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Startups

Japan support group for startups targets enterprising foreigners

BooSTAR X plans $10m fund to nurture country's hidden talent

Minjie Xiao, right, and Kevin Guo, center, at the kickoff for BooSTAR X in Tokyo on Dec. 1, 2020. (Photo by Shuhei Yamada)

TOKYO -- An organization to help foreign residents in Japan launch new businesses was founded in December by two business person born in China, including a noted economist.

BooSTAR X plans to set up an investment fund next year to support foreign residents looking to become entrepreneurs, its founders said. "The ratio of foreigners to entrepreneurs is too low in Japan," co-founder Kevin Guo said at the kickoff for BooSTAR X in Tokyo on Dec. 1.

While foreigners account for more than 20% of graduate school students in the country, the ratio of foreigners to entrepreneurs is less than 2%, according to the group.

In Silicon Valley, foreigners account for nearly 50% of entrepreneurs. BooSTAR X wants to see the ratio in Japan hit 20% to 30%, similar to Beijing and Shanghai.

Guo is founder and managing partner of AIS Capital, a Tokyo-based investment company he established in 2017. Born in China, Guo set up AIS after handling startup investments for Daiwa Securities and other companies. His experience includes management of a 2 billion yen ($19.30 million) fund for midterm and later startups about to go public.

With BooSTAR X, Gou is looking at foreign-run startups at the seed stage or even earlier. It not only offers advice but may also provide financial assistance to promising young companies out of a proposed 1 billion yen fund it intends to establish in the first half of 2021.

Minjie Xiao, managing partner of BooSTAR X, said at the kickoff that Japan has strong companies, especially in manufacturing, which makes it an "internationally competitive place for starting new businesses."

Xiao, who is also a managing partner at AIS, is a noted economist specializing in macroeconomic analysis of China. Before joining AIS, he worked as an economist in charge of China at the Daiwa Institute of Research and other businesses. "I've become more willing to put theories I have studied into practice," Xiao said. While continuing to analyze the Chinese economy, Xiao will spend 70% of his work hours nurturing entrepreneurs.

His theoretical approach at BooSTAR X complements Guo's deep business experience.

The planned investment fund at BooSTAR X will help develop startups until they go public. Both Xiao and Guo said the organization sees potentially successful entrepreneurs brewing at graduate schools in Japan. BooSTAR X will help the "seeds of innovation buried at Japanese graduate schools bloom" through its advice and capital, the partners said.

BooSTAR X has already received inquiries from 10 would-be entrepreneurs from China. It also hopes to attract those from other regions around Southeast Asia.

Japanese industry may soon welcome the initiative by Xiao and Guo to revalue "Made in Japan" innovation.

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