Got a great business idea for Japan? Sit up and take note. Tokyo Star Bank is launching a contest specifically geared to foreigners that will help put that money where your mouth is.
What is it?
The Foreign Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition 2018 is a new initiative that aims to support foreign entrepreneurs wanting to grow their business in Japan. Entrants will put forward a business proposal in the hopes of winning either ¥1,000,000 (US$9,400) or ¥300,000 ($2,800) to put toward their budding enterprise.
The top six applications will be selected from the pool for a chance to make a final pitch of their big idea — Shark Tank-style — to a select panel of judges in Tokyo this summer. The presentations will feature a live audience that includes more than 10 venture capitalists and private equity firms looking to collaborate with foreign-led startups here in Japan.
Why Tokyo Star Bank? Why now?
For foreign entrepreneurs who want to set up a business in Japan, support — particularly financial — often proves difficult to secure. Even if you’ve managed to overcome the language barrier, wrapped your head around the paperwork and have your revenue carefully mapped out, Japanese banks may still be hesitant to lend money to non-natives. And while venture capital is on the rise, matching your talent with the right funds out there on your own is a challenge.
Tokyo Star Bank recognized this as endemic to a general lack of resources available to non-Japanese and the resulting wasted potential to nurture business innovation. The Foreign Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition is the first step to creating a proper ecosystem of lenders, investors and market expertise that will help foster the development of foreign-led business in Japan.
To take part, you must:
- be either a foreign national or foreign-born Japanese person currently residing in Japan
- be the CEO of your company or self-employed
- be able to write and present the business plan in Japanese (you or your business partner or colleague)
Your business idea should be able to demonstrate at least one of the following:
- creation of a new market
- a product or service that is “value added” e.g. something that currently exists but with a new high-value feature or add-on
- differentiation within the current market
- something innovative or high-tech
Plus, if you have launched your business already, it should be less than five years old.
How do I enter?
You’ll need to email the entry form, a CV with your photo and a business plan of 20 pages or less in either Microsoft Word or PowerPoint format to email@example.com. All three should be written in Japanese. Include any other relevant digital materials that you think might strengthen your application — get creative if it’ll help you impress the judges.
The application period runs from Monday, April 9 until Friday, June 8, 2018. A primary screening will be held shortly after applications close and you’ll find out if you’ve been invited to present by mid-June. The live pitch will take place about a month later in July. You’ll be up against five other teams of entrepreneurs, battling it out before the panel of business leaders and local market experts — including the president of Tokyo Star Bank, Seiji Sato.
Each presentation will be followed by a quick question-and-answer session. After all presentations have been made, there’ll be a short wait before the official announcement of the winners and the awards ceremony.
One grand prize of ¥1,000,000 and a secondary prize of ¥300,000 granted to the two top businesses from Tokyo Star Bank. Even if you don’t win, the contest is a rare chance to showcase your work among local investors and fellow entrepreneurs.
For more information about the contest, please visit the official website.
With the startup culture in Japan just beginning to flourish, there’s never been a better time to consider launching your own venture here. Take the leap — it might just pay off.