In the Economist's 16-Page Global Tech Startup Report, Japan is Mentioned Twice.
...and one of those is on a map.
China, with the world’s 2nd-largest economy, is mentioned 7 times with occasional allusion, and America, still way up top with a GDP roughly twice that of China, is mentioned outright 15 times and referenced again and again.
Now Japan - home to the world’s 3rd-largest economy - gets just one, single, solitary mention in context. And it’s nearly meaningless. Just a passing reference to a recent Rakuten acquisition.
And no, in no way are we blaming the messenger, we are embarrassed.
Though it can at times be abrasively British, The Economist is one of the last big-time publications still holding a flame for journalistic integrity. If that’s too fawning a qualification, then we’ll just say that, in a time when basically ALL news outlets are mainlining PCP and steroids into disingenuous, ambulance-chasing search engine optimization, all the while neutering and emasculating writers into excreting dumbed-down talking points that pander to the basest psychological leftovers of primitive paleolithic tribalism, The Economist like, you know, actually publishes news and intelligent analysis and stuff.
Anyway, their State of the Planet, tech-focused startup report, A Cambrian* Moment, is a freely available PDF offering a relatively accessible global overview of emerging trends and ongoing activity, with analysis, speculation, and projection. It even includes a section on the psychological effects of being a starter-upper. Strangely hackish cover design aside, the report is a must-read.
For Japanese startups, venture capitalists, angels, incubators, platforms, the hard of thinking whose neglect forced SCHAFT Robotics and Telepathy into cross-Pacific expatriotism, and also those of us pounding keyboard from the sidelines, that Japan’s is given but the slightest lip service, is a must-notice.
So, we’re sharing this report because A. It’s a really good report, and B. Ironically, stereotypical principles of Japanese minimalism apply: what moves us most is the empty space; that which is missing, i.e., someone needs to scream out that, in a preeminent survey of the global tech startup movement, Japan is basically nowhere to be found.
Our Ongoing J-Startup Coverage
Focused startup coverage is a relatively new thing in the decade-plus history of AkihabaraNews. We began covering Tokyo’s scene in earnest just this past October - lot’s of coverage, making international connections, podcast interviews, media sponsorships, and plenty of legwork. In these few months, we’ve developed a considerable enthusiasm for and a bit of frustration with Japan’s bubbling but far from boiling startup movement.
Admittedly, looking at our RSS, just a few articles down, yeah - we do on occasion post some fluffy, silly tech stuff. However adjacent Bluetooth-enabled locking lingerie might be, we take Japan’s nascent startup movement quite seriously. After all, the giants aren’t doing a whole lot of innovating, and if AkihabaraNews is to continue its angle of bringing the world truly unique Japanese tech, then… well, it's looking like a lot of that's going to have to come from J-startups. We support that. And we believe in the possibilities.
But for now, possibilities remain just that, and we’re not going to blow sunshine all the time. In that vein, we’ll close with this - a sentiment for which we ourselves have been criticized:
“...But ecosystems are more fragile than their leaders’ confident manner suggests. Network effects can easily go the other way. And governments have to tread carefully because national ecosystems increasingly form part of larger global organisms. Founders and investors, already used to entrepreneurial globetrotting, will readily consider moving to another place if it seems to have more to offer. Often that place is America.
With it’s huge market and vast pool of venture capital, it is still the destination of choice for founders the world over, even though the country’s restrictive immigration policy since September 11th, 2001 has made it more difficult for them to settle there. If Asia and Europe do not watch out, their best startups could still end up in Silicon Valley or in one of America’s newer ecosystems, such as Austin, Boulder, or New York.”
-The Economist; A Cambrian Moment
Hmmm… foreboding words pointing to the possibility of an Asian tech startup brain drain. What’s this, has the venerable Economist been reading AkihabaraNews? No. It’s just that they have access to logic, too. It’s helpful.
Japan, for all our sake, let's get in that report next year, yeah?
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*Value-Added Corner: The Cambrian was a period in earth’s history, approximately 480-540 million years ago, when living things exploded upon the surface and the whole planet just starting oozing out gooey creatures that would eventually evolve into a bony, bipedal meatsack piloted by a recursive, self-aware pattern that parks itself in Tokyo and writes Technosnark©®™ for the masses.
Images: The Economist
Nod: with Steam Engine Timing, one due to Tech Crunch