Bullpen was asked to TechCrunch Tokyo 2011 both to keynote and to join a panel. This event was crowded – over 600 attendees, a combination of eager found entrepreneurs and senior management at leading Japanese companies like NTT, Sony, etc. Booths out front touted new ventures, and the sushi at the networking event was great! We also were asked to another event the following night, put on by the Facebook of Japan, Mixi, and joined a panel to discuss how to join the social mobile startup boom.
The trip was quite worthwhile. We made a lot of new friends, and may have had an impact on the thinking of how to grow an indigenous Japanese entrepreneurial market. Post-war Japan was built by some great entrepreneurs, such as the founder of Sony, or the leader of Toyota. Rather than spawn a new generation of entrepreneurs, success drove the leading students into middle management, much as the US tends to suck the best & brightest into Wall Street rather than Main Street. Lucky for us we still have the draw of Silicon Valley, and now Union Square. Around 10 incubators have sprung up around Tokyo, and more in Seoul, but they face a dearth of investment interest in the follow-on round. Their Series A Crunch is very real, and devastating.
The hot startups could come over here, but they must overcome a number of obstacles, including language, culture and connections. Perhaps a second-round incubator or “springboard” can be set up to ease the transition and let the Japanese entrepreneurs to make connections here as they grow their businesses.
Ustream recorded my keynote. I spent some time beforehand with the Japanese translators, and I hear they did a marvelous job (other than thinking I was from Australia!). Their voice-over is very distracting to English-speakers in this video, but if you use stereo (or headsets) you will find one channel much better for the English than the other. Enjoy!
Click for the video: