5 Interesting Venture Companies and Startups in Japan to Watch

5 Interesting Venture Companies and Startups in Japan to Watch

Raising financing is one of the largest challenges of any startup, yet the good news is that there are a fair number of venture capital firms in Japan willing to invest if the pitch is right, which starts with understanding the sectors that are drawing interest right now. 

A careful look at successful venture-backed companies and startups in Japan can help you grasp future industry trends and opportunities where markets are expected to grow. 

To find out what venture capital firms and seed accelerators are looking at in key industry sectors, we’ve compiled the following list of companies, businesses, and services that might give you insight into Japan’s marketplace and where market experts are willing to invest. 

1. Tokyo Supercars

Tokyo Supercars

Tokyo Supercars is a luxury car-sharing company that provides rental opportunities, day tours, racing experiences, and more in the Greater Tokyo Area, delivering a service that’s the first of its kind in Japan. 

The business provides a platform, enabling owners of luxury supercars to share their rides with car enthusiasts, allowing users to experience cruising through Tokyo at night in a Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin, or another vehicle from their high-end lineup. Founded by a small team with a capital of ¥51,000,000 and a passion for supercars, Tokyo Supercars’ services include car-sharing, rental, corporate incentives, and partnerships.

Offering up new experiences in the Tokyo area helps to further international interest and domestic tourism and provides an experience-based source of entertainment unassociated with the food and dining industry. 

2. SmartHR

Smart HR

As addressed in a previous article, the number of procedures required to start and run a business in Japan are lengthy and notorious. SmartHR solves a lot of that. They provide software that companies can subscribe to, streamlining various HR tasks, such as employment contracts, new-hire onboarding procedures, year-end adjustments, online payslips, and various of Japan’s many labor procedures. 

Established in 2013, SmartHR won several awards from various startup conventions right from the start, winning seed funding and then series B funding of  ¥1.5 billion ($13.3 million) in 2018. Today, this company is worth ¥490 million, and Rakuten and Mercari are among the many companies that use SmartHR software.

SmartHR software allows middle managers and staff to concentrate on their business's primary purpose, rather than wasting time on the mind-numbing amount of paperwork required to run a business in Japan. 

3. Allbirds Japan

Allbirds Japan

The “world’s most comfortable shoe” company opened its first store in Tokyo on January 10, 2020. After seeing vast success online and with an A-list lineup of individuals who wear Allbirds footwear, Allbirds chose Harajuku for their first store location in Japan. The company uses merino wool and eucalyptus fibers for the shoe body. The sole is made from sugar cane, the insole is made from castor oil, and the shoelaces are made from recycled PET bottles.

In an interview with Forbes Japan, co-founder Joey Zwillinger stated that as a startup company, he had always wanted to open his store in Harajuku, where people gather who have a startup spirit and are sensitive to fashion trends. 

Allbirds sneakers’ use of environmentally friendly materials is one of its most significant growth and attraction components as climate change awareness and activism spread worldwide. Shop location in Harajuku also places Allbirds squarely within the sights of its target demographic.

4. CareFinder

Carefinder

A different take on the average babysitting agency, CareFinder is a Tokyo startup that aims to build and support connections between families and babysitters. Caregivers are selected through rigorous screening and interviews, such as ID checks (licenses and passports) and work visa checks. Many sitters are bilingual in English, Japanese, and other languages.

Founded in 2013 by Megumi Moss, a former Sony employee, CareFinder stands apart by welcoming international babysitters with a wide range of skills, giving special attention to bilingual caregivers, so that children can become fluent in English and Japanese when language-acquisition peaks. 

This is one of the fastest-growing babysitting communities in Tokyo, providing parents with the ability to search for a sitter with a particular skill set and then negotiate directly on fees and hours. First gaining popularity among the expat community, it has since grown to become popular for Japanese working mothers and parents who are looking to provide their children with an at-home English environment. 

5. Mymizu

Mymizu

Mymizu won 2020’s Good Life Award, a Minister of Environment Prize, and it’s simple to see why. The Good Life Award celebrates the top eco-friendly initiatives in Japan, which are tackling large-scale environmental problems. Mymizu does that through its app that guides you to the nearest water fountain or eco-friendly cafe that offers free refills.

The mission? Eliminating the use of plastic bottles—and promoting personal bottle use by pointing you to free refill spots so you can refill your bottle on the go. Initial funding was completed within the first 48 hours of the project on Kickstarter. Mymizu has since received funding from several sources, including the iF World Design Award “Social Impact Prize 2019” that came with a monetary prize.

With the Tokyo Summer Olympics around the corner, apps like this are needed to combat plastic consumption, which is likely to peak with incoming spectators, athletes, and related individuals. 

Want industry-specific research for your business pitch or startup idea? 

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