information, Strategy, Seven, Battle
  • Strategy: One, Wave, Offensive, Defensive, Group
  • Leader’s Competence: Knowledge, Trust, Benevolence, Courage, Strictness
  • Tactics: Wind, Woods, Fire, Mountain, Sea

Son says all his decisions can based on those 25 attributes.


Road: Use information revolution to make people happy

This is Softbank’s universal mission. Everyone in the company has heard of it and is familiar with it. It was mentioned several times also during the 30 years plan talk.

Sky: The information Revolution

The sky is for timing. There are unique things to be alive under this sky at this particular time. He gives few example of some of the unique things happening during this time:

  • Information Big Bang
  • Microprocessors
  • Internet

No matter how great of a person you are, if you were born during the wrong timing, your opportunities are limited. The present people are extremely lucky to be living at this time and there is an unique and huge opportunity. Son reminds of the previous revolutions:

  • Agricultural Revolution
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Information Revolution

The Information revolution is likely to be by far the biggest one. They got so lucky to be here during this timing. The opportunity is here and it should be taken advantage of.

Terrain: Terrain advantage: the epicenter of the Internet is Asia.

  • In the past, the United States had 50% of the world’s internet,
  • In 2015, Asia will have 50% of world’s internet users.

In the past, you had to be in the US and had to speak English, simply because the users were there. All big internet companies have historically come out of the US.

But the times have changed, the internet is shifting to Asia. Softbank Group has already been making a presence in Asia for a decade, notably by making investments in China such as Alibaba, Renren, etc…

With both this godsend opportunity from the Sky(Timing), and Terrain advantage, there is now no reason why Softbank should not take full advantage of the opportunity.

Leader: In order to succeed, you need to gather great leaders.

Of course the CEO must be a great leader, but he/she must also have at least 10 leaders below him/her. Nothing can be done alone, Softbank needs to accumulate great leaders. Softbank, by looking and picking great ventures to invest in Asia, is also gathering another great leader to join the Softbank family.

*Son actually uses the word General, but I’m translating it as Leader.

Systematisation: Systematisation is needed for continuous innovation

With willpower or luck, you may be able to get one win. But you cannot expect that to continue forever.

In order to keep winning and keep generating innovation, you need to create a system where it will make it happen again and again. Some examples of the systems Softbank has already implemented include:

  • Accounting is divided by departments
  • Introduction of new business models

Without the systematisation, it will impossible to execute at a scale.


Summit: The scenery you see when you have climbed to the top of the mountain

This is vision. The leader must be able to vision that scenery at the top of the mountain. He must be able to choose which mountain to climb. By choosing the correct mountain, you have already won 50% of life’s battle. You must have a great convinction that the mountain is correct be able to have a good idea of what the scenery on the top of that mountain looks like before you climb it. The leaders without a vision are the worst ones of all.

The vision does not come out in a day or two, you must think about it everyday. The vision for his 30 year plan took a whole 1 year of intensive thinking, and input from many many people.

Information: research

“He did research on 40 businesses, and in the end, the pile of papers he had accumulated were 1 meter in hight”

When son graduated from university and came back to Japan, he wanted to start an enterprise. But it took him 1.5 years before he did it. During this period, he was researching and accumulating information. He had came up with 40 businesses. He would create a very thoughtful plan for one business, create the business plan, financials, competitor’s analysis, plan for 10 years, expected revenue etc. And he would think that his was the best business in the world. 2-3 weeks later, he would come up with another business, a business better than the one before. He would then redo the research and create the new plan. He repeated this 40 times, each time with a business better than the one before. And the last one of his business plans turned out into Softbank. He emphasizes the importance of information accumulations (research).

Strategy: Strategy is basically the implementation for the vision.

After the reasearch you may have 40 choices, strategy is when you decide to go with one of them and never look back. Strategy takes a vision into reality.

Seven: The on who fights a battle with 50% winning chance is a fool. The one who fights a battle with 90% winning chance has made his move too late.

The best generals only fight battles they know they are going to win. Son is regarded as an agressive risk-taker but in reality he is very careful. He never risks more than 30% of the business. Even if the business is to fail, he can close it down and the core business can still go on. You must be sure that your math is right.

The leader must close down, make a retreat when that must be done. It is one of the hardest things to do. This is even harder for the next generation of leadership because they will be critisized to be not as good as the previous generation. Needs extreme courage to close a business down, you’ll be criticised by all points of view. When a general has lost 30% of his troops, he should immedialy call for retreat, any other decision is foolish. Not understanding this concept will bring Softbank into ruins.

Fight: The are things that can be seen during the fight

Words are cheap. Execution is hard. There are always competitors. Things change during the fight. No matter how good is the vision, strategy or research, it is all useless if you don’t come down and do the actual execution. He mentions that all companies fought their way into their current position: Toyota, Honda, Ford, Rockefeller, Billl Gates, Steve Jobs. Vision = Execution. Execution = Vision. Why one must fight? In order to make the vision come true.


One: Must be by far the number one

Must own the specific market. You only make long-term profits if own the market and are far ahead of number two. If you are ahead by only a littile, it will probably me only a matter of time before you lose all profits. This is even more true in the technology space. Only if you are number one, you will be able to build a platform and define the de facto standard. Examples of platform that he mentions are: Microsoft’s Windows, Intel’s CPU, Google, Amazon, Yahoo.

The company must have a #1 culture. You must always strive to become number one. A culture that starts to become comfortable of not being number one is a very negative culture, it’s very bad. Son says he has always been number one since elementary school. He just can’t sleep if he is not number one.

Wave: Do not go against wave

Don’t go agains the wave. Get the direction right. Which OS should you choose? Of course the one who will become most used. Do not choose a niche.

An enterpreneurs who succeeds in a niche is not a successful entrepreneur. The successful entrepreneur succeeds in the mainstream market, that might as well be an othodox way. Softbank does not invest on niche markets, it invests on markets that will become big in the future. There is no meaning in winning a small market. If you choose to pursue a niche market because you are afraid to fight in the main market, then you are a loser.


  • Sales
  • Technology
  • M&A
  • Development of new businesses
  • etc. etc.

Must be good in multiple skills.


  • Cash Flow
  • Cost reductions
  • Investment Relations
  • Close down a business
  • Compliance
  • Auditing
  • Media Reputation
  • etc. etc.

Many ventures today die because of financing. Softbank has a commitment to become zero debt financing in 4 years.

Group: Synergy 5000 companies.

Softbank Group will be compromised of 5000 companies. It will be a multi-brand, multi-business model. This may not be necessary if you want to survive for the next 30 years, but it is must have to survive for the next 300 years. Companies like Microsoft and Intel are struggling today as they have only a single brand.

Leader’s Competence


  • Critical Thinking
  • Global negotation
  • Presentation skills
  • Technology
  • Finance
  • Analytical Skills
  • etc etc.

The leader must posses multiple skills, and have a good banance of skills. Must be very proficient in one skill so that he can make most out of the specialistz. The leader does not rely on specilists, he/she makes best use of them.

Trust: Mutual voluntary cooperation

Trust and be trusted. Partnerships. If you lose trust, others will not work with you.

Benevolence: For the happiness of people

Recall the vision. For the happiness of people.


Courage to fight against a big opponent. Courage to shut down a business.


Strict with self. Strict with others when necessary. If you truly believe in the vision and the good for everyone, you must become a demon at certain times.


Son skips the following are they are already well covered in Sun’s Art of War and other literature. however Sea is a original from Son.


The fight has ended only when everything has been engulfed and remains only complete silence and peace. As the sea.


About the Author

This article was written by Hanyon Wu.


Women on Top in Tech – Vidya Vellala, Founder and CEO of Faasthelp



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Vidya Vellala is the Founder and CEO of Faasthelp, a 24/7 (round the clock) customer support on any business application through Artificial intelligence powered products. It analyzes what the customer is asking using natural language processing, machine learning and processes that to give the accurate responses to the customers instantly. Vidya is an Entrepreneur with a passion for innovation and latest technologies, having 17 years of Technology Experience. She won the India’s Best Startup CTO by Dell EMC.

What makes you do what you do?
I believe technology can solve any problem. Innovations in technology can improve the quality of life and the quality of work people does.
I am grown with a mindset which says self-sympathy is the enemy of self and hard work consistently without expecting a result will open bigger pathways. What I am doing is the combination of all.
Being an entrepreneur is an eternal learning which I love and I enjoy playing with technology and challenges that is the reason why I am doing what I am doing today.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Updating myself with the latest technologies is a must. Having said that, that alone is not sufficient. Always thinking positively, fighting against the fears, perseverance, and working hard helps.
I am lucky to have a big support from my family. My sisters who are also into technology field, make my life more beautiful and meaningful, to share not only the personal but also technical matters with them.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
With the bigger goal of supporting the future generations, this is the beginning. It had to start somewhere. In the very long journey this is the first step that I took.
My current startup is Faasthelp. We build artificial intelligence products.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him?
There have been many mentors at all stages of my startup. A startup eco system has brought me too many friends and mentors who have been very helpful at every stage of my startup and I am thankful to all of them.
My primary mentors in my life are my parents. The spirit of entrepreneurship was ignited when I was a kid and my mother was managing her small industry. The strong value system, sense of service, and responsibility towards the society is instilled in me by my dad. The strong urge to do something by myself was driven by my parents. They are the role models and driving factors.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I take personal interest in grooming and nurturing talent. I have established processes that identify the potential talent and to groom. I play to the best of their strengths and encourage them to take risks. My business needs also drive me to develop new skills and grow them. I value emotional intelligence and so is the strength of my team.

Do you consciously or subconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously and subconsciously support diversity, this again I can say got from my parents, my dad always wanted all women to be empowered and my mother had more women in her work force.
I have mentored women entrepreneurs, especially in their technical initiatives as I come with a vast technical expertise. I have extended my entrepreneurial connections to other women entrepreneurs. Our organization has more women representation.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
To be a great leader, you have to be a good leader, for that you must be a good human being, driven by high values, honesty, and ethics with great empathy for the people around.
Motivating the team, being a good listener with persistent hard work is a general thumb rule. Now there might be several ways to implement these and depending on the industry the implementation might differ but the ground principles remain same.
Entrepreneurship is continuous learning and I encourage others to do the same. Aim high and work towards the set goals is a way to go. I believe mindset to do service is also a way to become a good leader.

Advice for others?
Always be positive and create a positive impact on everyone. Have your values defined and do not compromise on them at any cost. Each small step taken towards the big thing is important, value them and go ahead, you will succeed surely. Success is something which we define our self and it can be achieved from any field and anywhere, on the way keep helping others.
The present focus is to develop the startup which I have taken up and my next idea is to continue to innovate and create technology products which will improvise human life.

If you’d like to get in touch with Vidya Vellala, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about Faasthelp, please click here.

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Lessons Learnt from The Lean Startup



The Lean Startup book authored by Eric Ries has been sitting on my shelf for quite sometime now, so since I am currently contributing to the making of a startup I figured I’ll take a look into it.

The book is divided into 3 parts, after reading the first two I had my mind blown with the pragmatic and scientific approach to building startups that is described in the book.

In this post, I would like to share some important insights that I gained regarding building highly innovative businesses.

Validating Value Proposition And Growth Strategy Is The Priority

Usually, a highly innovative startup company is working in its most early stage at building a product or a service that will create a new market.

Consumers or businesses have not been yet exposed to something similar to what is going to be built by the startup. Therefore the absolute priority for startups in early stage is to validated their value proposition i.e. to get real data about eventual customers interest regarding their product/service.

The other priority is to validate that the growth strategy that is going to be executed is, in fact, effective.

The growth strategy of a startup is its plan to acquire more and more customers in the long term and in a sustainable fashion.

Three kinds of growth strategies are described in the book:

  • paid growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to be charged for the product or service, the cash earned from early users is reinvested in acquiring new users via advertising for example
  • viral growth in which you rely on the fact that customers are going to bring customers as a side effect of using the product/service
  • sticky growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to use the service in some regular fashion, paying for the service each time (via subscription for example).

These growth strategies are sustainable in the sense that they do not require continuous large capital investments or publicity stunts.

It is important to know as soon as possible which strategy or combination of strategies is the most effective at driving growth.

Applying The Scientific Method

The scientific method is a set of techniques that helps us figure out correct stuff. After making some observations regarding a phenomenon, you formulate a hypothesis about that phenomenon.

The hypothesis is an assumption that needs to be proven correct or incorrect. You then design experimentations that are going to challenge the assumption.

The results of the experimentations makes the correctness or incorrectness of the hypothesisclear allowing us to make judgments about its validity.

In the lean startup methodology, your job as an entrepreneur is to formulate two hypothesis:

  • hypothesis of value (assumptions about your value proposition)
  • hypothesis of growth (assumptions about the effectiveness of the growth strategy)

These hypothesis are then validated/invalidated through experimentation. Following the precepts of lean manufacturing, the lean startup methodology prescribes to make experimentations while minimizing/eliminating waste.

In other words, you have to burn minimum cash, effort and time when running experiments.

An experimentation in the lean startup sense is usually an actual product/service and helps startups in early stage learn invaluable things about their eventual future market.

Sometimes startups learn that nobody wants their product/service, imagine spending 8 months worth of engineering, design and promotion work (not to mention cash) in a product/service only to discover that it does not provide value to anyone.

Minimum Viable Products And Feedback

As we pointed out earlier, an experimentation can be an actual product or service and is called the minimum viable product(MVP).

The MVP is built to contain just enough features to validate the value and growth hypotheses, effectively requiring minimum time, effort and cash.

By getting the MVP launched and in front of real users, entrepreneurs can get concrete feedback from them either directly by asking them (in focus groups for example) or via usage analytics.

Analytics scales better then directly talking to customers but the latter is nonetheless used to cross validate results from the former.

It is crucial to focus on metrics that creates fine grained visibility about the performance of the business when building(or using) a usage analytics system. These metrics are called actionable metrics because they can link causes and effects clearly allowing entrepreneurs to understand the consequences of ideally each action executed. Cohort analysis is an example of a analytics strategy that focuses on actionable metrics.

The bad kind of metrics are called vanity metrics, these tend to hide how the business is performing, gross numbers like total users count are an example of vanity metrics.

The author cites several examples of different startups that managed to validate or debunk their early assumption by building stripped down and non scalable MVPs and even sometimes by not building software at all.

You would be surprised to hear for example how the Dropbox folks in their early stage managed to created a ~4 minute video demonstrating their product while it was still in development. The video allowed them to get more people signed up in their beta waiting list and raise capital more easily.

Closing Thoughts

In the first two parts of the book, the author talks also about how employees inside big companies working on highly innovative products and services can benefit greatly from the lean startup approach, although very interesting this is not very useful for me right now.

The third part, talks about the challenges that arises when the startup gets big and starts to stabilize and how to address them. Basically it revolves around not loosing the innovative spirit of the early days, again, this is not very useful for me so maybe for good future reading.


About the Author

This article was produced by Tech Dominator. see more.

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