Bucking the System: Japan’s Young Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Finds Its Mojo
May 27 2015
At one point in recent history, Japan was poised to be the #1 economy in the world. From behemoths such as Toyota, Softbank, Mitsubishi and NTT, the world expected continued innovation and dynamic products and services. The country, however, stalled for two decades, and during this period was leapfrogged by Silicon Valley, Korea, and China, despite having developed many similar services first domestically such as Mixi. Where did Japan’s boldness, global vision, innovation and risk-taking go?
The great myth is that Japan is not conducive to entrepreneurism. Sporting the lowest levels of entrepreneurial activity among its industrialized peers—ranking 33rd according to the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Index—social customs and work life are often still characterized by big corporations, patterned and traditional organizational structures and top-down management, and an underutilized female workforce that produces economic risk and stifles creativity. Japan’s urban areas have the lowest number of double-income households; the highest number of full-time housewife households with 6 out of every 10 staying at home. These challenges to family and income aggravate an harsh scene of stingy bankers and risk-averse VCs. Add to this the fact that there are very few young people who want to take the leap, and change has been slow.
It takes two to tango – one needs both an environment conducive to startups as well as people who aspire to be entrepreneurs.
Loren will talk about the dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem forming in Tokyo and in Japan, its characteristics, government regulation, venture capital, and the people and organizations behind the wild growth over the past 5 years. He will also share some of his own experiences starting Quchy, financed by one of Japan’s most famous incubators, and the marketing challenges startups face in trying to acquire new customers and build their brand in the Japanese market.
Loren Fykes is an entrepreneur, consultant and researcher based in Tokyo. Founder and CEO of Endymion, he launched the recommendation service Quchy, www.quchy.com in June 2012 to help friends track and organize their favorite restaurants into “collections” for sharing. As the first American to be funded by Samurai Incubate, Japan’s top seed accelerator, he has a deep knowledge of and strong connections with Japan’s entrepreneurial community. He has also collaborated with many local founders and consulted on many projects—Samurai Venture Summit Silicon Valley, Youth Venture Summit Korea—that bring regional entrepreneurs together to discuss international strategy, market entry, pitching and strategic partnerships. Before Quchy, he amassed fifteen years of experience as an investment and business development professional for banking and television media companies such as Jardine Fleming (now JP Morgan Chase), MTV Networks, Turner International, a division of Time Warner.