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Disrupting Japan: Startups and Innovation in Japan

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Startups are changing Japan, and Japan is once again starting to innovate. Disrupting Japan introduces you to some of the Japanese innovators that will be household brands in a few years and explains what it’s really like to be an innovator in a society that values conformity.

Startups are changing Japan, and Japan is once again starting to innovate. Disrupting Japan introduces you to some of the Japanese innovators that will be household brands in a few years and explains what it’s really like to be an innovator in a society that values conformity.
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Startups are changing Japan, and Japan is once again starting to innovate. Disrupting Japan introduces you to some of the Japanese innovators that will be household brands in a few years and explains what it’s really like to be an innovator in a society that values conformity.








Is There (Finally) a Practical Way for Foreigners to Live in Japan?

For decades, Japan has been struggling with the economic need to attract more foreign residents to the country and the general social reluctance to do so. Over the years there have been some well-publicized failures and a few quiet successes, and Japan retains her image as a generally closed nation. But reality changes much faster than perception in Japan. Things are already changing and that change is about to accelerate. Today I'd like you to meet Nao Sugihara founder of MTIC, who is going...


DJ Selects: Japan’s Airbnb for Satellites – InfoStellar

The aerospace industry has been particularly resistant to disrupting in Japan. In the rest of the world, launch vehicle and spacecraft technology has made incredible gains over the past decade, but here in Japan its still mostly the same government contracts going to the same major contractors. Naomi Kurahara of InfoStellar, has come up with an innovative way to leverage existing aerospace infrastructure and to collaborate globally by renting out unused satellite ground-sataion time, Airbnb...


Can capitalism ever allow us a good night’s sleep?

There is something odd about the way we treat sleep. We understand that it is essential for good health, but we are almost ashamed when we admit that we get enough of it. We are rightfully proud when we keep our resolutions to go to the gym more or to eat a more healthy diet, but if we get a good night's sleep, we tend to keep it to ourselves. In fact, when we talk about sleep at all, it's usually to brag about how little sleep we are getting. We seem to consider getting a healthy amount of...


The Secret to Making E-Payments Work in Japan

Whenever you hear someone claim that the Japanese will never do something for unspecified "cultural reasons", you know there is a fortune to be made. Lu Dong is the co-founder and CEO of Japan Foodie, a cashless payment system currently masquerading as a restaurant discovery application. Lu and I talk about the boom in inbound Chinese tourism that led to the creation of Japan Foodie, and how he and his team quickly managed to identify and dominate this massive and underserved market. We talk...


How a Rumor Can Destroy Your Business in Japan

Japanese thoughts on risk are changing, but they are changing slowly. Many people still consider failure to be a permanent condition, and that makes it hard to take risks, or in some cases even to be associated with risks. Today we talk with Hajime Hirose, one of Japan's new breed of serial entrepreneurs. Hajime has started companies in three different countries and several different industries. We talk about the challenges and importance of going global and how a Japanese founder ended up...


What This 330-Year-Old Company is Learning from Startups

The conventional wisdom is that traditional Japanese companies can't innovate. And traditionally, that's been true. Hosoo, however, might be carrying on a 1200-year-old tradition, but they are hardly a conventional company. Today we talk with Masataka Hosoo, who is the 12th-generation leader of Hosoo, one of Japan's most famous kimono silk makers. And while the company used to provide kimono fabrics to emperors and shogun, times have changed. Masataka explains how he is changing with the...


Disrupting Japan Trailer

Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me. Twice a month, you and I will sit down meet the founders of some of Japan’s most innovate startups. We'll talk a bit about their companies, of course, but most of the time we talk about how Japan is changing, what it's like to try to sell to large companies as a small startup, new emerging Japanese technology, and a lot of the social and personal issues founders...


Live & Unleashed – How to Run a Startup as a Foreigner in Japan

Disrupting Japan is four years old, so we decided to invite a few hundred movers and shakers from Tokyo’s startup community over to have few drinks and to hear three of Japan’s most successful foreign startup CEOs talk about what it takes to succeed in Japanese when you are not Japanese. Our panel included some of the most influential foreign startup founders in Japan. Tim Romero (@timoth3y) - Moderator Paul Chapman (@pchap10k) - CEO, Moneytree Jay Winder (@itsjaydesu) - CEO, Make Leaps...


How Dancing Satellites from Japan Will Clean Up Outer Space

There are a lot of aerospace startups in Japan these days. We are seeing innovation in everything from component manufacturing to satellite constellations to literal moonshots. All of those, however, depend on the ability to place new satellites in orbit, and that is getting harder and harder due to the ever-increasing amount of orbital debris. It's simply getting too crowded up there. Nobu Okada founded Astroscale to solve this problem. Today we sit down and talk about his solution, and we...


The App Store for Medical Devices Is Being Tested Right Now

There are relatively few biotech startups in Japan. Few investors are willing to write the multi-million dollar checks and have the decades-long patience that is required to really succeed investing in this industry. But startups find a way, and an innovative biotech ecosystem has started to develop in Japan despite the lack of traditional funding. In fact, we might be seeing a new, uniquely Japanese, model of innovation that we'll call "the innovation supply chain". Today, we get a...


Men and Women Watch TV Differently. Here’s how to make money from that.

Most of us don't actually zone out in front of the TV. In fact, we give off all kinds of clues to what we really think about the shows we are watching. Japanese startup, T-Vision Insights has come up with a way both to measure and to monetize those reactions. Today we sit down with founder and CEO Yasushi Gunya and we talk about T-Vision's business and the future of advertising in video. T-Vision Insights already has 100's of customers and is monitoring thousands of households both in Japan...


Foreign Startup Founders Have Secret Advantages in Japan

The single most common question I get asked are variations of "How do you start a business as a foreigner in Japan?" or "What's it like to start a startup as a foreigner in Japan?" It's always been a hard question to answer simply because it is such a big one, that it can be hard to know where to start. Well, today we are going to start to answer that question, and over the next month or two, we are really going to dig into it. Jordan Fisher is CEO and co-founder of Zehitomo, which is an...


How Japan’s Unique Relationship with Robots is About to Make it #1 Again

Japan had been a global leader in robotics for decades, but recently the traditional Japanese leaders have been losing ground to the better-funded and better-publicized firms coming out of America and China. Mujin is changing that. While iRobot and Boston Dynamics have been grabbing headlines and YouTube views, Mujin has been quietly breaking ground with a series of real-world commercial successes in deploying the next generation of industrial robots. Perhaps Mujin's largest achievement to...


What They Never Teach You in Language School – Peter Galante Japanese Pod 101

Twenty years ago, we all thought that starting a startup required a special and rare kind of talent. It was something you either had or you didn't. Today, founding and running a startup is considered more of a learnable skill. It has its own best practices, industry standards, and common knowledge. And, in both startups and enterprises, I find it refreshing to talk to people who have succeeded by going against those industry standards. Peter Galante started what would become the wildly...


How Japan’s evocative machines are quietly creating new startup unicorns

This is a rather personal episode. We have no guests this time. It’s just you and me. Today, rather than diving deep into a specific aspect of startups in Japan, we are going to take a hard look at both what is and what is not working within the Japanese startup ecosystem as a whole. And at the end, I'm going to answer the most common question I am asked by overseas audiences. "Where are the Japanese unicorns?" You might already know about Japan's two existing unicorns, but I'm going to...


Japan’s Business Card Giant Explains Why Business Cards Are Disappearing

If you've ever done business in Japan, someone probably walked you through the intricacies of Japanese business card culture. Chika Terada, the founder of Sansan, created one of Japan's most successful startups around the business card protocol. And even though Sansan has been expanding quickly and is on track for an IPO, Chika thinks that Japanese business card culture will soon disappear. Chika and I talk about the challenges of rapidly scaling a company, and how the IPO market in Japan...


How to Solve Japan’s Innovation Bottleneck in Healthcare

Startups are changing how business is done in Japan, but medicine remains stubbornly resistant to innovation. In some ways, that's good. We are literally experimenting with peoples lives, so caution is definitely warranted. We don't want to rush things. However, Japan's national health insurance acts as a single buyer, and sometimes the only way to innovate is to go around them. That's exactly what Kenichi Ishii, the founder of Next Innovation has done. Their long-term strategy involves...


This Startup Just Built Japan’s Most Powerful Supercomputer

Preferred Networks is making changes in Japan. Over the past few years, this AI startup has raised more than $130M in venture funding and grown to more than 130 people. If you live outside of Japan, you might not have heard of this team, but they are working with Toyota to create the next generation of driverless cars. They are working with Japan's most advanced industrial robot manufacturers to improve efficiency. They are also working with many financial institutions on fraud detection. Oh...


A Japanese MBA Does Not Mean What You Think It Means

Education is very hard to disrupt. That’s both good and bad. Education is so important to both individuals and society, it should not be changed on a whim, but over time it seems that our institutions of higher education have drifted away from meeting students real needs. Yoshito Hori, founder and CEO of Globis, is making radical changes. He turned a small training school into Japan's first independent and fully accredited business school with an MBA. Less than ten years later, Globis became...


This Japanese Startup Is Using Your Phone to Make Insurance Social

The insurance industry has proven very resistant to innovation. In fact, it has not really changed much in the past 200 years. The way insurance is sold and managed has changed, of course, but from the point of view of the consumer, things remain surpassingly like they were a century ago. Today we talk with someone who is changing that. Kazuya “Kazy” Hata is CEO of JustInCase, a new breed of Japanese insurance company that offers insurance over the smartphone and then monitors how you use...