The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


January 2014

The spirit of enterprise
Annual event honors Japan’s top innovators

By Patricia Bader-Johnston

The Entrepreneur Awards Japan and the ACCJ’s Entrepreneur Mentoring Initiative (EMI) are coordinated by organizations that are working to recognize and support entrepreneurs in Japan.

It was agreed in 2010 that having one annual event to honor the top innovators and entrepreneurs of the year—selected through participating business competitions—would provide greater momentum and support for the whole community, as well as a superb networking opportunity.

The EMI began in 2009 as a discussion about supporting women entrepreneurs in Tokyo after it was discovered that there were no women among the 120 applicants to the Japan-based EY Entrepreneur of the Year program. This led to the development in 2010 of the Groundbreakers Award.

Moreover, the suite of awards grew further. Former US Ambassador John Roos supported the effort by hosting The Entrepreneur Awards Japan at his residence, and initiated a special US Ambassador’s Award to provide support to a young entrepreneur with high potential through embassy events and networks.

Winners of the coveted Groundbreakers Award include Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn; Mikael Hed, founder of Rovio Mobile Ltd. that produces the popular online mobile game Angry Birds; and Randa Ayoubi, CEO of Rubicon Group Holding.

For many participants, the EMI provides an opportunity to meet great people and be part of a wonderful learning experience based on mentorship and community support.

While Japan is responding enthusiastically to Abenomics and has a renewed focus on the future, we have seen mounting interest in entrepreneurship here. Although a growing number of organizations now actively support this spirit of free enterprise, self-employment is not a common aspiration in Japan.

The word “entrepreneur” is often considered a euphemism for a person who can’t find a real job. This is slowly starting to change and a new meaning is emerging. The word now is being applied to “people who want to take charge of their own futures” and use their independence to shape the future of work for themselves and their country.

Mavericks, such as Rakuten, Inc. founder Hiroshi Mikitani, represent a new type of young Japanese businessman, and are being held up as role models for entrepreneurs.

With this in mind, the program introduces mentors and potential investors. Many EMI alumni have become connected to an increasingly global network of business colleagues through their experiences.

The competition for the 2013 EMI awards opens this month. Four awards will be offered.

The U.S. Embassy’s Award. The winner will be supported by the United States Embassy Tokyo and invited to all innovation- and entrepreneur-focused events during the year.

The Groundbreakers Award (sponsored by Dell). The winner will attend the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network in Austin, Texas.

The Venture Generation Award, which includes a range of mentoring activities and business support for a global entrepreneur.

The ACCJ Director’s Award, offering special access to selected ACCJ events throughout the year.

Each award recipient will be assigned a mentor from the Tokyo business community and lifetime membership of the EMI Alumni Network.

Further details:

BaderDividerPatricia Bader-Johnston is the founding chair of EMI/TEAJ, and advisor to the Tokyo Business Development Center.