"Are you wealthy" Tokyo Tour 2013

Golden Gate Ventures were invited to speak and attend several startup conferences in Tokyo in December 2013. So we thought why don't we make this trip an off-site for the team and that became a business development and fund raising tour for our portfolios and finally morphed into a formal IntroduceStartups.com Tokyo tour with ourselves, portfolio company founders and some entrepreneur friends. A total of 9 of us headed off to Tokyo filled with excitement and anticipation. 

We booked 3 apartments on Airbnb (under the same owner) in the same apartment building in Roppongi, a block away from Ropping-Ichome Station. It was nicely situated in a residential community that is not too far a walk from the subway station or the main street of Roppongi. Highly recommended for traveling groups or families (business or pleasure). The apartments have between 2-3 rooms of both tatami and modern configurations, a shared bathroom and dining/kitchenette. Spacious for central Tokyo apartment buildings and very local (an experience modern hotels do not give you). The group came together mostly as acquaintances/strangers but we quickly gelled after the first night of work and play. Over the next week of living and working together (and crazy texting on Whatsapp), we bonded very quickly and I am sure we all miss some of those crazy mix of night outs, pitch meetings, great food and conversations. Special shout outs and thanks to a few people who made our trip superb! Eugene (Always our buddy and brother, love that 500 Yen Karaoke Bar at Shinjuku and best of luck at Rakuten!), Reina (Amazingly smart and funny surgeon/entrepreneur! You have taught us a thing or two about business in Japan and for that, thank you 0.01!), Batara-san (You are the man, enough said!), Moo (Superb to meet you in Tokyo and thank you for the quick introduction to a potential investor via Facebook, you the solid), Masaru Ikeda (What else can I say, thanks for helping and hanging out with us and am proud to be an advisor to The Bridge, see you in Feb and to a great 2014 to you and your team!), Takeuchi-san (My long-time friend who is a tireless International Business Developer, always there to help with introductions, thank you so much!) and our super associate Justin for all his coordination, scheduling and Google Map Ninja-ing. 

Some of our tour highlights are listed below (some events, meetings are omitted for "privacy" reasons). Pictures are embedded towards the end of the post. 

Main Events: 

Innovation Weekend 2013 Finals (by Sunbridge Global Ventures) - thank you Hiraishi-san for the invitation and slotting our portfolios to pitch, truly grateful! It was an excellent event! 

GlobalBrains Alliance Forum 2013 - thank you Yurimoto-san for the invite and last minute passes for our group. Learnt a lot at the conference, it was full of great content, at a remarkable venue ended with a great dinner party! Some coverage of it here on Techinasia.

Golden Gate Ventures Investor Dinner- An invite only event with investors, friends and partners held at Gonpachi. Thank you to all who came to share Golden Gate Ventures's short journey in Southeast Asia, it was really nice to meet all of you. Look forward to more good times ahead. See you all soon in Tokyo and/or in Singapore! 

Some company visits include:
- Rakuten
- Monoco.jp
- Digital Garage
- Transcosmos
- Samurai Incubate
- ntt docomo
- CyberAgent
- East Ventures Japan
- Qualcomm Ventures Japan
- Mentors and private industry professional meetings
and many more... 

 In the short time I was there in Tokyo, a number of takeaways that maybe useful to you.
- The startup ecosystem is back in Japan! Lots of innovative ideas with exquisite design tastes and plenty of passionate founders. Not in complete full swing but the momentum is there.
- The stock markets are also back with a vengeance. IPO exits are back and have provided great exits to many investors.
- The Japanese government is supporting startups and SMEs with massive budget allocation earmarked for growth. Somewhat familiar in Singapore's context but with more vengeance.
- B2B is bigger than I thought here in Japan. Lots of opportunities for enterprise startups if you know how to navigate the Japanese market. (many Unicorns lie here).
- Southeast Asia on the whole will be a topic of discussions in board rooms in Japan in 2014. We are co-organizing an invite only conference in Singapore in Feb 2014 as one case study to kick off that discussion.
- Golden Gate Ventures will definitely have more things planned for Japan in 2014. Stay tuned.

And that wraps it up folks. Tokyo is indeed a unique city. We all miss it the moment we reached the airport to leave it. But we will be back and that is a definite. See you all soon my lovely "Are you wealthy?" mates! p.s. for those interested to know why we name the tour "Are you wealthy?", ask anyone of us from the tour. 

Kokorokara honto ni domo arigatogozaimashita! 心は本当にどうもありがとうございました! 

Stay tuned for our next tour to Bangkok in 2014!

Crazy Ideas

Why are there little to no crazy game changing ideas from Southeast Asia?

Recently I gave a short talk at JFDI.ASIA’s Batch 4 teams. My talk was centered around having a simple product hook in your product that makes it easy for founders to articulate their vision to people (users, investors, potential employees, partners) that they engage with.

As we invest and learn from the teams we work with in the Southeast Asia region, watching founders execute on ideas, the one thing that always nag at me is their product hook. How special is that hook? Does it engage emotionally or change behaviorally? Who ultimately will care?

We are in the beginning of the entrepreneurial revolution. Although the Lean Startup movement painted a great picture of what can be taught, it is not a framework for everyone. Execution is important but a lot of that has been commoditized. It all comes back down to the idea and how you think the world should be. You just need time to let the world know that.

So why aren’t there more crazy big changing ideas here in Southeast Asia?

  1. Fear of failure is probably the main cause. It makes people and people around them (i.e. ecosystem) think too short termed.
  2. There is low density of founders who have tried crazy things, failed, and still keep on trying.
  3. Lack of confidence.

Having said all that, it is extremely difficult to design a product hook with global appeal. I know that, we all know that. That is what ultimately differentiates companies.

Try not to paint yourself into a corner and stop there. Keep inventing and rounding up troops that believe in your “crazy”. And break out.