Starting up Officience Japan

In June 2013, after yet another visit from potential Japanese customers, an old dream of mine resurfaced: Making the leap and go settle in Tokyo. I had already visited the country in 2008 as a solo backpacker adventure on my way back to France from Vietnam, and the feeling at that time was difficult to describe, an odd mix of bustle and peacefulness. Five years later, here I was pondering how to make a first step.

Meeting people is easy

I started talking around about the idea to spend a couple of weeks there, and something interesting happened: a lot of people I already knew had connections in Tokyo. In only a few weeks I managed to put together a list of 20 contacts I should meet during my first short trip. By november 2013 I was on my flight to Japan, and rediscovered the magic that I had experienced five years before.

On a personal level, I dug one step deeper into the “social” me. After having spent a couple of years reconnecting with former classmates, I was now having meetup after meetup with total “strangers”. And most of the time, we would find a common topic, which would make the discussion really interesting. Before that I would have defined myself as a rather introvert person, and this experience made me realize how much I enjoyed listening to people telling their — often original — stories, especially during one-on-one discussions. I was also quite surprised at how open they were to meeting me, and I rarely got anyone saying “sorry, I am too busy”. Yes, meeting people is that easy.

French Tech Japan & Startup Articles

Less than a year later, in August 2014, we launched the Japanese arm of La French Tech with a group of friends I had met. With a mission to connect French entrepreneurs around Japan as well as accompany those who would want to settle there, the community grew from zero to 200 members in about 4 months. This enabled me to meet more French entrepreneurs and write about their stories.

It was now early 2015, and after several short trips to Tokyo, the plan to move was starting to take shape. The few discussions I had also confirmed that it made sense, and that Officience Japan — or rather オフィシエンス as it would become — could bring value: One example was the dire need for talented engineers, and Vietnam could definitely offer that (provided they could at least mumble some Japanese words). FPT was already hiring 300 Vietnamese engineers in Tokyo alone. Japanese companies of all sorts were still discovering how to “tap” into Vietnam’s potential, and even better, not as a blue-collar destination anymore.

“So when do you move to Tokyo?”

Interestingly, the more I talked about the plan, the more I was tagged as the guy who’s going to move to Japan. Every single time I would meet friends, they would ask about my plan (which, honestly, became a bit exhausting). And being focused on that plan created two things: First, all of my connections now had a mental sticky note which said Sylvain = Japan, which led to even more introductions and to “Wait, you should meet that guy” moments. More importantly, I was committed. I had to move.

At this point, it was just a matter of time (and a lot of paperwork) before I would finally move. I spent another couple of months in Tokyo at the end of 2015, and started 2016 with a single objective: Open our Officience Japan representative office. In April 2016, during a coffee talk with a friend (in Tokyo, again), I was sharing my struggles to find a place to stay and set up my office, when it suddenly came up: “Hey, you know I have some apartments for rent?”. What happened next is summarized with a single picture:

What’s next?

Obviously, this is just the beginning, and I’ll now have to prove that it was not a terrible idea after all to jump into that Japan adventure. Learning Japanese will be a pet project of mine. On the “business” side, I see plenty of opportunities to make a bridge between France, Japan and Vietnam, especially to prove that Vietnam is a destination worth considering if you’re looking for talented engineers and creative minds. Officience now has interesting Graphic Design and Mobile Applications portfolios, and with Tokyo 2020 Olympics around the corner as well as a bourgeoning startup ecosystem, Japan is probably one of the places to be in the coming 4 years.

I could not end without saying I feel truly grateful for all the awesome people I have met so far, and all the precious help I received from them. This adventure would have never started if it wasn’t for them.


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