10 Insights from Tech in Asia Tokyo Event

LightCastle Analytics Wing
September 27, 2015
10 Insights from Tech in Asia Tokyo Event

It is the second year in a row that Tech in Asia hosted an annual startup event in Tokyo. SD ASIA was the media partner and covered the 2-day event. It is definitely smaller than its flagship event in Singapore. However, it did pack few heavyweight sessions like Ben Horowitz and Om Malik which made the event worthwhile. Here is a list of 10 key takeaways from the 2-day event:

  1. Tech in Asia has stepped up its event game. The Tokyo event was well organized, engaging and had something for everyone. Bootstrap Alley was a fun walkthrough, but Speed Dating with investors and ‘Meet the Media’ gave solid opportunities to startups. The Handshake Corner was the perfect place to have your pre-set meetings, which were done through the web platform or app which listed all attendees’ profiles. That was the icing on the cake and made the event highly useful.
  1. The language barrier in Japan is immense. Conducting business and interactions in English can be difficult, and having someone to bridge the gap is extremely helpful. The event had many Main Stage sessions in Japanese exclusively, but real-time translation was provided through audio devices.
  1. The Japanese startup ecosystem is much smaller compared to countries like China, India, and Singapore. For example, last year a total of 1.5bil dollar was invested in Japan vs 2.6bil in Singapore. That was a surprise as we thought the startup funding for the local market would be more vibrant.
  1. The Japanese VC money is flowing outward and most setups have their regional offices in Singapore. They are willing to take bets in frontier markets and create new funds, targeting these emerging markets. For example, Dafta Partners from Japan are creating a $10mil fund specific for Bangladesh market. Since our startup ecosystem is still in early stages, a lot of the VCs are creating funds to invest in early / seed stage.
  1. Early investors are looking at businesses that are inexpensive to build and scale. The ticket size ranges from 50k -100K and prefer companies with a dynamic team that they can trust. Japanese investors are very old school when it comes to investing, and place a substantial importance of the person’s integrity and being truthful in business. They prefer to invest in companies with clear revenue model and look at business fundamentals very closely.
  1. Japan is too developed. Japan’s technology companies have very high technology – e.g. supercomputing, artificial intelligence and biotechnology – but its economic growth is slow and supporting its aging demographic keeps taxes high. This means that Japanese money is looking for growth in other markets. It also means, Japanese tech companies are looking abroad–places like Singapore–to save on taxes and to avail other benefits instead of listing in Japan. Even some existing listed companies on Japan’s exchanges are looking to delist and relist abroad.
  1. Japan is about status. There are certain things that signal success and impressiveness in Japan. A listed company; a good exit; these things associate your name with success. And names are important and remembered. There were many prizes given to the startups that managed to pitch in the Arena Pitch Battle along with the $10,000 cash. Sponsors like freee and Amazon Web Services gave one gift, but Japan Airlines – being a big, Japanese company – ended up coming on stage three times to give three, increasingly escalating gifts. If you missed Japan Airline the first time, you definitely remembered them by the third time.
  1. Ben Horowitz is a geek and he knows it. During his session the Main Stage at TIA Tokyo, one could tell his personality is clear, and he is honest about his mistakes, his relationships, and his business. He explains that honesty, though difficult, is a good investment and that his friend, Kanye, is the model of honesty.
  1. Om Malik, founder of GIGAOM, now defunct tech media that folded this year, emphasized the aspect of Tech being written on a daily basis. Since we manage a media startup focused on technology, it was refreshing to hear that. He also mentioned that there is still a lot of opportunity in tech media and that good media companies are focused on data-driven technics to increase readership. He specifically mentioned Buzz Feed and VICE – new media darlings that cracked the audience reach but gave special kudos to VICE as he felt the content was better.
  1. Last but not the least, the startup pitch itself. All the pitches were flawless and these startups seemed matured and seasoned with regional exposure. It was very apparent when each startup finished their pitch within their allotted time of 3 min. Few of the businesses had revenue and others had amazing hockey stick growth. After the pitch, investors analyzed the presentation and emphasized that startups assume that judges understand all the verticals, which is often not the case. It was a good insight and we highly recommend that all startups focus on making their pitch idiot proof.

This article was co-created by Mustafizur Khan & Samad Miraly and primarily published at SDAsia.

Image credit – Tech in Asia

WRITTEN BY: LightCastle Analytics Wing

At LightCastle, we take a data-driven approach to create opportunities for growth and impact. We consult and collaborate with development partners, the public sector, and private organizations to promote inclusive economic growth that positively changes the lives of people at scale. Being a data-driven and transparent organization, we believe in democratizing knowledge and information among the stakeholders of the economy to drive inclusive growth.

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