Ten years ago Japanese corporate venturing was little more than sporadic trips to Silicon Valley. Now Japan is taking a lead role.
A lot can happen in ten years. Almost a decade ago, when GCV held its first CVC network event at the British Embassy in Tokyo, Japanese corporate venturing seemed to consist of seconding people to Silicon Valley for a few years as “tourists”. Locals warned us that there was no culture of innovation — and no chance for an event to happen.
Even five years ago, when we held the first GCV Asia Congress in 2017, it was a time when “all roads seemed to lead to China” and corporate investors were keen to explore the next-generation technologies being developed there.
Fast forward to November 2022, however, and Japan is firmly in the spotlight. Some 160 people took part in the #GCVAsia Congress in Tokyo, with a large delegation of international investors flying in to Japan to meet local corporate and venture investors. It was only weeks after the country had eased covid-era visa requirements, but it was the largest event we had held in the region.
The focus on Japan partly reflects the fact that China’s doors are effectively closed due to pandemic restrictions, so more attention is being paid to Japan and other countries, such as South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and India, among others.
But Japan has also seen an explosion of corporate venturing activity in the past few years. The country was second only to the US in the number of corporate-backed venture deals tracked by GCV in the third quarter, and deal numbers have remained relatively steady this year despite the general market pullback.
And while there may still be pockets of poor practices, Japan has now taken its leadership role in developing world class CVC 2.0 and 3.0 models and training up its teams through the #GCVInstitute.
There is clear support for corporate venturing from the government, with Sho Ito at the Cabinet Office preparing initiatives to bring the community together more permanently.
Dong-Su, CEO of LG Tech Ventures, summed up the general spirit we saw at the GCVAsia Congress : “If you are going to do it, do it right.”