I love Japan. This section of my website is all about my personal connection to the country and Japanese people as well as intersections between my other passions (poker, startups, etc) and Japan.
I will be creating Japanese translations of startup resources and linking to them on this page. I will also link to other websites where translations have already been created.
I have no Japanese language ability and I am not currently learning Japanese. So why am I providing these resources?
The reasons are simple. I used to teach English language to many students from Japan at a school in Sydney. They were all young adults.
Many of them had just finished university. It was common to see a transformation occur during their stay in Sydney.
For many (not all), once they got over the culture shock they often felt a tremendous sense of freedom and liberation. I know it's a cliche but it's what I saw happening with my own eyes.
These students had two choices: try to stay in Australia or return to Japan. Staying would be difficult legally, socially and financially but a sense of freedom would hopefully come with it.
Returning would be easier in a practical sense but they would have to answer a question in their mind: "Can I return to Japan and be happy?"
The ones who wanted to stay often had a common sentiment. They wanted a freedom to design their lives that they felt would be difficult to have in Japan. Western society is very individualistic.
This makes it easier for startups as well as the people who build them. Startup founders attempt to create new business models that disrupt industries. They also challenge conventional wisdom and the status quo. It's a bottom-up approach to innovation.
Japan is rightly famous for it's post-war record of economic growth and innovation. But the rules of innovation have changed and Japan has failed to change with it.
Japan's biggest companies used to be synonymous with innovation: Sony, Sharp, Fuji, Canon, etc.. With the exception of the big car manufacturers these same companies are now considered examples of organisations who have fundamentally failed to adapt with the market (the car manufacturers of Japan may have escaped attention as the US auto industry has declined in such spectacular fashion).
In terms of the physical creation of goods they've been overtaken by China. In terms of creating exciting and innovative products they have been overtaken by Korea and an ever strong Silicon Valley.
With an ageing population Japan needs to rediscover it's ambition as a country. That's the macro picture. I'm not a macro guy. I'm a startup guy.
I believe in the power of small groups to create massive change. I believe every country should value its startup community including Australia and Japan.
This is something all of us in the startup tribe believe. I'm not saying Japan needs to be more like Australia or USA. What I'm saying is that I always wished my Japanese students felt and truly believed they had a third option.
This is for my tribe in Japan.
This is for my former students who wanted a third option.
This is for Noriko.
You can find a comprehensive list of all of Paul Graham's essays translated here.