In preparation for a day of innovation workshopping with a number of Japanese companies, we had the opportunity to attend Slush Asia in Tokyo and soak up the entrepreneurial spirit of the local startup scene.
Slush Asia was held for the first time this year. It’s a one day event that brings together startups, successful entrepreneurs, investors and curious onlookers for a day of demos, pitches, keynote speeches and investor meetings. All in a setting that makes you feel like you are at a happening nightclub or a trendy music festival. Nearly 3000 visitors attended the event. It's hard to believe all this was put together in a few months by team Slush Asia - well done!
More so than in Finland there were alot of product engineering, robotics, gaming HW, and healthcare related startups pitching and demoing at Slush Asia. Also many lifestyle products and startups working in the intersection of art and technology. Here are three interesting startups that stood out from the crowd:
- Plen Project’s Plen robot is an open source humanoid robot that can be 3D printed. The aim with the robot is to engage consumers in learning to create their own robotics. How could you resist such a cute things?
- Exii makes an affordable bionic arm called Handii. By streamlining hand mechanics design, using 3D printing to manufacture the product and a smartphone to process input from sensors placed on remaining arm muscles to control the hand, Exii is able to provide bionic arms at significantly lower price points.
- Fove is developing a head-mounted display with eye tracking. The resolution of content in peripheral vision is decreased and blurred and only the content in the viewer's focus is clear. Not only does this make it possible to make content rendering faster and cheaper, it also creates opportunities for new types of interactions. Imagine making eye contact in virtual reality!
Innovation in Japan
There was also a lot of discussions about the state of entrepreneurship in Japan on and off the Slush stages. There seems to be a shared feeling that the Japanese could be more innovative. Here are some of the barriers to creating an innovative culture in Japan:
- Japanese are process-oriented. Things are done following routines. There are a lot of meetings. You can’t make decisions if the boss is not present and that’s why things take time.
- It’s still very popular to work in large companies. Although younger people might be more open to entrepreneurship, their parents may not support this type of career choice.
- The formal Japanese management style does not support being very proactive at work. Employees are not keen to share ideas for fear of judgments by others. Although Japan is considered one of the most creative countries globally (expect by the Japanese themselves), Japanese often lack the courage to act ideas on their ideas for fear of failure.
Efforts are on the way by the current prime minister as well as active entrepreneurs and investors in the Tokyo startup ecosystem to change the situation. They are building networks, introduce new ways of thinking and doing, changing perceptions and celebrating successes. Slush Asia is definately doing a great job fostering the startup mindset in Tokyo. It was a real treat attending!