“People often overestimate the value of talent and underestimate the idea of hard work”
Position: Director of Inside Sales at Netskope since May, 2014. He also oversees the company’s Salesforce implementation.
Home: San Francisco, Calif.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies/Japanese Literature at the University of Arizona, where he also was a scholarship track and cross country runner; MBA at San Francisco State.
Career: Worked as an administrative assistant at Homeland Security in the political asylum program before beginning a Silicon Valley tech career where he has been a sales representative at Salesforce.com, a senior manager of sales development and operations at Zenprise, and then at Citrix before becoming an independent CRM consultant.
Favorite movies: Two Japanese films: “Kagemusha” (“Shadow Warrior”) and “Ikiru” (“To Live”)
Influential book: “Sales Dogs: You Don’t Have to be an Attack Dog to Explode Your Income”
Interests: Cars, running. Daikoku ran a personal-best 4:06.24 in the mile his senior year in college. He still runs about 30 miles a week.
Fun Fact: He can eat a lot, and quickly – even entering hot dog eating contests. “I’ve won a few and have done the Nathan’s regional qualifiers,” he said. “I’ve taken third and fourth before in those, but only the top two get to go to Coney Island.”
LOS ALTOS, Calif. – As a gifted high school runner, Jin Daikoku was accustomed to finishing first. But then competitors began to close the gap. His times stopped improving. Daikoku faced a stark realization: He wasn’t putting in enough effort.
So, he increased his training mileage. Studied DVDs from top coaches. Read biographies of track legends like Steve Prefontaine. It paid off as Daikoku transformed himself into one of the country’s top prep runners.
“People often overestimate the value of talent and underestimate the idea of hard work,” said Daikoku, the director of inside sales at Netskope, which has become one of the hottest startup companies in the cloud app security space. “I learned that if you combine theory and practice, then you can really become good at something.”
Daikoku has never forgotten that lesson – applying the same ethic of going the extra mile in a successful sales and operations administration career with Silicon Valley technology companies. Once, his life was ruled by the stopwatch. Today, he lives by the clock as he searches for ways to help his sales team become more productive.
“Time is the most important thing to me,” said Daikoku, 32. “I want to use it efficiently. If you saw me walking, you would probably see that I walk faster than most people. I guess I’m a little neurotic when it comes to time.”
And making the most of it.
“Jin doesn’t waste a single moment,” added Aaron Hill, who has known Daikoku for a decade. “I’ve never met anybody quite like him. Jin likes a challenge, and he puts his whole heart into everything he does. I’ve never seen him give up on anything.”
The son of a Japanese father and an American mother, Daikoku was raised in San Francisco. A strong academic student, he also developed into a middle-distance track standout who received a scholarship from the University of Arizona. But nagging injuries slowed him in college.
“Division I athletics really runs you through the ringer,” he said. “Some people become stars, but most don’t. If you get hurt, it’s not about finding out what happened and rehabilitating you. It’s, ‘Let’s give you cortisone shots and get you back out there. We’re paying your way and you’ve got to produce.’ That really put a bad taste in my mouth, and for a time I even gave up running.”
Daikoku discovered another outlet for his competitive nature after receiving an MBA from San Francisco State when he joined Salesforce.com as a sales representative. He loved the idea of, well, racing against his peers.
“Being able to see where I stood on that dashboard filled a need for me,” he said. “Because of my running background, I had to win. I would not accept losing. And when I did lose, I took it personally. I didn’t blame anyone but myself, and I figured out how not to get beat the next time.”
Daikoku excelled by repeating what he had done as an athlete – look for ways to get a leg up on his competition. He listened to audiobooks about sales techniques, became a Salesforce certified administrator and learned developer skills.
He used that knowledge to become the Salesforce administrator at mobile device management software company Zenprise, where he again went above and beyond. He saw a problem where the inside sales team wasn’t following up with leads in a timely manner. Daikoku volunteered to create a dedicated sales development team to make sure leads wouldn’t fall through the cracks.
That pipeline-generating group had grown to six people when Zenprise was acquired by Citrix. After that, Daikoku worked for a time as an independent Salesforce consultant. He began referring clients to LeanData, which had developed software technology that bridges a gap in the Salesforce system by automatically matching leads to accounts. LeanData fit perfectly into Daikoku’s world view of finding ways to save sales representatives valuable time so they can focus on what matters: Selling.
But as a consultant, he was left feeling a little like a car mechanic. He would help companies fix problems under their Salesforce hood, but then have to wave goodbye as clients zoomed off down the road. He missed being part of that journey, which is why in 2014 he joined Los Altos-based Netskope. The three-year-old company, which helps businesses keep their data secure in cloud-based apps, has received $135 million in private investment – including the recent announcement of $75 million in venture capital funding.
At Netskope, Daikoku once again was building out a sales development team. What he enjoys most is working with people who are just starting in their careers. While attending San Francisco State, he also had been a high school assistant track coach. The sales manager role, Daikoku said, is much like being a coach.
“I could only hire people who have a lot of experience and would be able to hit the ground running,” he said. “But that’s not rewarding to me. What’s fun is hiring a younger person, giving them an opportunity and helping them grow. It feels good to believe that I had a role in someone’s progress.”
Hill was one of his high school runners. Now, he’s part of Daikoku’s Netskope team.
“With Jin, it’s not so much about what you’ve done,” he said. “It’s all about what you’re willing to do right now, at this given point. As driven as Jin is, he’s still always calm. He has a zen approach that makes him a great teacher.”
Daikoku said the key for him is to be emotionally engaged in whatever he does. There’s no sense doing something if you don’t intend to do it well – and there’s always room for improvement.
“Having success as a runner proved to me that all the time and effort was worth it,” Daikoku said. “Running 13 miles in the mud and rain by myself. Putting in the study when everybody else was off enjoying themselves. You’re just not going to reach your goal without putting in the work. It’s no different in business.”
In other words, he’s still running hard.
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