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Home to Softbank, Tokyo aims to be hub for global entrepreneurs

Written by Song Jingli Published on   7 mins read

Tokyo Metropolitan Government takes Olympic Games as an opportunity to support innovation and entrepreneurship.

In the field of scientific and technological innovation, Tokyo will become an important force that cannot be ignored.

Talking about Japan’s entrepreneurship and venture capital sector, many people may think of Softbank Group and Masayoshi Son in the first place, while those with some knowledge may think of Japan Asia Investment Co., Ltd. However, if they are asked to share more, most people may not have specific knowledge.

Recently, at the invitation of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, China-based leading tech & business media 36Kr, parent of KrAsia, conducted a four-day “Tokyo Startup Scene Tour”.

Although what we saw, heard and thought about may not be comprehensive, we could clearly feel that Tokyo is serious about entrepreneurship and innovation and is not just shouting slogans. Tokyo is making efforts to boost innovation and entrepreneurship. Thus for entrepreneurs worldwide, there might be brand-new opportunities in Tokyo.

From November 26 to 29, 36Kr visited several Japanese companies located in Tokyo. Among them, there were not only large local companies such as venture capital fund WiL, Mizuho Bank and All Nippon Airways, but also startup companies such as autonomous driving company ZMP, insuretech company Shift Technology and incubator INDEE focusing on medical technologies.

Tokyo’s entrepreneurial atmosphere is getting stronger and stronger. Not only have large companies launched their own innovation laboratories, such as Mizuho Bank and All Nippon Airways, but also more and more incubators have emerged, which can provide office space for startups, connect large companies with VC resources, hold demo days, etc. The enthusiasm for startup reminds 36Kr of China’s national initiative “mass entrepreneurship and innovation”.

[36Kr board secretary Wang Jingyu (second from the right) communicates with representatives of global influencers]

Tokyo Metropolitan Government takes Olympic Games as an opportunity to support innovation and entrepreneurship

Tokyo is the world’s largest city, currently accommodating nearly 13.86 million people. A total of 77 % of the foreign-funded enterprises in Japan has set up offices in Tokyo, making it an international business center.

There are 2,964 companies with assets exceeding 1 billion yen ($9.243 million) in Tokyo, accounting for half of such enterprises in Japan. In addition, Tokyo is also home to 38 of the world’s top 500 enterprises. According to A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm, Tokyo ranked fourth in the global city index in 2018. In 2020, the 32nd Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo.

According to Masafumi Yonazu, Senior Director for National Strategic Special Zone, Office of the Governor for Policy Planning, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, they have taken the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as an opportunity to put forward a brand-new development plan for Tokyo – ” New Tokyo, New Tomorrow” featuring ” Safe City, Diverse City, Smart City”, and have formulated a specific implementation plan called ” FIRST”.

Finance—Becoming a global financial center;

Innovation—Generating innovations with new technologies and new ideas;

Rise—Improving strengths for greater dynamism;

Success—A city where everyone can play an active role;

Technology – Accelerating growth with cutting-edge technologies.

He also organized 36Kr’s trip to Tokyo.

The Tokyo government is open and inclusive to entrepreneurship and investment and welcomes startups from all over the world to take root in Japan.

The government has set up the Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center, unifying procedures that foreign companies and startups need to complete to establish a business. The center also provides multi-lingual translation support when needed.

Tokyo Employment Consultation Center hires lawyers, social security and labor consultants to provide consulting services on employment and labor issues for overseas startup companies in Japan.

Abe cabinet supports technological innovation to solve social problems

36Kr was impressed by Takuya Hirai, Minister of States for Science and Technology Policy. He, who is a technology enthusiast himself, has deep support for scientific and technological innovation. He uses various new digital gadgets. He also has a smart office which features smart access control, smart audio, and translation hardware.

He hopes to ease many social problems in Japan by vigorously supporting scientific and technological innovation, such as an aging population, regional inequality and over-concentration of wealth. He even has his own demo day to allow entrepreneurial teams to go directly to the office for roadshows.

During communication, 36Kr felt strongly that this government attached great importance to scientific and technological innovation. The Japanese government not only proposed the ” Society 5.0″ plan, but also tried to launch the ” Digital-First Bill”.

Japan believes that the current information society is at the stage of 4.0, when the cyberspace is centered on cloud services, while in the future ” society 5.0″, cyberspace will be about big data.

In ” Society 5.0″, whether it is automatic driving, or robots that automatically produce and work in place of people, they will collect information from various sensors distributed in different scenes under the support of AI. The collected information will be uploaded to the cloud database. After analysis, high value-added information will be generated by AI in cyberspace and applied to AI in various scenes under physical space, thus achieving a high degree of integration between cyberspace and physical space and forming a closed information loop.

At the same time, people will be taken as the center and the Internet of Things (IoT) will connect people and things. All knowledge and information will be shared, and new values will be generated. AI will take the place of human beings in heavy work and can analyze a large amount of information at the same time. Social problems such as aging and reduction of regional population will be solved. By then, mankind will probably have to learn how to use robots and autonomous cars.

[Takuya Hirai, Japan’s minister of science, technology and information technology, exchanged views with 36kr board secretary Wang Jingyu (second from the right) and other representatives.]

Apart from AI and IoT, fintech and medical health are also hot areas in Japan’s innovation sector

While AI and IoT might seem a little distant, the other two areas that Japan’s VC sector focuses on – fintech and medical health – have already seen some real-scenario applications.

Mizuho Bank is actively promoting Japan’s fintech development. In order to strengthen cooperation with startup companies, Mizuho Bank provides open API sandbox and other underlying service to build Japan’s largest fintech collaboration ecosystem. The bank has also launched Japan’s first AI-scoring lending system to help fintech startups innovate in the finance sector. It has also set up Blue Lab with WiL.

In addition, Mizuho Bank has its own innovation center FINOLAB, which is Japan’s first fintech base. It is committed to promoting financial innovation with new technologies. Currently, it mainly focuses on mobile payment. The innovation center is now communicating with Xignite, which provides cloud-based financial market data distribution scheme and is recognized as the leader of DaaS in the financial industry, hoping to promote cooperation between Mizuho Bank Quick API and Xignite.

In terms of medical care, Japan has started its efforts of ” open innovation”.

Hideyuki Okano, chairman of Life Science Innovation Network Japan (LINK-J), once said, ” Under current systems, what individuals or companies can do is limited, and cooperation with external experts is very important, that is, open innovation is required.” Life science is an interdisciplinary system, including medicine, natural science, engineering, new technologies such as IT and AI, and even social science and ethics.

LINK-J is an important platform for life science innovation in Japan. It builds bridges for universities, academic institutions, overseas organizations, startup companies, large global companies and other enterprises to create value in the fields of discovery of new drugs, medical equipment and digital health.

At the same time, LINK-J aims to make Nihonbashi, a town located in Tokyo, the country’s medical science and technology hub.

University incubators

A survey by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on startup companies in universities shows that from 2008 to 2017, the number of startup companies incubated by Tokyo University has always been the highest among Japanese universities.

In 2017, 245 startup companies were established at the University of Tokyo, which was also the only Japanese university that was home to more than 200 companies that year.

This university has incubators UTEP and UTEL for entrepreneurs, providing facilities and assistance to university startups, and also providing funds for startups through the University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC).

In Japan, UTEC has invested in PeptiDream, a biopharmaceutical company, which went public in 2013 and won the Japan Entrepreneurship Award in 2016.

Shigeo Kagami, who is in charge of strategic innovation at the University of Tokyo, told 36Kr that UTEC pays attention to deep tech and invests in fintech and health science.

To entrepreneurs

Looking back on 36Kr’s trip to Tokyo, we have truly understood that Tokyo’s desire for scientific and technological innovation. from the local and national government, enterprises to universities. All are working towards scientific and technological innovation and supporting entrepreneurial innovation with actions.

The Olympics, like a catalyst, has helped promoting innovation in Tokyo and Japan. At the same time, the Tokyo government enlarged this promotion to a strategic level and then proposed ” New Tokyo, New Tomorrow”, ” Society 5.0″ and so on.

Although there are no world-class Internet companies in Japan, investment in cutting-edge technologies and the emphasis on technological innovation in the country are very worthy of recognition.

In the field of scientific and technological innovation, Tokyo will become an important force that cannot be ignored. For entrepreneurs around the world, there may also be an opportunity to start a business or expand business. After some experience in Tokyo, as entrepreneurs, you will have more insights.

Before this trip to Tokyo, 36Kr had observed the trend of innovation and entrepreneurship in Japan and set up 36Kr Japan in August. Carrying the media advantage of 36Kr, 36Kr Japan has set up a content team in Japan, providing news and information on China’s scientific and technological innovation in Japanese.

Meanwhile 36Kr Japan also provides cross-border B2B services and is committed to bringing value to the Japanese startup founders and VC funds by integrating Chinese enterprises, projects, institutions and other resources.

To learn more about Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) policies and support:

More detail can be found on TMG’s website 

– Any inquiries, contact Access to Tokyo

TMG provides various support for foreign startups, such as: free consulting services, and an accelerator program. The next round of support begins in April 2019, program schedule below. Please feel free to contact Access to Tokyo!

Disclosure: Tokyo Metropolitan Government sponsored the trip mentioned in this post, while no other financial compensation was received.


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