Silicon Valley - New Japan Summit 2018 at Stanford University

Last Monday and Tuesday, the Stanford Silicon Valley - New Japan Project hosted the third annual Silicon Valley - New Japan Summit here at Stanford University, in partnership with Ishin USA.

The first day featured panels and keynotes that shared tips and anecdotes aimed at helping Japanese companies better harness Silicon Valley, and a full second day of startup pitches and booths for Japanese firms and Silicon Valley startups to meet and engage in business development.

With nearly 600 attendees, this year’s summit has been our largest so far.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to making this event a success. A special thank you goes out to our co-hosts, Ishin USA for their continuous support, and to Amanda Stoeckicht for her efforts in organizing this conference.

A longer event report is forthcoming.

Photos by Rod Searcey

Is the Lack of "Unicorns" in Japan Good News or Bad News?

The lack of Japanese unicorns has recently been a cause of concern. There is now only one Japanese unicorn--or just a handful, depending on the source--compared to the 117 in the United States, 73 in China, 15 in the United Kingdom, and 11 in India (according to CB Insights). However, is the lack of unicorns in Japan evidence of an anemic startup ecosystem? Or are there other forces at play? 

In a new opinion piece published by the Nippon Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA), Kenji Kushida argues that when taken in a historical perspective, Japan's lack of unicorns demonstrates the very success of a critical institutional shift in Japan's startup ecosystem that improved the situation remarkably since the late 1990s. As such, the current situation should be considered at an evolutionary stage where unicorns can now emerge in Japan if venture capitalists begin to take diverse strategies in investing –especially after the large IPO of Mercari.

SVNJ in Germany

Earlier this month, a group from the Work and Intelligent Tools and Systems (WITS) Berkeley working group including SVNJ, traveled to Germany. We attended the opening ceremony of the new “Digital Labor Market Think Tank” created by Germany’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and also had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable with German industry, unions and researchers. We are looking forward to working on this interesting project linking Silicon Valley, Japan, and Germany.

"Break Through: Women in Silicon Valley, Womenomics in Japan" Conference Full Final Report

On August 9th the Stanford Silicon Valley - New Japan Project hosted the “Break Through: Women in Silicon Valley, Womenomics in Japan” conference with support from the Acceleration Program in Tokyo for Women (APT) organized by Tohmatsu Venture Support and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The presentations, panels, showcases, and workshop throughout the day featured discussions around issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace in Silicon Valley and in Japan.

The full final conference report is now available below:

Stanford e-Japan Spring 2018 Session

This spring, the Stanford Silicon Valley - New Japan Project collaborated with the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) for the spring 2018 session of the Stanford Scholars Program for Japanese High School Students, or Stanford e-Japan

Stanford e-Japan is a distance learning course that enrolls exceptional high schools students from all over Japan to learn about US society and culture and US-Japan relations through topics ranging from the US-Japan alliance and World War II, to SV-NJ research topics including the Silicon Valley ecosystem and its relationship to Japan, and biculturalism and the Japanese.

The course is taught in English, and is designed to create globally minded individuals by putting emphasis on developing critical thinking skills, discussion skills, and researching and writing skills through discussion based virtual classes and reading and writing intensive homework assignments with individual instructor feedback.

 Virtual classroom on Silicon Valley and Entrepreneurship

Virtual classroom on Silicon Valley and Entrepreneurship

For students, e-Japan is a valuable opportunity not only to learn about new subject matters, but also to engage with different perspectives on topics that they might already be familiar with. For example, most students were shocked to learn about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, a topic that is seldom taught in Japanese high school curriculums, as well as the complexity and strategic reasoning behind America’s decision to drop the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a historical event that students had mostly only learnt about from the perspective of Japan. Shocked to learn that a majority of Americans still agreed that the use of the atomic bombs on Japanese cities in 1945 was justified, but a number which had also interestingly enough declined, one student conducted an ambitious research project asking both students in the US and Japan to reflect on their education about World War II and their opinions about the atomic bombings, and analyzed how World War II was taught in US high schools versus Japanese high schools.

 Before class, students watch video lectures recorded by Stanford scholars, and complete written assignments

Before class, students watch video lectures recorded by Stanford scholars, and complete written assignments

While the course afforded students the opportunity to interact with scholars affiliated with Stanford University and other institutions as well as high school students in the US, many students reflected that the opportunity to openly discuss issues with their peers was also invaluable. The group itself was quite diverse, with differing backgrounds and experiences, and representing 13 different prefectures in Japan. Unsurprisingly, perspectives on issues often differed amongst the group. Throughout the course, students learned how to have constructive discussions, how to respectfully disagree, and how to support and make effective arguments. Group activities in class also challenged students to practice problem solving in groups.

Concurrent with the Internet-based course, students also developed individual research projects. Students identified research questions, and learned how to find and utilize reliable sources to construct arguments. Students were required to write research papers as well as present on their topics at their high schools.

 Sakurako Nyudo presenting on the US-Japan relationship at her high school.
 Naoya Chonan presenting on implementing the flipped learning model in Japanese high schools.

Three students with the best final research papers will be selected to present their research at Stanford University in August 2019.

A special thank you to our collaborators, the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE), and Elin Matsumae, SV-NJ research assistant, for her efforts in orchestrating the course.

Break Through: Women in Silicon Valley, Womenomics in Japan Conference

On August 9th the Stanford Silicon Valley-New Japan Project hosted the “Break Through: Women in Silicon Valley, Womenomics in Japan” conference. This conference was the second installment of a conference around issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace in Silicon Valley and in Japan. 

This year’s conference featured an all-female speaker list, and was focused on empowering women to build networks and skills and to receive inspiration. Our speakers spoke candidly about the challenges that women face in the workplace, and about the progress that has been made. 


For the first talk of the day, we were joined by Chief People Officer of Zymergen, Judy Gilbert. Zymergen, an Emeryville-based company that uses information technology to engineer microbes, has been praised in the media by publications such as Vanity Fair for its inclusive hiring practices that have led to the recruitment of more women technologists. Gilbert spoke about the importance of building teams that are both diverse and inclusive and how Zymergen has managed to recruit and retain talent by focusing on the entire lifecycle—from building a culture, to attracting talent, to developing that talent, and challenging that talent. 

Yuko Osaki, who is the Senior Planning Officer to the Promotion Division at the Gender Equality Bureau of the Cabinet Office, spoke next about the challenges that the Japanese government still faces in terms of furthering labor force participation of women and helping these women succeed in their careers. Japan is still quite behind in terms of gender equality, receiving the worst gender equity ranking of the seven major world economies last year at 114th. However, the Japanese government has made deliberate steps to try to bridge this gap with the implementation of policies to expand child care and free educations services, and encouraging political parties to work to increase the number of female candidates. Osaki also spoke about the influence of ESG investing, and the impact that the adoption of the MSCI empowering women index in company has had in promoting women’s advancement in the workplace. 

Our two fireside chats featured a conversation between CEO of Jasperi Consulting Frances Colón and Chief Technology Officer of Nest, Yoky Matsuoka, and a conversation between Assistant Manager of the Mitsubishi Corporation’s Silicon Valley branch Haruko Sasamoto, and Claire Chino, President and CEO of Itochu International Inc.


Although Matsuoka has had much success in a career that has been marked by large transitions, she revealed that fear and finding the techniques to confront it have been a large part of her success story, and that finding work-life balance isn’t something that has come naturally. Matsuoka also talked about the different ways in which impactful work and innovation are achieved in startup settings versus at tech giants. 

The value of mentorship and role models was a key theme that emerged from the second fireside chat. Chino revealed that there have been several key persons in her life who have inspired her and challenged her, but her role model is not one super person, but rather a non-existent person that is the amalgamation of inspiring qualities that she sees in various different people. She also discussed how Itochu, as a large, well-established Japanese firm has responded to disruptive innovations in the industry, and the new policies that the company has implemented in order to create a corporate culture that boosts efficiency and productivity, as well as being more friendly for women and employees with families. 

In the afternoon, we showcased 9 innovative startups founded by women entrepreneurs in Japan and Silicon Valley. 

The first group of startups were founded by Japanese women entrepreneurs participating in the Acceleration Program in Tokyo for Women (APT), a women-focused acceleration program for women entrepreneurs run by the Tokyo Metropolitan government and Tohmatsu Venture Support. The startups showcased were: Aglobe Co., an online platform that connects Japanese SMEs to overseas buyers founded by Osami Ogai; high-end Ethiopian sheepskin leather brand, Andu Amet founded by Hiroko Samejima; Beautiful Smile, a company that is working to eliminate food waste by allowing manufacturers to sell nonstandard food products founded by Mitsuki Bun; handmade knitting brand that helps to promote the work of senior citizens and housewives, Beyondthereef founded by Kae Kusunoki; and online crafts workshop discovery platform, Craftie, founded by Yonggum Kang. 

We then showcased four Silicon Valley startups: social music streaming platform Playlist founded by Karen Katz; the Reach Mama Network that creates opportunities and development for moms of color, founded by Karina Cabrera Bell; non-profit education social venture focused on girls' education in STEAM fields, SKY LABO, founded by Rie Kijima; and longitudinal preventative health platform for tracking developmental delays, BabyNoggin, founded by Jin Lee. 

Conference participants concluded the day by engaging in a participatory exercise facilitated by co-founder and chief creative officer at San Francisco-based digital agency SocioFabrica, Sylvia Vaquer. This exercise was designed to help attendees identify and leverage their personal brands to effectively lead and get results. Using Design Thinking as a framework, attendees worked to identify personal strengths, skills, and unique differentiators and find strategies to effectively communicate these and leverage them in the work environment. 


A huge thank you to the Acceleration Program in Tokyo for Women (APT) organized by Tohmatsu Venture Support and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for their support, and thank you to our speakers and our conference attendees. A longer conference report is forthcoming. 


See more photos of the day: 

Silicon Valley - New Japan Summit 2018 Tokyo

On June 21, the Silicon Valley-New Japan Project and Ishin co-hosted the Silicon Valley-New Japan Summit 2018 Tokyo. 

This event featured panels on Silicon Valley disruptions, CVC, global innovation strategies, and strategies for collaborating with overseas startups. 

For more information and pictures from the Silicon Valley - New Japan Summit 2018 Tokyo click here


SAVE THE DATE For our Upcoming summit at stanford:

November 5-6, 2018
Silicon Valley - New Japan Summit 2018 (Silicon Valley)
Stanford University

details forthcoming

G1 New Leaders Summit 2018

Last month, Kenji Kushida and APARC Researcher, Professor Philip Lipscy were invited to participate in the G1 New Leaders Summit in Karuizawa. 

Kenji Kushida participated in a panel called "Japan's Future made by G1 U-40: 100 Actions for a better Japan 2.0" featuring Japanese politician, Fumiaki Kobayashi, President of NPO Florence, Hiroki Komazaki, and Chizuru Suga from the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry. 

Nikkei Agritech Summit 2018

Last month, Kenji Kushida was invited to speak at the Nikkei Agritech Summit (AG/SUM) in Tokyo. Kushida participated in three panels: "Global agriculture environment: what are the necessary conditions for an agritech unicorn?", "Singularity of medicine and agriculture: Food and agriculture seen from the perspective of regenerative medicine", and moderated a panel titled "Agriculture of Future: The Startup Perspective."

Full agenda in English available here.

New Abenomics Chapter in "Japan Decides 2017: The Japanese General Election"

In a new chapter now available in the book,  "Japan Decides 2017: The Japanese General Election", Kenji Kushida evaluates the Abenomics Third Arrow from a Silicon Valley perspective. 

Table of Contents available below.


Table of Contents

Part I. Introduction
1. Introduction, by Robert J. Pekkanen, Steven R. Reed, Ethan Scheiner and Daniel M. Smith
2. Japanese Politics Between 2014 and 2017: The Search for an Opposition Party in the Age of Abe, by Robert J. Pekkanen and Steven R. Reed
3. The 2017 Election Results: An Earthquake, a Typhoon, and another Landslide, by Ethan Scheiner, Daniel M. Smith and Michael F. Thies

Part II. Political Parties
4. Komeito 2017: New Complications, by Axel Klein and Levi McLaughlin
5. The Opposition: From Third Party Back to Third Force, by Robert J. Pekkanen and Steven R. Reed
6. The JCP: A Perpetual Spoiler?, by Ko Maeda

Part III. Campaign and Issues
7. Scandals during the Abe Administrations, by Matthew Carlson and Steve R. Reed
8. Public Opinion and the Abe Cabinet: Alternating Valence and Position Issues, by Yukio Maeda
9. Survey of Candidates' Policy Preferences, by Kiichiro Arai and Miwa Nakajo
10. Party Competition and the Electoral Rules, by Kuniaki Nemoto
11. Persistence of Women's Under-representation, by Mari Miura
12. Does Japan want to Build a Wall Too? Immigration and the 2017 General Election in Japan, by Michael Strausz
13. Inequality and the 2017 Election: Decreasing Dominance of Abenomics and Regional Revitalization, by David Chiavacci
14. The First Two Arrows of Abenomincs: Monetary and Fiscal Politics in the 2017 Snap Election, by Saori Katada and Gabrielle Cheung
15. Abenomics Third Arrow: Fostering Competitiveness?, by Kenji E. Kushida
16. Constitutional Revision in the 2017 Election, by Kenneth Mori McElwain
17. The North Korea Factor in the 2017 Election, by Yasushi Izumikawa
18. Foreign Policy, by Sheila Smith

New Interview Article on NewsPicks

In a new interview piece by NewsPicks, Kenji Kushida talks about the history of Stanford University and its surrounding area, and how it has become a birthplace of innovation. Speaking as an insider, Kushida discusses some of the lesser known historical developments and connections that have positioned Stanford as a core player in the Silicon Valley ecosystem. 

Access the full article here (in Japanese) 

Marketcraft: How Governments Make Markets Work

On May 7, the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center Japan Program welcomed Professor Steven K Vogel to speak about his new book, Marketcraft: How Governments Make Markets Work

Modern-day markets do not arise spontaneously or evolve naturally. Rather they are crafted by individuals, firms, and most of all, by governments. Thus "marketcraft" represents a core function of government comparable to statecraft and requires considerable artistry to govern markets effectively. Just as real-world statecraft can be masterful or muddled, so it is with marketcraft. 

In this new book, Steven Vogel builds his argument upon the recognition that all markets are crafted then systematically explores the implications for analysis and policy. In modern societies, there is no such thing as a free market. Markets are institutions, and contemporary markets are all heavily regulated. The "free market revolution" that began in the 1980s did not see a deregulation of markets, but rather a re-regulation. Vogel looks at a wide range of policy issues to support this concept, focusing in particular on the US and Japan. He examines how the US, the "freest" market economy, is actually among the most heavily regulated advanced economies, while Japan's effort to liberalize its economy counterintuitively expanded the government's role in practice. 

Marketcraft demonstrates that market institutions need government to function, and in increasingly complex economies, governance itself must feature equally complex policy tools if it is to meet the task. In our era-and despite what anti-government ideologues contend-governmental officials, regardless of party affiliation, should be trained in marketcraft just as much as in statecraft.

Watch the 15 minute introduction to this new book below: 


About Speaker:

Steven K. Vogel is the Il Han New Professor of Asian Studies and a Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He specializes in the political economy of the advanced industrialized nations, especially Japan. He recently completed a book, entitled Marketcraft: How Governments Make Markets Work (Oxford, 2018), which argues that markets do not arise spontaneously but rather are crafted by individuals, firms, and most of all by governments.  Thus “marketcraft” represents a core function of government comparable to statecraft.  The book systematically reviews the implications of this argument, critiquing prevalent schools of thought and presenting lessons for policy.  Vogel is also the author of Japan Remodeled: How Government and Industry Are Reforming Japanese Capitalism (Cornell, 2006) and co-editor (with Naazneen Barma) of The Political Economy Reader: Markets as Institutions (Routledge, 2008). His first book, Freer Markets, More Rules: Regulatory Reform in Advanced Industrial Countries  (Cornell, 1996), won the Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Prize. He edited his mother’s book, Suzanne Hall Vogel, The Japanese Family in Transition: From the Professional Housewife Ideal to the Dilemmas of Choice(Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), and a volume on U.S.-Japan Relations in a Changing World(Brookings, 2002).  He won the Northern California Association of Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Excellence Award in 2002, and the UC Berkeley Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of Graduate Student Instructors in 2005.  He has been a columnist for Newsweek-Japan and the Asahi Shimbun, and he has written extensively for the popular press.  He has worked as a reporter for the Japan Times in Tokyo and as a freelance journalist in France. He has taught previously at the University of California, Irvine and Harvard University. He has a B.A. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Kenji Kushida Seminar at Hitotsubashi Hall

On April 24, Kenji Kushida gave a talk on Silicon Valley, the Algorithmic Revolution and the "worst practices" to harness Silicon Valley by large Japanese companies, and some good examples of successful efforts such as Komatsu, Honda, Yamaha, and a few others. The seminar was orchestrated by the Canon Institute for Global Studies, and held at the Hitotsubashi Hall in Takebashi. 

JETRO recently published a write-up of the event available here.

New Interview Piece with Musashi Sakai Driving School President, Aki Takahashi

Work reform has been a topic of interest in Japan recently. In the first installment of a New Nikkei BP Series investigating topics relating to personnel recruitment, development, and the value of work by Musashi Sakai Driving School President, Aki Takahashi, Kenji Kushida was interviewed about varieties of how to work and productivity improvement. 

See full article here 

SVJP Benkyokai: Japan's New Startup Ecosystem and Large Corporate Innovation: Why Japan (still) Matters in Global Competition

On March 7th, Kenji Kushida spoke at the Silicon Valley Japan Platform Benkyokai meeting on "Japan's New Startup Ecosystem and Large Corporate Innovation: Why Japan (still) Matters in Global Competition." The session was moderated by Steve Suda, Managing Director of the Office of Development at Stanford University.