Akio Morita: Sony Founder, Chairman & Entrepreneur

Very few people outside of the business world have heard of an incredibly savvy entrepreneur called Akio Morita. Although he died on October 3, 1999, he shaped the way that the electronics industry was to operate in the years to come and he has left a legacy that will be difficult to emulate. The entrepreneur may not be well known but the brand that Akio Morita created is the largest electronics brand in the world – Sony. Akio Morita was an unwitting entrepreneur in that he did not aspire to be one but just demonstrates that money can be made from a simple idea.

Morita As A Boy

Akio Morita was born in Tokoname, Aichi in Japan on January 26, 1921. His family was an old and respected one that had manufactured soy sauce, sake and miso since 1665. As it had always been a family business, it was expected that the entrepreneur would take over and thus he spent a lot of time learning the trade when he was younger. However, although Akio Morita had a head for business, he did not have a head for his family’s business. He chose to study physics and mathematics at Osaka Imperial University, from where he graduated in 1944. Upon graduating, he enlisted in the navy and served during the remainder of World War II. This may not have sounded appealing but he did meet his business partner, Masaru Ibuka, during that period.

The Beautiful Friendship

Following the close of the war, the entrepreneur teamed up with Ibuka to create a company called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation) in 1946. Morita managed to persuade his family to invest and began to create various items that would revolutionize the electronics and communications industries in the years to come.

The first big success for Morita and the company was the magnetic recording tape. It was designed and created in 1949 and actually began to sell in 1950 alongside the tape recorder that the company had designed to be used with said tape. This sold incredibly well for the next few years, so much so that the pair of entrepreneurs also created the pocket-sized radio and began to envision taking their company global. As such they needed a fitting name, which is where Sony came in. In Japanese, it came from a word meaning “whizz kids” and summed Ibuka and Morita up perfectly!

Akio Morita was effectively the best Sony salesman in the world during the early years. He actually made his employees wear shirts with oversized pockets in order to reinforce his claim that the aforementioned radio was actually pocket sized. The concept actually led to the Walkman being created in 1979 and then the Discman five years later. However, before both were created as part of the Sony range, the entrepreneurs also created and manufactured the first transistor TV model in 1960.

Morita’s plans of expansion finally came to fruition in 1960 when the company was established in the United States. A year later, the entrepreneur could boast to have the first Japanese company that was ever to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Ever the entrepreneur though, Morita was not happy with that. The company continued to produce products that were of a high quality and undoubtedly led the electronics market. In 1988 and 1989 respectively, he added to the brand by purchasing Columbia Records and Columbia Pictures.

Although Akio Morita sadly died on October 3, 1999 after a bout of pneumonia, he remains one of the most visionary entrepreneurs of all time. He believed in the company that he co-founded and took it into the new century as a household favorite brand, even though he did not live to see it. As such, the praise he garners is undoubtedly well deserved.

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