When Carnegie Mellon University alumnus Ken Tamagawa heard Professor Randy Pausch’s memorable Last Lecture in 2007, he promptly drafted his own bucket list. It included one prominent entry: “Start My Own Business.”
Launched in 2015, Tamagawa’s Tokyo-based startup, Soracom, serves more than 5,000 companies, providing low-cost, secure and manageable internet connection for smart devices of all kinds. Soracom recently raised $22 million to enter the U.S. and other markets and Tamagawa was named among the top 100 management leaders by Forbes Japan.
Tamagawa, who credits CMU with invaluable “mentoring from prestigious faculty and technical staff,” honed his entrepreneurial skills and software development abilities while earning his master of business administration and master of software engineering dual-degree at CMU.
“The MBA/MSE dual-degree [offered by CMU's School of Computer Science and the Tepper School of Business] is a very aggressive program where only the top students are selected,” said Anthony Lattanze, director of the professional software engineering programs. “They complete the program and earn both degrees in two years.”
Not long after his 2008 graduation, Tamagawa joined Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help with its Japanese launch.
“Building a business from scratch with great people in AWS was a really interesting journey for me,” said Tamagawa, who recognized the potential of AWS’s pay-as-you-go computing capacity.
“Before AWS, when engineers came up with a new web services idea, they needed to set up expensive physical servers before they could even begin their real work — costly and time-consuming,” he said. “Now they can launch almost instantly in AWS … empowering people to bring their best ideas to life.”
Including his own.
One night over dinner, Tamagawa and his future chief technology officer hatched the idea of using AWS capabilities to provide flexible, affordable internet connection for smart devices, unlike the existing plans tailored for high-data public cellphone use.
Soracom, serves more than 5,000 companies, providing low-cost, secure and manageable internet connection for smart devices of all kinds.
“All of the ‘smart things’ you hear about, from locks and doorbells to vehicle fleets and industrial sensors, need a reliable way to connect to the internet,” he explained. “These devices typically don't use much data, so it's very important to keep fixed costs low.”
Too excited to sleep, Tamagawa wrote up a mock press release. Reading it the next morning sealed the deal.
“Soracom began with a core platform of self-service, pay-as-you-go cellular connectivity, with tools and APIs that let users customize the network to their specific needs,” Tamagawa said. “We then added a suite of cloud integration services that improve performance, add capability and enhance security.”
Clients now range from a bus company transmitting GPS data via onboard smartphones to a technology startup using sensors on cattle to monitor their health and activity.
Soracom has 30 team members across Japan, the U.S., Europe and Singapore. It launched U.S. service in November with plans to continue its expansion.
“We believe that the era of the Internet of Things, the interconnection of smart devices, just started and the one-stop solution that Soracom created will enable numerous IoT businesses to expand globally, just like AWS did for internet businesses,” said Gen Isayama, co-founder and chief executive officer of World Innovation Lab, a Soracom investor.
“In addition, we are fascinated by the potential of this truly global Japanese team to succeed overseas, which has not happened since Sony and Toyota did long ago,” Isayama said.
Tamagawa’s motto is to “connect all people and things.”
“I hope Soracom will democratize IoT technologies, empower makers and builders, and help give birth to numerous innovative startups and new business in enterprise,” he said.