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Category: Kyoto

Startup Lecture at Kyoto University Design School

On March 19th and 20th, I will be joining the 2-day startup lecture organized by Kyoto University Design School (aka D-School).

Joining me is Mr. Soga from KAPION who sold his DVD authoring startup to Apple and Mr. Matsuda from SARR who is dedicated to academic-industry collaboration and bio-tech startups for the 15 years.

Below is a brochure for the lecture. This is a open lecture so everyone interested in entrepreneurship, startups, university ventures is welcome. The entire lecture will be given in Japanese. Contact the organizer at innovation [@] rish.kyoto-u.ac.jp if you’d like to join us.

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Summary of 2013 and What’s Ahead

2013 was the year of transition in my career. I was just lucky enough to be involved with the formation of new university backed venture fund. I’m totally excited about things I’d be helping my hometown foster its startup ecosystem through this fund in the future. I’m 100% certain that my knowledge of building and running many web startups can contribute something to it and my experience of failures can help aspiring entrepreneurs stay away from making same mistakes I made.

However, having infusion of risk money via VCs is only solving one side of problems to create sustainable startup ecosystem. Due to the nature of venture capital business, VCs are often challenged with fundamental difficulties such that they cannot make an investment in the companies that don’t meet their financial criteria, even if the companies are considered remarkable by them. After all, VCs make an investment using someone else’s money and they are obligated to yield financial return. Thus, financial criteria comes first. Few exceptions are like a corporate venture capital where it puts more weight on strategic alliance between portfolio companies and the company operating the venture capital than financial return.

Because of this, only select group of companies can receive investment and most of the time the companies must 1) tackle a problem that millions of people face and those people willingly pay for its solution. 2) position themselves in high-growth market, and most importantly 3) be able to liquidate its assets through IPO or acquisition.

It’s obvious that not all remarkable companies meet those conditions and VC isn’t the best form of institution to build such companies in the long-run. This is the reason why I recently started talking about importance of community driven startup accelerator. In my opinion, sustainable startup ecosystem requires special type of people whose main objective is purely to build remarkable companies for the community they belong to, not to extract maximum financial result from portfolio companies.

I understand YC and 500 Startups have a similar objective and they are successful but I’m not referring to that kind of accelerators. I’m talking about raise of different breed, more individual driven accelerator/investor/supporter like Gotham Gal being a good example. As her husband explains, Gotham Gal invests in businesses that make sense to her, and decision isn’t based on financial expectation. If we could institutionalize those type of people and turn them into some sort of accelerator form, we can build remarkable companies in a slightly different way and do it in the long-run.

I do not have a concrete idea for what it is just yet, but I will have better understanding as I gain my experience at VC. So expect me to come up with some accelerator-ish experiments this year.

Startup Weekend Kyoto Kickoff

Startup Weekend Kyoto is officially kicking off. This time the SW event is happening in Fukuoka, Sendai, Okinawa, and all participants are eligible for larger Global Startup Battle. What’s even more exciting is a list of benefits given by the SW as below.

Startup Weekend Kyoto

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Startup Weekend is coming to Kyoto again!

This time we’ll be giving discount to students. I will participate as a mentor (as always) so register and get your ticket at Doorkeeper now.

Startup Weekend Kyoto Nov 2013 – Schedule

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Friday

Nov 15
  •  Registration Starts
  •  Dinner & Networking
  •  Welcome & Speakers
  •  Pitches Start
  •  Attendees vote for the top ideas
  •  Teams start forming and discussing ideas
  •  Start to formalize teams and take an inventory of skills. Be honest, and direct about what resources and skills are needed for the weekend. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow

Saturday

Nov 16
  •  Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee
  •  Teams formed and setting up workspace for the weekend
  •  Lunch
  •  Call for needs & skills
  •  Coaches help teams one-on-one. They are here to help!
  •  Dinner
  •  Mid weekend check-in, status reports, call for help
  •  Finished for the day. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow

Sunday

Nov 17
  •  Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee
  •  Call for help (this is self motivated, so don’t be shy)
  •  Lunch
  •  Coaches arrive… ASK QUESTIONS
  •  Gut check. Start prepping for presentations
  •  Dinner
  •  FINAL PRESENTATIONS
  •  Judging & awards
  •  Wrapup
  •  Go home!

New York Needs to Up Its Broadband Game ASAP

New York Needs to Up Its Broadband Game ASAP

>One of the things that I’ve been always proud of my hometown is availability of free WiFi provided by the city. Take a look at this map from Kyoto city and check out its WiFi coverage.

Needless to say, Japan offers ultra-fast broadband connectivity that no other countries can match its speed. Having this kind of free WiFi service is beneficial not only to tourists coming to the town but also local startups that occasionally use coffee shops or even benches at Kamo River as their workspace. I personally enjoy the service a lot whenever I go outside.

Hoping NYC will catch up very quickly.

Boulder Colorado Being My Good Teacher

ecently I had discussion with the team of Startup Weekend Kyoto and the discussion was toward when and where we should do next event.

While there are lots of similar startup related activities happening in this region, I had feeling for long time that none of these individual activities were really connected. The information is scattered around various websites and places, and there isn’t a central place where we can get the most up-to-date info. I’m talking something like http://www.startupcolorado.com/

At Startup Colorado they provide the following information.

  • Local startup events
  • Blog posts from local entrepreneurs and investors
  • Map of local startups and supporting businesses
  • Information about community fund
  • Links to useful resources like talent recruitment

For people outside region these info are super valuable and important such that any first time visitor can reach out to any company or person and make an appointment BEFORE actually arriving to Colorado. Also, the website makes it easy to get a grasp of activities happening in the region. I don’t have any worry if I were to visit Boulder city for the first time.

Unfortunately we don’t have such a central place where we can distribute all those info. Kyoto is still a city that is considered far away to foreigners and being difficult to just get an overview of what’s going on there. So I proposed the SW Kyoto team to build a similar website like Startup Colorado and make SW related activities as contents of that website. Of course, we will need to create the rest of other contents like startup maps and blog posts from local founders. We will do that.

What I’m saying is that we need to make started related information in this region far more accessible to anyone who’s interested in startup and the city. Hence, the information must be available both in English and Japanese.

Lastly, what’s even missing is something like community fund that we can use it to fund started related activities in the region. As for SW Kyoto team, one of the biggest time consuming tasks is to find appropriate sponsors for each event to cover the fees for venue, beers and pizzas. If we could eliminate those tasks, I think it will be much easier for entrepreneurs and volunteers to holds events more frequently since they don’t have to go through mini-fundraising every time.

Disclosure: I’m hugely being inspired and biased by Brad Feld’s recent book Startup Communities right now so please excuse me for being very specific about this.

What the Viki acquisition means for Kyoto

Interesting article. I’m hoping Kyoto won’t have to go through 70 years and multiple wars to develop its own ecosystem until we could produce iconic exists like Viki. I think we can shorten the time by carefully studying Singapore as a case study.

What the Viki acquisition means for Singapore

What I didn’t know is that Viki was founded by two Koreans and an Egyptian-Armenian who were complete foreigners.  They stayed in Singapore because they are funded there.

To make contract to above artcile, what’s missing in my hometown are 1) NRF-like scheme to support local seed fund 2) Place like Hackerspace.SG where foreigners can easily stop by, work and stay for few weeks 3) Iconic exits like Viki to attract talents and investors from all around the world.

I will have answers to 1) and 2) because I’m working on them right now with enormous support from like-minded people. A tough part is 3) which requires a fair amount of time and effort to accomplish, but we will eventually have it if we never stop catching up and studying.

I encourage everyone who is in software industry and based out of places other than Silicon Valley read this article, and take some action.

Coworking Scene in Kyoto

During past few weeks I was working closely with owners of coworking spaces originating from Kyoto area to launch CoworkingKyoto.com

Part of the reasons why I started making Coworkify back in 2011 is that I wanted to foster entrepreneurship culture across the globe by enabling easy discovery & access to places where like-minded people gather and collaborate. That mission still stands as of today but there is something else that concerns me recently, and that led me to creation of above website.

While coworking spaces are popping up every now and then, I personally feel ones in my country aren’t really open to outsiders and by outsiders I mean people from foreign country. When I visited Citizen Space or HUB Singapore, I met people from all over the world and the spaces were intentionally built by global awareness. However, I don’t see that level of diversity and awareness here just yet.

I was wondering why ones in my country are different from others, started seeking for a root cause, and came to a conclusion that it’s just due to lack of information available in English. On the other hand, because information is only available in Japanese, majority of people there are also Japanese. I wanted to change that, and I wanted to start it from historically rich places like Kyoto.

I’m hoping by promoting coworking spaces more internationally we can widen variety of people coming to the spaces and hence create global awareness. So if you plan to visit Kyoto or nearby areas, be sure to stop by one of those coworking spaces. I’m sure you will be most welcomed.

Startup Weekend Kyoto

My first experience attending Startup Weekend turned out to be great.

After I gave an initial pitch to the audience, 8 people decided to join me amongst 60 or so attendees. We spent exactly 54 hours to develop our product from scratch while having so much fun doing so. Lots of laughs, excitements and even pivots.

On the last day I gave another pitch to the audience, including the judges in front of us this time. Though I was sure that the concept of our product will stand out from others, I was certainly surprised when one of the judges actually gave us $10K investment offer right after I finished my presentation.

Our team won the final prize, which included:

1) Eligibility to participate DEMO Asia 2012 in Singapore
2) Two air tickets
3) 3 months free rent of incubation space
4) $200 worth credit of Amazon cloud services
5) Lots more

Things just got started. Looking forward to the excitements we’ll see in the future.