Japan finance sector to reap digital currency benefits, says MUFG chief

TOKYO (Reuters) – The chief executive of Japan’s largest bank expects new business opportunities to appear as digital currencies allow collection of data on how people use their money.

While Japan’s big banks have distanced themselves from bitcoin and other existing digital currencies, they are trying to create their own to provide cheaper and easier means of payments and money transfers.

“We would be able to capture kinds of financial behavior that cannot be collected as data in cash transactions,” said Nobuyuki Hirano, CEO of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), speaking as chairman of the Japanese Bankers Association at a news conference on Thursday.

“We can use the data to create new value.”

Hirano’s bank is developing its own “MUFG Coin” digital currency using the blockchain technology behind bitcoin.

The bank has been conducting experiments with MUFG Coin among its employees, including using the currency to split restaurant bills with each other over their smartphones.

Unlike bitcoin and other so-called cryptocurrencies, MUFG Coin is tied to Japanese yen, so users can exchange it for yen at the same rate as they bought the digital currency.

MUFG has said it plans to expand the experiment to involve all of its 30,000 domestic employees next year.

Japan’s third-largest lender Mizuho Financial Group is also developing its own digital currency, J Coin, targeting widespread use by 2020.

Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by David Goodman

Tech

Machine Zone CEO was on employment benefits before founding the company behind Game of War

There’s a mythology to successful startup leaders, and part of it is that they can’t fail. We lionize successful entrepreneurs, and elevate those with multiple major successes to the status of minor deity: an Elon Musk, a Steve Jobs.

Above: Kate Upton in Game of War: Fire Age commercial.

Image Credit: Machine Zone

But before the rise, there’s reality. For Gabe Leydon, that was unemployment.

“I didn’t come from money,” he told me yesterday at VentureBeat’s Mobile Summit. “I started Machine Zone while I was on unemployment benefits.”

Machine Zone is, of course, one of the shining stars of the new mobile economy. The company perennially has two of the top five grossing games in the world: Game of War and Mobile Strike. Game of War alone could be grossing in excess of $ 1 billion annually, and VB founder Matt Marshall estimated the company’s annual advertising spend not too far from that sum. The company just announced a new cloud platform that will enable, according to Leydon, 100 million concurrent many-to-many connections. And Machine Zone, which is rebranding as MZ, is rumored to be valued in the $ 3-$ 5 billion range.

In other words: pretty successful.

But it all started from unemployment benefits. Leydon had run a startup before Machine Zone, but said he “didn’t really get any money” out of it. So he began his second startup essentially penniless.

Above: Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in the new ad for Mobile Strike from Machine Zone.

Image Credit: Machine Zone

Success has a cost, of course. Leydon’s eight-year journey since founding Machine Zone has taken a bit of a toll on him.

In a conversation after his conference session, Leydon said that people perennially overestimate his age, thanks perhaps to his graying hair and perpetual two-day beard. While he’s in his mid-30s, people typically think he’s in his 40s, Leydon said.

Matt Marshall, who was present for much of the conversation, asked if it was the stress of running such a fast-moving, high-flying company. Leydon first said no, then appeared to agree.

“No … I don’t think so,” he said at first.

Then he added something that reminded me of research on top athletes. Fifty percent of them would take a drug, the research said, if it guaranteed an Olympic gold medal — even if it came with the guarantee of death within five years.

“I mean, it’s stressful,” Leydon admitted. “It may kill me but I don’t care. I’m having the time of my life. Look at what we’ve been able to do!”

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