AI Startup Seeking to Return Japan to Former Glory

In the 80s and 90s, Japan was synonymous with cutting-edge technology. Innovations in tech development came from the Asian market directly into the Americas. All that changed when Samsung and Apple started taking over the market in the west. Now, a new tech startup in Japan seeks to help the county reclaim its title as a leader in tech. Preferred Networks has designed an artificial intelligence robot that can interact with changes in its environment in unique ways. However, the road to funding and success may be a long one in the Japanese market.

Poor Startup Culture

Startups in Japan have faced a lot of pressure, both from large companies and from funding sources. The mentality in Japan is that workers should aim to work for large corporations, meaning that many aren’t happy to be working for startup companies. Companies in Japan are very good at improving existing tech products, as well as coming up with innovations. However, implementing those innovations in a way that interests consumers seems to be lacking. The business-to-consumer communication that is crucial to modern marketing success is absent from Japanese tech companies.

Opportunities Limited in Japan’s Tech Scene

Daisuke Okanohara, the co-founder of Preferred Networks, mentions that the tech scene in Japan is underfunded, despite one of the world’s leading technology investment companies SoftBank coming from the country. Japan is a large market, but the US and Europe are far more significant by comparison. With the demand for products on those markets centered on consumer-driver technology, Japan’s engineering-driven tech isn’t seen as innovative enough.

The work culture of the country is heavily invested in salaried positions, with few incentives for workers to leave their stable jobs. Japan’s government takes an active role in directing tech investment, and Angel investors are non-existent. Even within this framework, Preferred Networks aims to stand out and repair the country’s brand image overseas. With funding from Toyota fueling the company’s AI tech development, the robot may become a reality and demonstrate Japanese innovation once again.