The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Each year, participants in the Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC) put hundreds of hours into crafting business plans as they compete for the coveted top spot in the “mini MBA program” that has propelled many aspiring and existing leaders and entrepreneurs to business success.

The coronavirus pandemic presented challenges during the final months of this year’s process, but that didn’t stop the dedi­cated parti­cipants, mentors, and judges from seeing the plans through. Nor did it stop the celebration and recogni­tion of winners as the gala event—normally held at Tokyo American Club—took place virtually on June 3.

Thirteen teams comprising up to five members each researched, analyzed, and presented customized Japanese market expansion plans for their project client companies as part of JMEC 26.

The journey for the 61 program contestants, representing 19 nationalities, began last August with information sessions. From November to January, the participants—all mid-career business professionals working in Japan—attended a series of weekend lectures on business, accounting, market research, marketing, and presentation skills conducted by leading person­alities from Japan’s international business community. In mid-January, contestants were placed into 13 teams and given their research projects.

Many teams were lucky to be able to travel and accomplish many steps, such as interviewing potential collaborators and market experts, as well as researching distribution channels, before the Covid-19 state of emergency was declared.

With that information in hand, each produced a lengthy written business plan and a summary presentation targeted at both the project clients and the judging panel. After months of research, data analysis, and endless video conferences, the teams presented their business plans virtually to the panel of four judges on May 23 and 24.

JMEC Executive Committee Chairman Tom Whitson said: “JMEC 26 was conducted under the challenging conditions of a national state of emergency, due to Covid-19, which severely curtailed much of the research and interaction that preparing a business plan entails. I want to congratulate all the participants for their dedication to this project that resulted in a series of excellent business plans. You have all well and truly earned your certificates as graduates of our JMEC business training program.

“On behalf of the JMEC team, I want to thank the 12 compa­nies that submitted projects to the program as well as the lecturers, judges, team mentors, and consultants who gave up days of their time to make this program a success.”

The JMEC judging panel, being senior executives and successful entrepreneurs in Tokyo, evaluated and scored the written plans, as well as the team oral presentations. JMEC Judge Rike Wootten said: “The quality of this year’s plans was exceptional—very little separated the winning teams. When we read the final plans and saw the presentations, we were impressed with the detail and in­sights the teams came up with under such difficult circumstances.”

First prize went to Team 12, who developed a business plan for cutting-edge Spanish biotechnology company AlgaEnergy, which creates product solutions derived from microalgae for a range of industries such as agriculture, nutrition, cosmetics, and aqua­culture. The team focused on the roll-out of cosmetic brand MareVitae®. AlgaEnergy Expansion Director Miguel Rodríguez-Villa said: “The quality of the team’s work was exceptional and exceeded our expectations, with profound and valuable insights on the Japanese market, which are very useful for an appropriate approach regarding our expansion plans in Japan. On behalf of AlgaEnergy, congratulations to the team for their first-place prize!”

Team 13 took second prize with a business plan for Sun Tamaniwa Farm, an indoor vertical farming project by Hamish Ross, a Tokyo-based entrepreneur and investor. Ross said: “I was very impressed by the depth and conclusions of the plan, which was way beyond my original expectations. It has given me the confidence to progress with the project, because the team were able to access potential customers and ideas that I hadn’t thought of. Flexibility and the ability to think outside the box are a hallmark of JMEC teams, and this team showed such characteristics in spades.”

Third prize went to Team 3, in another presentation for AlgaEnergy, which  focused on microalgae-based solutions for the food and beverage industry—specifically condiments enriched with microalgae. AlgaEnergy Development Projects Manager José María de Gregorio Muñiz said: “Our JMEC team presented their findings and business plan to us last week, and we were much impressed by the quality of their research, analysis, and outcomes. The team was very well organized and highly dedi­cated to the project, and their plan will enable us to draw very valuable conclusions!”

Three others received special honors from the judging panel to recognizing out­standing efforts.

Team 6 received the Best Presentation Award for an impressive oral presentation to the JMEC judges for Global Dreamers Lab, a visionary museum facility project in Tokyo by Carl Williams, a US Air Force veteran with deep ties to Japan. At the museum, people from all backgrounds can find and nourish their dreams through interactive and extraordinary educational experiences.

“The JMEC team produced a business plan that was way above and beyond my expectations, and amplified my initial ideas,” Williams said. “The plan provides a solid foundation and roadmap for taking the project forward, and I congratulate my highly dedicated team on their well-deserved award!”

The Best Market Research Award went to Team 2 for their extensive and outstanding market research efforts for Herniamesh, an Italian maker of medical devices, including surgical mesh solutions, sold through their worldwide distri­bu­­tion network. Marketing and Sales Area Manager Marco Bertolino said, “We were very happy with the team’s final business plan, which provided highly useful research and analysis to help us re-enter the Japanese market—and I congra­tulate the team on their award!”

Team 8 won the Best Executive Summary Award for a poten­­­tial market re-entry project for Ardex, a global company head­quartered in Germany that is a leading solution and service provider of innova­tive tile and flooring systems. Andreas Oberecker, the company’s Asia regional managing director, said: “Choosing JMEC as partner for our project proved to be absolutely the right decision. Our JMEC team was highly moti­vated and moved quickly, and we were impressed by the level of technical and commercial detail that was uncovered.”


To learn how to participate in JMEC 27, visit:

First Prize
Team 12: Jonathan Ho, Yasuko Yoshino, Hiroshi Koyama, Hailan Huang, Takenori Nishimura
Project Client: AlgaEnergy—MareVitae® Cosmetics

Second Prize
Team 13: James Greer, Miyuki Sasaki, Toshifumi Suzuki, Bogna Baliszewska, Ngo Van Nguyen
Project Client: Sun Tamaniwa Farm

Third Prize
Team 3: Geoffrey Kayiira, Nonoka Tajiri, Shunsuke Akiyama, Noriko Kubodera, Javier Lopez Gimenez
Project Client: AlgaEnergy—Macami Food Condiments

Best Presentation
Team 6: Amanda Marshall, Yuta Nagasaki, Tatsuro Oshimoto, Derrick Sugiyama
Project Client: Global Dreamers Lab

Best Market Research
Team 2: Xing Zhang, Shisa Hoshino, Hajime Watanabe, Jinghui ‘Sunny’ Huang|
Project Client: Herniamesh

Best Executive Summary
Team 8: Charles Feuchter, Yuka Miyazaki, Diah Wasis Wulandari, Yusa Kawauchi, Yuichi Fujimori
Project Client: Ardex

To learn how to participate in JMEC 27, visit: