ANZCCJ Members and guests were given the opportunity to attend a panel discussion with innovative Tech Start-ups from Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Koala.com, Carter Search, Get Up, Moneytree JP, Million Steps and Japan Travel K.K all shared unique insights of their experiences starting up tech companies in Japan.
During discussions, panellists considered the differences in selling products to consumers in the Japanese markets versus other markets. Members of the panel pointed out the more detail-oriented nature of Japanese consumers, compared to the importance of product reviews and ratings in the Australian market. Australian consumers will tend to buy products based on high ratings and reputations and not care about details of the product. Research has shown that on average a Japanese consumer will read to the bottom of webpages detailing product/services descriptions, whereas an Australian consumer may only read the top third of the page. where as Japanese consumers will want to know very detailed specifics of the product.
Language and cultural barriers amongst employees were also brought up as a potential challenge for tech companies establishing themselves in Japan. Panel members had different perspectives on how to address these challenges. One panellist suggested the use of interns to create a multicultural work environment, but those interns needed to be able to handle stress and be nice to deal with. Another panellist suggested making your policies as and where you see fit and not being closed to the kinds of people you hire where he personally would choose someone who first had the cultural fit for the company and second had either English or Japanese as a native language, the rational being that a global company will naturally attract globally minded people. Another panellist went for an even greater mix – 50% Japanese and 50% non-Japanese which didn’t just include Westerners but also competitive labour from South East Asia and India for some of the high grind work like API integration. The Japanese employees would be useful for meetings and client interfaces, but behind the scenes other forms of labour should be used to keep prices down without compromising on technical qualities or a professional end product/service. Emphasis was also placed on importance of relationships and trust in doing business in Japan. An interesting fact pointed out was that the disposable income of a Japanese citizen for one year equated to the disposable income of eight inbound tourists in one week, so to assume that Japanese customers have a high amount of disposable income would be wrong, but instead tourists who came to Japan would be contributing more to local demand than some might think
To summarise important aspects of the start-up sector, Paul Chapman from Moneytree said that the industry term commonly used was BeuCon or a beauty contest. In the start-up space it is important for businesses to be the most beautiful in the space, meaning the most relationships, a great story behind the company, be a technology that consumers actually want and have popularity. Chapman noted that this is important in both the Japanese and Australian markets, because as start-ups they are selling `the future` to investors. The Bridge, an online media outlet covering tech and start up news in Japan reported on the event. The article can be read in English here or in Japanese here.