Japanese entrepreneurs want to launch in Silicon Valley
In its 2010 report, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor ranked Japan lowest among advanced economies in terms of attitudes toward launching new businesses. It noted that Japanese were the least likely to consider becoming entrepreneurs.
In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, which cost more than 13,000 lives and triggered widespread power outages and radioactive leaks from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, there was a "shattering of trust in big institutions" across Japanese society, said Phil Libin, CEO of Mountain View-based Evernote, a provider of note-taking and archiving technology that has operations in Tokyo.
That collapse of faith extended to large tech companies, many of whom have broken with long-held promises of lifelong employment with mass layoffs.
"The younger generation, their parents are getting fired from the big companies," said Nobuyasu Kondo, an executive with Tokyo-based GNT, a Japanese mobile and gaming platform. "They realize if you work for the big company, you can still get fired. So why not take a risk and start your own company?"
Government officials, academics and industry leaders say that if the nation is to regain its technological mojo, it needs to jump-start an entrepreneurial culture, and that includes tapping into Silicon Valley.
"To come to Silicon Valley, that is the dream of many startup companies and entrepreneurs in Japan," said Yukiko Pollard, general manager of Tokyo-based image processing software company Morpho, which opened a San Jose office this year.
But young Japanese entrepreneurs face daunting obstacles. In Japan, there is nothing resembling the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Silicon Valley. And while companies like Mana.bo are able to tap into venture capital here for initial startup funding, there is a dearth of investors willing to spend the larger sums needed to fund deep research and development to prepare startups for the global market, experts say.
"In Silicon Valley, you can get $20 million (in startup funding) without owning a suit. In Japan, it's much harder to raise money," said Evernote's Libin, a big fan of Japanese technological prowess looking to make investments in the country.