By Jeffrey Osborn
Northwest Asian Weekly
Kenichi “Ken” Uchikura didn’t travel to America as a child of immigrant workers. He did, however, travel to America for what many call the American Dream, one of entrepreneurship and success. This year, Uchikura, chair of Pacific Software Publishing Inc., will be honored for his leadership and vision at Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation’s Annual Asian Americans Pioneer Award in Social Entrepreneurship.
Uchikura was born in Ashiya, Japan, where he spent most of his youth.
He had not thought of moving to America until the age of 15, when he went on a vacation to Hawaii with his family.
“When I got to Hawaii, I was amazed. I did not need to know any English. So many people there spoke Japanese. This was when I started to realize that America was the greatest country in the world.”
Uchikura later took his first long-term venture to the United States for college.
“I attended Azusa Pacific University, which is near Los Angeles. There, I received a Bachelor of Business Administration.”
It was at Azusa Pacific University where Uchikura started to learn about technology, an endeavor would change his life forever. His new interest came in the form of a mentor who helped Uchikura to fixate and learn about information technology.
“He really helped me to find a new direction. I learned that technology was the future.”
After college, Uchikura returned to Japan with a new found interest and respect for technology. He found work with a technology company that focused primarily on computer mainframes. It didn’t take long for Uchikura to realize that mainframe technology was becoming outdated for an average office and that the personal computer was the future for most users.
Personal computers require software, and Uchikura realized this well before the advent of Windows and what most people today would call applications. Uchikura convinced his company that software for the personal computer was going to be the next big thing and that a large amount of business could be done if their software were localized for Western audiences.
“I convinced them that localization would be important and that it was a market that had not been thought about much. They agreed, and I moved to the United States to begin working on localization in America.”
Initially, business was slow, so slow in fact that his parent company decided to abandon the project. Uchikura, however, did not give up. He decided to continue, and in 1987, Uchikura founded Pacific Software Publishing Inc. out of his apartment on Mercer Island. At that time, Pacific Software Publishing Inc. focused primarily on the localization of software.
Eventually, Uchikura hired a young woman,Mayumi Nakamura, as a sales assistant. She would eventually become the acting CEO of the company. She admits she was intrigued by Uchikura when she first met him due to his uniquely non-Japanese style.
“[He was] really different from other business people. He didn’t speak much during the interview. He was just very different from any other Japanese business people that I had met.”
In the mid-1990s, Uchikura again saw the future and changed the primary role of the company from localization to Internet services, including e-mail, domain services, website hosting, and a plethora of other services.
“In 1996, we started our first web server and have focused on web servers ever since.”
This shift greatly increased the success of Pacific Software Publishing and has helped it grow from a tiny company in Uchikura’s apartment to a multi-national business that serves more than 35,000 companies.
For all of Pacific Software Publishing’s success, Uchikura has ensured that they also give back to the community, offering free services for non-profit organizations of many creeds, including the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce, Cancer Memorial, Hyogo Business & Cultural Center, and many others. Nakamura helped to explain why they are so willing to offer assistance to many cultural groups.
“In certain [nonprofit] organizations, [Uchikura] is more active, and in certain other organizations, I’m more active, but we benefit [from] being a Japanese-owned company, and we both agree that we’d really like to return what we gain back to our community.”
After the recent earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan, Pacific Software Publishing posted that they would match up to $10,000 in donations to the Red Cross. Amazingly, this goal was met in under 48 hours. Over the course of a week, Uchikura and other staff agreed to raise the matched amount to $25,000 and easily achieved that goal. In the end, more than $50,000 was raised for disaster relief in Japan.
“It was more successful than we could have imagined. We thought we would be lucky to see $10,000, but the donations came in so quickly.”
Uchikura has also kept a large part of his company evolving toward the green movement. Pacific Software Publishing Inc. has a fleet of five vehicles, four of which are either hybrid or electric vehicles and only one of which, a minivan, has a standard gasoline powered engine.
Pacific Software Publishing Inc. also buys a portion of its energy from Puget Sound Energy’s Green Power Program, which provides 33 percent of the company’s energy in the form of green, renewable energy to their Bellevue offices. Nakamura explains this extra step.
“We feel guilty for consuming so much electricity at our data center. We really do consume a lot of electricity around here, and without it, we wouldn’t be in business.”
At every desk are recycling bins, and there are re-use stations throughout the corporate offices to reduce the waste of Styrofoam packaging and other re-usable materials such as paper and plastic.
Perhaps most impressive in Uchikura’s push for green is the fact that his company hosts more than 37,000 domains on only 450 servers. In comparison, many companies that run their own sites have a single server for a single domain. This effort greatly reduces the amount of electricity used.
Pacific Software Publishing Inc. is continuing to grow and has been named one of 2011’s fastest growing companies in America by Inc. magazine. With a leader who is dedicated not only to his company and his workers, but also to his community, there is no doubt the company will continue to do well. (end)
Jeffery Osborn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.