Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Tokyo Diary Day 1 - Journey to Top of Tokyo and Dinner with Japan's Top VC

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 4, 2008

After the tea ceremony we walked out from what seemed like a small teahouse built next to a peaceful garden into a hotel hallway. A jarring transition.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_psgOGwOMc

We then take a stroll through the high-end Ginza shopping district, where a square meter of land retails for about $100,000. It's one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world.

It is late afternoon by the time we head over to the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower for a 360 degree view of Tokyo from the 54th floor. The 333m tall red Tokyo Radio Tower dominates the landscape, especially at twilight.

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We descend two floors to the exclusive Roppongi Hills Club to meet and have dinner with Toru Akaura, Japan's most successful venture capitalist. He never meets with the media so this is a very special occasion.

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Mr Akaura also serves as a director with Cybozu, one of Japan's top IT companies with revenues of more than $1.2 billion in fiscal 2008. Cybozu was founded by Lunarr cofounder Toru Takasuka.

The exit strategy for VC investments in Japan is IPOs. The accounting system makes it difficult for Japanese companies to make acquisitions. But this also makes it difficult for foreign companies to acquire Japanese companies. It's like a national poison pill.

However, there is not much VC money in Japan, and what there is, tends to be concentrated in later stage investments. Later in the trip, Japanese entrepreneurs would complain about this lack of early stage financing.

Next on SVW Tokyo Diary: Meetings with Japanese officials from METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) plus meetings with Japanese Web 2.0 entreprenuers, and a visit to a Japanese "garage" startup (a closet might be a better description :-).

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Related:

- Tokyo Diary: Arrival and Immersion...

- Tokyo Diary: Arrival and Immersion...

Background Info:

I'm on my first trip to Japan as a guest of Lunarr - a Portland based tech start-up founded by two Japanese entrepreneurs Toru Takasuka and Hideshi Hamaguchi. On the trip with me is Marshall Kirkpatrick from Read Write Web, Bob Walsh from 47Hats, and Kristen Nicole from Mashable.

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