“We provide robust support for startups, and has been designated as a Special Zone for Global Startups and Job Creation by the government in recognition of its efforts. We are bringing new vitality to Fukuoka as a place with excellent prospects for those looking to launch businesses here.”
Fukuoka, Kyushu’s largest city with 1.5 million residents, is working to become the Silicon Valley of Japan. Long heralded as the “gateway to Asia,” Fukuoka is centrally located between Tokyo, Osaka, and Kobe to the east and Taipei, Shanghai, and Seoul to the west. It has a manufacturing history related to traditional crafts such as textiles stretching back to the 1600s. Today, Fukuoka City is home to 23 globally ranked universities, several R&D centers, and 135 international firms.
In 2014, Fukuoka City was designated a National Strategic Special Zone, easing regulations and making it easier for startups to get established in the city. In addition, Startup Cafe was established as a one-stop support center for startups, assisting at various phases from incorporation to hiring new talent, and providing a hub for members of the ecosystem to come together. In 2017, Fukuoka City established Fukuoka Growth Next (FGN), a public-private incubation facility. As well as providing workspace, FGN offers an incubation program. Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) is collaborating with Nishitetsu Group/Nishinippon Railroad, to establish startup-support facility Innovation Campus in 2025.
Fukuoka City was selected to be a member of the Japanese government’s International Financial City Initiative, which aims to create leading hubs for foreign financial institutions. Team Fukuoka, a public-private consortium working to transform Fukuoka into an international finance hub was formed in 2020, and has attracted 14 companies so far. In 2022, Singapore Fintech M-DAQ and Taiwan’s E.Sun Commercial Bank announced that they will open offices in Fukuoka.
Ecosystem by the Numbers
Fukuoka City is working to promote both digital and analogue creative industries including Gaming, music, design, videography, and fashion to realize its vision of becoming Creative Entertainment City Fukuoka. The city is home to Japan's leading Gaming companies, including Level-5 and CyberConnect2. Every fall, Fukuoka City hosts The Creators, an event where visitors can experience various forms of entertainment. In 2022, approximately 70,000 people enjoyed the event.
Fukuoka is actively building a cluster of Life Sciences startups, related companies, and research institutions. In particular, Kyushu University is focused on supporting startups originating from the university, and there are already more than 10 unlisted companies with an enterprise value of over ¥1 billion ($7.5 million). In May 2023, the ITO Lab Plus complex was built next to the campus, providing not only laboratories and offices but also restaurants and housing. The Open Innovation Platform, the university's industry-academia interface, moved into this complex.
In 2020, Team Fukuoka, a regionwide partnership among industry, academia, and government, was established to promote the entry of foreign financial institutions, Fintech companies, and talent. Global Finance Center provides a one-stop support agency for those institutions. Through these efforts, 14 financial companies from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other countries have successfully established their business bases in Fukuoka City in just two years, and other efforts are underway to make Fukuoka an international financial city that continuously creates innovation.
Reasons to Move Your Startup to Fukuoka
Fukuoka is conveniently situated in the center of East Asia. Hubs including Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul, Beijing, and Taiwan are a short, direct flight away. Trains to Tokyo depart up 27 times a day and take less than five hours. The train to Kyoto takes less than three hours and also has frequent departures.
Fukuoka City has been approved to implement the Startup Visa (Entrepreneurial Incentives for Foreigners) to incentivize foreigners to be entrepreneurs in Fukuoka. As a National Strategic Special Zone, prerequisites for the Business Manager visa, which is required for foreigners intending to start a business in Japan, are eased for foreigners who wish to found their business in Fukuoka. With this visa, entrepreneurs are able to stay and work in Japan for up to one year.
Fukuoka City provides loans for entrepreneurs who have established a business in the city during the previous two years. The maximum awarded is ¥35 million ($253,000), with a 1.3% interest rate. Fukuoka City also holds a yearly business plan contest with a maximum prize of ¥1 million ($7.5 million). Startups founded within the last five years may be eligible to receive subsidies depending on their number of employees and rental costs.
Selected Startup Organizations
Startup Genome Members
Fukuoka City is the fastest growing city in Japan. Its economy is booming, and this trend promises to continue. People are flocking here, and Fukuoka has the highest population growth rate in Japan. In fact, Fukuoka ranks #1 in terms of the growth rate of foreign residents among all the ordinance-designated cities. While the population grows, the prices in the city are still some of the most reasonable in Japan. This economy coupled with the startup incentives that the city provides make it an ideal place to found a new company.
JETRO, or the Japan External Trade Organization, is a government-related organization that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world. By utilizing its network of more than 70 overseas offices and 50 domestic offices, JETRO supports 700+ Japanese startups per year through 15 different acceleration programs, and 3,000+ through mentoring, partnering with world-renowned accelerators. JETRO Fukuoka was established in 1952 as the first local office, and has been serving to vitalize the regional economy.
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