Akio Morita co-founded the Sony Corporation, a Japanese electronics company that set up shop in the United States in 1960, with his friend Masaru Ibuka. The Sony Corporation is responsible for producing the first magnetic recording tape and the Walkman radio, among other items. In the U.S., the Sony Corporation is technically called, “The Sony Corporation of America.”
1. Family Business
Morita’s family was involved in sake, miso and soy sauce production in Chita Peninsula in Japan. Though his father trained him very early on to take over the family business, Morita did not have a passion for the family’s sauce business. Instead, he enjoyed math and physics.
2. In The Navy
After studying at Osaka Imperial University, Morita graduated with a degree in physics and joined the Navy. It was during his time serving as a lieutenant in WWII that Morita met his future business partner, Masaru Ibuka.
3. Founding Sony Corporation
On May 7, 1946, Morita and Ibuka founded the forerunner to Sony Corporation, Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation). It had about 20 employees. Morita’s family invested in Sony during the early period and became its largest shareholder.
4. New Developments
In 1949, the company developed the first magnetic recording tape. A year later they would sell their first tape recorder in Japan. In 1957, Morita and Ibuka produced a transistor pocket-sized radio. In 1979, the Walkman was introduced and in 1984, Sony launched the Discman, which extended their existing Walkman brand to accommodate changeable discs.
5. Name Change
In 1958, Morita and Ibuka decided to change the name of their company from Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation to the much simpler name that we now recognize: Sony. Sony is Latin for “sound” and a Japanese slang term for “whiz kids.”
6. Marketing His Products
Morita was very much involved in the marketing of his product. He used terms like “pocket sized” to push his new portable radios. As the product was actually slightly larger than what would fit in a man’s shirt, he had his business men wear shirts that had larger front pockets on them to ensure that the “pocket size” appearance was maintained.
7. The Sony Corporation of America
In 1960, the Sony Corporation was established in the United States. The Sony Corporation would later become the first Japanese company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In the United States, the Sony Corporation technically calls itself The Sony Corporation of America.
8. Resigning as Chairman
On November 25, 1994, following a stroke suffered while playing tennis, Morita announced his resignation as Sony chairman. His successor had actually joined the company after sending a letter to Morita complaining about the poor quality of the Sony tape recorders.
9. Never Mind School Records
He wrote a book called Gakureki Muyÿ Ron (Never Mind School Records). In this book, he presents his argument that school records or grades are not necessarily an indicator of that person’s success in life nor does it determine whether or not that person will do well in business. Morita also wrote an autobiography titled “Made in Japan”. He also co-authored the popular and controversial 1991 essay The Japan that Can Say No with politician Shintaro Ishihara. This essay criticized the American method of conducting business and encouraged the Japanese to learn from the mistakes that the Americans had made and become more independent and resourceful.
10. Albert Medal
Morita was awarded the Albert Medal from the United Kingdom’s Royal Society of Arts. He also received the prestigious National Order of the Legion of Honor and was awarded the First Class Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor of Japan.