Japan Australia Entrepreneurship Initiative

Last week saw the launch of the Japan Australia Entrepreneurship Initiative (JAEI), a new organisation founded by Kaoru Nishinakagawa, a current UNSW AGSM MBA student, together with Joshua Flannery from UNSW Innovations and seasoned web and app developer, Ayumi Mizoshiri.

The JAEI was formed with the aim of connecting Australian entrepreneurs with opportunities, potential partners and collaborators, investors and customers in Japan, and vice-versa. It will look to do this through events, seminars, and training camps, language support to help members improve their proficiency in English and Japanese, training on design thinking and lean startup methodology, and the creation of a global talent hub connecting members with relevant businesses.

The launch event attracted over 50 attendees, including the Consulate General of Japan for Sydney; Kazuma Hatano, general manager of Established Markets for Austrade; Michaela Browning; Shuichi Hirana, the managing director for the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO); and Brendan Elliott from Innovate NSW at the Department of Industry.

Ken Aoyama, an executive from successful Tokyo-based tech company Cybozu was the guest speaker for the event, with Austrade also providing some insights into the current opportunities for Australian businesses in Japan.

Founder Nishinakagawa explained the formation of the JAEI by saying, “The focus of our event is to harness the current focus on innovation and entrepreneurship that both Japan and Australia are experiencing right now.

“We are creating a program to train talented people on how to innovate across borders – it is ‘lean startup’ methodology meets cross-cultural consulting and students, startups, universities and industry will all benefit.”

The program identifies and recruits talented students and young professionals and forms teams around solving problems common to both countries, for example new technologies to further enhance the strong trade relationship Australia and Japan have in the agriculture or mining industries, or in new areas of interest like fintech and cybersecurity.

A unique part to the program is its ‘innovation dojo’ sessions, which pair language students studying Japanese with Australia-based entrepreneurs to work toward localising presentations, pitching styles, market research and the products being developed for the Japanese market and vice versa.

Mizoshiri, who looks over the software engineering element of the project said, “It will all happen in a carefully curated series of events and online collaboration with face-to-face mentoring and pitch events. We’re building a solid IT platform to make true borderless communication effective and real.”

Flannery, manager of the Student Entrepreneur Development program at UNSW Innovations and cofounder of JAEI said, “It was really encouraging to see diplomats, government officials, UNSW academics and the local Japanese business community together in one room supporting the initiative. A large part of UNSW Innovations mandate is to bring industry together with our university population and to have our School of Humanities & Languages Senior Academics in the room with the likes of KPMG, EY, Deloitte and Amazon Web Services was a great start for this program but also a huge tick for UNSW.”

The initiative has already secured support from Austrade and the Osaka City Government-run Osaka Innovation Hub, and is working to secure its first corporate partnerships.

This is the latest UNSW initiative to focus on business connections between Australia and Asia. The university in April unveiled a $100 million partnership with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology that will see the building of an innovation precinct at the university’s Sydney campus, expected to add over $1 billion to Australia’s GDP in its first 10 years alone.

Announced by Malcolm Turnbull on his first visit to China as Prime Minister, the partnership is part of the Chinese Torch program, which has created 150 innovation precincts around China since 1988. Bringing businesses, universities, and research organisations together in hubs to drive innovation, these precincts now generate 7 percent of China’s GDP, 10 percent of industrial output, and 16 percent of export value.

The JAEI program will run for the first time in September and applications will open for budding participants in July.

Further information on the program will be published here over the next few weeks.

Image: the JAEI launch event. Source: Supplied.