TOKYO — Toyota's Woven Planet self-driving vehicle unit may be brimming with computer engineers, programmers and software whizzes all toiling away on the cars of tomorrow.
But what it didn't have, until recently, is someone dedicated to making a business of it all.
Enter Sinead Kaiya, Woven Planet's newly appointed COO.
The software industry veteran was just tapped to order Woven Planet's cost center of futuristic R&D projects into an organization with all the trappings of a true corporate culture, from structured human resources and legal departments to purchasing and finance divisions.
The way Kaiya sees it, when a fledgling company such as Woven takes off, it usually focuses so much on building its products that it can neglect to also build the company itself.
"The CEO will realize they're actually building two things: I'm building a product, but I'm also building a company," Kaiya said in an interview. "I need a product owner for my company."
The Toyota venture's to-do list includes setting up financial systems, business policies, intellectual property protocols, proper corporate governance and a rewarding employee experience.
"All of these very fundamental pieces of building a company eventually need an owner," Kaiya said. "So I call myself almost the product owner of building the company."