Overcoming Barriers for Japanese Startups Venturing Abroad
Satoshi Miyagawa, a Tokyo-based startup entrepreneur, experienced numerous challenges when he founded the Los Angeles branch of his company in 2019. From visa acquisition to finding reliable legal and financial assistance, the process was time-consuming and complicated. Miyagawa realized that these practical hurdles were major obstacles preventing Japanese startups from entering foreign markets. To address this issue, he co-founded LaunchStarz, a company dedicated to supporting Japanese entrepreneurs establishing businesses in the United States.
Government Initiatives to Boost Startup Expansion
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration has prioritized strengthening Japan’s startup sector, leading to a surge in initiatives aimed at promoting global expansion for Japanese startups. As part of a five-year startup policy package, the government plans to send 1,000 entrepreneurs and businesspeople overseas to expand global networks and establish bases for Japanese startups. Additionally, Japan aims to increase annual startup investments to ¥10 trillion ($72.17 billion) and elevate the number of young firms from 10,000 to 100,000.
LaunchStarz and Government Collaboration
LaunchStarz, an example of the growing momentum, is partnering with the Japanese government to further support startups. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), is launching a new initiative called “Beyond Japan Zero to X.” Selected entrepreneurs and businesspeople will participate in a weeks-long program held in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Austin, Texas, allowing startups to choose locations based on their business interests. The program aims to establish relationships, develop skills, support for startups, and provide assistance through local firms and institutions.
Hands-on Support for Startup Operations
LaunchStarz, managed by Miyagawa and co-founder Kenny Lum, plans to offer comprehensive support to participants beyond eliminating practical barriers. Drawing on their extensive business experience in the startup ecosystem, LaunchStarz aims to provide hands-on training and guidance to help entrepreneurs achieve their goals. By combining practical assistance with operational support, LaunchStarz intends to increase the number of Japanese entrepreneurs entering the U.S. market.
Broader Support from Major Firms and Municipalities
Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation, is urging the government to enhance support for startups. To achieve a tenfold increase in startup investments, attracting foreign talent and overseas venture capital is seen as essential for reinforcing global networks. Local initiatives are also gaining traction, such as Sendai’s Global Startup Campus, which targets individuals from the Tohoku region. By offering online entrepreneur education and providing opportunities to travel to Silicon Valley and Boston, the program aims to nurture young global talent and enhance the city’s startup ecosystem.
Breaking Language Barriers and Fostering Startup Ecosystems
Sendai’s Global Startup Campus distinguishes itself by conducting the entire program in English, recognizing the importance of effective communication in the global business landscape. By breaking the language barrier, the initiative aims to attract talent and build a stronger startup ecosystem. Sendai hopes to serve as a hub for startups and entrepreneurs, addressing challenges faced by regional cities where local talent often migrates to major cities like Tokyo. The program’s success could also inspire other cities abroad grappling with similar issues.