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GIF Osaka Conference Report

On October 28th 2021, the Japan Country Manager for the Rainmaking Innovation Japan team, Brian Lim, was honoured to be invited to be part of the panel discussion “The way of Osaka to startup hub – the potential of startup ecosystem in Kansai, Osaka” held during GIF (Global Innovation Forum) Osaka 2021 organised by the Osaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OCCI). GIF Osaka 2021 was designed as an entirely online event which consists of several valuable events such as online-exhibition, virtual live pitches, individual business meetings, and a conference. 

Along with panelists such as Mr. Yosuke Nakamura of the NLI Research Institute, Mr. Max Krichenbauer of MARUI-Plugin and Ms. Makiko Nakai from the Japan Association for the 2025 World Expo, Brian was able to share some of his thoughts as highlighted below on how Osaka can continue transforming itself into a startup hub so that the potential of the Kansai startup ecosystem can be realised:

Key strengths of the Kansai region

  • The Kansai region with major cities such as Osaka, Kyoto and Nara has unique advantages which are not easily replicable globally
  • With key assets, such as its rich history spanning more than 1,000 years, deep culture and focus on food, the Kansai region remains incredibly attractive to foreign startups, especially in the TravelTech and FoodTech space
  • Its catchment area of ~24M people also makes it one of the most densely-populated metropolitan areas in the world, and again this is attractive to startups that might be looking to reach a B2C customer segment
  • Corporates such as Hankyu Hanshin, JR West and Mitsubishi Electric have significant presence in the region which leads to vibrant industries and a strong business ecosystem. This helps startups looking to expand to Japan access a pool of potential B2B customers in industries related to Smart Cities
  • A strong talent pipeline due to the presence of leading universities in Kansai is another key factor for startups when making their decision in expanding to Japan


Why did Rainmaking decide to put down roots in Kansai

  • Through our strong partnerships with corporates such as Hankyu Hanshin Properties, JR West Innovation, Dentsu, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Tobacco, Sakura Internet, SMBC and Mitsubishi Electric, we made the decision to start our world-renowned Startupbootcamp Scale program right here in Osaka.
  • As our goals are focused around creating commercial impact for mature startups looking to expand to Japan and for our corporate partners, Kansai with its strong business ecosystem made it easy for us to make our decision to start in Osaka for Japan.
  • By ensuring our programs are focused on the design and management of Proof-of-Concepts, we help to ensure startups are able to test out the Japanese market , secure their first customers and make informed decisions on market expansion through our programs


Problems / weaknesses / bottlenecks faced by foreign startups

  • In my experience, most foreign startups face similar challenges all around the world
  • Hiring and talent are always one of the most important factors for startups when they grow, and a highly-skilled and educated workforce is crucial for the success of startups. Although Kansai produces these graduates and experienced professionals, the culture of working in startups is only beginning to take shape with more people opting for what is perceived as the “riskier” career path when joining startups. As the ecosystem continues to mature, foreign startups should find it much easier in the future on this front to hire and retain high-performing talent in the Kansai region
  • Another bottleneck faced by startups currently is the unclear immigration rules around long-term visa holders and short-term business travelers to Japan. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan has shut its borders completely multiple times in 2021. This is not conducive to the expansion of startups to Japan, and makes other locations such as South Korea and Taiwan more attractive as potential destinations for market expansion into Asia Pacific
  • Finally, one of the biggest problems faced by foreign startups during international expansion is the difficulty in securing their first customers. This is where Rainmaking / Startupbootcamp hopes to help, by facilitating Proof-of-Concepts between leading startups and Kansai-based corporates, we aim to create the best possible environment for PoCs to succeed and for startups to flourish, which directly helps their market expansion initiatives


On behalf of Rainmaking, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to Mr. Kentaro Nagao and the GIF organising team from OCCI for inviting us. We hope that together, we can continue building up the startup ecosystem in Kansai and advance the progress of innovation in Japan.

About Global Innovation Forum Osaka

The Global Innovation Forum Osaka (GIF), organized by the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) and the Osaka Business and Investment Center (O-BIC), is an online exhibition and business meeting matching event for domestic and foreign startups and companies working on cutting-edge technologies and innovative initiatives. This year’s event has expanded its program to include live pitches and online symposiums.

GIF provides a place to meet advanced startups and partners from around the world, as well as opportunities for new encounters and innovation with the aim of creating new business opportunities from Osaka.

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