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Questions To Ask Startups

» 28 June 2017 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off

This is something very different. I have had the itch to write again for a while now, but real life has kept me busy enough that I can’t devote enough time to baseball to come up with anything interesting to say about it. So I’d like to write a little bit about my work experience, in the hopes that someone out there may find it helpful in some way.

Some of my remaining dozen or so readers probably know that I’ve spent the bulk of my professional career working at startups in Silicon Valley. Most of my experience has been in middle management, specifically of engineering and technical teams, and along the way I’ve learned a lot about what to look for in a startup as an employer. On my most recent trip through the job market, I made it a priority to join a quality company, so I came up with a list of questions to ask startups to try to evaluate whether they might pan out.

I ultimately decided against joining a startup, but having a framework for what I was looking for and how I was evaluating it helped me engage in better, more mature discussions with prospective employers. Although I specifically had pre-profit, venture-backed companies in mind when I came up with these questions, many of them could apply to any business. Here’s hoping someone out there finds them useful.

PRODUCT AND CUSTOMERS
1. What does the startup exist to do?
2. Who are the users?
3. Who are the customers?
4. What do they like about the offering?
5. What needs to get better?
6. What can customers get here that they can’t get anywhere else?

CASH AND FINANCES
1. Who are the investors?
2. How much runway is available?
3. What is the goal of the next round? Is the emphasis to grow and raise, or reduce burn and break even?
4. How transparent are the company’s finances to leadership, and the employee base?

LEADERSHIP
1. What is the CEO’s background?
2. What is the founding team’s role?
3. What are the CEO’s values? What values are shared among the VP/C-level?
4. What is the existing technical and managerial leadership structure?
5. What is the depth of skill and investment in each functional area (engineering, sales, etc)?
6. How transparent is leadership with success metrics, and opportunities and threats to the company?

ORGANIZATION
1. How is the organization structured?
2. Who has the most influence over product and technical decisions?
3. How are key decisions made, socialized, and instituted?
4. How strong is the second layer of leadership?
5. Is any house cleaning needed?
6. Are there candidates for career growth?

PROCESS
1. How ‘mature’ is the product development process?
2. Are successes repeatable and are failures turned into actionable improvements?
3. Are metrics defined? How widely available are they to the staff?

MY ROLE
1. What areas are in the most immediate need of improvement?
2. What impact do you expect this role to have on the team, offerings, and company?

EQUITY
1. How many shares are outstanding?
2. What is the strike price of shares issued in the most recent round of funding?
3. What is the vesting period?

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Why Japanese Baseball?

» 06 June 2017 » In Uncategorized » 2 Comments

In the nine years since starting this site, I’ve done dozens of interviews and talked to perhaps hundreds of fans, readers, and other writers. The question I get more than any other, by a wide margin, is some variation of “why Japanese baseball?”

I’ve occasionally told the story of how I was introduced to Japanese baseball but I’m not sure I’ve ever answered the question of why it’s appealed to me so much. I’ll try to do that here.

The starting point for me was my interest in Japan. At age 11 I picked up a video game magazine that happened to have an article in Japan, and that was it.

The first thing that hooked me on Japanese baseball was the novelty of it. It was baseball, but it was new and different. The pitchers had funky deliveries and throw off-speed stuff, the batters had more character than their MLB counterparts, the uniforms were different, the fields were different, the fans were entertaining.

As time progressed and I learned more about NPB and baseball in Japan, my appreciation for it grew. It sounds cliched, but the relationship between the players and the fans is different in Japan. NPB players are, for the most part, a bit more down to earth than players in American sports leagues. Hang about the Yakult Swallows’ Jingu Stadium before a game and you’ll see uniformed players and coaches going about their work, going back and forth between the practice field and the stadium amongst the fans and vendors.

It isn’t just the Japanese players who are down to earth. Most of the foreign ball players are journeyman, who are exceptionally good players, but not quite great enough for MLB. Most of them come across as legitimately grateful for their chance at playing in Japan, and I’m always happy to see hardworking players get a shot at establishing themselves in Japan.

The fans, in turn, are a bit more uniform in their support for their favorite teams. Yes, there are fair weather fans and some players are more beloved than others, but at games, the cheering vigor of the fans doesn’t drop from batter one to batter nine. I’ve found Japanese fans to be incredibly welcoming as well. At my first Kitetsu Buffaloes game back in 2001, the salaryman sitting beside me made sure I knew every player on the field, and bought me balloons for the seventh inning stretch balloon launch. Some variation of this has happened at many of the games I’ve attended since.

I feel like this explanation, so far, does a disservice to the quality of play. I won’t pretend the quality of play in NPB is MLB-caliber, but it is certainly good, competitive baseball. The best players have proven to be successfull at the MLB level, and even the role players usually have some redeeming skill. I’ve enjoyed appreciating in players; one guy may have a great throwing arm, another may have great bat control, another may be a bunting specialist.

Most North American fans look at leagues in Asia as sources of talent for Major League Baseball, and that’s fine, but NPB and KBO are good baseball leagues worthy of appreciation for their own merit. I started NPB Tracker primarily to combat incorrect information about Japanese players bound for MLB, but also to increase overseas interest in Japanese baseball. Over the passed nine years, the quality of information on Japanese players has improved dramatically. But I can’t measure any real uptick interest in the league itself from overseas, which perhaps should be next goal.

tl;dr: Japanese baseball is good because:
1. it’s fun and different
2. the bond between the players and fans is deeper
3. it’s good baseball

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Farewell Wayne

» 20 April 2017 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off

Last Wednesday, I got an email from my friend John Gibson that long-time Japan Times baseball columnist Wayne Graczyk had passed away. I didn’t know Wayne personally, but his passing saddened me. Wayne was one of my early guides to Japanese baseball, and his work made the league accessible to before I learned to speak and read Japanese.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I first heard Wayne’s voice in 1994. The MLB player’s strike had cancelled the World Series, and my local sports cable station showed the Japan Series, broadcast by the White Sox announcers and some guy who lived in Japan. That guy happened to be Wayne, and although I didn’t remember his name, I absorbed much of what he had to say. And so began my fascination with Japanese baseball.

Fast forward to 2001, when I was a youthful English teacher working at a Nova chain school somewhere near Osaka. Every time a Japan Times shows up in break room, I would immediately flip to the sports section and read Wayne’s Baseball Bullet-in column. Life in Japan was still new, and baseball was both comforting in it’s familiarity and fascinating in its differences. Wayne had a deep understanding of Japanese baseball, and I learned through his work, bit by bit, until I learned Japanese well enough to get by.

Fast forward again to 2008, when I started npbtracker.com. I was working on a blog post that was a collection of links, and I decided to call it “NPB Bullet Points,” as a nod to Wayne’s influence on my work. The name stuck and I wrote dozens, if not hundreds, more posts using that title.

I think that Wayne knew that Japanese baseball, like most things, could be enjoyed more thoroughly with a deeper understanding of it’s culture, nuances, and history. This was certainly reflected in his writing, and I’ve always tried to carry on the tradition in bringing Japanese baseball to new audiences.

I never met or exchanged emails with Wayne, but without his work, my development as a writer would have taken a different path. My condolences go out to his family, friends, and loved ones.


I never got to thank Wayne personally for his work. I’m lucky to have met my other early influences in Japanese baseball, Jim Allen and Michael Westbay, multiple times, and happily call them friends. But I’d like to show my appreciation to them once more, and say thank you. Without the work Jim, Michael, and Wayne have done to make Japanese baseball accessible to English-speaking audiences, there certainly would never have been an NPB Tracker.

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Japan Baseball Weekly Appearance & I’m Still Around

» 22 March 2015 » In Uncategorized » 3 Comments

This a post to announce that while this site is in stasis, I’m still around. And I have the podcast appearance to prove it:

Speaking of appearances, I never mentioned that I was on Japanese television last autumn. More on that later.

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Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast

» 14 April 2014 » In Uncategorized » 2 Comments

This weekend I had the pleasure of filling in for Jim Allen as a host of the Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast. You can download here, from the top of the list.

John Gibson and I had to contend with the head cold I’ve been suffering, time zone differences and flakey Skype performance, but we battled through and had a great discussion about Lastings Milledge and the Yakult Swallows, the juiced ball controversy du jour, and the state of the Pacific League. I hope you’ll enjoy listening to it.

Thanks John for having me on! I’m looking forward to taking part again!

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For Those of You Looking For the Data Site…

» 31 July 2013 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off

I had to take it offline because of a few bugs that were causing problems. I haven’t found the time to fix them yet, but it should return at some point, hopefully before too long.

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Yokohama DeNA to Work Out Three

» 03 February 2012 » In Uncategorized » 1 Comment

Looks like the Baystars are in the market for a corner infielder. The team has announced that it will have infielders Wes Bankston, Chris Nowak, and Oscar Salazar in camp on a tryout basis. Longtime third baseman Shuichi Murata departed for Yomiuri this offseason, and prospect Yoshitomo Tsutsugo has had a rough go at the hot corner on the farm team.

In other news that is only tangentially related, former BayStar Hiroki Sanada is headed to the US for tryouts. Yokohama granted Sanada his release after he failed to attract any posting bids.

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Re-Run: Nihongo Lesson – Hot Stove Lexicon

» 23 November 2011 » In Uncategorized » 4 Comments

I first published this about a year ago, but it’s relevant again this autumn.


This is something I’ve always wanted to do — find a way to be more supportive of people learning Japanese. I occasionally get asked to translate things, but only rarely do those queries come from a Japanese learner.

So here’s a mini Japanese lesson, consisting of terms that are contextual to the offseason and hot stove league. Many of these terms won’t appear in your run-of-the-mill Japanese class, but you will find most of them on Nihongodict.com.

Japanese Reading English Notes
ストーブリーグ sutoubu rigu hot stove league Japanese does away with the “hot” and calls it simply a “stove league”.
獲得 kakutoku acquire
契約 keiyaku contract
契約更改 keiyaku koukai contract renewal Most NPB players go year to year with their contracts, so during each offseason, a new contract at a new salary is negotiated for the following year.
仮契約 karikeiyaku provisional contract This is usually used to the first contract signed by recent NPB draftees.
大型条件 ougata jouken significant terms This indicates a big contract offer, usually in terms of number of years or annual salary.
新戦力 shinsenryoku new competitive strength “senryoku” doesn’t translate particularly nicely in a baseball context. This term, with the “shin” prefix, is used to describe the acquisition of a new player. For example, a new pitcher acquired by an NPB team might be refered to as “shinsenryoku”, where as in English we might say the team has “bolstered” it’s pitching staff.
戦力外 senryokugai uneeded competitive strength consersely, adding the “gai” (outside) modifier to “senryoku” indicates that a player is no longer needed and will be released. In English we might say the player “doesn’t fit into the team’s plans”.
ポスティングシステム posutingu shisutemu posting system
入札制度 nyusatsu seido bidding system when the term “posting system” appears in a Japanese article, it is usually followed with this term in parentheses
入札 nyusatsu bid
大リーグ / メジャー挑戦 Dai rigu / mejaa chousen big league / major league challenge “chousen suru” is a general term meaning to
入団 nyudan join a team
テスト入団 testo nyudan tryout with a specific team in English we usually call this a “tryout” or ‘trial”.
12球団合同トライアウト juuni kyudan goudou toraiauto 12 team group tryout The NPB 12-team tryouts occur every offseason, and give players who have been released a chance to showcase themselves for other teams. It includes some kind of simulated game played by the players taking part, but I’m not sure how simulated and how competitive it is.
決定 kettei confirmed
オファー ofaa offer
交渉 koushou negotiations
フリーエージェント(FA)宣言 furii eejento (FA) sengen declare free agency Free agency is abbreviated as FA, and comes in two varieties “kokunai” (国内, domestic) and “kaigai” (海外, overseas)
移籍 iseki move used when a player moves to a new team. Ie,松井、エンジェルズ移籍. Can be couple with FA (FA Iseki
残留 zanryu remain used when a player who is eligible for free agency and stays put. The big recent example is Hisashi Iwakuma
有力 yuuryoku lead In the hot stove context, this is often used to indicate the leading candidate to land a player.
提示 teiji proposal Differs from “offer” in that this is usually a general proposal of terms, while offer is more official.
代理人 dairinin agent
トレード toreedo trade
大筋合意 osuji goui agree to terms

Obviously, this isn’t a comprehensive list. If anyone out there has any questions or any terms to add to the list, fire away in the comments.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-11-21

» 21 November 2010 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off

  • The Latest on Nishioka: The idea that the Chiba Lotte Marines would post Tsuyoshi Nishioka has been a bit of a h… http://bit.ly/crq2Ga #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-11-14

» 14 November 2010 » In Uncategorized » 3 Comments

  • best pic of the Japan Series: http://bit.ly/aogobZ #
  • Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-11-07: Lotte takes a 2-1 lead: http://www.npbtracker.com/data/ # Agent Don Nomur… http://bit.ly/d7GjXq #
  • Sanspo puts Anaheim in the mix for Hisanori Takahashi http://bit.ly/a7JaOT #
  • Also, Sanspo says Tak2 is looking for multi years at $4-6m. NYM offered one year at $1.5m plus bonuses. #
  • You drive a hard bargain, @nymets945 in reply to nymets945 #
  • Nishioka has requested posting; discussion with team to take place the 13th. http://bit.ly/cDoiEm #
  • Sorry, slight translation miss on that last tweet. Nishioka discussion to take place some time after the 13th. #
  • Chunichi will not post Wei-Yin Chen this year: http://bit.ly/9zD79x #
  • Okay Twitterers, got any suggestions on interesting people I should follow? #
  • Thanks for all the Twitter suggestions. I discovered this one today: @mr_t_facts and highly recommend it. #
  • Lim Close to Yakult Return: Sports Hochi had reported that Yakult closer Chang-Yong Lim is close to a deal to re… http://bit.ly/bH9XYl #
  • A single FF for this FF: @JCoskrey #
  • Sanspo has Kuroda ready to re-sign with LA, for one-year, about 1bn yen ($8m). Hiroshima and Yomiuri showed interest http://bit.ly/c62WA9 #
  • Screwed up the exchange rate, 1bn yen == $12m. Thanks @DavidYoungTBLA #
  • The Kuroda report of one year/$12m is all over the Japanese media. #
  • Japan-Korea Club Championship http://www.justin.tv/wkwlxjf#/w/548601760 #
  • Sanspo: Rakuten has basic agreement with Aki Iwamura http://bit.ly/9duHV6. turns out I was wrong about his NPB rights belonging to Yakult. #

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