Japan’s wealthy corporate venture capital firms are looking for a new target, and they’ve got their eyes set on Asia.
BEAM11 Jan, 2017
They face tough competition. According to Golden Gate Ventures, the number of funding deals in Southeast Asia will rise more than sixfold to at least 250 annually by 2020. Outside of Southeast Asia, India has become the third fastest growing base for tech startups, behind China and Israel.
To help support Japanese corporations and local startups, Tohmatsu Venture Support (TVS) which is one of the entities of Deloitte Japan, will expand their activities and bring key delegates from the Japanese startup ecosystem to Singapore in 2017. With operations in Silicon Valley and Israel, it is now building a similar network in Asia.
TVS’s expansion is led by Naotaka Nishiyama, the regional head of Asia in TVS. According to Naotaka, TVS believes it has much to offer the region.
“Japanese corporations have high-quality technology, and they want to solve social issues in Asia with their technologies and contribute to the growth of Asian startups,” says Naotaka.
“Japanese expertise is in hardware and manufacturing processes. We want Asian startups to access that knowledge and take advantage of the resources available.”
Naotaka will bring with him the Morning Pitch, one of Japan’s most popular startup pitching events to Singapore to regularly connect startups with Japanese corporations and investors. Since starting the event in 2013, Morning Pitch has hosted over 800 startups in Japan and facilitated collaborations that have resulted in startup mergers and acquisitions.
TVS is also seeking ways to incentivize startups to expand abroad. For instance, Japanese startup Takano, which innovates on water conservation, could do some good in developing countries in Asia.
But Japanese startups often don’t feel the need to expand. Because Japan has 127 million people and it still has the third-highest GDP in the world, domestic startups have a ripe market that allows them to test technology easily before expanding.
On the flipside, foreign startups would struggle to set up shop in the country due to the Japanese language, unique market, and culture.
This has resulted in a comfortable startup scene that hardly looks outwards. Japanese startups like Wantedly may be making a name for themselves on the international stage, but they are few and far between. As a result, many of Japan’s technological innovations are not known elsewhere.
“These kind of innovative companies have the potential to solve problems all around the world. We want these types of startups to expand worldwide, contribute to solving global issues, and elevate the image of Japanese startups across the globe,” says Naotaka.
Japanese corporations are the ones that are looking outward. Singapore startup Dragonfly begin working with Japanese SBI Sumishin Net Bank to create a proof-of-concept blockchain system. KK Fund also had its first close of a new fund for seed stage startups in Southeast Asia in July 2016.
Indian startup Flutura also took part in IoT Acceleration Lab, a collaboration between TVS and Japan’s Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI) that provided 30 global IoT startups businesses collaboration opportunities with Japanese firms. Selected startups came to Japan free of charge and set up individual business meetings based on startups’ needs. As a result, Flutura sealed a partnership with Hitachi to bring industrial IoT intelligence to Japanese businesses.
However, a rift exists between keen corporations and startups. Many foreign startups do not recognize the names of some large Japanese corporations keen to work with Asian startups. On the other hand, Japanese firms are often not aware of the opportunities that Asian startups have.
On top of organizing events like the Morning Pitch, TVS also plans to begin publishing reports about Japanese corporations to distribute to startups. To help Japanese investors understand Asia’s diverse ecosystems, they will also publish periodical reports about interesting Asian startups and regional trends.
“It’s a waste of opportunity for Japanese corporations,” says Naotaka. “I want to — I have to — inform local startups why Japanese corporations are great, and what kind of technology they have.”
This article was first published on TechInAsia