Return of the Dojo – Innovation Dojo 2.0

Tuesday night saw the second cohort of Innovation Dojo pitch to a packed house within the stunning level 17 space of PwC Australia at Barangaroo this week. It was a much different night from that of one year ago, with volume of community members, program style, partnerships and new elements of the program all ramping up this time around.

PwC Partner and lead on the Asia business for PwC, Jason Hayes, opened the night with a reminder to some and a revelation to others on just how well placed Japan is as an innovation partner to Australia, outlining some of the lesser known facts including that Japan is Australia’s 2nd largest source of foreign direct investment, only behind the US as of 2017.


InnovationDojo Night – Speaker from VR Startup: V-KAIWA

This is first time for InnovationDojo start Innovation Dojo night, our first speaker will be VR startup – V-Kaiwa. They will talk about their product and VR technology/coding & latest VR industry status.

About V-Kaiwa.
V-KAIWA is a virtual reality language learning startup. They contextualise lesson plans through an immersive virtual reality environment. The teacher and students are placed in different scenarios to facilitate learning – for example, in a restaurant or on a safari. To break it down – V-KAIWA is a combination of Virtual Reality and the Japanese word for communication which is “KAIWA”. So they connect you to a different language and help you learn how to converse in a totally new way.

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Report – Innovation Dojo Info Night @Atlassian – 2017

Thank you for coming Innovation Dojo Info Night @Atlassian – 2017!

We hope you enjoyed our Information Night at Atlassian yesterday! Here are some photos from the night:
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Meet up

If you want to find out more about the Innovation Dojo program in December 2017, please visit the information page on this page.

We’ll be announcing more details and meetups in the lead up to the program so watch this space! Please join our meetup group (or facebook?) and we’ll keep you updated.

Thanks for attending and we hope to see you again!

Innovation Dojo Info Night @Atlassian – 2017

How can come inside the building


Step 2


We will be holding the official Info Night for the next Innovation Dojo Program, which will run from December 11th – 19th this year.

This program is for you if you are interested in:
• Solving big problems common to Australia and Japan like ageing population, technology for agriculture efficiency, cybersecurity and translation and localisation of services before the Tokyo Olympics!
• Working in cross-cultural teams incubating new startup ideas
• Working with a unique set of world-class mentors
• Winning a prize that takes you to Japan to meet potential partners, investors and customers
• Be part of a new startup with built-in international scaling capability!

Over 9 full days from December 11th – 19th you will work with hipsters, hackers and hustlers from both Japan and Australia will create new startups with a view of launching in both Australia and Japan.

What is this event?
This is your last chance to meet with the Innovation Dojo team to hear details about the goals, people and program that is Innovation Dojo!

Hear from program mentors, network with fellow innovators interested in where innovation across Japan and the Asia Pacific and how you can be a part of a new startup project that solves the big problems shared by Australia and Japan.

Already know you want to be a part of the program?

Interested in attending the info night?
Register below!

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Welcome Tomoyuki Hachigo to InnovationDojo team!

Thank you to everyone that expressed interest and applied for the position we advertised a month or so ago to join our Innovation Dojo team.
We had some very high standard applicants and I’m happy to announce that Tomoyuki Hachigo has joined Kaoru, Ayumi and I as the 4th Innovation Dojo team member as of today!
Tomo is a completely bilingual lawyer and entrepreneur, with over 7 years experience as a lawyer and in the legal tech space with Clayton Utz where he worked closely with Japanese and Australian clients and colleagues. More recently, he co-founded sprintlaw, a startup providing cloud based legal services for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Tomo brings a new level of depth to the skills and capability of our core team and we look forward to bringing you bigger, better and more from Innovation Dojo from this day forward – welcome Tomo!!
PS. you can get to know Tomo a little more via his most recent article posted here on Medium: “By viewing law as a commodity, I learnt about the “value” of lawyers

The meeting with Kyoto University – Mr. Takeshi Uemura and Dr. Taro Sonobe

Great talking cross-border innovation with Prof Mariko Mori, Mr. Takeshi Uemura and Dr. Taro Sonobe from the prestigious Kyoto University yesterday.

Could Australia save Japan’s economy ? – Kaoru Nishinakagawa

Kaoru wrote an article “Could Australia save Japan’s economy ?” in Founder Down Under.
Here is her article.

Join the team that connects Japan & Aus with innovation!

Innovation Dojo is the bridge between Japan and Australia’s innovation and startup ecosystems and the way big problems shared between these countries will be solved.

Launched in 2016, the program trained 24 young innovators on how to start a startup that could be launched in both countries and we’re proud to say three excellent young companies were born.

You may have heard of the VR for language learning startup V-KAIWA, the Artificial Intelligence driven menu translation app ChewmonGo or Anywhere Technology, a startup combining Outdoor Media, Big Data and IoT.

Our clients so far include top ranked Japanese universities and the Australian government.

We are a special team of startup specialists, corporate innovation leaders and cross-cultural tech wizards, all with a passion of raising opportunities, awareness and collaboration between Australia, Japan and across APAC in the area of innovation and entrepreneurship.

We are now looking to expand and there is an opportunity to work as part of the Innovation Dojo team

  • Strong and confident presentation skills (preferably in English and Japanese)
  • Bilingual English/Japanese
  • Sales experience
  • Proven interest and experience with Lean Startup and Design Thinking methodologies
  • Genuine connection with Australia and Japan

This is a startup type role including a combination of marketing, sales and program coordination. You will receive guidance and mentorship from our founders who are considered young leaders in the Japan-Australia innovation space. The role is based in Sydney.

This is a paid trial contract for 3 months ($2,500 base plus commission), with a view of extending to 6 months. If you prove successful after this, for the right person we would like to bring you onto our team as a co-founder with equity options.

If this sounds like you, please email with your CV and a 1-3 minute video introduction (please link to a Youtube video you create).

Innovation Dojo Pty Ltd is a privately owned company.

Kyoto University wrote about Innovation Dojo visit 2017 April with David Lawson

Josh and David Lawson visited Kyoto University last month.
Kyoto University wrote our visit in their site.
Here is the article.

Entrepreneurship in a Salaryman Society

Insights into the Japanese startup scene
We‘re all familiar with the stereotype of the ‘Japanese salaryman’ — conservative, conformist and risk-averse. In many ways, this image of the Japanese business environment is the complete opposite of the disruption and flexibility that startups represent. However, as I recently experienced, there is a growing entrepreneurial movement that is set to reshape our views of Japanese industry.

I’ve been fortunate to visit Japan four times so far. The first three trips were well spent exploring the non-stop Tokyo nightlife, temples in Kyoto, overly aggressive deer in Nara and the general foodie paradise that is Japan (shoutout to $10 Michelin Star ramen). However, my most recent trip had a completely different purpose. As a finalist in the first cohort of the Innovation Dojo program (aimed at guiding students to develop global startups with an Australian-Japanese focus), I was sent to participate in Slush Tokyo 2017— an entrepreneurship conference exhibiting the latest startups in Japan.
So what were the takeaways from attending an event with 5,000 attendees, 500 startups and 200 investors?

  1. I had the opportunity to interview co-founders about the Japanese startup environment with some interesting first-hand experiences;
  2. A pitching event involving 77 startups competing for a 10,000,000 Yen prize and demonstrating the potential of Asia’s innovation; and
  3. The trend towards founding and promoting globally focused startups (with increasing support from programs such as Innovation Dojo).

First-hand experiences in the Japanese startup scene

Over the two day event, I shuttled between demo stalls speaking with a number of co-founders and startup representatives. The insights and experiences in the Japanese business environment from four interviewees are extracted (and paraphrased) below.

 1. ‘Qurate Inc’ — Tom Brooke

Q: Can you tell me about your startup

Qurate is an end-to-end content marketing platform for social and owned content. It aims to streamline the content marketing process for marketing professionals in corporations.

Q: What do you think about the current state of the Japanese startup scene?

Although Japan is regarded to ‘lag’ behind other countries in its startup economy, the elements required for startups to build a team, scale and succeed are all in place. There are sources of funding (albeit mostly through corporations in Japan), a well-educated workforce and increasing support from the government. However, one issue for globally-focused and tech startups such as Qurate is that Japan does not yet have the linguistic skills to compete internationally against native English-speakers.

Q: What would be one change you would like to see in the Japanese startup scene?

Japan should make itself more accessible and advertise itself as a destination for international talent. The process for recruiting an internationally-sourced team based in Japan is not as simple compared to other startup-focused economies such as London or the US.

2. ‘Brain Portal’ — Hikari Takahashi

Q: Can you tell me about your startup

Brain Portal specialises in co-ordinating rapid prototyping and manufacturing for hardware startups. With a hardware network in Japan, China, South East Asia, the US and Europe, Brain Portal reduces time-to-market, lowers manufacturing costs and ensures quality and reliability for new and growing businesses.

Q: How did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Hikari worked as an HR consultant in the manufacturing industry. Many clients attempted to co-ordinate manufacturing and design for prototypes in-house and there was often miscommunication with the manufacturer. After experiencing these difficulties, Hikari launched Brain Portal in December 2015 to improve communication and create a network between hardware startups and manufacturers.

Q: What would be one change you would like to see in the Japanese startup scene?

An increase in funding from investors. The Japanese startup ecosystem is relatively small compared to other countries such as the US, Hong Kong and Singapore. There are less angel investors, accelerators and financiers which restricts growth in early-stage startups. In Japan, the main source of finance is to partner and collaborate with large corporations. In Brain Portal’s case, it is collaborating with the multinational ‘Recruit Group’.

3. ‘Metro Residences’ — Lester Kang

Q: Can you tell me about your startup

Metro Residences is the ‘Airbnb for business travellers’. Having started in Singapore and recently closed a financing round, Metro Residences is actively expanding to the Japanese market.

Q: Why is Metro Residences expanding to Japan instead of other countries?

First, Metro Residences recently received funding from Rakutan which offers an established network in Japan. Second, the business accommodation market for Japan is not as mature as Singapore, offering opportunities for Metro Residences to rapidly expand by offering new types of accommodation. Finally, the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Japan will greatly boost demand in business accommodation over the next few years.

Q: What do you think about the current state of the Japanese startup scene?

The Japanese startup scene is in its infancy stage compared to Singapore. Aside from difficulties in obtaining financing, there’s more challenges in recruiting experienced executives from large corporations compared to other countries.

Q: What would be one change you would like to see in the Japanese startup scene?

Although more funding via the government or venture capital would be important, the necessary change would be the promotion of entrepreneurship in the Japanese population from an earlier age, either through education or incubators.

4. ‘Fanline’ — Keith Burns

Q: Can you tell me about your startup

Fanline is a platform that allows entertainers to fully customise their own personal app while linking all their online content to one location so that fans can access everything in one area.

Q: What do you think about the current state of the Japanese startup scene?

There is a lack of capital in Japan. Finance is usually only offered by large companies and it is unusual to go to friends or family for a loan. Also, the Japanese education system and general approach to business is directed towards large stable corporations so there has been some difficulty in recruiting talent in startups.

Q: What would be one change you would like to see in the Japanese startup scene?

It would be better if Japan was more open towards foreigners from a recruiting perspective. Relatively speaking, Japan is a rather closed society and could benefit from a change in its approach to immigration.

The Startup Pitching Competition (i.e. Japanese Shark Tank)

The big winner was DOT Incorporation — taking home the main prize with its new range of braille smart watches and tablets for the visually impaired and blind being distributed worldwide. “Passion about its product” and “the determination to change the world” defined DOT’s winning pitch, and (without trying to say that “everybody’s a winner”) was a common theme demonstrated by all the participants in the competition. From first year university students to speakers with considerably more life experience, it’s clear that people of all ages from a variety of backgrounds were actively working to build Japan’s future businesses.

Final thoughts

An important trend that was discussed by the keynote speakers, the interviewed startups and investors at the Slush Tokyo was the need for startups to adopt an international focus. With technology making the world more accessible, there is an unprecedented opportunity for entrepreneurs with the ability to connect with their target market on a global scale. Programs such as Innovation Dojo are at the forefront of this entrepreneurship paradigm and have helped myself and many others in better understanding how modern startups succeed. If you have an interest in working for yourself, exploring new career paths or becoming the next entrepreneurial success story, then I highly recommend participating in the next Innovation Dojo intake.

NB: Innovation Dojo’s first cohort has resulted in two startups that are currently working to create value in the Japanese market. V-KAIWA is creating a new Virtual Reality (VR) English learning platform for Asian people with a particular focus on conversation. ChewMongo is working on a database of translated and digitised menus for foreigners to enjoy authentic dining experiences that are usually off-limits for the average traveller. I’ve worked alongside the founders and I’m excited to see their ongoing progress in creating these global startups.

This articles wrote by Jason Feng.
Entrepreneurship in a Salaryman Society