From Japan to the world: globalizing Japanese startups

Japan Global Innovators’ Forum (JGIF) aims to help bring Japanese startup to the global stage

May 14, 2024
BY Desiderio Luna
From Japan to the world: globalizing Japanese startups
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J-STORIES - For ideas to change the world, they must be known by the world. This is the challenge facing today’s Japanese startup companies. The ideas and intentions are there, but applying them outside Japan is the criterion every startup must meet to secure interest and funding from investors.
Helping Japanese startups is the goal of the inaugural Japan Global Innovators’ Forum (JGIF). Initiated and hosted by J-STORIES, JGIF is a space for Japanese startups to meet potential partners and investors. Six startups were invited to pitch their products and services, which have the potential to address some of today’s social and environmental issues. The categories were Disaster Tech, Age Tech, and Clean Energy.
“How can social innovators in Japan shine on a global stage?”- Toshi Maeda      Photos by Desiderio Luna
“How can social innovators in Japan shine on a global stage?”- Toshi Maeda      Photos by Desiderio Luna
After the presentation, a roundtable discussion was held to get the thoughts of the invited speakers, namely: Jeff Char, Founder & CEO of SOGO Energy (Japan/USA); Yoko Kojima, Head of ESG at Mundi Ventures (Spain/Japan); and Jan Lozek, Founder & Managing Director of Future Energy Ventures (Germany/Spain).
The moderators of the discussions were Toshi Maeda, Executive Editor of J-STORIES, and Sayuri Daimon, Editorial Advisor of J-STORIES and former Editor-in-Chief and Editorial Writer at The Japan Times. Maeda opened the forum with the question: “How can social innovators in Japan shine on a global stage?”
“I’m really impressed that all solutions can be globally scaled, and that’s what we need.”- Jan Lozek      Photos by J-STORIES
“I’m really impressed that all solutions can be globally scaled, and that’s what we need.”- Jan Lozek      Photos by J-STORIES
All speakers agreed that every Japanese startup idea must have global “scalability” to get a wider reach. Jan Lozek praised all six presenters, saying, “I’m really impressed that all solutions can be globally scaled, and that’s what we need.”
Jeff Char described Japanese startups’ tendency to be “very inward-looking” and confined to the country. “Japanese startups until now have historically been very domestic, targeting just the Japanese market or targeting problems that are unique to Japan,” he said. “So it’s good to see many potential solutions here that are applicable to not only Japan but globally,” he added, describing his impression of the presenters.
“Ambition is good," he said. "But putting it through the lens of time and focusing more on what you need to do immediately to get short-term traction is way more important to survive. And if you don’t survive, you’re not going to achieve your long-term goal.”- Jeff Char      Photos by Desiderio Luna
“Ambition is good," he said. "But putting it through the lens of time and focusing more on what you need to do immediately to get short-term traction is way more important to survive. And if you don’t survive, you’re not going to achieve your long-term goal.”- Jeff Char      Photos by Desiderio Luna
But before Japanese startups can think about venturing outside the country, they must stay on their feet first. Char advised the startups to stay “laser-focused” and single-minded to gain traction instead of running after investors.
“Ambition is good," he said. "But putting it through the lens of time and focusing more on what you need to do immediately to get short-term traction is way more important to survive. And if you don’t survive, you’re not going to achieve your long-term goal."
 “What do you think are the challenges they [startups] have to overcome?”-Sayuri Daimon      Photos by Desiderio Luna
 “What do you think are the challenges they [startups] have to overcome?”-Sayuri Daimon      Photos by Desiderio Luna
For her part, Sayuri Daimon asked: “What do you think are the challenges they [startups] have to overcome?” For Yoko Kojima, they will always face the usual challenges for startups, including gaining traction. They should instead focus on cultivating talent to survive.
“Maybe the No. 1 thing, especially for early startups, is the challenge of talent. It’s the key that they need to unlock things,” she said. “Once you have the right people, then you can start trying different methods and going after different markets,” - Yoko Kojima     Photos by J-STORIES
“Maybe the No. 1 thing, especially for early startups, is the challenge of talent. It’s the key that they need to unlock things,” she said. “Once you have the right people, then you can start trying different methods and going after different markets,” - Yoko Kojima     Photos by J-STORIES
“Maybe the No. 1 thing, especially for early startups, is the challenge of talent. It’s the key that they need to unlock things,” she said. “Once you have the right people, then you can start trying different methods and going after different markets,” - Yoko Kojima Photos by J-STORIES
“Maybe the No. 1 thing, especially for early startups, is the challenge of talent. It’s the key that they need to unlock things,” she said. “Once you have the right people, then you can start trying different methods and going after different markets,” she added.
To survive in this business means to nurture connections. “People reach out and connect really early on, even before you have the idea,” Lozek said. “Venture capitalists are experts, so we like to connect with people really early on, even if they’re not investment targets yet. Try to get to know the people, create a relationship, and take it from there.” He added that it is important to “connect to the ecosystems.” For example, one must cultivate great relationships with European investors in order to expand into Europe.
Photos by Desiderio Luna
Photos by Desiderio Luna
To wrap up the discussions, Maeda asked the speakers about the “latest trends in investing.” The speakers agreed that it’s important to know the latest trends, such as climate technology, clean energy, CO2 reduction, electrification, and AI governance.
Photos by Desiderio Luna
Photos by Desiderio Luna
JGIF was co-hosted by Mainichi Future Creation Lab, Mainichi Shinbun’s startup accelerator. The Government of Tokyo and the Office of Economy and Commerce of the Spanish Embassy in Japan lent their support. JGIF was held on March 15 at Tokyo Innovation Base. The event was simultaneously held on-site and online.
Writing by Desiderio Luna
Edited by Mark Goldsmith 
Photo by Desiderio Luna
For inquiries about this article, please contact jstories@pacificbridge.jp

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