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Super Sonic

Haruki Satomi, MBA 12, encourages new media startups at Haas

Haruki Satomi

Haruki Satomi, MBA 12, president and group COO of Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. Sega Sammy has committed to launching a seed fund competition at Berkeley Haas to encourage startups in the new media space, including entertainment, gaming, and the like.

Like many kids of his generation, Haruki Satomi, MBA 12, grew up playing video games. Now president and group COO of Tokyo-based Sega Sammy Holdings Inc., which manufactures arcade and video games (including Sonic the Hedgehog) and pachinko machines, Satomi is gunning for a new high score.

By March 2020, he's hoping to topple competitor Nintendo to become Japan's No. 1 entertainment company.

Satomi joined the Sega Sammy group in 2004, after previously working for a Japanese securities firm. His father, Hajime Satomi, founded Sammy, a developer of pachinko and pachislot machines, in 1975 and later acquired Sega and merged the companies in 2004. Sega Sammy is banking its hopes, in part, on a successful return of the Sonic franchise, which caught the gaming world by storm in the 1990s. Newer releases, including Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces, have netted strong media product reviews.

Satomi's rise can be traced to his days at Haas, which started on a humorous note. In an executive leadership class with Lecturer Mark Rittenberg, students were asked to deliver a one-minute talk titled, "Why I Can Get an A in This Class." Satomi, who was still honing his English skills, was working through some public-speaking jitters. Rittenberg made a strange request.

"Mark stopped my first attempt and told me to jump at the podium," Satomi says. "When I jumped and spoke at the same time, I forgot my worries about speaking English. That gave me a lot of confidence."

Recently, Sega Sammy committed to launching a seed fund competition at Berkeley Haas to encourage startups in the new media space. We asked Satomi about the gift.

Why did you make a gift to Haas?

The biggest reason is gratitude. Haas gave me confidence, and I wanted to help nurture the school's great community and culture by making a gift.

What do you hope your donation will accomplish?

I'd like to encourage entrepreneurs so they can meet hard challenges, and I want this to give them a chance to try to start a business. The world has been changing quickly, but there are a lot of opportunities—especially with the 5G network coming in the next couple of years. These will be opportunities in which I expect new leaders or startup entrepreneurs to emerge.

How do you apply the lessons learned at Haas to your career and life?

Haas' Defining Leadership Principles have been useful in making sure that our customers and employees are always happy. When I became CEO of the Sega division [in 2012], the first thing I did was to revise and create Sega's new defining principles. I also created a Mission Pyramid, consisting of value, mission, vision, goal, strategy, organization, and tactics to help guide our employees.

What advice would you give the next generation of business leaders?

Although everyone has opportunities, you'll never be able to grab them unless you strive to get there. The Haas community will give you those chances and the right people to enhance your life. —Interview with Andrew Faught

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