TT-695 -- Where to Find Venture Funding in 2013, ebiz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, Jan 27, 2013, Issue No. 695


- What's New -- Where to Find Venture Funding in 2013
- News -- Hay fever epidemic expected in March
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Skiing in Zao, Hitch-hiking in Kyushu
- Japan Business Q&A -- Consumption Tax and small co's
- News Credits

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Things have changed a lot since the heady days of 1998-1999, when it was possible to raise a hundred million yen on a mere business plan. At that time, the 4-year US dotcom bubble had just hit Japan's shores, and brought with it foreign investors and new ways of thinking about how to leverage companies with capital. For 18 short months, the environment for starting a company was the most fertile it had been since the end of WWII. Although some firms may have started a bit earlier, most of the famous players today saw their critical growth happening from strategic investments made during this funding window. Companies such as Rakuten, Gree, DeNA, Globis,, Netprice, GMO, and others.

At the height in early 2000, estimated that there were more than 200 venture capital (VC) companies registered for business, and between them had JPY100bn-JPY200bn of private and local capital invested in VC funds.

Then the dotcom bubble burst, and most of the foreign funds closed up shop one by one, until there were just a few remaining struggling Japanese VCs. The situation improved somewhat with the short economic revival of 2005-2007, but in 2008 with the Lehman Shock and subsequent dearth of IPOs, many of the survivors went through a "VC winter" from which they are only just starting to emerge. Number two player in the market at the time, JAIC, was symbolic of the troubles and almost went bankrupt in 2010. Currently there are probably only 15-20 serious players left. Among them are: Globis, Digital Garage, Sunbridge, Itochu Technology Ventures, JAFCO, Gree, DeNA, Transcosmos, Docomo, and a few others.

What the Lehman Shock did do to the VC industry, though, was to create an evolution, where the VCs went upstream to larger and more detailed investments, and two new types of high-risk investor emerged: accelerators (yes, we are using the term loosely), and Internet firms, such as Gree, DeNA, and Rakuten, who are channeling some of their massive online profits back into the next generation of start-ups.

[Continued below...]

----------------- Partial Office for Sub-let --------------

Modern open-plan office used for incubating small international/start-up companies has a recently vacated space for a group of 3-5 people. Located just 200m from Roppongi Hills. JPY275,000 including furniture (desks and chairs), or JPY250,000 if you bring your own. Internet included on common (unsecure) connection. Separate charges for utilities, phones. Minimum 6-month contract. Deposit required. We can also supply bilingual (English-Japanese) back office services, such as HR and accounting, business mentoring, technology outsourcing, and other assistance as required.

For inquiries, contact

[...Article continues]

Actually, on the subject of accelerators, for years US VCs criticized the Japanese VCs for their low-effort, low-value "shotgun approach" to investing, whereby the Japanese VC would apply a small amount of cash to many companies in the hope that some of them would pay off. What's interesting is that although unstructured, the Japanese approach turned out to be much cheaper in the long run and offered an obvious way to reduce investment risks. However, it took California-based Y-combinator to turn it into a properly thought out business model. Y-combinator has now invested an average US$18,000 into over 460 companies, while competitor 500 start-ups, also in the USA, has funded more than 280 companies.

Since making lots of small investments was already a natural inclination for the Japanese (we're not talking about major VCs here), they have taken to the accelerator model like ducks to water, and now there are a dozen or more incubator/accelerators running in and around Tokyo. We covered these in some detail in Terrie's Take 654 So if you're looking for venture capital and you've just started your company, an accelerator is a good place to start.

Oh, what is an accelerator? Well, in its US form, it's a 3-month or 6-month crash course on how to create under guidance both a product and a go-to-market plan that will cause VCs to want to invest. Then, at the end of the period, known at Y-combinator as Demo Day, you are put in front of an audience of investors. Some of the incubating companies will wind up getting funding while the rest do not. We're told it's a very Darwinian experience -- one that tells you in no uncertain terms whether the experts think you're good enough.

Here in Japan, the accelerators tend to let their tenants stay longer (so should we call them incubators?), and they tend to give a lot more basic input to their charges about how to structure and actually do business. This is necessary, not just to give Japanese newbies a chance to learn something that their universities fail to teach them, but also to reduce the level of failures, which would otherwise would poison the well of hopefuls. At the same time, since Japanese VCs tend to invest less as well, overall there is less risk, less pressure, and everyone seems OK with having lower expectations.

Japanese accelerators invest about JPY5m in space and services to the companies they incubate -- sometimes they may also put cash into the company. You might think that JPY5m isn't going to run a company for very long, and you'd be right. You'll definitely need some outside funds to pay salaries and equipment costs -- but then that's what friends and family are for. We always tell people coming to our Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar (the next one is on February 9th, btw, more info in the Events section below), that they need about JPY5m per person for the first year of operation of a start-up. If you have 3 team members, that means JPY15m. Why? Because that is their basic living wage plus costs for the 6-9 months you need to make some sales. Japanese clients are very wary of new companies, and no matter how compelling the product, sales take time...

...Well, unless you're targeting consumers that is, then the sales cycle can be a lot quicker. We think that it is for this reason that games and mobile app software is so popular for Japanese start-ups to focus on, and that's what the incubators/accelerators are geared up for. So if you're doing something else, then getting funding may be a lot more difficult. Hmmm, solar and health businesses might also be OK.

Which brings us to seed-round investors. These are the third ring of investors, after yourself and your friends and family. They are important because they will usually be the first outsiders to invest in you because of your business proposition rather than because they like you (although that is important too). Anyone can be a seed investor, and if you're living in Tokyo you're probably surrounded by people who might qualify. Generally seed rounds go for about JPY3m-JPY5m per investor, multiplied to reach the amount of money you think you need to make your product sellable. So who do you know with JPY3m that they wouldn't miss if the venture didn't work out? If you have a decent social network, probably 10-20 people.

Most entrepreneurs we know raise seed rounds of investment of about JPY15m-JPY30m (5-10 investors), which should be enough to bring a consumer app to the market. Is there a formal place you can go find seed investors? There used to be an association here in Tokyo called Nippon Angels Forum, but they appear to have been dissolved several years ago. Another possibility might be Vic Murai's (ex-CEO of Compaq Japan) General Incorporated Association TX Entrepreneur Partners (, based in Chiba, which intermediates venture firms with about 20 angel investors. However, in the end we think the best source of angel funding will come from those people closer you -- friends of friends, owners of companies that you deal with, etc., since they are more likely to trust you and give you a favorable valuation. Also they will find your approach more stimulating because they're not getting hit up ten times a day for investments.

Your last stop for investment money is the VCs we mentioned earlier. You can find them and more names at These days VCs are quite picky about who they invest in, and are typically looking for companies that can scale quickly and which are pretty obviously going to make money. So your big idea will only work if it is coupled with a competent technology platform and actual sales. If you're at an earlier stage than doing actual sales, you should still be visiting VCs, but you should expect that they will wait and watch until your company starts gaining traction.

How much investment can you expect from a VC? Now in January 2013, between JPY30m-JPY250m. Japan isn't the USA, and valuations and amounts invested here will always be lower. Indeed, we can look with envy at how much companies in the USA can pull from investors in Silicon Valley. At the same time, we suppose investors there can only look in envy at how cheap Japanese companies are here. :-)

Now is a good time to be approaching VCs. Those who are operating funds are either funded or are raising new funds. As a foreigner in Tokyo, do you have more or less opportunity to receive investment than a Japanese CEO? We have found that those top tier companies who are internationalized in their businesses are also internationalized in their investments. It seems to be more of a language and comfort thing than a resistance to foreigners. That said, the smaller domestic funds are narrow-minded. The best way to find out is to ask for an appointment -- they'll quickly realize you're not Japanese, and see what they have to say.

Chances are, based on what we've seen ourselves in the marketplace recently and from reports from others, your chances of finding an audience are quite good. Our understanding is that one of the biggest players, Globis just raised a new fund GFIV, although they haven't announced it yet. Their previous one, GFIII, was JPY18bn and it was invested into 41 companies. We also know of several other VCs putting together new funds for 2013, which seems to be a much more optimistic year that the last four.

However, just because the conditions are right, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't also be taking care of all the usual things necessary for a successful funding, like: a great business idea, a strong team, a demonstratable version of your product, and enough of your own money in the business to prove commitment. Good luck!

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Hay fever epidemic expected in March
- Second year of trade deficit
- Infrared googles to defeat face recognition
- Hitachi buys US nuclear waste container co.
- Don Quijote expecting record pre-tax profit for H1

=> Hay fever epidemic expected in March

Hay fever season is almost upon us. The Environment Ministry has said that sugi (Japanese cedar) pollen will start blowing down from the mountains around Tokyo in mid-February and peak in mid-March (by mid-April for Tohoku and further north). The Ministry said that pollen levels will be higher than for last year, which was also severe. They warn that the season will also be longer, running until early-April for Tokyo. ***Ed: About 30% of the population suffers from hay fever each year. Including us!** (Source: TT commentary from, Jan 26, 2013)

=> Second year of trade deficit

The Finance Ministry has released provisional data showing that the nation suffered its second consecutive trade deficit in 2012, with imports exceeding exports by JPY6.93trn. The deficit was caused by a combination of continued massive hydrocarbon imports to generate electricity after the closure of almost all the nation's nuclear power plants, the Eurozone crisis, and declining exports of parts and tools to China. Japan’s exports to China fell by 10.8%, while exports to the EU fell 15%. (Source: TT commentary from, Jan 23, 2013)

=> Infrared googles to defeat face recognition

Only in Japan? The National Institute of Informatics has announced a prototype "privacy visor" goggles which contain near-infrared LEDs to blind digital cameras trying to view the wearer, and thus protect his/her identity. The goggles are made of clear plastic, but have near-infrared LEDs which are generally invisible to the human eye but which are picked up at full intensity by CMOS imaging chips, thus blinding the camera. ***Ed: The only problem is that this device's LEDs are apparently still visible to the human eye and they consume a lot of power, meaning that they are rather conspicuous. Time for the NII scientists to hire a product designer...** (Source: TT commentary from, Jan 26, 2013)

=> Hitachi buys US nuclear waste container co.

Hitachi subsidiary Hitachi Zosen has announced that it will acquire Maryland-based US nuclear waste container consulting and design firm NAC, for JPY4bn. NAC is a private company with sales of around US$71m in FY2011. Hitachi Zosen makes the containers that NAC designs, and says it wants access to NAC's know-how in sealing off radioactive materials and in secure transportation. ***Ed: No guesses as to why they want this know-how.** Source: TT commentary from, Jan 26, 2013)

=> Don Quijote expecting record pre-tax profit for H1

What are Japanese consumers spending their money on? Just ask discount store king Don Quijote, which says that its H1 results (July-December) will hit a record JPY19bn, up about JPY2bn from earlier forecasts and 15% more than the same period last year. The firm said that while TV sales were significantly down, shoppers were buying record amounts of beauty-related electronic devices, watches, and other fashion products. Sales for H1 were around JPY289bn, also about JPY2bn more than estimated, and 4% up on the same period in 2011.
(Source: TT commentary from, Jan 26, 2013)

NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we apologize for the inconvenience.


--------- Shojin Ryori: the real thing, in Tokyo ----------

Shojin Ryori is a unique Japanese temple vegetarian cuisine colloquially called “monks’ food”. The Dewa Sanzan variant is known for using vegetables found in the nearby Shonai Plain and wild mushrooms and vegetables picked on the slopes of the sacred Mount Gassan. The meals are served to pilgrims at the temple lodgings in Toge Village, which lies at the foot of Mount Haguro, one of the other three sacred mountains of Dewa (Dewa Sanzan).

Now, Dewa Sanzan's “yamabushi” (mountain priests) have decided to travel from Yamagata to Tokyo to introduce their cuisine to the foreign community here, with a limited-seating sampling of dishes, teas, local sake, and some local entertainment -- all absolutely free (first registered, first in). One day only.

Schedule: Saturday, February 9th, 13:30-15:30
Venue: Neuro Cafe (, Jingumae
Fee: Free (incl. sampling meals, herbal tea,local sake)
Location: 2F, Jingu-mae 2-13-2, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Nearest Stn: JR Chuo/Sobu Line Sendagaya (9min walk)/Metro Ginza Line Gaien-mae (7min walk)

For more information:
To register: Email


=> BiOS, a Division of the LINC Media group, is actively marketing the following positions for customers setting up or expanding in Japan, as well as other employers of bilinguals.


BiOS is urgently looking for a Senior Support Engineer, at our office in the Minato-ku area, with experience troubleshooting users on various issues, 2nd and 3rd level support, administrating servers at client locations, and coordinating with colleagues, vendors, and clients. The candidate will be responsible for troubleshooting networks, servers, hardware, and software, Move Add Change and server monitoring, as well as data backup (tape changing), inventory management, and assisting in designing and setting up networks.
The candidate will also be responsible for consulting with the sales team to provide technical advice.

Due to the technical nature and demanding work environment, this position is suitable for someone with 3+ years of system administration experience and 4+ years of user/desktop support, with a preference for those with some experience in network design and site audits. In addition, since this role requires direct negotiations with both Japanese and international clients, business-level communication skills in English and fluent-level communication skills in Japanese will be required.

Remuneration is JPY4.5m - JPY5.5m depending on experience and skill level.


- Support Engineer, IT integration services provider, global data center services provider, JPY3M - 5M
- Service Delivery Manager (Data Center), large data center services provider, JPY6M - 8M
- Staffing Consultant, IT services provider, JPY2.5M - 3M
- Server Engineer, major Japanese online company, JPY5M - 7.5M
- Software Asset Management Officer, global bank, JPY3.5M - 5M

** BiOS Job Mail

Every 2 weeks BiOS sends out a regular communication to its job seeking candidates, called BiOS Job Mail. Every edition carries a list of BiOS's current and most up-to-date vacancies, with each entry featuring a short job description and a direct link to the main entry on the BiOS home page. Regardless of whether you are unemployed and searching, thinking about a career change, or just curious to know if there is something out there that might suit you better, the BiOS Job Mail newsletter is an easy and convenient way for you to stay informed. If you would like to register for the BiOS Job Mail, or to find out more, please email

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to: and check out the BiOS web page for other jobs:



----------------- ICA Event February 21 ------------------

Speaker: Gen Utsumi, Head of Sales & Business Development APAC for smartTrade Technologies.

Title: "The Reality of Electronic FX Trading" Details: Complete event details at

Date: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members) Open to all. No sign ups at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: RSVP by 5pm on Friday, February 15th
Venue is The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan

---------------- Start a Company in Japan -----------------

Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar 9th of February, 2013

If you have been considering setting up your own company, find out what it takes to make it successful. Terrie Lloyd, founder of over 17 start-up companies in Japan, will be giving an English-language seminar and Q&A on starting up a company in Japan.

This is an ideal opportunity to find out what is involved, and to ask specific questions that are not normally answered in business books. All materials are in English and are Japan-focused.

For more details:

------------------ Prestigious Writing Prize --------------

The Japan - U.S. Innovation Award Program , which is produced by the Japan Society of Northern California in cooperation with Stanford's US-Asia Technology Management Center, is opening up a new award category this year: the "Untold Story in Innovation" Award.

This will go to the author of a previously unpublished story of intrapreneurial innovation inside a company (probably a large company) that has relevance to Japan - U.S. business. This award is aimed at professional or part-time journalists and other researchers/writers.

The award is for an English language piece of journalism. There will be one winning author, who will receive a $3,000 cash prize. We will also recognize two Award Alternates, who will each receive a $1,000 cash prize. Although the cash prizes will only go to the winning
authors, the innovators and companies featured in their stories will also be named as recipients of the honor.

The first step is to send in a "pitch" proposal to the Subcommittee for this Untold Story award, namely:

Richard Dasher
Dana Lewis
Andrew Neuman
with cc to John Thomas

Deadline for the pitch is January 31, 2013. PLEASE REFER TO the attached document for details on what to include in the pitch, etc. If you have further questions, please contact Prof. Richard Dasher or Ms. Dana Lewis .

---------------- Share House Near Ikebukuro ---------------

There are gaijin share houses, and those that you share with others on a casual basis, but none has the facilities and amenities of this new-to-market offering. Large 4-bedroom house with large yard, share kitchen-living-dining rooms, and with your own large bedroom. Available for short and long-term tenants. Just JPY50,000/month. Includes share of internet connection.

Only 20 minutes by train from Shibuya/Ikebukuro.

Contact the owner at



In this section we run comments and corrections submitted by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and amplify our points, by email, to

=> No corrections this week.



=> Zao Ski Resort, Yamagata-ken
Top ski resort, snow monsters, and a great onsen

Zao Ski Resort, in Yamagata Prefecture is easily one of Japan's top ski resorts. It is well prepared and offers a fun-packed winter sports holiday for families, couples, groups of friends or colleagues. Whatever your winter sports needs, Zao Ski Resort can cater to them -- it's particularly good for snowboarders. There are 4 gondolas and no less than 41 chair lifts taking you up the slopes quickly and offering access to all the ski and snowboard courses. All-in-all, there are 14 slopes and 12 courses in an area measuring 305 hectares. Being a top ski resort, there are many different slopes, some for beginners and some for experts, and slopes designed for just skiers and for just snow boarders.

=> Hitchhiking Kyushu, Fukuoka-ken
Your true Japan adventure begins now

After traveling to fifteen countries, I never imagined that hitchhiking around Japan would become possibly the greatest and most inspiring vacations of my life. Having never hitched before, I really had no idea of what to expect in the seven days ahead. Most friends and family thought I was rather nuts, less a few of my closest mates, Jason, Dan and Regina. So with a day’s lead on Golden Week, the four of us piled in my car and hit the road.

With nothing more than a backpack, the four of us set off South from Shimane prefecture to Kyushu, where we would begin our hitchhiking adventure. Our only plan was to visit all its seven mainland prefectures and to meet up in the exact point of origin, seven days later. The only restriction: no funds could go to transportation. While I could write a book on the adventure (would you read it), I’ll stick to the basics to help you prepare for yours....


+++ JAPAN BUSINESS Q&A -- Consumption Tax and small co's

=> Q. I heard that small companies do not have to pay consumption tax. How small are we talking about?

*** A. Whether the company is classified as “small” for consumption tax filing purpose is determined following the below steps;

1.Is taxable sales amount recognized during two terms prior to the current fiscal year JPY10m or less?
2.If the answer to the above question is yes, is either of taxable sales amount or the salaries amount recognized during previous fiscal year JPY10m or less?

If the answers to both questions above are yes, the company is classified as “small” for consumption tax filing purpose and can be exempt from the consumption tax filing and payment for the current fiscal year.

Although the company is classified as “small” and can be exempt from the consumption tax filing for the current fiscal year, the company can voluntarily elect to be a taxable status by submitting “Report on the Selection of Taxable Enterprise for Consumption Tax” before the beginning of the current fiscal year.

To continue reading...



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