Why Japan and Why Fukuoka

This first article has to start will a little bit of personal history.

About 3 years ago now, my girlfriend and I decide to come to Japan for an exchange program between our business school and a Japanese university. We didn’t have much choices in terms of cities and even universities since there was only one choice: Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka.

As you understand now, in the first place, Japan was a choice. We both always wanted to experiment the Japanese life. But Fukuoka wasn’t really a choice, it was sort of imposed. At that time, we didn’t even know the city and the only reason we ended here was because it was one of the sister cities of Bordeaux (city where we were doing our masters degree) and there was this exchange program.

I will probably come back on being a student in a Japanese university in a later post.

Moving a few months forward. While studying in Japan, we had the idea for our startup. Our concept was pretty simple: connecting the busy salarymen with university students so they can delegate a few of their daily tasks and live a little. Our goal and desire was to help the Japanese society and bring the sharing economy in Japan (not a lot of company doing it at that time).

After completing the requirements for our degree, we decided to jump into the entrepreneurial adventure. We took our savings, our idea and we had to decide where to set our business.

Why Japan?

We had the idea for our startup here and our goal was to help the Japanese society (as mentioned above)

We really fell in love with the lifestyle and wanted to come back

Sharing economy was still new and we felt there was an opportunity (confirmed by our market researches)

Why Fukuoka?

Fukuoka wasn’t a rash decision. We took time and seriously hesitated between the city we used to live in and Tokyo. In the end, our choice was Fukuoka, we listed the pros and cons and here there are:

Demographics

Fukuoka is a medium size city (1.5million habitants) and its population is pretty young. Average of 40 years old-ish. This makes of the city a very active city, very lively. Business wise, a young population means that people are more open minded, more prone to change and willing to accept new concepts.

Startup ecosystem

Fukuoka’s startup ecosystem is still in its early days. Not as many startups here as in other big cities like Tokyo. It has its cons (obviously), everything has to be built, we don’t have a lot of investors here, not so many English meetups etc. But it also has many advantages. The community being young and still small, it is easier to get recognition and get your name on the map. People are also much more motivated. We all have to work together to grow the ecosystem and people are willing to help and share their experience.

Startup cafe

The perfect hub to dive into Fukuoka’s startup scene. It is really the place to go to get any information on the city’s startup program, to get one on one consultation with business experts who can help you connect with influencers in the city, polish your business plan etc. Every Thursday, they also offer free consultations from immigration lawyers, lawyers, tax accountants etc. When you are a foreigner trying to start a business in Japan (where everything is different from your home country) those consultations are huge money and time saver. The startup cafe also organizes a lot if event, almost (if not) everyday day of the week. Perfect to get additional information or just get some business cards. Even if most of the event are in Japanese, I highly recommend attending a few of those events. My Japanese is far from perfect and I forced myself to attend a few events. It trained my ear to Japanese (good to improve language skills) but the networking cessions were worth the pain.

Help on site

As mentioned before, the startup is more than helpful and can help you handle most situation. The startup Fukuoka program is also closely followed from the city government. The city is taking care of its entrepreneur and is helping you by putting you on the right track and make the right introduction if they can.

Lifestyle

Fukuoka has been ranked 7th most livable city in the world. You will not regret starting a new life here. The city, the people, the art, the energy, the food. Everything is here for you to be in the best conditions. Starting a business is stressful enough, the city compensates by providing a safe and chill environment.

Hub for Asia

Just come and you’ll understand this point. Briefly: Fukuoka is very well situated and allows you to get to most South East Asian country in no time. Perfect for your future expansion plans :) The city has its own airport, and it’s very very well situated. You can get there using the subway and it’s only 15 minutes-ish from Tenjin.

Competition

I mentioned this above. No so many startups in Fukuoka, it therefore means less competition. Our case is the perfect example: all sharing economy companies are in Tokyo, but none were in Fukuoka. Giving us a first comer advantage here (don’t worry it’s not our only differentiation).

Burn rate

Life in Fukuoka is overall cheaper than Tokyo for example. Rent, food, salaries etc. everything is cheaper. So obviously you can do way more with 10 million yen in Fukuoka than in Tokyo.

Great news for us, we made the good choice. After more than a year working on our company, we can without a doubt say that we wouldn’t have had the results we have in Tokyo.

We also got lucky. Before coming to Fukuoka, we weren’t aware of the desire the city had to become more startup friendly and more international. We arrived at the right time and got the chance to benefit from a lot of new programs (and older once) that we didn’t even know existed when we made our decision. Here are even more reasons to set your business here in Fukuoka:

Join the startup Fukuoka team

Benefit from the startup visa

Get loans (partnerships between the city and local banks)

Subsidies program

Use the startup matching program (for recruiting)

Each of those four points take quiet some time to cover so I’ll dedicate an article to each of them.

You should now have a better understanding of what brought us to start our company in Fukuoka. If you have any additional question don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section. I’ll do my best to answer or at least ask someone who can.

This article was originally published on https://startupinjapan.wordpress.com