Asahi Shimbun Digital Interview

In a recent interview with Asahi Shimbun Digital and ITOCHU CTC, Kushida discusses how Japanese companies are harnessing Silicon Valley, examples of success stories as well as failures, and some tips for best practices. In the interview, Kushida discusses our mission here at the Stanford Silicon Valley - New Japan Project, our activities including the Silicon Valley - New Japan Summit, and raises Komatsu, Honda, and Sourcenext (all featured in our 2018 Summit) as examples of Japanese companies who have been aggressively pushing forward open innovation initiatives, and are quite active in the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

(Kushida’s interview is followed by a discussion between Scrum Ventures General Partner, Tak Miyata, and ITOCHU Techno-Solutions America Director of Business Development, Wataru Matsumoto)

The video interview is available (in Japanese) here

ANA Ideathon 2019

Yesterday, SVNJ hosted the fourth annual ANA Ideathon supported by ANA and WiL here at Stanford University. Participants were asked to come up with a value-adding product or service to enhance the in-flight experience.

This year, 9 teams of students from Stanford University and UC Berkeley brainstormed and pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.

Further event details:

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New Ishin Article on Komatsu Smart Agriculture and Forestry Activities

Komatsu, one of the world’s leading heavy machinery producers, has been boldly developing into a platform players and lead user of IT tools. For several years now, Komatsu has been effectively harnessing Silicon Valley to innovate at breakneck speed. While Komatsu’s core activities are mainly surface mining and construction and underground mining, the company has recently expanded into forestry and agriculture.

Forming partnerships with startups such as Swift Navigation, AgJunction, and Novariant, Komatsu has been building a fleet of self-sufficient ICT bulldozers for agricultural use that will dramatically increase productivity. Komatsu has also partnered with Nvidia to create forestry equipment that can identify tree species, analyze quality of timber, and fell at a rate of 3 trees per minute.

At the Silicon Valley - New Japan Summit 2018 last November, Program Director, Ryoichi Togashi, discussed Komatsu’s new initiatives, and its continued efforts to harness the Silicon Valley ecosystem to create innovation.

See Ishin Article on Komatsu (in Japanese)

New Silicon Valley-New Japan Summit 2018 Articles by Ishin

Ishin USA’s newest articles summarize and discuss the topics addressed in Kenji Kushida’s keynote address and Sourcenext Founder, CEO & President, Noriyuki Matsuda’s panel during the third annual Silicon Valley - New Japan Summit 2018 that was held at Stanford University last November.

Full article links (both in Japanese)

The AI Revolution from Silicon Valley: Japanese Firms' Worst Practices and Ways to Avoid Them (Keynote)

The perspective a listed Japanese company whose CEO lives in SV

Stay tuned for more upcoming summit articles by Ishin, and a longer English event report from us.

Stanford Silicon Valley-New Japan Project 2018 Year End Report

2018 was another productive year of activity and growth for the Stanford Silicon Valley - New Japan Project. This year we hosted a variety of guest speakers for our public forums, held several large scale conferences, traveled back and forth between Japan and Silicon Valley, as well as to Europe for various outreach activities, engaged in new and ongoing collaborations, and produced new reports and publications. It was a busy year, but we have much to be thankful for.

We would like to extend a huge thank you to all of our supporters for helping make this a great year. We appreciate your continued support and are looking forward to sharing another successful year with you in 2019.

As 2018 comes to an end, we hope you join us in looking back on our activities this year.

We wish everyone a very happy holiday season, and see you next year!

Full SV-NJ 2018 Year End Report

Presentation at R&D Management Committee in Tokyo

On December 13, Kenji Kushida was invited to speak at the 5th R&D Management Committee, a study group organized by METI, with participation from major Japanese corporations.

In a presentation entitled: “Lessons for Japanese firms from Silicon Valley: Avoiding Worst Practice Behavior” Kushida spoke about worst practice behavior by Japanese companies in Silicon Valley, and lessons for how to effectively harness Silicon Valley while avoiding bad strategies.

CIGS Seminar on US Democracy and Recent Trends in US Politics

On December 12, Kenji Kushida spoke at a seminar organized by the Canon Institute for Global Studies in Tokyo on the topic of US democracy.

In 2016 Donald Trump was elected 45th president of the United States after one of the most controversial elections in US history. The unexpected result of this election had many Americans questioning what had happened. The 2016 election has shined a light on the glaring inequalities and contradictions in our political system, as well as brought to attention a disgruntled populace to whom the 2016 election was a victory.

How did Donald Trump win with nearly 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton? Who supported him and why? Why have US politics become so divisive? What does the future of our democracy look like? 

The dynamics of US politics matters, not just to Americans, but globally, now more than ever. During this seminar, Kushida gave a comprehensive overview of the origin of the US political system, discussed some recent political controversies, and discussed the future of American democracy based on historical precedents. 

GINZA X TECH Keynote Speech

On December 11, Kenji Kushida was invited to give the keynote speech at the GINZA X TECH event in Tokyo organized by Techfirm Group.

The event focused on Tokyo’s Ginza area as an intersection of new business areas and existing firms where innovation is being created.

The event also featured presentations from MUFG on its new InformationBanking platform, “DPRIME”, Nikon on “POZ” a new product that utilizes posture analysis technology, and Bluish Galaxies, on its efforts towards wearable VR technology, and unmanned shops.

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