In the spotlight: Some prominent women entrepreneurs from Japan
Japanese companies display a unique disposition – exhibiting a global outlook they display a willingness to invest long-term, in viable products & services. In fact, Japan is synonymous with quality and innovation; and interestingly, this goes hand-in-hand with the loyalty and commitment paraded by Japanese companies to their business partners.
Quite admirably, Japan is the world’s third largest economy (after the US and China), and the second largest computer and telecommunications market in the world. Moreover, the Japanese market is characterized by consumers with high levels of disposable income, who are drawn to premium, high-end goods & services.
There are strategic advantages and cost advantages in doing business in Japan. So, it looks like, if you succeed in Japan, you can succeed anywhere; for this indicates that you have developed a product/service that has met the high expectations of the discerning Japanese market, which has raised the bar for ‘quality’.
Besides, entrepreneurship is a growing industry in Japan. And what are budding entrepreneurs doing? They are taking the traditional route and trying to start companies, rather than joining established companies. And, there are different entrepreneurial programmes too, that can help set up your own business in the country.
Here are some prominent women entrepreneurs in Japan.
> Tomoko Namba, Founder & CEO, DeNA
DeNA, was founded by Tomoko Namba in 1999. It is one of Japan’s largest mobile social network and mobile game companies. This prominent mobile gaming and technology company is committed to constant evolution.
Her distinguished career includes many credits – like she received an MBA from Harvard Business School and was the third Japanese woman to become a partner at McKinsey & Co. And while she was a consultant at Mckinsey, she started DeNA after working on a consulting assignment with Sony’s So-net. She stepped down in 2011 to focus on her family and personal life.
> Rika Shiiki, Co-Founder & President, AMF
Rika Shiiki was still in high school, when she started AMF, a marketing startup run entirely by girls in their teens. Called a “school entrepreneur”, she explained her competitive advantage, was “just being a teenager.” She was also consulting for major Japanese companies on – product development, research, production, and other areas.
She pushed all limits, trying to balance school and business, and developed a reputation as a “marketer who hears the voices of young girls around Japan.” She gained presence even outside Japan. It was pointed out that “in Silicon Valley, Rika is recognized as an impressive business woman with a ton of potential.”
> Chika Tsunoda, Founder & CEO, Anytimes
After graduating from Keio University, Faculty of Law in 2008, Chika Tsunoda joined Nomura Securities where she was working in sales. Then she moved and worked for CyberAgent, where she was in charge of PR planning.
In 2013, age 28, she founded – “Anytimes”, a skill-sharing service startup. She began her Anytimes technology business with neither a background in technology, nor programming friends. Starting from humble beginnings of crowdsourcing employees she created what she planned – an online skill share platform to connect users, who need services such as housecleaning or cooking with local talent.
Currently, she serves as a Director of Qnoir, an online community service for beauty professionals.
> Miku Hirano, CEO & Founder of Cinnamon Inc
Called a serial entrepreneur, Miku Hiranois is the Founder & CEO of Cinnamon Inc, which she launched in 2012. She had set up her startup, aiming to extend human potential for more productive and creative work by utilising the power of artificial intelligence (AI). This wasn’t her first experience with business success. For she had previously founded Naked Technology, which developed a mobile technology platform; and in 2011, this company was acquired by Mixi.
Boasting an accuracy of over 99%, Cinnamon AI’s product works with digital and printed sources (including faxes, invoices, contracts, handwritten notes, PDFs & Word files). Her business has expanded its operations to Japan, the US, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Distinction came her way too – as she was selected by Nikkei Newspaper as one of the 40 young leaders who will change the future of Japan. She was named St. Gallen Symposium Leaders of Tomorrow, Forbes Japan “Entrepreneur Ranking 2020” BEST10, Woman of the Year 2019 Innovative Entrepreneur Award, and Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award 2019 New Generation Award.
> Mariko Hashimoto, Founder & CEO of Delighted
Mariko Hashimoto’s starting point is really unusual. She started her career as a receptionist, way back in 2005. She worked as a receptionist at five major companies and throughout her 11-year career as a receptionist. But she learnt the ropes which prepared her for the future.
Then it was in January 2016, that she founded her own company – Delighted. She thus utilized her extensive experience to offer very effective reception services in a wide range of areas.
In January 2017, the company released a cloud-based receptionist system called
Receptionist – the first of its kind in Japan.
> Saeko Goto, CEO, Hagoromo Foods
CEO of Hagoromo Foods, Saeko Goto is an important figure in the Japanese food industry. Hagoromo Foods was her family’s company that sold canned and preserved foods. Initially, she was not involved in the family business, until much later, when she gathered first-hand experience.
Before starting Hagoromo foods, she had obtained an MBA from Stanford University and worked in management consulting. Her experience outside Japan and knowledge of business have helped the company expand. While currently distributing a wide range of products, they have expanded to international markets too.