I attended my first Tech in Asia Conference in Tokyo last September. It was hosted by Tech in Asia, the media, events, and jobs platform for Asia’s tech communities. The mission is to serve and build Asia’s startup ecosystem. I booked my flight and hotel in August without knowing what I would expect from this conference, but I was very excited about it and looked forward to meeting new people from across Asia.
I took the earliest flight from Fukuoka to Tokyo on 6th September and arrived there at 10 am. However, I did not stay for the night crawl after the conference party and left Tokyo the next afternoon, so I will recap what I learned from this conference.
1. Entrepreneurship Journey in Japan has a long way to go
It was surprising that Entrepreneurship is becoming cool in Japan when one of the keynote speakers, James Riney, from 500 Startups Japan, mentioned this during his speech. He started off with a title “Unlocking the black box of Japanese Startups.” He explained Japan’s startup industry as a “black box,” which means many outsiders don’t understand what’s going on inside. I think he has pointed out it out clearly. Many Japanese tried to play it safe and followed the old way where they are going to stay with the same company until they are tired. However, things are changing now. Many young Japanese want to have their businesses in Japan. James also believed that Japan’s entrepreneurs have a lot to offer; I agree with that, but language and culture could be the barrier in the entrepreneurship journey.
2. Speak the Local Language
There were over 100 unique exhibiting startups on both days. The exhibitors were from Australia (1), Cambodia (1), Hong Kong (1), India (3), Indonesia ( 5 ), Israel (1), Japan (70), Malaysia (4), Philippines (5), Singapore (5), Taiwan (2), Thailand, (7) and United States (1). I visited several startup booths and asked about their startup businesses. Although English is an international language and it is one of the most spoken languages in the world, you will be surprised by how close we could come together when you speak their local languages.
I spoke English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese with the exhibitors when I visited their booths. For example, Paperlss is from Hong Kong, and they explained how to use Paperlss in Cantonese. With that, I downloaded the application on the spot. Speaking more than one language definitely opens up your world and gives more opportunities in the future. I strongly recommend learning and speaking more than one Asian language to build a business in Asia. Remember, not all of us speak English fluently, and some are reluctant to adjust to other languages.
3. More innovative tech coming out of Asia ( 114 unique exhibiting startups )
Korea, Japan, and Singapore have been ranked the most innovative countries in Asia in 2015. I guess Asian Entrepreneurs are ready for the innovation race in the future. Although there were 1,600 attendees in Tech in Asia Tokyo, I think I have learned a lot of innovative techs that will change your world. One of the most impressive startups that caught my attention at the conference was Glueck Tech, which detects your face and measures your emotion through the camera. Also, I was told that Tech in Asia Singapore had over 4,000 attendees and thousands of startups booths. It sounds like this is going be BIG! I would love to attend Tech in Asia Singapore next year to check out other innovative techs.
4. Speed Dating seems promising for Startups and Investors
Have you ever been to one of the traditional speed dating events? Tech in Asia had a different way of helping you find your potential investors who share your vision and are willing to invest their money into your project or business. If you just started a business, this might sound exciting to you. Please remember, you are only given an opportunity to pitch your project or business to your potential investors at the selected booth for 5 minutes. This means you have to bring the best “dish” on the table that they are going to pay the bill for your idea. On the other hand, if you are an investor and want to tap into the startup’s world, you could be the person who sits there and listens to their ideas. It is one of the best ways to build your network because you have a slot of 60 minutes, so you could get 12 networks in 60 minutes. To be honest, I like the idea of what Tech in Asia is doing.
5. A place where Asian and Westerners share the startup ecosystem
Tech in Asia started their first conference in Singapore in 2012 and expanded to 6 countries in Asia, including Japan in 2014. I think it is one of the fastest growing tech communities in Asia. I attended several conferences and most of the time, the content was delivered in English, but, Tech in Asia was the first conference I attended where they provided English and Japanese language keynote speakers at the conference. It was interesting to listen to the difference between Asian Entrepreneurs and Western Entrepreneurs opinions when they discussed specific topics. Besides, most content was delivered in Japanese and English at the startup booths.
After spending two days at Tech in Asia Tokyo, I have learned a lot about the Asia markets throughout Asia. I feel inspired and can’t wait to attend the next Tech in Asia Singapore this year.