TT-703 -- JOBS Act-like Crowdfunding for Japan? 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, Mar 24, 2013, Issue No. 703


- What's New -- JOBS Act-like Crowdfunding for Japan?
- News -- Web spending? It's not about young people anymore.
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback -- Ukraine non-GMO beans safe?
- Travel Picks -- Spiritual Mt. in Yamagata, Onsen in Kochi
- News Credits

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This weekend we spent time with a friend who lives far from Tokyo but who has a dream to create a web-based company that will change the face of English-teaching in Japan and globally. He is a modest fellow and not the sort to make big promises just to shill investors. Instead he has put his and a close friend's own money to work, and wants to prove the capabilities of his software and concept. Then as he grows his user base, he plans to bring in fresh capital to help build a more solid technical base...

Sounds like an ideal entrepreneur to us.

But one of his biggest challenges, like many others in Japan, will be finding capital beyond the friends and family stage. With the lack of risk-takers in the general community, and the nation's few angel and Venture Capital investors tending to focus on start-ups circulating within their personal circles (almost exclusively in Tokyo), the prospects for our friend to find the money he will need is going to be pretty much limited to debt financing. This is a slow and political process that compels a company to do subcontracting work to show a "profit" to the bank, while work on their real objective is limited to a few leftover staff (or lots of overtime) and leftover funds. This isn't an intelligent way for Japanese start-ups to compete on the global stage, and it hobbles their ability to bring new ideas and technology quickly to market.

But all that may be about to change thanks to a rather surprising announcement from the FSA.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

Yesterday, the Nikkei reported that the Financial Services Agency (FSA) may allow crowdfunding websites in Japan to expand from their limited "donations" style of getting cash to start-ups, as they have been doing so far, and instead let them create proper secondary markets for start-up companies to trade their unlisted stocks. This is quite a revolutionary development if it is allowed to proceed and mirrors the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) act passed in 2012 in the USA.

The fact that small and highly risky privately held companies will be able to sell shares means that the FSA has decided it is OK to move the focus away from the viability of the company receiving the cash (so it will be caveat emptor) and instead focus on the operator of the funding site. This is pretty interesting and it will be even more so to see how the FSA builds safeguards into the market operators so that the trading activities protect small-lot investors from unscrupulous companies.

Until now unlisted companies could only raise funds by doing limited private solicitations of investment. The maximum number of people who could be approached was 50, meaning that it was difficult to legally advertise the availability of shares in a new venture, and even more difficult still to give the shareholders a means of redeeming or trading their shares if they suddenly needed the cash again.

Some readers may recall that back in 2010 we advertised for shareholders in a new software company called MetroWorks and that we had a limit of the first 50 respondees. This was done to comply legally with the limitation on the offer and we received legal advice on how to do it. The marketing was successful and MetroWorks did in fact raise about JPY30m, but even with an experienced team, MetroWorks imposed a 3-year lock-in for the investors, so that it could ride out any market disruptions (such as the March 11, 2011 earthquake).

Other start-ups, however, typically offer no finite period for early investors to commit to, and so the reality is that it is almost impossible for them to exit since there is no resale market. But now, with the new FSA regulations, it looks like that hurdle will disappear -- taking some of the risk (of getting stuck with unwanted shares) out of an early-stage investment and thus encouraging more capital to come into the market.

The FSA announcement is light on details at this stage, other than that they will be adopting some of the best features of US crowdfunding policies, which were written into law in the JOBS act by President Obama. Ironically the JOBS act is still yet to be implemented because of a lack of suitable rules from the oversighting bodies (the SEC and others). It seems that they are flummoxed by the conflict of priorities -- creating a fluid and near-realtime marketplace and yet having to balance it with acceptable levels of propriety for the companies raising such funds. In fact, it is possible that the Japanese system may start up around the same time the US one does.

With the FSA taking their cues from the JOBS act, they will require each funding website to be registered and licenced. The operators will need to provide fairly stringent processes for approving fundraising candidates (to keep out the Yakuza, who will otherwise go crazy with this), and yet not choke off the start-ups with too much bureaucracy. Then there will be investor protection issues, and of course the challenge of setting market valuations for shares with low volume and limited company background data.

Our guess is that a tiered system will be introduced, whereby there will be a high-risk, low-hurdle band of activity, then at higher levels of funding, more stringent controls. Probably JPY10m would be an appropriate first level -- under which there can be "open slather" activity. Again, keeping the Yakuza out will be one of the primary goals, and so the CEOs of start-ups will likely need to make personal guarantees, not be allowed to be sitting on the board of another company, and not to have run another company for the last 5 years. We can conceive these points because they would be similar to earlier government requirements on loans programs which targeted start-ups and which tried to keep owners of troubled companies shut out.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Web spending? It's not about young people anymore.
- New Japan-content media company
- New private nurseries plan to relieve wait lists
- Rakuten pulls out of Indonesia j/v
- Yup the sakura are early this year

=> Web spending? It's not about young people anymore.

Ready for a big surprise? A Nikkei survey has found that in Japan more web spending is done by middle-aged and senior people than by young people. They found that about 5.4% more people over the age of 50 spend JPY5,000 or more per month online than the average survey sample (which was people aged 20-69). At higher spending levels the gap opens up even wider, with about 25% more (5.8% in total) of the 50+ respondees spending JPY30,000/month or more -- this compared with the overall average of just 4.2%. (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 23, 2013)

=> New Japan-content media company

Fuji Media Holdings (Fuji TV) and Itochu have responded to a recent challenge by a Dentsu-led consortium by creating a pan-Asia Japan-content media company. The new company, to be capitalized at JPY40m (seems rather small to us), will create and distribute original music programs and infomercials across Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan. The music and TV content market for Asia, ex-Japan, will apparently be worth around US$62bn by 2020. ***Ed: Thus laying the groundwork for a lot more "Cool Japan" companies to make forays into the market over the next few months.** (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 22, 2013)

=> New private nurseries plan to relieve wait lists

A Cabinet Office advisory panel has recommended that the government deregulate the nursery school market for a limited time, so as to encourage competition in the sector and significantly reduce waiting lists in the major cities. The panel has set an ambitious target of zero waiting -- down from 25,000 kids now -- by the end of FY2014 (March 2015). Both for-profit and non-profit organizations will be encouraged to enter the sector. (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 23, 2013)

=> Rakuten pulls out of Indonesia j/v

Not all business decisions by Rakuten are lined with gold. The online merchant has apparently pulled out of its joint venture with local media company Global Mediacom. The e-commerce site put up by the partners did seem to be going well, with more than 400 online merchants and 300,000 different products available online. ***Ed: One assumes that the small numbers and the costs of maintaining a massive infrastructure for the site are what killed it off. Rakuten needs to conceive a second business model for smaller countries that can't support its mega-shopping mall concept.** (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 22, 2013)

=> Yup the sakura are early this year

It's not just your imagination. Unseasonably warm weather mid-March, about 10 degrees warmer than normal and as warm as one would expect in mid-May, have brought out the cherry blossoms 10 days earlier than usual. The viewing peak has been this weekend and will continue on into early next week -- probably a big disappointment to all those thousands of foreign tourists who booked months ago for the end of March and first week of April... (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 17, 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.



=> 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 an authentication infrastructure architect (Active Directory) to help with administering Active Directory for our client, an international company with offices overseas. The candidate will be responsible for consultation and collaboration regarding Active Directory architecture, network engineering, messaging, enterprise server and workstation areas, as well as provide 2nd level support and occasionally 1st level for Active Directory for end users and application and administration team members.

Due to the technical nature and demanding work environment, this position is suitable for someone with either experience constructing Active Directory implementations, or with both knowledge of construction and Active Directory verification. In addition, since this role requires direct coordination both in English and Japanese, daily-conversational level English and fluent Japanese will be required.

Remuneration is JPY3M - JPY5M depending on your experience and skill level.


- Application Support Helpdesk Engineer, major global internet and software applications company, JPY2.5M-3.5M
- Help Center Analyst, global bank in Okinawa, JPY2.5M-3.5M
- Staffing Consultant, IT integration services provider, JPY2.5M-3M
- Desktop Engineer, IT services provider, JPY3M-5M
- Data Center Operator, global financial services company, JPY3M-5M

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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

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Speaker: Andrew Silberman, President and Chief Enthusiast of Advanced Management Training Group
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Details: Complete event details at
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Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar 25th of May, 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.

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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

=> In TT-702 we ran a story about the Japan Tourism Agency changing direction on its global message, and focusing on the Japanese themselves as Japan's differentiator, not its temples and cherry blossoms.

*** Reader: I am very impressed by this new tourism campaign website. I only viewed a random sample of videos but each of them was a lot a better then I saw previously. These videos are each more of a mini-documentary then a marketing video. And I am glad to see that not only English-subtitled versions have been made.

The English guide book (PDF on home page) has magnificent photos. But this one seems to be available only in English: I did not see it when I selected any of the other languages.



Dewa Sanzan Sacred Mountain, Yamagata-ken
In search of Japanese spirituality

There are mountains and there are sacred mountains. What looks like rocks and trees to some, are deities to others. Mountain peaks can be beautiful scenery or holy ground depending on what you seek. Mountain worship has a long tradition in Japan, a country that is to 70 percent covered by mountains and forests. One of the centers of mountain worship is Dewa Sanzan in Yamagata Prefecture.

Traditionally, the Japanese believe that mountains are the seats of the gods, the resting place of ancestors’ souls and the roaming ground of all sorts of demons in the otherworld which humans did not dare to venture into. Some monks in search of spiritual powers, however, tried to connect to these mountain deities and spirits. They pursued their spiritual training through an ascetic lifestyle as hermits. Some of them set up temples, and over the centuries, these grew into centers of mountain worship.

=> Getting Lost to Wakamiya Onsen, Kochi-ken
Dogs, boars, and a lot of mountain

When I usually go to an onsen that is buried deep in the mountains of Kochi, it is because someone told me about it or I saw an advertisement in a pamphlet somewhere. However, I discovered Wakamiya Onsen after getting lost on the scenic route to Jinzan Park in Tosayamada. I am glad I stumbled upon it, because I think that probably added a certain mystical element to my visit that I would not have otherwise had.

It was at this point that I discovered Wakamiya Onsen as flags lined the road, begging me not to pass it by. I decided to comply, even though all I could see from the road was yet another ramp downward, facing the opposite direction (it would be much easier entering from the south). I made my way through the gate, noticing a sign warning me of wild boars and also of their traps and if I should find myself caught in one, it was not the owner's fault. Unless the boars were really big, I thought I'd probably be alright in my car.



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