From DeNA to 500 Startups in Japan with James Riney

From DeNA to 500 Startups in Japan with James Riney
James Riney from 500 Startups in Japan discussed his journey as an entrepreneur & venture capitalist and his thoughts on the Japanese startup ecosystem.

In this episode, James Riney from 500 Startups Japan discussed his story from an entrepreneur to a venture capitalist. We recapped his first company, Storys.JP, following his role as a principal in DeNA Capital to the Japan fund in 500 Startups. We also tapped his brain on the interesting areas in robotics, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) and the silver (or old age) market and how they will be shaping the next generation of startups coming from the land of the rising sun. Last but not least, we discussed the Japanese startup ecosystem and his contrarian views on Rocket Internet alumni in startup ecosystems and why Japan’s perfectionism is not good for software startups there.

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

  • James Riney (@james_riney, LinkedIn, personal website)
  • Career of James Riney, head up the 500 Startups (Japan) with special thanks to Arnaud Bonzom

    • How did he started his career as an analyst in an investment back before moving into startup world and venture capital? [1:00]
    • In your journey, as the founder and CEO of ResuPress which is behind, what are the interesting lessons he has learned in that process as an entrepreneur? [3:10]

      • The lesson learnt: Swallow your pride.
    • The story why James is in Japan. [4:25]
    • Subsequently he joined DeNA Capital as a principal and as a venture capitalist, what are the interesting lessons you have learned in a corporate VC space? (Reference: Corporate VC is King in Japan) [4:52]
    • Another reason for formation of corporate VCs as a form of diversification for gaming companies. [6:12]
  • 500 Startups Japan
    • What made you move from DeNA Capital to 500 Startups? [6:50]
    • Do you have an investment thesis? [8:00]
    • What are the verticals you like to invest in? [8:55]

      • Will Oculus Rift work in Japan [9:40]
    • What are the traits you look for in startup founders? [11:35]

      • A hustler with authenticity.
    • Are there any interesting companies in your investment portfolio? Can you give 2-3 examples?
  • Japan’s startup ecosystem

    • How do you see the Japanese startup ecosystem, given that a lot of successful gaming companies have their corporate VC arm and SoftBank in the ecosystem? [16:14]
    • Most Japanese startups typically go public in the Nikkei Stock Exchange after their series B round, do you see that this old trend will change in the future? [17:43]
    • You are contrarian in talking up Rocket Internet with good founders and Japan’s craftsmanship culture are not effective for the startup ecosystem. Why so? James Riney mentioned that Japan’s perfectionism culture is good for hardware startups and not software startups. [18:58]
    • What are the promising areas which Japan can lead in the technology startups space? [23:30]

Podcast Information:

The show is hosted by Bernard Leong (@bleongcw) and are sponsored by Ideal Workspace (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) with their new Aspirus Desk on Indiegogo (Twitter, Facebook, Medium) and Linkcious (and check out their other product, Chiibi). Also check out Ideal Workspace’s new standing desk, Aspirus and sign up for their mailing list.