Making It In Japan―The Story Of Starting A Business In Japan
Along the journey we'll cover: getting the idea, finding a lawyer, deciding which business to start, working with a Japanese partner, leasing an office, accounting, applying for a visa and opening a corporate bank account.
I came to Japan without a concrete plan, and now, a year later, I am running my own business. In reflecting on this journey for myself, I decided to share my experience. Consider the following a process document that breaks down what I've learned into specific milestones. For each step, I've also included anecdotes from other entrepreneurs, as well as useful resources.
Along the journey we'll cover: getting the idea, finding a lawyer, deciding which business to start, working with a Japanese partner, leasing an office, accounting, applying for a visa and opening a corporate bank account. There is definitely not one right way to start a business. All you need as you embark on the process is a little bit of audacity, a lot of humility, and the willingness to learn from your mistakes.
Similar to my experience, the entrepreneurs I interviewed didn’t move to Japan with the goal of starting a business. They moved to Japan because they loved the culture/country, and while designing their lifestyle, a business was born.
My friend Luis once said, “A city chooses you, you don’t choose a city.” When it comes to my move to Japan, that couldn’t be more true. There was an unmistakable feeling of home when I stepped off the train onto the amazingly quiet but chaotic station platform in Shinjuku. The feeling of belonging was compelling (and intriguing) enough for me to make the jump and leave my life in San Francisco behind.
I didn’t choose. There wasn’t a choice. Here was just right.
I’ve been in Japan for one entire year now. In that time I've learned conversational Japanese and started my own business creating immersive experiences for individuals and companies.
I started my company while I was on a tourist visa. This meant I didn’t have a Japanese phone number, permanent address, or residency card. All of these details had implications on my process. I’ll discuss this more in the Finding a Japanese Partner section, but first, let’s examine how I decided to start a business....
“The only thing worse than looking for work,” one of my best friends once told me, “is finding it.” He was, of course, gainfully employed at the time, and his cynicism seemed like an indulgence I couldn’t afford as the bills continued to pile up on my kitchen counter.
Technology is supposed to make finding a job easier–a million opportunities just a few clicks away on LinkedIn or Indeed, Dice, or Stack Overflow. And yet sometimes it feels like digital tools have only made the whole process more agonizing: You can see the job listings–you can read the description for that perfect job right there on your phone!–and you can even identify the relevant hiring manager. But good luck traversing the digital moat to connect directly with an actual human being.
Welcome to the contemporary job search hell.
If you want to get a glimpse into the future of work, LinkedIn has gazed into the crystal ball. That is, the professional networking platform did an analysis of the roles that companies are hiring for the quickest, the skills needed to get those jobs, and the positions that emerged over the last five years.
Here are the top five:
1. Blockchain Developer
Top Skills: Solidity, Blockchain, Ethereum, Cryptocurrency, Node.js
Where They Work: IBM, ConsenSys, Chainyard
Top Industries: Information Technology & Services, Computer Software, Internet
Cities Where Demand is High: San Francisco, New York City, Atlanta
2. Machine Learning Engineer
Top Skills: Deep Learning, Machine Learning, TensorFlow, Apache Spark, Natural Language Processing
Where They Work: Apple, Intel, Nvidia
Top Industries: Computer Software, Internet, Information Technology & Services
Cities Where Demand is High: San Francisco, Denver, Austin
3. Application Sales Executive
Top Skills: Software as a Service, Cloud Applications, Human Capital Management, Enterprise Resource Planning, Solution Selling
Where They Work: Oracle, AT&T, Avaya
Top Industries: Information Technology & Services, Telecommunications, Computer Software
Cities Where Demand is High: Boston, Austin, Minneapolis-St. Paul
4. Machine Learning Specialist
Top Skills: Machine Learning, Deep Learning, TensorFlow, Python, Artificial Intelligence
Where They Work: Google, Amazon, Apple
Top Industries: Computer Software, Higher Education, Internet
Cities Where Demand is High: San Francisco, New York City, Madison
5. Professional Medical Representative
Top Skills: Pharmaceutical Sales, Sales Effectiveness, Product Launches, Medical Devices, Gastroenterology
Where They Work: Exact Sciences, Taro Pharmaceuticals, Abbott
Top Industries: Biotechnology, Pharmaceuticals, Hospital & Healthcare
Cities Where Demand is High: Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth
While the surge of technical jobs is no surprise, LinkedIn’s chief economist Guy Berger found that the biggest skills gap isn’t in tech. “Soft skills–like oral communication, leadership, and time management–make up nearly half the list of skills with the largest skills gaps,” he says.
This report was created by analyzing LinkedIn’s Economic Graph data from 2014 to 2018, as well as data from LinkedIn Talent Insights. You can view the full list of jobs and skills here.