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Loopin’ for more — Upon attending “Startup Mantra” recitals in Tokyo

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This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology. Startups, Startups Everywhere Tokyo I daresay is as of June looking to launch full-fledged efforts to leverage various international events, not only the Olympiad but also — American football in Japan having besmirched its name during May — Rugby World Cup, Gov. Yuriko Koike having had to clear some obstacles such as those related to Central Fish Market and development/environment issues. As a prelude, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in late May organized in conjunction with Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Invest Japan Center a Startup Tokyo gathering. It was followed thereupon by startup-focused events, to culminate in the once-every-five-year international fire safety and disaster mitigation event which this year particularly highlights startup roles. Thus, the startup mantra recitations. To underscore Tokyo’s friendliness towards foreign-affiliated startups the Startup Tokyo seminar was held at a WeWork facility in ARK Hills South, aptly located next to JETRO HQ as well as Invest Japan office. The event was opened by the Governor herself, with a short speech. In fact, prior to her arrival the participants got to view a looping video of her exhorting…

This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.


TOSBEC
Image credit: Invest Tokyo

Startups, Startups Everywhere

Tokyo I daresay is as of June looking to launch full-fledged efforts to leverage various international events, not only the Olympiad but also — American football in Japan having besmirched its name during May — Rugby World Cup, Gov. Yuriko Koike having had to clear some obstacles such as those related to Central Fish Market and development/environment issues.

As a prelude, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in late May organized in conjunction with Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Invest Japan Center a Startup Tokyo gathering. It was followed thereupon by startup-focused events, to culminate in the once-every-five-year international fire safety and disaster mitigation event which this year particularly highlights startup roles. Thus, the startup mantra recitations.

To underscore Tokyo’s friendliness towards foreign-affiliated startups the Startup Tokyo seminar was held at a WeWork facility in ARK Hills South, aptly located next to JETRO HQ as well as Invest Japan office. The event was opened by the Governor herself, with a short speech. In fact, prior to her arrival the participants got to view a looping video of her exhorting the merits of Tokyo.

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Yuriko Koike, Governor of Tokyo
Image credit: Invest Tokyo

Invest Tokyo

The Governor noted that the Financial Times [I would note the paper is owned by Nikkei now] and some others had found Tokyo to be the best city to live, and that thanks to first-instance use of National Strategic Special Zone scheme, the Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center (TOSBEC) facilitates corporate foundation for startups as well as foreign companies to set up branches and subsidiaries.

The WeWork Japan CEO Chris Hill then spoke about the foray made by the international collaboration group into Tokyo since the beginning of this year. His staff gave a presentation after this, and invited participants to explore the facility while networking with entrepreneurs there, including two (a Japanese husband-and-wife team as represented by cleanliness expert Ms. Ohashi and a global outfit) who presented their experiences.

American businessman Mr. Erek Yedwabnick spoke on behalf of his international Internet consultant colleagues at Webguru. He noted that even with the combined knowledge of multinational web-savvy people and language support from his Japanese wife it would have been quite cumbersome to set up shop so quickly without use of TOSBEC. As it is, going forth Webguru will need to negotiate IP issues and suchlike.

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Chris Hill, CEO of WeWork Japan
Image credit: Invest Tokyo

Expanding Business

As for Ouchi Detox headed by Ms. Ohashi, she outlined her company expansion. A former nurse, she started out at an individual level armed with knowhow as to compact storage of goods and struck a chord with the social problem of “hoarders” in Japan. She methodically expanded business, gaining IT-literacy and business-computing prowess (her husband being good with numbers too), to enable incorporation.

Apparently, she is expanding operations into Kyoto area with a business partner located there. As it is, Kyoto and other history-laden locations in Japan could use expertise in proper storage methods since some items with value could become irretrievably ruined, whether they be family heirlooms (as the old saying goes, a spoilt… or moldy, as it were… apple will ruin the whole basket) or invaluable documentation.

Interestingly, clean storage can be seen becoming a good business in Asia-Pacific overall. Not only such necessities as the need to reduce allergens and infections becoming widespread, there is the Damocles sword of natural and even man-made disasters hanging over the region so preparedness in terms of appropriate storage and maintenance is foreseen forming new demands at home/work (including collab space).

Waka Ohashi, CEO of Ouchi Detox
Image credit: Invest Tokyo

How to start a business in Tokyo using Metropolitan Government resources

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This is a guest post authored by Amanda Imasaka. She is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology. Thinking of starting a business in Tokyo? Unsure of where to begin? Hiroyuki Ishige, the Chairman of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), suggests you, “Talk to JETRO first.” JETRO is a government-related organization and one of their central goals is promoting direct foreign investment in Japan. Their headquarters is stationed at the ARK Mori Building near Akasaka and Roppongi in Tokyo, and house the Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center (TOSBEC), the Tokyo Employment Consultation Center (TECC), the Business Development Center TOKYO (BDCT). All services are available in a number of languages, including English, Chinese, and Korean. See also: Tokyo Government looking to attract foreign entrepreneurs in effort to create New Tokyo First things first, you cannot start a business without the proper visa. On January 29th the BDCT (which incidentally has two support desks: one in Marunouchi which the Tokyo Metropolitan Government appears to be positioning as a new Tokyo startup hub and can be read about here in addition to the one mentioned at the JETRO headquarters) began providing individual support for entrepreneurs regarding the deregulation of the…

This is a guest post authored by Amanda Imasaka. She is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.


Image credit: skyearth / 123RF

Thinking of starting a business in Tokyo? Unsure of where to begin? Hiroyuki Ishige, the Chairman of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), suggests you, “Talk to JETRO first.” JETRO is a government-related organization and one of their central goals is promoting direct foreign investment in Japan. Their headquarters is stationed at the ARK Mori Building near Akasaka and Roppongi in Tokyo, and house the Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center (TOSBEC), the Tokyo Employment Consultation Center (TECC), the Business Development Center TOKYO (BDCT). All services are available in a number of languages, including English, Chinese, and Korean.

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JETRO Chairman Hiroyuki Ishige at the Invest Tokyo Seminar Winter 2017
Image credit: Amanda Imasaka

First things first, you cannot start a business without the proper visa. On January 29th the BDCT (which incidentally has two support desks: one in Marunouchi which the Tokyo Metropolitan Government appears to be positioning as a new Tokyo startup hub and can be read about here in addition to the one mentioned at the JETRO headquarters) began providing individual support for entrepreneurs regarding the deregulation of the “business manager” visa. Essentially the deregulation gives entrepreneurs a year to employ two people or invest 5 million yen in Japan provided they can convince the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) of their potential to do so at the 6 month mark.

But wait, it doesn’t stop there! The BDCT offers a multitude of services so make sure to bring your business plan along. These include pre-launch support like providing market information, introducing the experts you will need to establish your company (some examples: judicial & administrative scriveners, CPAs, patent attorneys, etc.), post-launch support such as information about how to set up offices, and even lifestyle support like introducing multilingual hospitals and schools. Perhaps the most valuable service they offer is business matching support, with employment numerous matching events held throughout the year and testimonials attesting to their success. The clincher: it is completely free and can be used as many times as you need. Something to keep in mind: AKA (producers of Musio, an AI enabled robot) CSO Brian Lee noted during his presentation at the Invest Tokyo Seminar Winter 2017, “We used TMG’s support services for a series of meetings with the company [Accenture, introduced through TMG’s services], focusing on areas we selected as essential, rather than for general business practices.” If you pinpoint a few areas to seek support for before arranging a meeting, they will be able to better help you help yourself.

AKA CSO Brian Lee at the Invest Tokyo Seminar Winter 2017
Image credit: Amanda Imasaka

TOSBEC is just around the corner from the BDCT in the ARK Mori building and as of December 22, 2016 they now accept the documents for all eight procedures necessary to establish a business (previously they accepted just three, a sure sign of the TMG’s desire to encourage entrepreneurs to set up shop). In most cases, you will first need to prepare and notarize the articles of incorporation, followed by the company registration documents. Once completed you will receive a notification of the start of your business which is necessary for national and metropolitan tax purposes. Bam, you just started a business. After that it is necessary to enroll in social insurance, and undergo the procedures associated with hiring employees (labor and insurance). All of this, from the notarization to the submission of immigration documents can be done at TOSBEC. Probably goes without saying, but despite being called one-stop, multiple stops will be required owing to the processing times for documents. I understand the sentiment though. TOSBEC is also completely free and can be used as many times as you want to for up to five years after starting your company.

Tokyo Startup Station along with Startup Hub Tokyo recently launched in the Marunouchi-Tokyo Station neighborhood.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

The TMG has made no secret of what sectors they believe to be most promising for new business. They include healthcare, ICT, and the environmental sector. Additionally, they have the very specific goal of attracting 40 companies related to IoT and AI in the period from 2017 to 2020. Inviting all foreign entrepreneurs to talk to JETRO, a government-related operation, first gives them the ability to screen said prospective business plans, encouraging those they see potential in and perhaps discouraging all others. Regardless, I am confident their services can be useful for entrepreneurs who approach them in an informed and organized fashion.

Tokyo Government opens own ‘Startup Cafe’ to help turn more people into entrepreneurs

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See the original story in Japanese. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) opened the Tokyo Startup Station as a base to promote entrepreneurship in Marunouchi, Tokyo with the opening ceremony held on Thursday. Located on the 1st and 2nd floors of the Meiji Yasuda Life Headquarters Building (Marunouchi My Plaza) near Tokyo Station, the first floor was founded as Startup Hub Tokyo and consists of an event space and a lounge space. The second floor was founded as the Tokyo Startup One-Stop Support Floor where entrepreneurs can receive counseling on the procedures for establishing their business and support regarding funding. While there is no reason to believe it is best to construct one concentrated area for startups, since people most often think of Shibuya when it comes to such a place, some readers may be scratching their heads and wondering, Why Marunouchi, crowded with the headquarters of numerous big name Japanese companies? In terms of other support provided, the TMG has already established the Tokyo Startup Gateway (also known as TSG, sponsored by the TMG and run by incubation program provider ETIC) and the Aoyama Startup Acceleration Center (also known as ASAC, sponsored by the TMG and operated by Japanese audit…

See the original story in Japanese.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) opened the Tokyo Startup Station as a base to promote entrepreneurship in Marunouchi, Tokyo with the opening ceremony held on Thursday. Located on the 1st and 2nd floors of the Meiji Yasuda Life Headquarters Building (Marunouchi My Plaza) near Tokyo Station, the first floor was founded as Startup Hub Tokyo and consists of an event space and a lounge space. The second floor was founded as the Tokyo Startup One-Stop Support Floor where entrepreneurs can receive counseling on the procedures for establishing their business and support regarding funding.

While there is no reason to believe it is best to construct one concentrated area for startups, since people most often think of Shibuya when it comes to such a place, some readers may be scratching their heads and wondering,

Why Marunouchi, crowded with the headquarters of numerous big name Japanese companies?

In terms of other support provided, the TMG has already established the Tokyo Startup Gateway (also known as TSG, sponsored by the TMG and run by incubation program provider ETIC) and the Aoyama Startup Acceleration Center (also known as ASAC, sponsored by the TMG and operated by Japanese audit company Deloitte Tohmatsu Group), and despite the additional support measures announced on Wednesday it seems to me there may be Tokyo citizens expressing disapproval that this is once again the product of a hierarchical administrative system.

A white paper report showing changes in the number of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial hopefuls in Japan (Click to enlarge)

The matter begins with the white paper report on small and medium-sized businesses issued by the Japanese government office. Although the graph pictured above is a reprint, if we look at the statistics over the past decade the number of entrepreneurs is almost level despite conditions improving in the entrepreneurial environment. Above all else, it is surprising that the population of entrepreneurial hopefuls actually tends to decrease. These statistics are based on the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Employment Status Survey and while some doubt remains as to whether the data obtained correctly reflects real life, it remains a serious problem in the current age, where it is said that startups make the future of the country.

The TMG explained that they opened the facility with the hope of informing people about the possibilities of entrepreneurship through the TSG and ASAC’s employment of people who have already started their entrepreneurial journey, as well as people who have already made their MVP (Minimum Viable Product). The first floor’s Startup Hub Tokyo is designed for people looking to develop startups with hockey-stick like momentum, while the 2nd floor’s Tokyo Startup One-Stop Support Floor is meant for small and medium sized companies aiming for sustainable business growth. By positioning the Tokyo Startup Station on the first floor in an area where Japanese first class, big name businesses gather, it appears they hope to attract businesspersons from companies on their way home from work, in addition to enticing shoppers in the vicinity to drop on by.

Startup Hub Tokyo Opening Ceremony

According to Hiroyuki Numaga of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Industrial and Labor Affairs New Business Support Section which oversees Startup Hub Tokyo, they referenced Startup Cafe Fukuoka and Startup Cafe Osaka (operated by Fukuoka City and Osaka City respectively and run by Culture Convenience Club) in making Startup Hub Tokyo; however, due to limitations as the administrative unit of the TMG, it was impossible to take the same operational format, resulting in the TMG renting the location and the management entrusted to Technology Seed Incubation, who also proposed the idea.

At Startup Hub Tokyo a team of entrepreneurs are stationed at the Startup Support Concierge year round, including Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays and there are plans to hold more than 300 events organized in-house and by partners throughout the year. Public events are also welcomed so long as they contribute to entrepreneurial support.

Basically anyone can use the services free of charge even if they are not a Tokyo citizen (just pay for the Tokyo Entrepreneurial Lecture), and registration is necessary to receive hands-on assistance and access to membership salons. The participants are classified in four groups depending on the level of their activity: “Members,” “Entre Members,” “Project Members,” and “Fellows,” with the variation of available services set to increase. As a general rule, the TMG is supposed to obtain the operating expenses from city taxes based on the applicants who use the service and intend to start a business in Tokyo, but in actuality, the location (country, city, prefecture, etc.) of the headquarters registered by the company is never sought, leaving me to take the liberal stance that it would be good if this led to the advancement of startup development globally.

In terms of support for women entrepreneurs, Startup Hub Tokyo includes a kids room that is available Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday with childcare practitioners on hand to take care of children. (Due to restrictions on human resources, for now they are unable to offer this service every day.) On the 2nd floor Tokyo Startup One-Stop Support Floor, there is a planning consultant who only receives female entrepreneurs, so, from her perspective as a woman, Governor Yuriko Koike’s touch can be seen here and there.

On the same day as the opening ceremony, a panel discussion was held. It was headlined by Team 2020’s Secretary General Kouji Ichiki who was also invited to be the moderator, and Yahoo Japan (TSE:4689) CEO Manabu Miyasaka, Space Market CEO Daisuke Shigematsu, and event e-commerce provider Linkbal (TSE:6046) CEO Yoshihiro Kazumasa all participated. In particular, Shigematsu, whose work life centers around outer space, could not hide his wonder at the government-led procurement of such an outstanding location for their headquarters for startup support.

The TMG’s aim is to reach 20,000 users per year, and in the meantime obtain 2,000 registered members. Can this new site in Marunouchi become a hub for the entrepreneurial generation? I look forward to the day when new startups are born here.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Tokyo Government looking to attract foreign entrepreneurs in effort to create New Tokyo

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This is a guest post authored by Amanda Imasaka. She is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) held “Invest Tokyo Seminar Winter 2017,” headlined by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, on the 25th of this month at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) headquarters. Their message was strong and clear: create a “New Tokyo,” attract foreign companies and entrepreneurs (especially those from IoT, AI, and FinTech– the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution-driven sectors), lead the world in business. Over four years the government will construct a new Tokyo by putting, using a term coined by Governor Koike, “Citizens First.” Their goal is to create a diverse city where everyone can live peacefully in a sustainable Tokyo capable of continuous growth, which is congruent to also making it a smart city. She listed a number of challenges they are set to tackle, such as increasing Tokyo’s GDP and the number of inbound tourists, while also outlining her FIRST strategy for growth: Finance-Innovation-Rise-Success-Technology. With her commitment to, “no more NATO (No-Action-Talk-Only) meetings,” she seems poised to make this happen, although this comment was made as the lead-in to a brief introduction of the Advisory Panel for…

This is a guest post authored by Amanda Imasaka. She is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.


Image credit: Amanda Imasaka

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) held “Invest Tokyo Seminar Winter 2017,” headlined by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, on the 25th of this month at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) headquarters. Their message was strong and clear: create a “New Tokyo,” attract foreign companies and entrepreneurs (especially those from IoT, AI, and FinTech– the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution-driven sectors), lead the world in business.

Over four years the government will construct a new Tokyo by putting, using a term coined by Governor Koike, “Citizens First.” Their goal is to create a diverse city where everyone can live peacefully in a sustainable Tokyo capable of continuous growth, which is congruent to also making it a smart city. She listed a number of challenges they are set to tackle, such as increasing Tokyo’s GDP and the number of inbound tourists, while also outlining her FIRST strategy for growth: Finance-Innovation-Rise-Success-Technology. With her commitment to, “no more NATO (No-Action-Talk-Only) meetings,” she seems poised to make this happen, although this comment was made as the lead-in to a brief introduction of the Advisory Panel for Global Financial City Tokyo, which is set to discuss how to revitalize Tokyo’s financial sector for a year and then compile a report.

To lead the world in business, the TMG plans to make Tokyo “Asia’s Top Global Financial City,” and they are hoping foreign financial firms will help them accomplish this, more specifically 40 foreign financial firms between 2017 and 2020. As of now they plan to offer services, such as free consulting, an accelerator program, a financial one-stop support service to provide information on the laws and regulations, as well as publish an English handbook by April of next year. And in true omotenashi style they have even thought of support for foreign families, with plans to build an international school directly attached to Tokyo station (with the area around marked as the main hub for financial talent, and home to both the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the Bank of Japan) and the easing of restrictions on foreign doctors practicing in The National Strategic Special Zone (previously they were only allowed to treat patients from their own country).

Image credit: Amanda Imasaka

Foreign companies/entrepreneurs looking to set up shop in the various special zones could reap benefits along the lines of tax incentives, quicker immigration processes, subsidies and low interest loans, among others. Additionally, in an effort to attract another 40 companies involved in IoT and AI, the TMG has pledged to create desks in major cities around the world to establish communication with local hub organizations, as well as boost matching services between foreign companies and Tokyo-based firms. The TMG had previously established Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center (TOSBEC), the Business Development Center TOKYO (BDCT), and the Tokyo Employment Consultation Center (TECC), who together offer full support to anyone looking to establish a business in Tokyo.

Governor Koike and the TMG provided a wealth of information on why Tokyo should be attractive to foreign companies and entrepreneurs, especially those from the healthcare, ICT, and environmental sectors. To give some examples, Tokyo ranks number 1 in terms of urban population, and ranks third on The Mori Memorial Foundation’s ranking of livability (safety, security, etc.). It boasts the world’s 3rd largest healthcare market due to the increasing population of elderly citizens, and after the devastating effects of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami there continues to be a demand for safe, stable, efficient energy infrastructure. Finally, with the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics it is estimated that the ICT market will expand to nearly USD130 billion by 2019.

Both the Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, Mr. Toshinao Nakagawa, and the Chairman CEO of JETRO, Mr. Hiroyuki Ishige, summed up the TMG’s plans for Tokyo by expressing the hope of making it, “the world’s easiest city to do business in.”