Tokyo's startup ecosystem has continuously been expanding because of the digitalization in various industries even amidst COVID-19. Tokyo launched the "Tokyo Consortium” in 2020 with 220+ VCs, leading companies and universities etc, to enter the new era together with startups.
For decades Japan has been known as an industrial powerhouse, but also an economy that’s relatively closed to international talent. That’s beginning to change as the government rolls out the welcome mat in an effort to boost local startups. A new startup visa is available in National Strategic Special Zones, including Tokyo. Depending on the area, successful applicants are granted a 6-month or 1-year temporary residence permit. In December 2020, Tokyo ranked third in the Mori Global Power Cities Index, which analyzes cities’ attractiveness for relocation based on startup activity, levels of R&D, and livability. This new spirit of openness and innovation can be felt at Tokyo’s many startup hubs and events. Venture Café Tokyo, founded on the principle of “serendipitous collision,” connects founders, investors, and students. Non-profit Startup Lady Japan helps women conduct business locally and internationally. It runs a 60-day Startup Challenge and a 6-week startup boot camp featuring intensive workshops and mentorship. Tokyo also hosts the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo, where IT executives and experts convene virtually to share insights, as well as the Tokyo Financial Information & Technology Summit, which focuses on data and technology in capital markets. Notable funding news coming out of the ecosystem includes the announcement of US$100 million in financing for mobile gaming company Playco in September 2020, bringing the company’s valuation above $1 billion and adding it to the list of Japanese unicorns. Space technology company Axelspace raised a $24 million Series C in May 2021.
Ecosystem by the numbers
Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics
Hundreds of Life Science startups have emerged from the University of Tokyo, and an increasing number of companies in the sub-sector are bringing solutions to clinical trials. BNV launched a $50 million+ fund primarily focused on healthcare startups. Mizuho Financial Group also established a ¥5 billion (~$47 million) investment fund for Life Sciences startups. More than 4,000 Japanese clinics and hospitals now use startup Micin’s telemedicine solution. Microbiome analytics company bitBiome secured a JPY700 million (~US$6.6 million) Series B in September 2020. Fitness app maker Finc raised $46.1 million in February 2020. Drug development company Modalis Therapeutics raised JPY 3.24 billion (~$30.4 million) in its IPO in August 2020.
Reasons to move your startup to Tokyo
Tokyo Metropolitan Government
TMG aims to create the world’s leading ecosystem where innovations are continuously generated through the organic collaboration of players such as large corporations, start-ups, universities, and accumulated funds and information by utilizing various resources in Tokyo. Also, the Tokyo Consortium has been established to support creating the ecosystem.
Deloitte Japan has supported 3,000 startups in Japan and supports the Tokyo ecosystem's creation through Morning Pitch and Open innovation support for large companies. Also, Deloitte Japan was entrusted with the Tokyo Innovation Ecosystem Formation Promotion Support Initiative for FY 2020 and worked with Startup Genome to organize data about the Tokyo ecosystem.
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