Japan Startup Ecosystem in 2017 with James Riney

Japan Startup Ecosystem in 2017 with James Riney
James Riney from 500 Startups Japan discussed the evolution of Japan startup ecosystem in 2017, and his perspectives on payment startups vs banks & whether ICOs will replace VCs.

James Riney from 500 Startups, Japan joined us in a conversation to discuss the evolution of Japan startup ecosystem. We discussed where the 500 Startups Japan fund is now, some interesting tidbits on what is happening with the ecosystem there, and his perspectives on payment startups versus banks & whether ICOs will displace venture capitalists.

Here are the interesting show notes and links to the discussion (with time-stamps included):

  • James Riney (@james_riney, LinkedIn, personal website), Head of 500 Startups, Japan. [0:38]
    • Since our last conversation, what have you been up to? [0:48]
    • What’s your daily routine as a venture capitalist like? [1:40]
  • 500 Startups and Japan Startup Ecosystem [2:55] 
    • 500 Startups Japan has now a team and closed a recent round from your LPs. Can you give an update who’s on your team and who are the LPs that funded the Japan fund? (for example, Japan Government Fund) [3:15]
    • What are the interesting investments you have made with 500 Startups? [3:34]
    • How has the Japan startup ecosystem evolved in the past two years since we last spoke? [7:05]
    • Do Japanese startups with global ambition need to speak English? Given that Rakuten is one of the first companies that pushed English to be their main language years back, have we seen other major Japanese corporations do the same? [8:00]
    • Recently, you penned a piece on TechCrunch entitled “There’s a war brewing in Japan and the banks should pay attention”. The piece touched on two interesting points [10:01]
      • People referred to the term “time machine model” in Japan, can you describe what it is about? [10:21]
      • One interesting example is how Flipboard led to the rise of Smartnews and Gunosy, can you talk about how these two startups raise huge amounts of funding, and led to war? [11:10]
      • Does the time machine model mutate the startup after their localisation? [12:25]
      • So you talked about the similar war now with mobile P2P payments? Can you talk about what the battle is about? [13:30] 
      • What are the interesting startups in the mobile P2P payments? [15:37]
        • LINE Pay
        • Kash
        • Paymo (started by the CEO of Gunosy)
        • Youdopay
      • When will the Japan regulators come in with these mobile P2P payment startups moving into banking sector?  [16:16]
    • Recently, there is a lot of attention on initial coin offerings or ICOs with Bancor raised over $153M, TenX raised US$80M and Omise raised US$25M, do you see the possibility that venture capital firms be replaced by ICOs? [16:58]
    • What are the interesting verticals that you will be watching next in Japan and elsewhere in Asia? [18:20]

Podcast Information:

The show is hosted by Bernard Leong (@bleongcw) and are sponsored by Ideal Workspace (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) with their new Altizen Desk on Indiegogo (Twitter, Facebook, Medium). Also check out Ideal Workspace’s new standing desk, Altizen and sign up for their mailing list. Sound credits for the intro music: Taro Iwashiro, “The Beginning” from Red Cliff Soundtrack.