The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

The Entrepreneur Awards Japan (TEAJ) honored innovative and promising Japanese and international entrepreneurs again this year, at a ceremony hosted on April 27 by Swedish Ambassador to Japan Magnus Robach. Now in its fifth year, TEAJ celebrates the endeavors of a thriving, and changing entrepreneur community in Japan.

In 2010, its inaugural year, Japanese made up less than 30 percent of all TEAJ applicants, only two of whom were women. This year, Japanese nationals accounted for over 70 percent of applicants, with an even gender mix—an impressive change.

Since its creation, TEAJ’s goal has been to hold an annual event that honors the top innovators and entrepreneurs of the year, selected through participating business competitions, in order to provide both greater momentum and support for the whole community, as well as a superb networking opportunity.

Since its founding, TEAJ and the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s (ACCJ’s) Entrepreneur Mentoring Initiative (EMI) programs have helped provide increased resources to talented individuals, who are the force behind many new emerging ventures.

Although the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Japan is expanding, and opportunities for talented individuals to launch new emerging ventures are on the rise, it is still a challenge to be an entrepreneur here. Ups and downs—and even failures—remain along the road to a successful business venture.

Nurturing talent
In order to help entrepreneurs on the way, TEAJ focuses on encouraging graduates and alumni of the TEAJ and EMI programs to stay connected and contribute their valuable insights to help improve the prospects for budding businesses. Their collective wisdom aims to create a new context for game-changing innovation and sustainable enterprises.

Winners of this year’s six TEAJ awards include a company using proprietary IT for supply chain management, a clothing designer producing professional women’s wear, a mapping and walking tour app, and a cutting-edge, social media brand-recognition technology. The ceremony also recognized key support programs and mentors, and provided welcome recognition of the accomplishments of entrepreneurs in Japan.

On the rise
At this year’s ceremony, the U.S. Embassy in Japan’s Economic Minister-Counselor Jessica Webster, along with the ACCJ, presented the U.S. Business Award to BizReach founder Soichiro Minami, whose business model “best represents the risk-embracing spirit of Silicon Valley.”

Minami has expanded the company to more than 500 employees since it was launched in 2009, and has laid down plans for future growth.
BizReach operates an online career networking service that allows professionals to share and connect with talent-seeking companies.

BizReach founder Soichiro Minami receiving the U.S. Business Award

BizReach founder Soichiro Minami receiving the U.S. Business Award

The idea for the company originated with Minami’s experience during his own job search, when he was surprised at the lack of transparency in the Japanese employment market. He was fascinated by the idea of leveraging technology to open up more opportunities for both employers and employees.

Through the BizReach platform, job seekers can share their professional information directly with companies, helping to transform not only traditional behaviors around the employment search, but also allowing companies the ability to better match existing open positions to applicants with the relevant skill set, ultimately benefiting both the employee and the employer.

The company continues to work on its goal of increasing the transparency and efficiency of the employment market, recently having announced plans to launch Stanby, a free service—derived from a cloud-based recruiting management platform—that aims to aggregate online job listings in Japan and supplement them with information from offline job postings.

Throughout the coming year, Minami will be included in Embassy networking events and targeted economy-related activities.
He will also have the opportunity to attend ACCJ events, and will receive professional mentoring from an ACCJ member entrepreneur.

Working with the entrepreneurial community and other partners in Japan—including the Swedish and U.S. Embassies in Tokyo, as well as the ACCJ—the TEAJ and EMI programs seek to create an environment where innovation and risk-taking in business can thrive.