Internet wiz courts offbeat vote

by Atsushi Kodera

Staff Writer

A Tokyo gubernatorial candidate with an offbeat platform surfaced Wednesday, just one day before applications to run in the Feb. 9 election have to be filed.

Internet entrepreneur Kazuma Ieiri, 35, who started his first company at age 21 and now works to support young people who have difficulty adjusting to school or work, wants to form a set of policies by asking Internet users to give him suggestions for the betterment of Japan.

“Politics and elections are now for politicians . . . and they seem distant from us, but they should be closer to everybody,” Ieiri said during a news conference at which he was accompanied by former iconic Net entrepreneur Takafumi Horie. “I hope to turn politics and elections (into) something more familiar to people.”

While other candidates will likely concentrate on issues such as nuclear power, the 2020 Olympics and defense, Ieiri offered three items for his platform: To create places for people who have nowhere else to go; to create a Tokyo where people can truly enjoy their work and leisure time; and to use the Internet to make politics more familiar to people. “To use an Internet term, I want to hack the existing systems of election and politics, rather than fight them,” Ieiri said. “I’m aiming for a ‘soft’ revolution, without fighting.”

“He has the ability to bring his companies to success, and has attracted great staff supporting him,” said Horie, the founder of Internet firm Livedoor Co. “Some people will call him a trivial candidate, but I think he will attract votes from young people.”

Horie is known for his dramatic fall from fame as an up-and-coming entrepreneur to a prison inmate after he was convicted in 2011 of falsifying Livedoor’s financial reports. He was paroled last March.

In a Dec. 19 Twitter entry, Ieiri suggested he may run for Tokyo governor if that message got 1,000 “retweets” by other people. When the mark was reached in just 30 minutes, Ieiri used his Facebook page to say he would throw his hat in the ring.

His paperboy&co. Inc., a low-cost Web-hosting service that Ieiri founded at age 22, was listed on the JASDAQ stock exchange seven years later in 2008. Ieiri is the youngest founder and president to achieve that feat.