Back in the early 1980s Takayoshi Shiina was known as the Japanese Steve Jobs, based on the success of his burgeoning Sord Computer. But Shiina's success didn't last. Battered by competition and supply problems, Shiina was forced to sell out to giant Toshiba Corp. in 1985. To many, the demise of Sord recalled an old Japanese proverb: "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down."

Now, Shiina is back, but he's not sticking out quite so far this time. Unlike Sord, his new Proside Corp. is avoiding direct competition with Japan's giant conglomerates. The company sells low-cost computer systems, peripherals, and software to end users and large corporations. Last year its sales barely topped 1 billion yen, about 10% of Sord's 1980 revenues.

"Japanese entrepreneurs have only one place to go -- the service field, selling and marketing," Shiina says. "Maybe I should have emigrated to America, but I still think I have a chance to make a big business here. I still think you can have fun in Japan." -- Joel Kotkin