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Why Rakuten? Acting unafraid of failure and keep empowering the world. I want this hacker-centric mindset to thrive.

Internet culture exposed by a hacker mindset.

I first encountered the hacker mindset when joining the former US-based computer systems vendor DEC after graduate school. There, I was assigned to the research and development center directly linked to the HQ engineering department, and had numerous opportunities to interact with American engineers. Some had graduated MIT, as known as a Hacker Sanctuary, and brought along their hacker mindset to DEC as well.

Freely discussing regardless of rank, and forming tools at will. Their set of values were beyond my imagination, since I thought a company should function in command hierarchies. However, the more I got to know them, the clearer their behavioral principle became. Everyone was hoping to “create a global hit” and radically exploit the potential of computers themselves, not because of external orders or financial motives.

The boss also seemed to give silent approval of such spontaneous creativity. I believe that it perhaps was that having us develop technologies and products that would be profitable for the company by using such creative potential was far preferable than reining us. This led to the hacker mindset spawn various innovative IT industry as a result, which transcended individual corporate frameworks, just like most construction technologies used on the Internet. I could almost say that Netscape releasing the source code in 1998 was reflected by the typical hacker mindset.

The business model of Rakuten generates centripetal force and draws hackers in.

As I was influenced by the hacker mindset in the US, I copied by porting the Japanese version of Mosaic, so-called first world web browser, to VMS (DEC-made OS) and distributed it within DEC. At the time, I was surprised to learn that quite a few people had installed it. Subsequently, since around the time of the open source era, I have hosted the Kernel Code Reading which is an ongoing effort to promote Linux. Both times, I was fueled by the unique excitement behind the hacker mindset; namely a willingness to advance society incrementally and try to learn in the process, even with trial and error.

I decided to serve as Technical Managing Officer of Rakuten because its business model attempts to empower society through technologies, which is precisely how hackers think.

Although Rakuten is a company which operates e-commerce, we operate the Rakuten Ichiba via a platform-type model rather than direct sales model. Bringing together stores seeking diverse customers and consumers wanting to buy various products nationwide. This most surely bound to make the society more convenient since this usability is a universal status. Although this business model was devised and nurtured in Japan, its universal convenience led to overseas. Yes, Rakuten Ichiba is the catalyst for changing the “downsides” and inconveniences of people worldwide into “thank you” and striving hard to consolidate this effort.
This mechanism was created by engineers with a hacker mindset, while those striving at the cutting edge to refine it even further are also hacking-minded engineers. However, Hiroshi Mikitani, who thought it up with a strong philosophy and spearheaded its implementation with strong leadership, may be termed as the greatest hacker of all.

“Don’t ask for permission – just apologize” – The hacker mindset thriving in Rakuten.

Numerous engineers worldwide with hacker mindsets are currently joining Rakuten, for instance, one team headed by a Norwegian. They are developing an original search engine. Because this is an open-source development, they are not supported by vendors. Instead, they prepare to overcome anything come what may with a DIY-spirit to go it alone, which is also a typical of hacker mindset. To facilitate our internal SNS, we use Yammer, but some employees even use it to argue with the views of Mikitani. This is a proof of a climate where the hacker mindset can be expressed in plain terms, regardless of rank.
There is a line which stimulates the hacker mindset, “don’t ask for permission – just apologize”. If you choose to work on something, rather than spending time and putting effort to get approval, take an action first. This means if you fail, just admit it straightforwardly and learn your lessons and improve yourself from that. This perfectly explains the hacker mindset that is thriving in Rakuten. We might not even have to apologize since we are surrounded by peers who are just as keen to “acting unafraid of failure and keep empowering the world.” They would probably even give you a hand for your next success.

Hirotaka Yoshioka
Technical Managing Officer of Rakuten, Inc.

After developing Japanese COBOL, Japanese Rdb at the Japan DEC Research and Development Center, he developed Oracle8 at Oracle US in 1994 and found Miracle Linux Corporation as an Executive CTO in 2000. He has successively held positions such as Security & Programming Camp Execution Committee, and judge of the U-20 Programming Competition etc. Presided over the Kernel Code Reading and has organized the executive board to report findings to management from a technical perspective concerning medium to long-term issues at Rakuten since 2009.

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