business

Hunting for unicorns: Japanese start-ups see hope on horizon

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By Etienne BALMER

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The country's shrinking population and stagnant economy mean "a lot of international companies are not really interested in Japan", he told AFP.

Industry players also point to cultural factors, saying Japan's education system is still designed to produce candidates for stable jobs at big companies

Should mention regulation and government aspect too, see what happened to Airbnb in Japan now.

Even if there's a startup that has similar ideas before Airbnb operate in Japan. That startup will be end up being busted because encouraging people to operate like hotel without license.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

@Sakurasuki

Should mention regulation and government aspect too, see what happened to Airbnb in Japan now.

What you say is very true. Startups are nit really allowed to grow in Japan because the government protects big companies from competition. Many small business are largely ignored and end up fading.

Japan's education system is still designed to produce candidates for stable jobs at big companies

Also, the education system doesn't really allow for innovation and originality. Because of this, many people follow the same path.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Do not forget the very high total taxes for small companies in Japan. Japan is very inventive on finding new ones.

And the Kafka administration and bureaucracy. I get 2 letters a week from the pension department, feels like they have a whole floor just to annoy my companies which are small.

Banks which seem determined to make life as difficult as possible with regulations dating back to the middle ages. The only government organization in Japan doing a great job is the post office. Nr 1 in the world.

The telecom companies with their overpriced subscriptions are another problem.

And of course the real estate owners with ridiculous one month fees for doing absolutely nothing. KEN asked me for a 173 month deposit once and had no problem telling me that was for foreigners only. This is not a typo. 173 months

16 ( +19 / -3 )

It takes "a lot of guts" to break the mould in a society famous for conformity, Isayama said.

Aida chuckled when he recalled his student days: "I was very strange compared to other people. I talked too much, I spoke my mind."

Promoting creativity and teaching with critical thinking shoiuld be a focus, with general support to try something different and new also encouraged.

But then again, teaching those things would itself be different, making Japan trapped in its box of conformity while still using fax machines.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Regarding regulations, if you do not file documents to show that you have officially reappointed yourself as director every 10 years, the Japanese government will automatically shut down your kabushiki company as inactive (minashi kaisan). Whether you are still trading or have filed tax returns for 10 years is irrelevant. This catches out tens of thousands of companies every year.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

And of course the real estate owners with ridiculous one month fees for doing absolutely nothing. KEN asked me for a 173 month deposit once and had no problem telling me that was for foreigners only. This is not a typo. 173 months

@robert maes

Who/what is KEN? And why would you consider doing business with this entity if what you say is true? (they obviously don't want your business and used this ridiculous 14 year deposit as a way to tell you this)

There are plenty of real estate firms in Japan that will work with foreign companies in the same way as Japanese ones.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

"should mention regulation and government aspect too..."

Most of the friction comes from the private sector. Taxi operators complained about Uber, hotels and neighborhood associations about Airbnb, and so on and so on. The govt was generally responds to complaints from lobbyists and others rather than taking the initiative to create barriers.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I just hate the idea that companies like this are referred to as “unicorns”. The point of calling something a unicorn is that it does not exist.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

The only government organization in Japan doing a great job is the post office. Nr 1 in the world.

I wonder in what respect you feel it is good. For me going to the post office is worse than going to the dentist.

The telecom companies with their overpriced subscriptions are another problem.

I pay less than 2,000 yen a month for my mobile plan. Is this overpriced?

My suspicion is that inertia is what is preventing people from switching to cheaper plans. When people do switch plans and start saving thousands of yen per month, they ask themselves why they didn't switch sooner.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The govt was generally responds to complaints from lobbyists and others rather than taking the initiative to create barriers.

Good government requires resisting such pressures and removing such protections for vested interests where they have been mistakenly introduced in the past. The government is the government and has the role of setting the rules, private companies are not the boss and have to play by the rules that are set.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

KEN asked me for a 173 month deposit once

If they did, they had no trust in that you would be able to pay the rent. Essentially, they politely told you to get lost.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Corporate culture is dying, it is only a matter of time to adapt or die.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

My company was innovative at first then it grew and tried to formalize the innovation process with layers of middle managers and that led to extremely low productivity and innovation. In the end we are surviving only by mergers and acquisitions of innovative US companies.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

LOL. Hunting for unicorns. Good luck for that. You have to fill out a unicorn search application excel sheet that you stamp with your hanko and send it back by post first. :D

Since generally startups refer to It companies and I worked long enough in all shapes and forms of Japanese IT companies I can tell you, you will not find even a single Japanese in the country who understands what the agile principles, design thinking or the lean startup mean.

Just walk into any startup and ask them. They will immediately reply "show them the work breakdown structure" first. Just like back in the '90s.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Is there actually a need for Unicorns in Japan? I mean, it would be better if we can split that billion dollar fortune to a couple of small companies. In that way, more people will be rich instead of just one.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It has to do as well with venture capitol markets, which in Japan are severely underdeveloped. It's another way keiretsu banks help restrict competition with their affiliates and customers. What goes around...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hampered by cautious investors and a rigid corporate culture

and a lack of ingenuity, and a tight old boys corporate world, and a fear of doing anything risky, and......

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why is the only person not wearing a face mask in that picture a young woman?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

KEN asked me for a 173 month deposit once and had no problem telling me that was for foreigners only. This is not a typo. 173 months

In a way what KEN (lol btw, hope they bankrupt #boycotKEN ) is saying is what most of the banks Japan will say when they see applicants.

Hopefully things will change soon.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan has been very frustrating.

I am in the export industry and I get money sent to me from abroad.But the bank has been holding the money till I fax them invoices to prove what this money is for.

And after shipping I have to fax the shipment document to them or send a copy by post.They have known me for years and have all my details yet they still continue to do this and I am bringing in legal direct foreign money into Japan and not taking out.

I am now counting down and when I get another country with same products,I'm leaving Japan. 

One of my colleagues who is in a similar business but different products found a new source and is leaving this December.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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