Joichi Ito, better known as Joi Ito, defies any one simple label.

Japanese-born, he is U.S.-educated, and as a result is both bicultural and perfectly bilingual. Although he is a highly successful free-market venture capitalist, he is also a fervent advocate of social democracy and freedom of speech. And, while he is revered as one of the world's "cyber-elite," he is poles apart from the stereotype of new-rich IT entrepreneurs, instead living quietly with his fiancee in a traditional Japanese-style house in a Chiba Prefecture village some 90 minutes from central Tokyo.

Now aged 40, Ito has been an entrepreneur for a long time, having set up a nightclub in Tokyo back when he was "around 24." He has founded several Internet and technology companies, including the now-defunct Internet service provider PSINet Japan, Digital Garage and the search engine Infoseek Japan. In every case, apart from his personal venture capital company Neoteny Co., Ito left the day-to-day management of the companies he formed just as their business really took off — because, as he concedes, engaging in repetitious "production activities" as a company CEO does not excite him.