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Business Insight

Silicon Valley Eyes Tokyo

Mayu Yoshida

Tokyo is trying to lure some of the Silicon Valley spirit of innovation. Entrepreneurs and investors from the valley are visiting the capital for a conference this week.

Tokyo's bustling Shibuya district is a place where new trends begin -- and it's where one of the largest conferences on business startups, Tech in Asia, is taking place.

More than 500 entrepreneurs from all over Asia are gathered at this building in Tokyo. Why? To get startup tips, and maybe if they're lucky, find some investors. That includes some top-notch investors from Silicon Valley.

Yoshida spoke with Dave McClure, a venture capitalist from the valley, who's a Founding Partner of 500 Startups. He announced on Tuesday a $30 million fund for Japanese startups. Yoshida asked him why he thinks there's so much potential here.

He said there's not as much competition for entrepreneurial resources in Japan. He points out that a lot of potential has been overlooked, and he wants to get started investing in them and provide more capital for the early stages when people are getting their businesses off the ground.

McClure says the main challenge in the past has been lack of access to capital, but in the last few years, many venture capitalist firms have been popping up, so more capital is available. He says cyber-commerce is strong in Japan, thanks to widespread use of smartphones and familiarity with online transactions.

When asked about his plans on investments in Japan and other Asian countries, he said, "We still think there's a huge opportunity for writing that very first check as companies get their products to market. So a lot of investments-- maybe, say $100,000 US-sized checks-- we think we can probably do 10 to 20 of those investments every year. And we're looking forward to finding a great bunch of Japanese entrepreneurs, some which will be doing business here in Japan and some which will be doing global business."

He says he wants more new businesses in online education and healthcare, and hopes his company will give Japanese startups a higher profile in Silicon Valley.

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