he Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced last week that it has launched the startup support program named J-Startup, aiming to promote overseas development of Japanese startups and creation of unicorns. In the same day, a launch ceremony was held in Tokyo, inviting dignitaries including Hiroshige Seko (Japanese Minister of METI), Makoto Takahashi (CEO of KDDI), Laurent Pic (French Ambassador to Japan) and Sujan R. Chinoy (Indian Ambassador to Japan).

J-Startup is a general name for startup support programs managed by METI jointly with Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) or New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). Aiming to produce 20 unicorns / listed companies by 2023, this program chooses about 100 startups from among 10,000 startups throughout Japan based on experts’ evaluation (consisting of 66 members including investors) and gives them certification of J-Startup Company (92 teams were chosen in the first batch).

The certified startups are allowed to use the J-Startup logo as well as various beneficial supports. Invitation to visit / exhibition tours to global events such as GITEX FUTURE STARS, WebSummit, SLUSH, Consumer Electronics Show or SXSW, free use of Global Acceleration Hub at JETRO’s overseas branches, business matching opportunities with major enterprises and the authorities is sent, in addition to arranging preferential treatment including financial support or simplification of procedures, preferential application of the regulatory sandbox or participation opportunities to governmental missions overseas.

It holds the interview event named J-Startup Hour inviting major supporters or famous entrepreneurs at Toranomon Hills Café from 18 to 19 p.m. every Thursday (held as a part of Venture Café Tokyo’s Thursday Gathering). In addition, 105 support companies as J-Startup Supporters will provide preferential treatments in terms of mentoring or lending equipment / facilities.

METI had managed various startup support programs such as Shido Next Innovator Program for global entrepreneur development or Hiyaku Next Enterprise for next-gen company development. JETRO, the organization under METI, had also independently developed programs to send promised entrepreneurs to foreign startup conferences. All of these programs are integrated / arranged into the unified brand of J-Startup and will be managed in a more effective manner.

J-Startup does not only support Japanese startups to advance overseas but also focuses on invitation of inbound startups / entrepreneurs. It utilizes the previously mentioned JETRO’s Global Acceleration Hub, as well as positively examines the issuance of the Startup visa relaxing the requirements for obtaining statuses of residence within certified municipalities in cooperation with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This J-Startup announcement suggests similar attempts being made outside of Japan, for example, K-Startup by the Korean Ministry of SMEs and Startups or La French Tech under Business France. The chicken logo of La French Tech is often seen in startup conference all over the world in recent years. We will continue to check out the future trend of J-Startup and how much their presence will grow in name and in reality.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

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