Media Lab Announces New Director: Bio

Joichi "Joi" Ito is an influential thinker, speaker, and seed investor driving the international development of the Internet. He has been a central figure in bringing the commercial Internet to Japan, and he remains the most internationally well-recognized Japanese expert on web 2.0. He was selected as a "Global Leader for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum; as one of the 25 Most Influential People on the Web by BusinessWeek; as a member of the "Cyber-Elite" by Time magazine; as a "Leader of the Pack" by Newsweek, and as a member of “The Next Establishment” by Vanity Fair.

By the early 1990s, Ito had already realized the power and potential of the Internet, and in 1994, at the age of 28, he founded one of the first web development companies in Japan, Eccosys, which eventually became Digital Garage, now one of the most actively traded public Japanese Internet companies; he also helped establish, and became CEO of, the first commercial Internet service provider in Japan. He helped to found Infoseek Japan–the first commercial search engine in Japan–and served as its chairman. Subsequently, Ito shifted his focus to early-stage venture investing and was an early investor in over 40 companies including Flickr, Six Apart, Last.fm, Kongregate, Kickstarter, and Twitter. He continues to invest in start-up companies through his venture fund, Neoteny Labs, which focuses on Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

In addition to private-sector work, Ito has been part of a wide range of governmental, arts, and non-profit organizations, and has participated in dozens of central and local government study groups, committees, and advisory boards in Japan. He served as a secretariat member of Keizai Doyukai (The Association of Corporate Executives) in Japan, promoting business and government reforms, and has presented at global meetings such as the Trilateral Commission and the World Economic Forum in Davos. For 10 years he has served as a juror for the Prix Ars Electronica.

Though he never completed a college degree, Ito is a self-directed learner who works closely with academia to explore new approaches for learning and collaboration. He currently teaches and lectures at a number of universities. In the United States, he is an affiliate of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; in Japan he is senior visiting researcher at Keio University SFC Research Institute, and a part-time lecturer at Keo Graduate School of Media Design. He is also a DBA candidate at the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, Hitotsubashi University, working on a study of "The Sharing Economy."

Ito has served on numerous non-profit boards involving computing and the Internet, including the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN); the Open Source Initiative (OSI); Computer Scientists for Social Responsibility (CPSR); and the Internet Association of Japan; the Mozilla Foundation; WITNESS; Startl; and Global Voices, a network of bloggers focusing on free speech and promoting the less-heard voices around the world. For the past 10 years he has served as a juror for Prix Ars Electronica.

In 2003, Ito was invited to join the board of Creative Commons, a non-profit organization focused on developing and supporting legal and technical tools to help everyone from artists to governments, encouraging legal sharing and reuse. He played a key role in expanding the funding and global reach of the organization, which now has affiliates in more than 70 countries. To date, over 500 million pieces of content have been published under Creative Commons licenses.