Most people will acknowledge that Japan’s economic presence in the global market is not what it used to be. But a 38-year-old Bangladeshi-American believes Japan is a treasure trove of start-ups that have the potential to grow big, and now is the best time to bet your money on them.
“They have technology,” said Anis Uzzaman, general partner and founding member of Fenox Venture Capital in San Jose, Calif., of Japanese start-ups. “Many will be able to take off in the global market, depending on their strategy and funds at hand.”
Uzzaman recently wrote a book in Japanese titled “Startup Bible,” published by Kodansha Ltd., as a guide for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to set up ventures in a Silicon Valley style.
Uzzaman, a third-generation immigrant, came from a family too poor to send him to college in the United States. But because he was a bright student, he earned a Japanese government scholarship and studied engineering at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
After arriving in Japan in the 1990s, he came to understand why Japan led the world in electrical appliances and other products. Seeing how even simple items such as a rice cooker offered all sorts of innovative options to customers, he realized that one of Japan’s strengths lies in its people who come up with these ideas.
“There was an array of products that come with elaborate designs and functions,” he said. “Students were hard working, and I was surprised to find that most of the students (at the Tokyo Institute of Technology) moved on to graduate school after graduation.”
While he worked for IBM and other companies after returning to the United States, he saw a string of information technology start-ups come into being. He founded an investment firm in Silicon Valley in 2011.
Uzzaman visits Japan every other month to hunt for companies to invest in. His contacts are former classmates at the institute, with whom he discussed future plans together at a school cafeteria.
They serve as a bridge between potential investments and Uzzaman, whom they consider “an investor who understands both the Japanese language and heart.”
He said he wrote the book as a thank you to the people who extended their hospitality to him when he was a student in Japan, as well as because he thinks investing in Japanese companies is “proving to be a success as a business.”
While the book touches on a broad range of subjects, such as patent application and fund-raising, it also extensively discusses how to build a team of workers, which Uzzaman calls the “biggest asset” of a business.
“What we need is passion,” he said. “When people set up a start-up, they don’t have sufficient funds. But they stretch together to realize their shared dream. I know Japanese have a taste for that kind of story.”
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