Are you ready to expand into Japan?

Have you considered what makes Japan attractive to startups? It is one of the most technologically advanced countries that still retains an old world charm. It has the 3rd largest global GDP with many local investors looking to invest in startups and it has an emerging startup supporting network in the country. With a growing number of companies choosing to enter the Japanese market, it is important to know how to navigate and succeed in Japan. Here are 3 big tips to consider:

Relationship is key

In the 1970s, there was a famous dispute between the Japanese sugar refineries and Australian sugar suppliers. Soon after signing a contract for a fixed price and volume of sugar, the sugar market crashed causing the sugar prices to plummet. Because of the changes to the market, the Japanese companies asked for renegotiation of the contract based on circumstances changing drastically while the Australians insisted on keeping to the letter of the contract. This is an important tip for any company entering the Japanese market to take note. Japanese people value long term working relationships and priorities it over the signing of contracts. So while contracts are signed and honoured, contracts tend to be looked upon as agreements between two parties that can be changed if both parties agree to it.

Learn basic Japanese etiquette 

There are many social etiquettes found in the Japanese culture that foreigners will find hard to imitate. But being able to show your knowledge of some basic Japanese work etiquette will go a long way in having a smooth relationship with investors and business people. Here are two key work etiquettes to take note of:

  • Exchanging name cards: Face your namecard towards the person who you are giving it to so that they can read it as soon as you have given it to them. When you are exchanging name cards with someone of a higher seniority/position as you, it would be recommended to pass your name card beneath theirs. 
  • Farewells: After a business meeting, it is important to walk the guest/visitor to the exit. It is considered respectful to see them to the exit and wait for the doors to close before leaving. Another useful work cultural tip to take note when saying your farewells is the bowing. The equivalent of a handshake in the western world is a bow in Japan and it will go hand-in-hand with the seeing the guest to the exit. 

Choose the right platform

Japan can be a tough market to penetrate through because of the language barrier and the different “know-hows” in the market. It is important to partner with the right platforms to enter the market. An example would be the note-taking application, Evernote, who partnered with NTT Docomo and had a successful launch in Japan. If you are a the deep-tech startup planning to enter Japan, it is important to look for the right platform to partner with you in Japan. Two important areas that a startup should consider when choosing it’s partner in Japan is their network and past successful history in collaborating with international startups. These can include connections to highly skilled prototyping factories, conglomerates with deep technology who are looking to collaborate, network with top quality universities and the ability to attract investors to meet startups. But irregardless of the above qualities, it is most important to find a platform that a startup will feel comfortable with and has the same mission to help them success in the Land of the Rising Sun.

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