The Individuals Powering Japan’s Startup Ecosystem

The Individuals Powering Japan’s Startup Ecosystem


  • Japan’s startup ecosystem is now capable of entice human capital in ways in which weren’t potential fifteen years in the past.
  • Employment flexibility is essential to a maturing startup ecosystem, and Japan’s startup ecosystem is now having fun with constructive suggestions loops.
  • Japan’s startup ecosystem now attracts from prime universities; giant, prestigious firms; authorities ministries; international, international multinational companies; and the startup ecosystem itself.
  • Whereas Japan’s lifetime employment system in giant firms is alive and effectively, the rise of latest employment logics has grown in parallel with company Japan’s conventional employment system.
  • The rise of international companies and the IT trade, together with the declining attractiveness of huge firms, has created a brand new logic of alternatives for prime expertise.
  • International linkages are nonetheless a problem, and the federal government ought to deal with efforts to take away limitations to all international collaborations, particularly given the disruption attributable to Japan’s abrupt border closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Japan’s startup ecosystem is presently ready to attract top-tier expertise to high-growth startups at a scale that was not potential fifteen years in the past. It’s now simpler than at any level for the reason that Fifties to draw individuals to startups from prestigious Japanese companies, elite authorities ministries, the burgeoning info know-how (IT) sector, and international monetary and IT companies—principally graduates of Japan’s prime universities with promising careers had they remained of their earlier positions.

A key constraint of Japan’s startup ecosystem for many years had been the shortage of labor market dynamism, with Japan’s prime expertise locked into lifetime employment preparations at giant companies and with conventional employers. Now, nonetheless, a powerful constructive suggestions loop has developed during which larger human capital flows additional drive accelerated labor market dynamism. That is fueling Japan’s startup ecosystem because it matures.

The diploma to which these human capital flows has developed is commonly missed by longtime observers each inside and outdoors Japan. It is because a number of logics have developed aspect by aspect. If one appears on the giant companies that comprise the core of Japan’s economic system, conventional norms of lifetime employment are alive and effectively. Nevertheless, proper across the nook from giant companies—typically even in the identical constructing—Japanese startups provide very completely different employment preparations, profession paths, compensation packages, and total alternatives.

Two areas of the Japanese startup ecosystem’s human capital flows stay underdeveloped. First, linkages exterior Japan are nonetheless comparatively weak. Whereas a number of profitable Japanese startups have established a presence in Silicon Valley to quickly globalize their administration, and lots of different startups have a presence in different elements of Asia, human capital flows in Japan’s startup ecosystem stay largely home. There are a number of contributing elements for this, however that is one space the place the Japanese authorities can take concrete measures to scale back friction and construct international expertise flows.

Kenji Kushida

Kenji E. Kushida is a senior fellow for Japan research in Carnegie’s Asia Program, directing analysis on Japan, together with a brand new Japan-Silicon Valley Innovation Initiative at Carnegie.

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Second, whereas the pathway for individuals leaving giant companies and organizations providing lifetime employment preparations is now effectively established, a pathway for individuals with expertise in startups to return to giant companies or the federal government has but to develop. Acquisitions of startups by giant companies are comparatively uncommon, and organizations are simply starting to experiment with creating govt profession paths for individuals employed halfway by their careers. Conventional firms have begun embracing bringing in prime administration from elsewhere, however they nonetheless are inclined to depend on individuals promoted from throughout the firm to be accountable for managing their mainstream enterprise divisions—and it’s managers in these roles that should typically bridge companies’ present strengths whereas pursuing new alternatives for innovation by partnering with startups.

No matter these challenges, Japan’s startup ecosystem has entered a brand new chapter.

Human Capital Flows in Silicon Valley: Excessive Mobility and International Expertise Pool

Whereas not each startup ecosystem ought to attempt to emulate all features of Silicon Valley, understanding how human capital flows gas Silicon Valley’s startup ecosystem is essential for governments formulating methods.

Human capital flows in Silicon Valley are characterised by excessive labor mobility drawing on prime expertise from all over the world. The extraordinarily excessive ranges of labor mobility in Silicon Valley are each an consequence and a driver of dynamism within the startup ecosystem. Chopping-edge firms can entice prime expertise from giant firms, opponents, and different startups. Companies that want to regulate shortly can shed staff or change the composition of their workforce’s talent units. Flailing firms typically lose high-quality expertise, hastening their demise and contributing to quicker churning of the enterprise ecosystem.

Silicon Valley’s stage of labor market dynamism was not typical of company America’s giant companies from the Sixties by the Nineteen Eighties.1 The norms of maximum employment mobility and the chances for attracting prime expertise grew hand in hand with the startup ecosystem.

Furthermore, Silicon Valley’s startup ecosystem attracts from international expertise, as the colleges and high-tech firms situated there produce and entice expert staff and entrepreneurs from all over the world. International interpersonal connections to numerous locations all over the world, resembling India, Taiwan, and Israel, are essential financial linkages underpinning American competitiveness.2

Silicon Valley’s excessive labor mobility and international draw can also be complementary to the opposite parts enabling the Silicon Valley mannequin.3 For instance, enterprise capitalists (VCs) can typically introduce administration expertise to startups, drawing from a pool of profitable individuals with earlier startup expertise. A subsequent paper on this Startup Japan sequence will additional study human capital in Silicon Valley. 4

With out dynamic human capital flows, your complete startup ecosystem is constrained; this was the fact for Japan’s startup ecosystem till the early 2010s.

The Individuals Powering Japan’s Startup Ecosystem

Japan’s Lengthy-Time period Employment Choking the Startup Ecosystem: Challenges to Attracting Workforce, Constructing Experience

Japan’s long-term employment created quite a few choke factors for the startup ecosystem. A subsequent piece on this sequence will clarify the historic benefits of lifetime employment for Japan’s postwar financial mannequin, however its impact by the Nineties was that Japan’s “greatest and brightest” have been locked into giant companies for his or her complete profession, and potential entrepreneurs and the startup workforce had robust disincentives to depart. Lack of a sturdy mid-career hiring market led to an absence of individuals with expertise in startups, making it all of the tougher to construct extremely succesful startup workforces. Founding firms and becoming a member of startups was, due to this fact, far riskier than in Silicon Valley, particularly since there was no straightforward means again into good employment preparations if a startup failed.

Reflecting this dangerous actuality, Japan’s social norms bolstered the startup ecosystem’s standing as exterior the established elite employment path. Startups based within the Nineties which have grown into giant companies, resembling Rakuten and DeNA, skilled extreme headwinds making an attempt to recruit workers. Each firms’ founders and early executives have typically said each publicly and privately {that a} frequent hurdle for worker recruitment was the recruit’s mother and father and spouses. Mother and father of their new recruits would sometimes present up on the firms’ workplaces to demand that their youngsters’s provisional employment agreements be withdrawn; they have been typically satisfied that their offspring had been bamboozled by charismatic leaders. Of their minds, the only option for his or her youngsters was to seek out employment at a secure giant agency that will deal with your complete prolonged household in the long run. Of their view, new, unfamiliar companies providing not-well-understood IT merchandise weren’t solely low status, however unlikely to supply secure long-term employment. Conventional long-term employment additionally entrenched old style gender roles, for the reason that males have been anticipated to work lengthy hours and be transferred to any a part of Japan—or wherever on the planet—on quick discover for a number of years, even when they needed to depart their households behind. Ladies have been typically anticipated to depart their white collar jobs when having youngsters, since such lengthy working hours and sudden job location transfers weren’t tenable whereas they have been thought of liable for sustaining the family and overseeing the training of kids. This casual understanding of conventional gender roles positioned girls exterior the discount of long-term employment safety in trade for the corporate’s capability to deploy them wherever flexibly. Provided that your complete employment logic at giant companies was predicated on girls leaving the workforce at a sure level and changing into depending on their husbands’ incomes, the entire long-term employment observe was lengthy one other robust disincentive for prime performing males from leaving conventional giant companies, whereas girls struggled to achieve higher administration positions to realize expertise.

With little job mobility among the many elite workforce, the headhunting and recruiting trade was small, and the shortage of a marketplace for company executives meant that startups had issue getting individuals with experience operating companies, particularly these with elite backgrounds.

The Emergence of A number of Employment Logics within the Nineties

Starting within the late Nineties, Japan’s norms of lifetime employment started to weaken. Massive companies slowly decreased employment ranges, releasing swimming pools of staff into the labor market as they supplied early retirements, severance incentives, and decreased new graduate hiring—given the issue of layoffs in Japan. Sure elements of the monetary sector skilled a extra dramatic change with a serious inflow of international companies from the late Nineties onward and the collapse of a number of venerable, elite Japanese companies that led to the sudden unemployment of people that had anticipated lifelong jobs.5 New employment logics arose because the sector adjusted. Overseas companies quickly grabbed up lots of the skilled workers however didn’t hesitate to shed them later. A part of the internet-enabled IT trade’s development was pushed by new companies, and in each finance and the IT trade, substantial labor mobility turned the norm. These elements, mixed with regulatory shifts designed to allow adjustment by giant companies, along with new rules explicitly aimed on the startup ecosystem, created a much more favorable human capital atmosphere for the startup ecosystem by the 2010s.

Japan’s New Human Capital Dynamics within the Startup Ecosystem

Japan’s startup ecosystem by the late 2010s confronted a much more favorable atmosphere than it had for a number of a long time up till then. Entrepreneurs more and more got here from giant, prestigious companies. Startups’ executives have been more and more drawn from conventional Japanese companies, skilled service companies, and international companies. Startups started providing greater pay than conventional giant Japanese companies. Authorities officers from elite ministries started becoming a member of startups—and never on the conventional post-retirement personal sector posts that enormous companies tended to supply. Startup alumni teams started to type, with many changing into serial entrepreneurs. The rising labor market dynamics opened new enterprise alternatives for headhunting and recruiting companies, lots of which have been startups themselves.

Entrepreneurs from High Universities

By the early 2010s, the founders of profitable startups have been overwhelmingly from prime universities. Desk 1 lists the colleges from which founders of the highest fifteen startups that acquired essentially the most funding in every of the years from 2015 to 2020 acquired their undergraduate or graduate diploma. (The colleges of Tokyo, Keio, and Waseda are Japan’s top-ranked universities, they usually produced the biggest variety of founders.)

Desk 1: Universities That Graduated Founders of High-Funded Japanese Startups (2015–2020)
College Variety of Startup Founders College Variety of Startup Founders
College of Tokyo 10 Nagoya Institute of Know-how 1
Keio College 7 Tokyo Metropolitan College 1
Waseda College 4 Kansai College 1
Yokohama Nationwide College 2 Kyoto College 1
Tokyo Institute of Know-how 2 College of Bristol 1
Hitotsubashi College 1 Imperial School London 1
Harvard College 1 Stanford College 1
Columbia College 1 Ritsumeikan College 1
College of Delaware 1 Northwestern College 1
Massachusetts Institute of Know-how 1 Nihon College 1
Purdue College 1 Senshu College 1
Tufts College 1 Niigata College 1
Gifu Pharmaceutical College 1 Pomona School 1
Kobe College 1 Korea College 1
Georgia Institute of Know-how 1 No faculty (highschool graduate) 1
Supply: Japan Enterprise Analysis (2015), “Japan Startup Finance” stories from 2018–2022, Preliminary Enterprise, and PitchBook

Word: This consists of founders from the ten top-funded startups in Japan from 2015 to 2020. The information embody all universities (undergraduate/graduate) from which a founder graduated. For instance, JapanTaxi CEO Kawanabe Ichiro graduated from Keio College and Northwestern College.

This was a distinction to a earlier technology of startups from the late Nineties when the web first opened up new alternatives, however earlier than Japan’s startup ecosystem had entered its present state of maturity. Typifying the earlier stereotype of IT startup founders was Kumagai Masatoshi, founding father of GMO Web Group, one of many early profitable companies providing web domains and hosting providers. Kumagai had dropped out of highschool to work for his father’s pachinko retailer in comparatively rural Nagano Prefecture, coming to Tokyo when his retailer succeeded.6 Kumagai had little to lose and far to show as he fought his technique to create a profitable enterprise. By mid-2019, GMO Web Group had about 6,000 workers and 111 group firms (9 publicly listed); it had simply over half of the home cloud server internet hosting market, with its varied subsidiaries engaged in internet- and finance-related areas.

Fujita Susumu, who created CyberAgent, is one other notable entrepreneur from the earlier period of early web startups whose background was much less excessive than Kumagai’s highschool dropout background. Fujita attended Aoyama Gakuin College, a revered elite college, and bought the concept of beginning his personal firm as he labored part-time at a web-based promoting company. His first job out of school was at a small temp company the place he labored in gross sales for a pair years earlier than going out on his personal. CyberAgent expanded into a wide range of internet-related areas starting with promoting, which drove a lot of its income. It was an early Japanese market participant providing providers resembling a weblog platform, on-line video games, and video content material. In 2000, it listed on Japan’s major small market capitalization index, the Tokyo Inventory Alternate’s (TSE’s) Moms Index, and rose to the TSE’s First Part in 2014. Its gross sales in 2001 have been ¥6.3 billion, rising to gross sales of simply over ¥400 billion and income of ¥30 billion in 2018.7

Startup Founders Drawing from Prestigious Massive Companies

Many founders of Japan’s most profitable startups between 1999 and 2016 had expertise at prestigious giant companies that usually solely recruit from prime universities. Every one of these companies supplied lifetime employment—these founders have been prime expertise who left Japan’s prevailing mainstream company employment logic.

Desk 2 reveals the primary employer of chief govt officers (CEOs) of startups listed on the TSE’s Moms Index between 1999 and 2016. The most important variety of CEOs based firms proper out of school, however the remaining joined conventional giant firms starting from human sources (HR) agency Recruit, actively fostering human capital, to consulting agency Accenture, telecommunications group NTT, monetary sector giants Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Financial institution, Nomura Securities, and IBM Japan (whose presence in Japan dates from the prewar interval, then once more from 1950).

Desk 2: First Jobs Held by Startup CEOs (1999¬–2016)
First Employer Variety of CEOs
Based firm out of school 36
Recruit 14
Accenture 10
Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Financial institution 7
Nomura Securities 7
IBM Japan 6
Sony 5
SoftBank 5
Panasonic 5
Itochu Company 5
Mitsubishi Company 4
Shinsei Financial institution 4
SMBC Nikko Securities 4
Fujitsu 4
Mizuho Monetary Group 3
Mitsui & Co. 3
Sekisui Home 3
Sojitz Company 3

Supply: Tokyo Inventory Alternate information compiled by IBER-Kotosaka.8

Word: Knowledge consists of CEOs from firms that listed on TSE’s Moms Index from 1999 to 2016

Desk 3 lists the quick earlier employer of the CEO when the corporate was listed on the TSE’s Moms Index.

Desk 3: Earlier Employment of Startup CEOs (2016)
Earlier Employer Variety of CEOs
Recruit 20
Accenture 10
IBM Japan 10
Sony 8
Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Financial institution 8
SoftBank 7
Panasonic 7
Nomura Securities 7
CyberAgent 6
Boston Consulting Group 6
McKinsey & Firm 6
Mitsubishi Company 6
GMO Group 5
SMBC Nikko Securities 5
Itochu Company 5
Sojitz Company 5
SCSK Company 4
LCE Holdings 4
Sega Group 4
Drecom 4
Shinsei Financial institution 4
HP Japan 4
Fujitsu 4

Word: Knowledge consists of CEOs from firms that listed on TSE’s Moms Index from 1999 to 2016.

Supply: Iber-Kotosaka, “東証マザーズ市場における上場時のCEOのキャリアデータ” [CEO Career Data at the Time of Listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers Index], February 25, 2017,

Government Officers from Conventional Elite Companies

Extra information from this era reveals Japan’s prime expertise was now not as “locked in” to lifetime employment preparations at giant companies. Desk 4 reveals the earlier employment of all govt administrators on the 483 firms that listed on the TSE’s Moms Index between 1999 and 2016. In contrast to the record of startup CEOs, the prominence of accounting companies and monetary establishments means that executives introduced skilled abilities together with them to startups. The robust presence of buying and selling firms and electronics companies can also be noteworthy. With just some home exceptions, such because the comparatively new SoftBank and several other international companies, these employers have been conventional, extremely revered Japanese firms. A pathway for Japan’s prime expertise to gas startups was clearly underway.

Desk 4: Earlier Employers of Firm Administrators of Startups (1999–2016)
Firm Trade Variety of Administrators
KPMG Azsa Accounting 81
Mizuho Monetary Group Finance 80
Recruit Group Recruiting 80
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Accounting 78
Mitsubishi UFJ Monetary Group Finance 68
NTT Group Telecommunications 64
Nomura Holdings Securities 64
Sony Group Electronics 56
Ernst & Younger ShinNihon Accounting 56
SoftBank IT 55
Mitsui Sumitomo Monetary Group Finance 52
Misuzu Audit Company Accounting 49
Mitsubishi Company Buying and selling 44
Accenture Consulting 42
Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Securities 40
Itochu Company Buying and selling 40
NEC Group IT 39
SMBC Nikko Securities Securities 36
JAFCO Enterprise capital 31
Sojitz Buying and selling 31
Daiwa Securities. Securities 31
Panasonic Electronics 29
Shinsei Financial institution Finance 29
Toshiba Electronics 29
Resona Holdings Finance 28
Fujitsu IT 26
Goldman Sachs Finance 25
Mitsui & Co. Buying and selling 25

Word: Knowledge consists of administrators from firms that listed on TSE’s Moms Index from 1999 to 2016.

Supply: Masahiro Kotosaka and Masayasu Matsui, “変貌するベンチャー経営人材:東証マザーズ上場の役員構成の概観からHenbo Suru Bencha Keiei Jinzai: Tosho Mazazu Joujouji No Yakuin Kousei No Gaikann Kara” [The Transforming Startup Management Human Capital: From Observations about Officers at the Time of Listing on Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers], in ベンチャー白書2017 [Venture Business White Paper 2017], Enterprise Enterprise Middle 2017.

Labor Market Fluidity throughout the IT Sector and Startups

As Japan’s startup ecosystem started to mature, new IT startups began to attract expertise from different IT companies and startups. Desk 5 reveals how individuals with expertise in earlier cohorts of startups joined newer ones.

Desk 5: Startup Executives with Earlier Expertise at IT Startups (1999–2016)
Firm Variety of Executives
CyberAgent 19
Digital Storage 16
Rakuten 16
United 15
Hikari Tsushin 14
DeNA 11
Zappallas 10
Persol Profession (previously Intelligence) 9
Decide 9
Cybird 9 8
Gaiax 7
Gree 7
Netprice 7
Drecom 6
Google Japan 5

Word: Knowledge consists of executives from firms that listed on TSE’s Moms Index from 1999 to 2016.

Supply: Kotosaka and Matsui, “変貌する経営人材” [The Transforming Startup Management Human Capital].

Startup Spotlights: Instances Illustrating Employment Pathways

Some concrete examples of notable startups are helpful for illustrating the brand new dynamics of human capital mobility in Japan’s startup ecosystem, in addition to the alternatives out there to prime college graduates who was funneled into giant organizations’ lifetime employment preparations.

High College to Massive, Elite Japanese Agency to Entrepreneur

Yosuke Tsuji, who based Cash Ahead in 2012, joined Sony after graduating from Kyoto College. He had hoped to be assigned to a world enterprise space or someplace thrilling associated to the web or creating new merchandise. To his dismay, nonetheless, Tsuji was assigned to the accounting division—removed from a glamourous place. There he discovered himself spending an awesome period of time doing handbook information entry. After three years, he had the chance to be seconded to Monex, a brand new securities firm that was collectively funded by Sony and an entrepreneur, Matsumoto Oki.

Tsuji finally transferred fully to Monex from Sony. A number of years later, after acquiring his MBA from the Wharton College as a part of the primary cohort of Monex’s examine overseas program, he based Cash Ahead with Toshio Taki. Taki, a Keio College graduate, was getting his MBA from Stanford College, the place he was despatched by Nomura Securities, similtaneously Tsuji was at Wharton.

Tsuji’s expertise highlights some vital ties between the standard and rising new logic of Japan’s startup ecosystem. He joined a standard firm, Sony, and pursued a really conventional profession path. Nevertheless, he was seconded to a startup, a typical observe for big Japanese companies who will “mortgage” their lifetime workers to subsidiaries or firms with shut relations. This expertise launched him into a brand new logic of Japan the place elite, sharp, pushed individuals have been working to quickly develop the startup.

High College to Overseas Monetary Agency to Entrepreneur

Monex, which Tsuji joined when it was an organization of forty individuals and grew quickly throughout his time there to a number of hundred individuals, is a notable startup in its personal proper. The rise of Monex illustrates how vital shifts within the monetary sector opened up by international companies led to new alternatives for potential entrepreneurs in Japan within the period previous the maturation of the VC trade and startup ecosystem. Monex was based by Matsumoto Oki in 1999.9 Matsumoto had joined Salomon Brothers upon graduating from Tokyo College, then moved to Goldman Sachs, the place he rose shortly to develop into its youngest common associate worldwide on the time when he was thirty years outdated.10 Seeing a chance for a brand new, internet-based securities agency targeted on people, Matsumoto proposed the concept to Goldman Sachs. Nevertheless, the agency was not , so he left in 1998 at age thirty-five to discovered Monex with Sony as his main investor.11 Matsumoto drew expertise from varied monetary establishments, resembling Lengthy-Time period Credit score Financial institution of Japan, Goldman Sachs, Nippon Wealth Restricted, and others. Monex grew quickly and was one of many first firms to record on the newly created TSE’s Moms Index in 2000.

Matsumoto’s success highlights the brand new logic of Japan’s monetary trade. His stellar profession at Goldman Sachs in Tokyo enabled him to rise shortly whereas younger and likewise supplied him with substantial personal wealth that he may use to discovered an organization. His profession and monetary cushion have been virtually not possible for workers in conventional lifetime employment preparations with low salaries whereas younger and strict seniority wages.

A number of different startups even have former international monetary establishment workers as their founders. For instance, bitFlyer, Japan’s hottest cryptocurrency trade, was based in 2014 by Yuzo Kano, who had labored at Goldman Sachs.12 Equally, Visits Applied sciences, an organization utilizing synthetic intelligence (AI) to investigate human habits to be used in company HR, was based by Matsumoto Masaru, who had additionally been at Goldman Sachs.13

High College to Overseas Consulting Agency to Entrepreneur

Raksul Inc., based in 2009 by Matsumoto Yasukane, started by providing a web-based printing service that matched clients throughout Japan to small to medium-sized printing companies with underutilized capability. By doing this, Raksul was capable of provide far decrease costs for printing. Matsumoto, a Keio College graduate, considered the service whereas working as a guide at what was on the time A.T. Kearney upon discovering huge inefficiencies and excessive costs within the printing enterprise.14 He based his firm at age twenty-four, providing printing service value comparisons for companies—a shocking hole that no person had crammed on the time. As the corporate grew and developed its personal service connecting native printing companies to a typical consumer-facing platform, he struggled to handle the younger crew, and lots of left. In his late twenties, Matsumoto determined he wanted a extra skilled govt administration crew and located individuals who have been older than him—although of their mid-thirties—to affix the corporate. Nagami Yo, who turned chief monetary officer, was a senior vp from Carlyle, and Fukushima Kozo, who turned chief working officer, was a principal at Boston Consulting Group.

Japanese Excessive-Tech Agency to Entrepreneur: Company Retrenchment Releasing Human Capital

The retreat of Japanese companies from fascinating and stimulating product areas additionally supplied the impetus for some workers to depart and located their very own firms. Nakazawa Yuko, who based UPQ, a shopper electronics startup, had initially labored for Casio designing cell phones. Casio’s cell phones have been enticing and well-designed sturdy merchandise that regarded like their in style sports activities watch, G-Shock. Nevertheless, Casio withdrew from cell handsets in 2013. Nakazawa was in her late twenties when Casio’s cell phone handset resolution was made in 2012 and he or she left that 12 months to type her personal startup targeted on well-designed shopper electronics merchandise with manufacturing outsourced to China. UPQ made headlines shortly after its creation in 2015 by introducing twenty-four aesthetically well-designed merchandise in its first two months, together with smartphones, audio system, a glass keyboard, a backpack with a built-in battery for charging units, and a chair. UPQ adopted up with a foldable battery-operated bicycle, laptop monitor, and different merchandise. Nakazawa gave quite a few media interviews detailing her frequent journeys to Shenzhen, China, to work with suppliers, and UPQ’s merchandise have been featured prominently in main Japanese electronics retail chains’ flagship shops in Tokyo. The corporate was aided in manufacturing know-how by one other Japanese {hardware} startup agency, Cerevo, which had been based by a former Panasonic worker in 2011. UPQ was bought by Cerevo in 2021 and disappeared, however the entrepreneurial story of UPQ reveals the chances out there to individuals who would have in any other case doubtless remained in giant firms.

Japan’s Conventional Excessive-Tech Companies as Engineering Expertise Swimming pools

The story of Cerevo reveals how Japanese startups may entice engineers who have been beforehand locked into conventional giant Japanese firms. Cerevo constructed {hardware} merchandise to supply web performance within the early years of the Web of Issues paradigm. Its founder, Iwasa Takuma, left Panasonic and efficiently drew engineers from virtually all the foremost Japanese shopper electronics firms, resembling Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, and NEC.15 He discovered that workers at these giant firms have been naturally pushed to his imaginative and prescient, together with the alternatives {that a} startup may present engineers to form merchandise—a distinction to their extremely specialised and area of interest roles in giant, established companies. Iwasa was later recruited again to Panasonic to ascertain a subsidiary making internet-connected units. It stays uncommon for anyone who left the corporate to return, and Iwasa’s profession trajectory reveals the brand new dynamics of human capital fluidity that company Japan is starting to undertake.

High College to Entrepreneur: Mergers and Acquisitions to CEO to VC

As Japanese firms more and more embrace working with startups and even shopping for them, new profession paths—acquainted in Silicon Valley however hitherto virtually unparalleled in Japan—have gotten potential. For instance, Asakura Yusuke, a College of Tokyo graduate, began his personal firm, then labored for McKinsey, after which moved again to the corporate he had began, Bare Applied sciences. The corporate supplied middleware for Japanese internet-enabled cell phones in an period predating Apple and Android smartphones. Bare Applied sciences was bought by social networking service supplier Mixi. Asakura was shortly promoted to CEO of Mixi as the corporate suffered a downward spiral. He efficiently circled Mixi in a 12 months and a half after which left to begin his subsequent enterprise whereas nonetheless in his early thirties. After spending two years in Silicon Valley as a visiting researcher at Stanford College, Asakura returned to Japan to cofound an organization advising and mentoring Japanese startups. In 2019, the corporate, ImportantInc., raised a ¥20 billion VC fund.

Silicon Valley Agency Experiences Enabling Entrepreneurs

Silicon Valley companies with workplaces in Japan are a brand new supply of entrepreneurs and Japanese startup ecosystem gamers. In 2010, Wantedly, launched extra absolutely beneath, was based by Naka Akiko, a Kyoto College graduate who had labored at Goldman Sachs, adopted by Fb. On the time, Fb’s Japan operations had solely six individuals, so it felt like a startup and beginning her personal firm was not such a radical departure. Wantedly listed on the TSE’s Moms Index in 2017.

Sasaki Daisuke, the cofounder of Freee, a fintech agency that gives monetary instruments, an easy-to-use accounting system for smaller-scale firms, was beforehand employed at Google Japan. He based Freee in 2012 after realizing that small to medium-sized companies have been underserved by enterprise-grade accounting software program, which was too costly or cumbersome. His cofounder, Yokoji Ryu, had labored at Sony. Freee was capable of enlist 1,600 banks early on to combine into its service, permitting the banks’ clients quick access to Freee’s service. Sasaki’s interpersonal networks whereas a Google Japan worker—he traveled incessantly to Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters—led to an introduction to Silicon Valley VC agency DCM, which turned a lead investor in Freee.

Overseas Monetary Companies as Startup CFO Expertise Pool

Overseas monetary companies present a expertise pool for chief monetary officer (CFO) positions in Japan’s startup ecosystem. Japan’s financial newspaper, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, deemed it newsworthy to run a narrative itemizing outstanding startup CFOs from international companies in 2018 (see Desk 6). Many startups on the record underwent preliminary public choices (IPOs) between 2016 and 2018, and the CFOs introduced expertise and interpersonal networks from their earlier careers in finance. This profession path was more and more frequent for profitable startups, however novel sufficient for Nihon Keizai Shimbun editors to think about it price a narrative. The outstanding media publicity undoubtedly enhanced the legitimacy of those CFOs’ profession paths, in addition to that of the startup companies.

Desk 6: Outstanding Startup CFOs from Overseas Monetary Companies (as of 2018)
Identify Overseas Agency Startup Joined 12 months Joined IPO
Asahara Daisuke Goldman Sachs Heroz (AI growth) 2013 IPO 2018
Kanesaka Naoki Goldman Sachs Cash Ahead (accounting app) 2014 IPO 2018
Mori Aki Goldman Sachs Renova (renewable vitality) 2015 IPO 2016
Nagasawa Kei Goldman Sachs Mercari (flea market app) 2015 IPO 2018
Kanemitsu Midori Goldman Sachs bitFlyer (bitcoin trade) 2016  
Uriu Hidetoshi Goldman Sachs Visasq (sport consulting) 2018  
Koyama Tatsuro UBS Securities Pocket Menu (restaurant reservation service) 2015  
Kawahara Ryo JP Morgan Securities Medley, Inc. (telemedicine) 2016  
Hirose Gaku Deutsche Financial institution TriFort (app growth) 2014  
Nagami Yo Carlyle Group Raksul Inc. (printing, distribution service) 2014 IPO 2018
Supply: “外資金融出身、刺激求めて スタートアップに転職続々 資金調達・組織作り、経験生かす” [Increasing numbers of people from foreign financial firms joining startups: utilizing their experience to assist fundraising and strengthening organizations], Nikkei, Could 21, 2018,

Larger Pay at Startups vis-à-vis Massive Companies

By 2018, the startup ecosystem started providing greater up-front salaries than main Japanese firms. These greater salaries weren’t restricted to new college graduates to whom the long-term employment preparations paid low wages however have been additionally supplied to mid-career hires.

A examine by recruiting firm JAC Recruitment discovered a 40 % improve in wage ranges supplied by startups to workers from giant companies between 2012 and 2019.16 The common annual wage for startups (outlined as companies lower than a decade outdated, excluding international companies) was ¥5.14 million in 2012, rising to ¥7.21 million by February 2019, with the latter wage stage exceeding that of huge companies. Tokyo Shoko Analysis discovered the common annual wage of listed companies in March 2018 was ¥6.2 million, with a reversal of the earlier development of individuals shifting from giant companies to startups normally taking a pay reduce. The upper salaries at startups accelerated the move of individuals coming from giant companies. BizReach, one other recruiting agency, reported a two-and-a-half-fold improve within the variety of individuals leaving giant companies to affix IT startups from 2017 to 2019.17

Till the startup ecosystem matured to a sure diploma, with the VC trade rising to supply ample funding, startups tended to be unable to afford to supply workers greater salaries along with inventory choices.

Mid-Profession Authorities Officers as Expertise Pool

The Japanese authorities’s elite bureaucrats additionally more and more turned a supply of expertise for startups. These hires weren’t merely the standard post-retirement posts for bureaucrats, often known as “amakudari”—typically used for senior bureaucrats’ connections and entry along with area data.18

Within the maturing startup ecosystem, not solely did mid-career bureaucrats who nonetheless had promising careers inside their ministries depart to affix startups, however some turned founders. Many joined consulting companies as a primary step out of presidency.

For instance, Takahashi Daiju, an govt director and president of the Hong Kong and Shanghai branches of Oisix Ra Daichi, which sells natural produce and delivers meal kits, had spent 9 years within the Ministry of Overseas Affairs, receiving grasp’s diploma from Stanford College throughout his time as a diplomat. He joined McKinsey, however after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, he took a depart of absence to discovered a service connecting native agricultural producers to customers by a web-based market earlier than becoming a member of Oisix. Oisix had been based in 2000 by Kohei Takashima, who attended graduate college on the College of Tokyo and likewise labored at McKinsey. The corporate listed on the TSE’s Moms Index in 2013.

Equally, Kuwahara Tomotaka left the Ministry of Financial system, Commerce and Trade (METI) after twenty years in 2018 to affix Origami, a cell money platform based in 2012. He had earned a grasp’s diploma from the College of California San Diego and had spent a number of years seconded to the Japanese consulate in San Francisco. His final posting was as a director within the Japan Financial Revitalization Bureau of the Cupboard Workplace. Origami was bought by Mercari in 2019.

Ogata Masayuki, who joined the Ministry of Inside Affairs and Telecommunications out of the College of Tokyo in 2001, took the chance to review overseas whereas in authorities, incomes a legislation diploma from Stanford College and spending a 12 months at UC Berkeley. Whereas posted in Hong Kong, he spent evenings incomes a enterprise diploma from Hong Kong College of Science and Know-how earlier than leaving the ministry to affix consulting agency Accenture in 2012. In 2016, he joined Freee and have become its chief working officer.

Inoue Tomotaka, who joined METI in 2000 after graduating from the College of Tokyo, earned a grasp’s diploma from the Harvard Kennedy College of Public Coverage whereas in authorities, and was posted to the Japanese consulate in San Francisco as a consul in 2016. He left the ministry upon his return to Japan at round age forty to affix VISITS Applied sciences, an HR know-how startup. The corporate had been based in 2014 by Masaru Matsumoto, who obtained a graduate diploma from the College of Tokyo the place he studied monetary engineering. Matsumoto joined Goldman Sachs; moved to a different international monetary agency, UBS; and began his personal hedge fund earlier than founding VISITS Applied sciences.

A extra senior startup rent was Kanda Mitsunori, a profitable profession bureaucrat who joined the Financial institution of Japan in 1994 after graduating from the College of Tokyo and incomes a grasp’s diploma from Yale. He spearheaded quite a few fintech initiatives and joined Cash Ahead in 2017.

In these instances, time spent overseas by a number of authorities applications enabling bureaucrats to stay overseas and attend prestigious international universities might have been an essential springboard for them. The officers cultivated broader interpersonal networks, international sensibilities, and a broader perspective on what they may obtain. Whereas a narrowminded bureaucratic concern could also be that some contributors in these applications find yourself leaving authorities a number of years after returning to Japan, it could be a mistake to abolish such applications in an try to retain expertise—these individuals might have finally left anyway, however their international networks and experiences gained in universities overseas find yourself serving to Japan in its subsequent section of growth.

Agri Information Design, which gives an Android smartphone software that makes use of GPS to allow farmers to maneuver their tractors in straight traces within the subject for seeding and making use of fertilizer, was based in 2014 by Hamada Yasuyuki, who had been a senior researcher on the Nationwide Agriculture and Bio-oriented Analysis Group. He began his profession as a researcher within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The app, which gives a particularly low-cost resolution for growing nations and farmers who can not pay the excessive charges of present automated tractor providers, gained a number of startup pitch contests, together with the Infinity Ventures Summit 2015, and the New Financial system Summit 2016.

Matsuda Naoko served within the METI for eighteen years earlier than leaving in 2018 to discovered bestat, an AI firm specializing in offering utilized deep studying to a wide range of areas. Matsuda had spent a 12 months at Columbia College in 2005, the identical 12 months that Matsuo Yutaka, a notable laptop scientist specializing in AI from the College of Tokyo spent a 12 months at Stanford. Matsuo’s analysis lab later turned well-known for producing a lot of startups (particulars will observe in a subsequent paper on this Startup Japan sequence). Matsuda had earned a PhD in engineering on the College of Tokyo in 2014 whereas working for the METI and serving to with Matsuo’s lab.

Whereas complete information on authorities officers shifting to startups doesn’t exist but, these abovementioned examples illustrate the brand new dynamics of elite stage human capital flows growing in Japan’s startup ecosystem.

The Rise of Startup Alumni Entrepreneur Networks

As Japan’s startup ecosystem matured, a rising variety of workers from early generations of profitable IT startups moved on to develop into entrepreneurs themselves. For instance, Rakuten and DeNA have their very own analogues to Silicon Valley’s “PayPal Mafia”—the group of early PayPal founders and members founding and funding varied profitable companies. The Japanese startup group has begun referring to a few of these networks as “Rakuten Mafia” or “DeNA Mafia.”

Tsuda Masayasu (Zentai), who joined Rakuten in its infancy in 1998 and later constructed Rakuten Journey, left the corporate in 2003 to ascertain on-line journey reserving and evaluation website The corporate was bought to for $11 million in 2004.

Masao Ito, a Waseda College graduate and early worker of Rakuten who joined in 1999, had based a job search startup for school college students, Minshu, as a aspect challenge. He integrated Minshu in 2002 and left Rakuten to run the corporate full time however returned to Rakuten when it acquired Minshu in 2004. Three years later, he left once more to attend graduate college earlier than founding a giant information evaluation startup, UserLocal. The corporate went public in 2017 on the TSE’s Moms Index, shifting to the TSE’s First Part in 2019.

The founding father of Gree, one among Japan’s early profitable social networking service companies, Tanaka Yoshikazu, began at Rakuten in 2000 and launched the Rakuten Weblog service. Yamada Shintaro, the founding father of Japan’s first unicorn firm Mercari, additionally had Rakuten ties, having joined the corporate in 1999 as an intern. Yamada based Unoh, a gaming and digital content material firm, in 2002, promoting it to Silicon Valley agency Zynga in 2010. Three years later, he based Mercari. Mercari’s former chief advertising and marketing officer, Murata Masayuki, was additionally a Rakuten alum and entrepreneur himself, having based social commerce platform and later, programming college, Kiramex in 2009, which was bought to United for $5 million in 2016.

Wada Shuichi, who joined Rakuten in 2005, left the corporate to ascertain life-hack web site nanapi, which was acquired by the telecom big KDDI in 2014 for an undisclosed quantity, purported to be between ¥4 billion and ¥7.7 billion.19 Wada left KDDI in 2018 and have become a technical guide for a number of startups earlier than changing into chief know-how officer at manga group service website Alu. He’s additionally identified for his angel investments in different early startups.

Ozawa Takao joined Rakuten when it acquired his firm, Bizseek, a used items e-commerce website, in 2001, simply over two years after it was based in 1999. Ozawa was accountable for constructing Rakuten’s skilled baseball enterprise, and he left in 2007, changing into an angel investor and guide. In 2011, Ozawa co-founded one other firm, Crocos, which utilized Fb’s consumer information platform to plan and market varied providers. The corporate was bought to Yahoo! Japan in 2012 for $10 million, after which he stayed on at Yahoo as an govt officer whereas changing into an much more outstanding angel investor.

The “DeNA Mafia” consists of individuals resembling Akimoto Rina (joined 2013), who based Vivid Backyard (2016), which connects agricultural producers on to customers through a web-based service;20 Nishimura Keisei (joined 2004), who based Donuts (2007), which gives varied web-based providers, together with video games and cloud administration providers; Akagawa Shunichi (joined 2006), founding father of Mirrativ (2018), which gives a livestreaming platform;21 Genki Shiota (joined 2008), who based Akatsuki (2010), which creates primarily cell gaming apps and was listed on the TSE’s Moms Index in 2016 and the TSE’s First Part in 2017; Suzuka Ryugo (joined 2008), who based RightMap (2014), which gives providers for HR growth and to assist hiring; Fukuda Yosuke (joined 2009), who based Yoyo Holdings (2012), providing platforms for promoting and micro influencer advertising and marketing primarily in Southeast Asia; Iwasaki Yuka (joined 2012), who based YouTrust (2017), a recruitment service whose outreach is restricted to second-degree connections; and Maeda Yuji (joined 2013), who based Showroom (2015), a livestreaming platform and digital actuality stay efficiency platform.

Interpersonal networks throughout the startup group are getting stronger because the ecosystem matures. Koizumi Fumiaki, CEO of Mercari, for instance, served on a number of boards of different startups which have now efficiently gone public.22 Initially at Daiwa Securities, the place he labored on the IPOs of startups resembling DeNA and Mixi, Koizumi left to affix Mixi, changing into an govt there by age twenty-seven. He wound up as chief know-how officer however left when he was thirty-two. For the following couple of years, he helped companies of their very early phases, together with Akatsuki, a gaming firm based in 2010 and listed on the TSE’s Moms Index in 2016; Raksul (IPO in 2018), launched above, and others. He met with Yamada, Mercari’s founder, and joined the agency quickly thereafter in 2013 when the corporate’s head depend was nonetheless not rather more than ten individuals.

Human Capital Movement Accelerators as Startup Alternatives

Japan’s evolving logic within the labor market additionally opened alternatives for startups to supply providers to speed up labor market flexibility. The success of those startups additional enabled labor market fluidity, aiding the startup ecosystem—a constructive suggestions loop. Japan’s job placement trade was initially focused at momentary contract staff since a lot of the employment liquidity was restricted to that section of employment. The trade expanded into mid-career job placement as market demand grew. The massive job placement companies, Pasona and Recruit, for instance, expanded their practices into white-collar placement. New providers to allow freelance staff to hook up with employers arose, in addition to specialised providers focused at particular teams, resembling skilled girls who left the workforce to bear and lift youngsters.

Wantedly, which mixes features of a social networking service with recruiting, was based by Akiko Naka in 2010. Throughout her profession at Goldman Sachs adopted by Fb Japan, Naka realized that a big portion of youthful staff have been all for discovering achievement from their jobs relatively than merely making a superb wage. Pushed by this perception, Wantedly makes a degree of not permitting employers to submit salaries, however as a substitute interesting to staff’ potential ardour for the job. Wantedly rode the wave of mid-career hiring and labor dynamism in IT companies, shortly changing into adopted by over 1,000 firms and 10 million customers. Massive firms’ personnel recruiting budgets simply coated Wantedly’s charges, so the corporate turned worthwhile early on with out receiving VC funding. It listed on the TSE’s Moms Index in 2017. By 2018, it had 30,000 registered firms and round 2.4 million paying month-to-month customers.23 With a view to strengthen its social community capabilities, Wantedly launched a product, “Wantedly Individuals,” in 2016, a enterprise card administration app that collects scanned photos of enterprise playing cards utilizing AI picture recognition to automate the enter of knowledge with excessive accuracy, gaining 3 million customers of the free service.

BizReach began in 2009 as Japan’s first “direct recruiting” agency targeted on mid-career managers and workers with specialised talent units.24 It created an identical platform, the place potential workers may record their resumes and employers may browse them and get in touch with them immediately. BizReach founder Minami Soichiro is a graduate of Tufts College with expertise at Morgan Stanley Japan after which a task in newly based baseball crew Rakuten Eagles, Japan’s first new baseball crew in fifty years. From his personal expertise when making an attempt to seek for new jobs by headhunting companies, he noticed plenty of room for enchancment: he had met twenty-seven recruiters who promised to seek out good suits for his abilities and pursuits, however was given twenty-seven fully completely different decisions that went towards what he had conveyed. He realized that the enterprise had little transparency and relied on commissions from potential employers and a portion of the wage from the worker who took a job. BizReach, impressed by the norms of e-commerce that introduced sellers and consumers collectively immediately, would take charges from potential workers to submit their resumes. BizReach raised an early spherical of funding from JAFCO, and later YJ Capital (an funding subsidiary of Yahoo! Japan), Salesforce Ventures, Dentsu Digital, Rakuten, and others. By mid-2020, the corporate had over 1,300 workers, gross sales of ¥25.8 billion, working income of ¥2.19 billion, and it underwent an IPO in 2021.25

As extra giant Japanese companies enable staff to carry second jobs (one thing that had been explicitly prohibited by many firms till just lately), alternatives for brand new companies to supply matching providers have grown as effectively. For instance, CrowdLinks, a service supplied by CrowdWorks, an organization based in 2011 with a wide range of web-based providers and listed on the TSE’s Moms Index in 2014, is essentially targeted on secondary jobs.

Lancers is a crowdsourcing platform for freelance work based by Akiyoshi Yosuke in 2008. Whereas in faculty, Akiyoshi discovered that he had issue discovering freelance work, and upon becoming a member of web service supplier Nifty after he graduated, he found that the corporate had issue discovering efficient freelancers to work on tasks. Seeing area for enchancment, he based his firm earlier than crowdsourcing was in style in Japan. Lancers grew shortly utilizing a mannequin during which purchasers paid Lancers, with cost to freelancers launched solely after the job was accomplished. Akiyoshi self-funded the agency, and income financed its development till he raised ¥300 million in 2013 from GMO Enterprise Companions and Globis Capital Companions.26 By 2016, Lancers recorded ¥2.1 billion in gross sales, and it estimated that Japan’s freelancer market was simply over 11 million individuals and rising. By 2018, Lancers reported that it had positioned over 2 million freelancer jobs (presumed to incorporate repeats). In 2018, it raised ¥1 billion from Persol Holdings, a job placement firm, and Shinsei Financial institution.27

Lancers additionally expanded to supply an array of providers to freelancers beforehand solely out there to full-time staff, together with accounting; authorized assist; training; well being care; coworking areas in places resembling Shibuya, Tokyo’s main monetary and industrial middle; day care providers; and meetup occasions. Its relationship with Shinsei Financial institution led to a bank card being issued to freelancers; Japanese monetary establishments had beforehand virtually by no means issued bank cards to freelancers, making it tougher to function as a freelancer.28 In December 2019, Lancers listed on the TSE’s Moms Index.

Waris is a notable freelance matching startup explicitly concentrating on an underutilized however extremely succesful and expert workforce: skilled girls, particularly “high-skilled moms” who left their jobs to lift youngsters. Waris was cofounded by Yonekura Fumika, who labored for firms together with Boston Consulting Group and Recruit; Tanaka Miwa, employed beforehand by a publishing arm of Nikkei; and Kawa Kyoko, beforehand at Recruit. They based the corporate in 2013, and by late 2015, that they had round 800 shopper firms and a couple of,500 girls registered. By mid-2019, that they had 1,800 shopper firms and 13,000 girls registered.

Overseas High Expertise: A Lacking Ingredient to Gas Japan’s Startup Ecosystem

A serious part of Silicon Valley’s human capital, high-skilled immigrants, has not been part of Japan’s maturing startup ecosystem. Japan’s postwar financial mannequin was largely closed to immigrants. When labor shortages led to a gentle stress-free of restrictions on immigration, notably within the mid-Nineteen Eighties, it was principally restricted to unskilled staff wanted to work on meeting traces and in development.

Extra just lately, within the 2000s, as labor shortages affected areas resembling well being care and elder care, restricted particular visa applications have been applied to herald momentary expert staff for a number of years at a time, however the scale remained small. Some insurance policies to help international entrepreneurs type firms in Japan have been promulgated, however Japan’s startup ecosystem stays largely home at its core.

That being stated, lots of the bigger startups, resembling SmartNews and Mercari, have vital ranges of non-Japanese workers, with branches in Silicon Valley. Others, resembling Wantedly and Raksul, launched above, have expanded into different elements of Asia, with workplaces in Singapore and India, respectively. Biotechnology startup Spiber’s workforce was round 10 % non-Japanese in 2018. A restricted variety of startups have international cofounders, resembling Mujin, which gives AI software program for industrial robotics. Mujin Cofounder and CEO Rosen Diankov, who was born in Bulgaria and raised in the US, has a PhD in laptop science from Carnegie Mellon College.

Earlier startups, resembling Rakuten, which grew into giant firms, took drastic measures to globalize their workforces. In 2010, when Rakuten had roughly 10,000 workers, its founder and CEO, Mikitani Hiroshi, introduced that the corporate would change to English as its official language. After a two-year interval of adjustment during which the corporate would pay for English classes, workers who couldn’t cross standardized exams with a sure rating can be requested to depart. This was seen as radical and reckless on the time, and lots of workers, together with some executives, left the corporate. Nevertheless, 5 years after shifting the corporate’s language to English, a survey discovered roughly 90 % of workers had attained the goal check scores, and an educational examine of over 600 workers all over the world discovered that Rakuten had truly succeeded in spreading its core company values, lots of them Japanese, round its subsidies exterior Japan as effectively.29 The IT growth crew was capable of shortly embrace giant numbers of international workers, and Rakuten launched into an aggressive technique of buying firms all over the world and investing in Silicon Valley startups resembling Lyft and Dropbox. Mikitani later credited the embracing of English as the first language as an essential enabler of the corporate’s subsequent success.

A subsequent paper within the Startup Japan sequence will deal with particular authorities insurance policies which have formed Japan’s startup ecosystem, together with suggestions for the federal government to additional speed up development of the ecosystem. Lowering the restrictions on international high-skilled workers and entrepreneurs from working in Japan is a needed concrete step to globalize Japan’s startup workforce. Credible commitments towards a future sudden restriction on the entry of non-Japanese, as was achieved when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, adopted by an abrupt close to full closing of borders, as occurred in late 2021, should even be made. Externally, the Japanese authorities also needs to negotiate with nations resembling the US to allow work visas that enable Japanese to work abroad for sure intervals of time extra simply than present preparations enable.


1 Margaret O’Mara, The Code: Silicon Valley and the Making of America (New York: Penguin Press, 2020).

2 AnnaLee Saxenian, The New Argonauts: Regional Benefit in a International Financial system (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard College Press, 2006).

3 Kenji Kushida, “How Japan’s Startup Ecosystem Grew Alongside its Massive Companies,” Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace, August 10, 2022,

4 Kenji Kushida, “Startup Japan: Collection Overview,” Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace, August 9, 2022,

5 Kenji Kushida, “Overseas Multinational Companies and Japan’s Evolving Syncretic Mannequin of Capitalism,” in Syncretism: Company Restructuring and Political Reform in Japan, ed. Kay Shimizu and Jean C. Oi (Stanford: Shorenstein APARC, 2014).

6 “ネット興記:いきなりジョーカーを引いたGMO” [Chronicling the Rise and Fall of Internet Firms: When GMO Suddenly Drew a Joker], Nihon Keizai Shimbun, October 11, 2018,

7 CyberAgent Inc., CyberAgent Approach Built-in Studies, 2001–2018,

8Iber-Kotosaka, “東証マザーズ市場における上場時のCEOのキャリアデータ” [CEO Career Data at the Time of Listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers Index], February 25, 2017,

9 Keiichi Murayama, スタートアップ:起業家のリアル [Startup: The Real Picture of Entrepreneurs] (Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shimbun Shuppan, 2017).

10 Kunisada Fumitaka, “「合格点を取るつもり」では起業家は勝てない” [Entrepreneurs who think “I aim for a passing grade” can’t win], Toyo Keizai, April 11, 2017, https://toyokeizai.internet/articles/-/171834#:~:textual content=マネックス証券松本大&textual content=マネックスグループ代表の松本,共同経営者)に就任percentE3percent80percent82.

11 “マネックスグループ株式会社 代表取締役社長CEO 松本 大” [Dai Matsumoto, President and CEO, Monex Group Co., Ltd], Nippon Shacho, September 2008,

12 Suruga Tsubasa, “仮想通貨、信頼回復に奔走 ビットフライヤー・加納氏” [Mr. Kano of Bitflyer, struggling to restore trust in virtual currencies], Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun, November 22, 2017,

13 “Message from the President,” VISITS Applied sciences, January 10, 2023,

14 Masahiro Kotosaka, Shinichiro Hori, and Daiji Inoue, スタートアップ:優れた起業家は何を考え、どう行動したか [Startups: What Capable Entrepreneurs Thought and What They Did] (Tokyo: Newspicks Publishing, 2020).

15 Murayama, Startup.

16 “スタートアップ転職、年収720万円超 上場企業越え” [Switching Jobs to Startups, Annual Salaries Exceeding 7.2 million yen, Exceeding Listed Companies], Nikkei, March 20, 2019,

17Nikkei, “スタートアップ転職、年収720万円超 上場企業越え” [Switching Jobs to Startups, Annual Salaries Exceeding 7.2 million yen, Exceeding Listed Companies].

18 Kent E. Calder, “Elites in an Equalizing Function: Ex-Bureaucrats as Coordinators and Intermediaries within the Japanese Authorities-Enterprise Relationship,” Comparative Politics 21, no. 4 (1989): 379–403.

19 Takeshi Hirano, “評価額は約77億円、nanapiがKDDIの子会社となり「けんすう」は次の答えを求めて旅に出る” [nanapi becomes subsidiary of KDDI, valued over 7.7 billion yen, and “Kensu” embarks on journey in search of the next answer], Bridge, October 16, 2014,

20 Rio Nishiyama, “「DeNAマフィア」たちに聞く、起業の苦しみから事業立ち上げのコツまで” [Asking “DeNA Mafia”: From Struggles to Tip in Found Companies] From the ache of beginning a enterprise to the “DeNA mafia,” to suggestions for beginning a enterprise], Enterprise Insider, January 9, 2020,

21 “ミラティブ赤川社長「ヒットは体験のショートカットから生まれる」” [Mirative Akagawa: “Hits are born from creating shortcuts for user experiences”], Nikkei XTrend, July 9, 2019,

22 Fumiaki Koizumi and Minoru Konno, “ミクシィCFOからメルカリ社長へ!小泉文明氏が語る「メルカリ経営哲学」とは” [From Mixi CFO to President of Mercari! The “Mercari management philosophy” presented by Mr. Fumiaki Koizumi], Globis, January 4, 2020,

23 Helene Koyama, “Wantedly Go to の登録会社数が30,000社を突破しました!” [The number of registered companies of Wantedly Visit exceeded 30,000], Wantedly, November 9, 2018,

24 Kotosaka, Hori, and Inoue, Startup.

25 “Bizreach Homepage,” Bizreach Japan, accessed January 5, 2022,

26 Willis Wee, “Lancers Produces $200 Million Freelancing Gigs So Far and It Is Nonetheless Rising,” Tech in Asia, January 27, 2014,

27 Takeshi Hirano, “Japan’s Lancers Raises $9M from HR Big and Financial institution, Gives Loans to Freelance Employees,” Bridge, January 24, 2018,

28 “Press Launch: ランサーズ、フリーランス向けクレジットカード『FreCa(フリカ)』を開発・発行へ” [Press Release: Lancers to develop and issue a freelance credit card, “FreCa”], Lancers, Could 30, 2018,

29 Tsedal Neeley, The Language of International Success, (Princeton: Princeton College Press, 2017).

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