A Rather Fortunate Turn Of Events

I had a rather productive day today, conversing with the heads of both MGD and IZM for the better part of the afternoon. The story pertaining to how I came to be involved with those 2 companies can be found here. Our original plan was to meet last night but that was cancelled, so naturally, K and I found ourselves back in Pyongyang where we enjoyed another splendiferous night. The ladies were a lot friendlier this time round, stopping by for some chit-chat. Perhaps next time they might even open up and share some stories of their homeland.

Straight outta Pyongyang

The meeting was to take place at the MGD flagship restaurant, where they pride themselves in selling $100 pieces of nigiri sushi to their ‘rich as fuck’ clientele. We arrived at the appointed hour, a pair of translators by our side, but neither one of two bosses were anywhere to be found. We enter the restaurant first and wait. About half an hour later, there is a knock on the door. A Japanese voice, it is IZM.

This crazy bastard saunters in, dressed like a fucking street thug, clad in a pure white track suit with a gold mickey mouse shirt underneath. His hair was spiked up and hands covered with bracelets and rings; an attire more suitable for the local arcade, if you will. You certainly would never have imagined this guy was the CEO of arguably one of the most successful and influential food suppliers in Japan, preparing to IPO in the near future.

“Oh shit, I should’ve worn a suit. Sorry guys.”

Shortly after, the MGD boss walks in and we all exchange introductions and niceties. Once seated, IZM kicks it off by introducing his company, and would shortly later reveal his agenda, which was precise and clear – exactly what I wanted to know all along. It should also be noted that the entire meeting was conducted in Japanese, which was the one common language everyone in the room spoke, sans the MGD boss who was filled in by his translator in real-time.

IZM did most of the talking, and damn that guy can talk. If there was any ‘type’ of character I love to do business with, it is IZM. For one, he has a clear plan and goal and could care less what anybody thinks of it – a take it or leave it type of guy. More importantly, he walks the walk. At face value he is quite the obnoxious character, never hesitating to preach about the awesomeness of himself or his company, but without question he has earned those bragging rights through years of toiling through failure, blood, sweat, and tears. He had a detailed answer to every single fucking question and knew all the numbers and statistics of his company like the back of his hand. Needless to say, my respect for this uniqlo tracksuit-wearing mobster grew larger as the meeting went on.

In essence, what he had done was create a platform that entails using IOT technology to accumulate big data, which AI is then applied to create value for end users, which in this case are people in the food industry supply chain. Sensors are placed on buoys and nets out in the ocean to gather data on water levels and conditions, as well as the amount of fish in nets at any given time. This is immensely valuable to fishermen, who he commands like an elephant under a whip, since they know with sublime accuracy what kind of fish, how much of it, and where they can catch it before their day even begins.

The instant the fish is scooped up and lands on the fishing vessel, still out in the open sea, a live auction begins via video conference – where bidders all around the country will bid on what they see being caught, right then and there. Before the boat even returns to shore, their entire catch for the day is sold, and they have their catch organized, separated, and immediately dispatched to their buyers via either sea or air freight, which offers them cargo space at a discounted rate. This in turn cuts out the middle man ‘fish markets’, passing cost savings on to end buyers like supermarkets and restaurants. Genius.

His yakuza-like demeanor has allowed him to close deals on favorable rates on almost every aspect of the Japanese supply chain – logistics, shipping, sourcing, storage, and data. The next challenge: applying that infrastructure overseas, namely South East Asia – where Japanese food is in large demand and fetches a premium.

At the end of the day, MGD is indifferent to our plan for MT. He runs a successful restaurant and cares about one thing; lowering input costs. However, he does own a majority stake, and unfortunately at this stage, we need his approval for certain things.

What was more important to me was the relationship between K and IZM. That in the beginning was unclear, and I was expecting more of a superior-inferior relationship between the two, which to my surprise was not the case. Both appeared to be good acquaintances – a relationship I later learned that was forged through the father of K.

I spent most of the afternoon after that out on the porch of the MGD restaurant, chatting with IZM, exploring wild ideas and possibilities. The details of that are a topic for another post, but for now, I take comfort in knowing that we’ve at least found some direction.