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Japan, an open gate for startups

On April 22 this year, Startup Grind Bucharest organized an unique event together with its sister organization, StartupGrind Ōsaka, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Romania. The main theme was represented by the opportunities that Japan offers to Romanian startups, what experiences some of those who succeeded there had and what practical steps they followed in their business to enter the market of the third world economic power.

On this special occasion, we had the pleasure of having as our guest of honor E.S. Mister. Ambassador Hiroshi Ueda, who gave a speech on the bilateral ties between the two countries, their foundation being common values such as freedom, democracy and of course the free and fair market economy. He also highlighted the value of strengthening economic relations by promoting trade and economic missions. On this front, the total imports and exports between Romania and Japan exceeded the amount of 1 billion euros in 2019.

To briefly explain the current Romanian-Japanese economic context, we refer to the year 2013, in which Mr. Titus Corlățean, the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, signed with Mr. Sadakazu Tanigaki, President of the Parliamentary League of Friendship between two countries, "Joint Declaration on the Renewed Partnership between Romania and Japan." This, together with the entry into force of the Bilateral Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Japan in February 2019, has improved and developed the ties between the two countries. In Romania, for example, there are currently more than 100 Japanese companies, companies that have created about 40,000 jobs, according to the website of the Embassy of Japan in Romania.


Returning to the Startup Grind meeting, apart from his E.S. Mister. Ambassador Ueda, we were joined by Daniel Dumitrescu (from Startup Grind Bucharest), Meghan Bridges (co-director of Startup Grind Ōsaka, who helped organize the event), Horea Popescu (managing partner CMS), Alex Govoreanu (CEO- ul Questo), Joshua Flannery (advisor on Global Venture Strategy within Rainmaking Innovation Japan) and Ionuț Stanimir (co-founder of InnovX BCR). Each of them shared with us useful tips and unique experiences from businesses and partnerships with entrepreneurs, investors and various companies in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Starting with Megan Bridges, she highlighted the mission of Startup Grind to put education at the forefront, to provide opportunities for startups through their community, connecting more than 2 million entrepreneurs around the world, from over 600 cities and 125 of countries.

Continuing on the idea of scaling up startups internationally, Horea Popescu, global partner of the StartupGrind community, talked about the importance of expanding on the foreign market, this time to the East. As a main activity, he works with startups that are already in the Post Seed stage (when a company already has a product on the market, generates revenue, but needs additional funding) and helps them grow into countries such as the UK, France or Luxembourg.

A relevant point mentioned by him is the need for a link between legal advisers and entrepreneurs, because, often, they do not necessarily think from the beginning about the legal aspects of a company. They need support, explains Horea, in this sense, to help them protect their ideas, show them how to negotiate contracts so as not to be at a disadvantage and how to navigate the financial territory.

Next, Joshua Flannery talked about Rainmaking Innovation Japan, an international company that, as the name suggests, focuses on innovation, aiming to solve the pressing problems and challenges in the world around us. Rainmaking is, in this sense, a pillar of resistance through which partnerships are made between renowned corporations and startups at the beginning of the road.

One of the tips Joshua urges us to understand is the opportunities that the Japanese space offers, explaining why it is worth investing effort and time in expanding in this country. In January 2019, for example, $ 191 billion was invested in M&A (Mergers and Acquisitions) activities by Japanese corporations and it is estimated that things will continue to get better in the next 4-5 years. Surprisingly, during the pandemic we are facing, more and more start-up funds and initiatives have sprung up that focus on "capital injections," as Joshua called them in today's economy. contributing to the success of future entrepreneurs.

Rainmaking Innovation Japan wants you to prepare these companies at the beginning of the road, to give them an overview of Japanese culture to understand how to communicate as effectively as possible, to gain credibility and gain trust in a country where these issues matter. significant. According to Joshua, now is the best time for a startup in Japan, but patience is one of the virtues that must remain at the base, especially in today's competition.

On this point, Ionuț Stanimir, co-founder of InnovX BCR, adds that, in addition to patience, we must be brave and move forward right in order to gain a better understanding of the economy. In this regard, we need to address issues of real importance for the future such as sustainability, quality of education, technological solutions and energy efficiency.

Romania has an advantage in this context. The fact that we face complicated situations in the country forces us to develop inventive thinking, ready to accept the challenges that arise globally. Thus, we see with rapid steps how innovation appears in cities such as Iasi, Cluj, Timisoara and Constanta. In this context, InnovX BCR is happy to scale companies in the startup area, bringing together the right people, encouraging innovation and efforts invested wisely and consistently. At present, the program has had over 800 applicants, of which it has accelerated 84 companies and over 200 participants, and the community is growing and developing more and more over time.

Concluding with Alex Govoreanu, CEO Questo, he talked about the situation of having a business focused on tourism and the experience of exploring cities in the context of the pandemic. Although this period presented obvious problems due to the restrictions, it gave an incentive to the Questo team to broaden your horizons and step into a new territory, more precisely, a new culture, in Japan. This is where the Rainmaking team intervened, which acted as a "bridge" between this potential startup and Japanese corporations.

What we learn from Alex's case is that it's good to have an intermediary local to help you in business interactions in other countries and that you have to be open again, even if it may seem overwhelming at first. We must allow ourselves to make mistakes in order to move forward, to learn from experience and to adapt.

The StartupGrind event between Bucharest and Osaka proved to be one full of productive discussions on the topic of adaptation, market growth and consolidation of economic relations between Romania and Japan. We mention that this meeting was hosted by Mindspace Business District with the help of Mike Hapoianu, General Manager both in Mindspace Romania and in Poland. Regarding the community that was formed in Mindspace, it manages to bring together ambitious investors and entrepreneurs in a dynamic environment, with startups representing 80% of its member entities. As usual, we send our warm thanks to Mindspace and hope for as many unique events as possible in the future.

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