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Archive for May, 2015

If you want to make hardware, come to Kyoto

Makers Boot Camp

If you want to make software in Japan, go to Tokyo. If you want to make hardware, come to Kyoto.

Following the trend of too many things converging in Tokyo, the startup scene within Japan is strongest in the modern capital. Most big-name Japanese startups are based in Tokyo, and for anyone trying to start a software or web startup, being there is a natural conclusion.

It’s an entirely different story for hardware startups.

In one of the largest, densest, and most expensive city in the world, trying to work with more than your computer and the cloud and build hardware could be a costly venture. The network also isn’t as established compared to software and web services.

Then where?

Unbeknownst to most, the ancient capital of Kyoto, my hometown and my current city, has a rich culture of hardware and electronics. While most people see Kyoto as a tourist destination or the home of Nintendo, there are a lot of world class companies that most people don’t know about because they operate mostly in the B2B field: Kyocera, Rohm, Omron, Nidec, Shimadzu, and Horiba to name a few. Furthermore, there is an amazing amount of capable SMEs that support these companies in a very Japanese style of industry networking.

Until now, there wasn’t a robust startup scene in Kyoto, but that is starting to change. With the network and resources available, this is the perfect place to build hardware. In addition to the companies, Kyoto is one of the best university towns in the world with over 25 universities.


Now to make it easier for entrepreneurs in Japan and around the world to build hardware, a new program called Makers Boot Camp just launched in Kyoto. The idea is to create an acceleration program that connects with all the advantages of Kyoto.

The university that I work for, Kyoto Institute of Technology, is providing a hardware crash course for budding entrepreneurs and the organization I’m a part of, KYOTO Design Lab, is contributing with design expertise and maker spaces. Kyoto Shisaku Net, a coalition of over 100 companies are providing their expertise in mass-production prototyping, and the city along with the Advanced Scientific Technology & Management Research Institute of Kyoto is involved as well.

It’s quite exciting.

While there are several hardware accelerators around the world, as much as I can tell, this is the first one that is really focusing on mass-manufacturability. Unlike software, the path to market for hardware companies is much hairier, and just because you created a functional prototype doesn’t mean you can suddenly create it en-masse and spread it around the world. There are many entrepreneurs on Kickstarter who underestimated the difficulty in design for manufacturability.

I’m really excited that something like this is starting in my hometown and even more excited that I get to be involved.

Now I’m hoping cool people from around Japan and world will come to Kyoto to make awesome new products.

Let’s do this. If you’re interested in participating in the Makers Boot Camp, check out the FAQ here and join here.

P.S. Some of you are probably wondering what I’m exactly doing back in Kyoto. I know the newest rendition of “what is Sushi up to” is months delayed. I promise, in due time.





それで思いついたのが一度パリで参加した SCAVENGER HUNT。ちょっと違うかもしれないが日本だと宝探しのような物。チームに分かれてヒントから街中で色々な物を探す冒険。実際に探して買うとしても良いが、それより写真をとって見つけたと証明するかメッセージを見つけてメモって持って帰る方が普通。ちなみにドイツで自分の誕生日にこのイベントをコーディネートした経験がある。友達たちを街中に送り色々なことをさせて面白かった(その後は飲み会)。




Liquid culture


Some cultures are like water. If you don’t paddle fast enough, you will drown.

Some cultures are like quicksand. If you move too fast, you will get sucked in.

Some cultures are like a viscous fluid. You can move slowly but once you start moving fast, there is incredible force holding you back.

What kind of culture do you live in?


Looking back at Slush Asia – SLUSH ASIA を振り返って

Slush Asia 1

Slush arrives in Japan, like an angry bird slung across Asia to land in an empty parking lot in Odaiba, Tokyo. Is this the strike that cracks open the islands metaphorically called the Galapagos? or is this an anomaly for a nation that speaks so much about being global but fails to live up to its words?

ヘルシンキからアングリーバードのようにお台場に SLUSH が飛んできた。これがガラパゴスと呼ばれる日本を開き開ける起点になるのだろうか?それともグロバール化と謳うがグロバール化できない日本には異例なものなのだろうか?

Slush Asia 2

100% English language, rock ‘n’ roll festival atmosphere, truly an oddity in the sunny Tokyo day. 3000 entrepreneurs, investors, reporters, students, and interested people like myself came together to bask in the excitement of creating something new from scratch. A truly magical day but what will remain once the tents are removed and the community scatters again?


Slush Asia 3

Connections made, knowledge passed on, inspiration delivered, words written, videos transmitted, but is that enough? Will that ignite a revolution in this country, take down the conservative culture, and be a catalyst for change? Or will it fade away into the night like a firework, leaving a trail of rapidly vanishing smoke?


Slush Asia 4

With or without Slush, startups will keep working, failing, succeeding, laughing, crying, dreaming. For a day they were rockstars, performing in front of a screaming audience, but changing the world doesn’t happen in a day. I wish the best for all of them for trailblazing is not easy, especially in a world where the fear of failure can be suffocating.

SLUSH が日本に来なくてもアントレプレナーは頑張って、失敗して、成功して、笑って、泣いて、夢を見続けるだろう。一日では世界は変えられないが、この一日、泣き叫ぶ観客の前で彼らはロックスターになれた。失敗への恐怖感で圧迫されるこの世の中、人の先を進むのは容易なことではない、そしてその先駆者達に幸運を願う。

Slush Asia 5

The real magic of Slush Asia was not visible in the foreground. They were the unsung heroes of the day, without which the event would not have been possible. 300 (what a great number) students came and volunteered their time and effort to put together this amazing event. I hope they were truly inspired for it’s ultimately them that will carry this country into the next generation. For a day, they made the stage, and the world came to them.

SLUSH ASIA 真の光は表出ては輝いていなかった。謳われぬヒーロー、ボランテイアで関わった300の学生達(なんてスバラシイ数字なんだ)、彼らなくしてこのイベントは成功していなかっただろ。彼らが SLUSH ASIA を通して限りないインスピレーションを得た事を願う。なぜなら彼らがこの国を次の時代に持っていくからだ。青く晴れた東京の一日、彼らがステージを作ってそこに世界が来た。

Slush is a world renowned startup and tech event in Helsinki that started in 2008 and grew from 200 people to 15,000 in seven years. Slush Asia was the first time the event was held outside of Finland in Odaiba, Tokyo. 3000 people attended this one day event that was unlike any other in Japan. You can read more about it here:

I was involved in Slush Asia as an English pitch coach using my design, presentation, and (small) startup experience. I also got to see the original Slush in Helsinki in 2014 as a member of a German startup company. It was a great experience to connect and help out with the small but budding startup scene in Japan, and I hope the culture and community grows.

Slush Asia 6

SLUSH はヘルシンキから始まった世界的に有名なベンチャーとテクノロジーのイベントで、2008年に200人規模で始まり去年は15000人来場した。SLUSH ASIA 4月24日に東京お台場で行われフィンランド外では初。一日で3000人参加したイベントは日本では他ならぬ空気と独特のムードが漂った。もっと知りたい方は関連記事をご参照:

私自身 SLUSH ASIA では英語のピッチ(ベンチャー企業のプレゼン)コーチとして、デザイン、プレゼンテーション、そして少しのベンチャー経験を用いてお手伝いしました。去年の本家の SLUSH にもドイツのベンチャー企業の一員として参加し、いろいろ学びました。日本ではまだ小さいベンチャーコミュニティとつながって手助けできた事は良い経験になった。これからもどんどんコミュニティと文化が広まるのを願います。

(Photos from Flickr Album)


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