SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

XIE Zhihai “Unicorn Enterprise in Japan”

On March11, KEIDANREN (the Federation of Economic Organizations) announced their goals that they will increase the number of Entrepreneurships and start-up revel of successful model by ten times by the year 2027. At the same time, they proposed establishment of “Start-up Agency”. I was surprised at this announcement because it was KEIDANREN that will increase “Unicorn” enterprises. I think it is very innovative for Japanese economy. Since it was announced officially, I think it is better to materialize quickly. I like to watch a birth of new type of IT companies like GAFAM (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft). Actually, “Unicorn” enterprises in Japan are very few. According to the data of CB Insight (America), the number of unicorn companies in Japan is the fifth position in Asia. Of course, the first in the world is the United States.


It is South Korea that support “Unicorn enterprises” nation widely. Regretfully I do not have the right to introduce such position. Because I have been thinking Zaibatu enterprises like Samsung, LG and Hyundai lead South Korean economy. However, once I know dynamic mechanism of Korean unicorn enterprises, it brought me endless surprises. South Korea was a market which investors in the world have been keeping their watchful eyes. According to statics of unicorn enterprises, South Korean is the fourth in Asia.


Initially, in order to startup as unicorn enterprises, it is important to be an enterprise which exceed one billion dollars in company’s value before stock listing. Investors are keeping concentrate on finding promising startup companies. Yet, Silicon Valley in the United States is famous as starting up place. We must watch globally from now on. Especially for venture capital enterprises, they must keep their watchful eyes worldwide if they think startup is a kind of vein of ore. According to “ECONOMIST” (English magazine dated 2021/11/27-12/3), seven companies out of ten were supported as venture businesses. Then, how to raise fund for startup in South Korea?


South Korea supported much for creation of fertile unicorn enterprises. It is said that formal support for starting up began at the Park Geun-hye administration. And the Moon Jae-in administration followed. They did not end up their support and showed their potential power. The Government laid out their targets and policies one after another. In 2017, “Small and Medium-sized Agency” was promoted to “Medium-sized Department”. Investment program toward venture capitals were unified also. Private companies increased their investment chances by deregulation. We can say that it is a completion of endless “echo-cycle” which we can expect further investment.


What kind of unicorn enterprises are there in South Korea? It is a smart phone business that became popular among people. “Coupang” is a big company in E-commerce field and is called as “Korean Amazon”. It has been already listed in the New York stock market and is getting oversea’ investment as a famous Korean unicorn company. “Socar”, car share service company and “Kurly”, quick delivery service of perishable food became unicorn companies too.  Startup of those companies are not always new business style. E-commerce or car sharing services existed already in other countries. Then, reasons why they (Korean three companies mentioned above) became unicorn companies are they could offer the services which Korean people wanted timely. They have grown up by establishing their own distribution networks systems which can deliver the goods timely when customers want. Japan must emulate such sense of speed.


Speaking of startup business in Japan, there are many niche marketing strategy. In other words, they take innovative items which have no roots still in the market. This point differs from Korea. According to Toyo Keizai (Japanese weekly magazine) special issue “Great 100 venture capital”, startup industries are varied much. It is interesting when we see such promising startup, Japanese Government should arrange new system for fundraising and prepare for echo system which can encourage unicorn enterprises. And Japan can change to a nation where people can startup easily and quickly.


What Japan is lacking now is a sense of speed and an appeal to overseas’ investors. When I read “Great 100 venture capital”, I noticed one thing which Japanese do not recognize. Japanese people keep making an effort steadily and finish their works or business models meticulously and politely. There are not so many in other countries which can follow such Japanese stile. Japan should promote this point which is the one and only and make state level changes in startup like in Korea so that the founders can concentrate in innovation, not fundraising. At the same time, we can expect increase of investment chances by private sectors in domestic market. As mentioned in KEIDANREN’s recommendation, variety of capital investors to VC (venture capital) in Japan is poor comparing with the West. In South Korea,   

Zaibatu enterprises and startup companies are supporting creation of chance of startup together far from being rival. By the Governmental deregulation, private companies can make investments to startup directly.


It was the KEIDANREN’s suggestion that I was convinced that there is a base which Japan can compete equally with South Korea. KEIDANREN is supporting for increasing and making bigger the number of startup enterprises. Business startup in Japan which is niche now may become a world standard in near future. Lastly, I would like to point out that it was a female Vice President (of KEIDANREN) that announced the suggestion. Is it only me who see a ray of light in the future of Japan?



SGRA Kawaraban 702 in Japanese (Original)



XIE Zhihai /Associate Professor of KYOAI GAKUEN UNIVERSITY



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sabina Koirala