日本人不愛創業背後的二三事

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日本的移動互聯網曾經一度領先世界其他國家很多年。但是在這一輪以智能手機為核心的移動互聯網創業大潮到來的時候,我們驚奇地發現,中國在許多方面已經開始和日本處於同一起跑線,甚至要超過日本了。當蘋果的 App Store 和 Google 的 Google Play 讓全球的移動互聯網創業者開始處於同一起跑線後,中國公司開發的 App 開始在美國、日本大肆攻城略地,相比之下,日本公司開發出來的 App 數量要少得多。

japan-startup

日本的移動互聯網曾經一度領先世界其他國家很多年。但是在這一輪以智能手機為核心的移動互聯網創業大潮到來的時候,我們驚奇地發現,中國在許多方面已經開始和日本處於同一起跑線,甚至要超過日本了。當蘋果的 App Store 和 Google 的 Google Play 讓全球的移動互聯網創業者開始處於同一起跑線後,中國公司開發的 App 開始在美國、日本大肆攻城略地,相比之下,日本公司開發出來的 App 數量要少得多。

那麼,是什麼阻礙了日本互聯網的創業氛圍呢?

日本社會不寬容失敗

和許多日本朋友交流時,他們都談到日本是一個不寬容失敗的社會。在日本的社會中,一個人假如失敗,他會在社會中很難生存下去,不僅周圍的朋友看不起他,想找個工作非常困難,討不到老婆,也通不過銀行房貸的信用審核。這樣的社會現實決定了,年輕人在想去創業時必然畏手畏腳。而在硅谷,許多 VC 都願意投資那些失敗過一兩次的企業,美國人認為有過失敗教訓的人下一次創業更容易成功。

此外,日本的年輕人不愛出風頭。我有個在日本讀書的朋友回憶道,日本從上世紀八九十年代開始推行素質教育,走入了一個誤區,扼殺競爭,強調團體。這樣的教育體制導致了日本的年輕人比較從眾,幼兒園、小學的賽跑都是手牽手集體通過終點的。大學 4 年,甚至都不知道哪個同學的成績好,哪個同學的成績差,因為所有人的成績都是不公開的。這樣的教育體制讓很多人都不願意出風頭。而創業是很需要出風頭的事情。

日本的本土 VC 行業並不發達,而且相對來說創業的項目也少很多。中國有許多 Copy 2 China 的創業項目,即看到什麼東西在美國比較火,很快就有一批創業公司開始抄到國內了,而在日本,人們普遍不屑於這種方式,這讓創業的門檻變得很高。

阻礙日本人創業另外一個原因是,NTT DoCoMo、豐田、Sony、Sharp、Fujitsu 這樣的大企業壟斷了日本社會的太多資源。日本的大企業之間往往有著千絲萬縷的財閥關係,許多日本大企業交叉持股,關係深厚,大企業及關聯公司壟斷了包括周邊業務在內的全部業務。

長期以來,日本的利率都徘徊在 0 利率甚至負利率。利率是一個國家的人是否願意冒險的一個重要衡量指標。日本人普遍願意把錢存入銀行,沒有人願意冒險創業,導致銀行利率非常之低。

日本的終身僱傭制阻礙創業

日本人不愛創業的另一個因素是,日本企業有著根深蒂固的「終身僱傭制」。終身僱傭制是由被尊為經營之神的松下幸之助提出,他表示松下不會開除任何一名員工,讓員工可以安心工作。松下幸之助的這種經營理念被許多日本公司所接受。一直到戰後的 50 年代,日本企業開始普遍形成了終身僱傭制的傳統,並為日本經濟的崛起立下了汗馬功勞。

在 Sony、Panasonic、任天堂、Sharp、豐田、本田所處的工業時代,終身僱傭制的確大顯神威。因為這種制度大大減少了員工因頻繁跳槽所導致的社會資源浪費。二戰後,由於日本經濟發展很快,社會普遍出現勞動力不足的現象。

當時日本企業為了穩定熟練工人隊伍,防止工人「跳槽」,普遍實行了「年功序列工資制」。所謂「年功序列工資制」,就是根據職工的學歷和工齡長短確定其工資水平的做法,工齡越長,工資也越高,職務晉陞的可能性也越大。

在日本,即使是表現不佳的員工通常也不會被開除,相反,他們會被禮貌地排除在核心之外,被調往鄉下的分支機構或動不動就調動崗位或給份閒差直到退休。

對於一個普通日本人來說,由於有了終身僱傭制的保證和定期加薪,他們將來的收入不斷增加的前提下,可以安排貸款買房、準備孩子的教育費用、生老病死也可以依靠國家的國民健康保險制度和企業的各種福利解決。這些使得日本人處在一個非常安心的社會環境中,他們希望考進一流大學,再進一流企業或者國家機關,從此一生生活無憂,這便是日本人的典型心態。

這讓許多大企業的員工不願意辭職出來創業因為辭職意味著你過去積累的所有資歷都一筆勾銷,一旦失敗後果非常嚴重。

而互聯網的一大特徵就是需要冒險,如果你不願意冒險,怎麼會有創造力呢?

日本新一代互聯網企業家求變

二戰之後,日本受到美國文化的影響非常深入。日本人對強大的美國普遍持一種很崇拜的心態。美國的互聯網文化近年來對日本年輕人的影響也非常深入。一個很著名的例子就是,《社交網絡》這部美國電影在日本播出後,facebook 在日本的註冊量開始猛增。

因此日本近年來也開始湧現出一批不那麼傳統的互聯網創業者,其中的典型代表是樂天的創始人三木谷浩史和 GREE 的創始人田中良和。三木谷浩史的父親是耶魯大學教授,因此他受美國文化影響很深,幾年前他在樂天中強制推行英語辦公,要求所有員工必須在短期內學會流利的英語,否則就要解僱或者降職,這在日本社會中引起了極大震動。而日本著名社交網絡公司 GREE 的創始人田中良和也有著類似的特徵,他在日本的企業家當中顯得特立獨行,因而也引起了不小的爭議。

不管怎樣,三木谷浩史和田中良和依靠互聯網創業,年紀輕輕就成為了日本富豪榜上排名很靠前的人物,還是對日本年輕人有很大的觸動,在東京的六本木等地,仍然聚集了相當數量的創業者,日本社會正在改變。

日本人不願意創業的現狀,也對中國有重要的啟發。中國表面繁榮的創業大潮下面,其實也隱藏著深深的浮躁。在美國,人們創業更多地是為了實現自己人生的夢想,或者純粹是因為興趣。而在中國,整個社會向上爬升的通道有限,一大批「屌絲」出身的人為了改變自己的命運,都拚命地去擠創業獨木橋,導致中國的創業競爭過於激烈,電商賺錢,馬上一批人投身電商,團購賺錢,馬上一批人去做團購,App 賺錢,馬上一批人去做 App。導致許多行業大家都賺不到錢。

和日本社會類似,中國社會也對失敗的寬容有限,導致許多創業者一旦失敗,就很難再爬起來。這也是我們需要時刻提防的。和日本類似,中國的騰訊、百度、阿里巴巴等互聯網大企業開始日益控制產業的資源,導致創業公司很難抬頭,這也會大大阻礙行業的創新能力。

Source : Forbes

Japan is one of the most industrious societies in the world, but it has long been considered a land of contradictions. It is a country that changed from being a closed island nation (nearly 100 years behind the times technology-wise by 1870) to defeating Russia, a major European power just 30 years later in the Russo-Japanese war of 1905. Despite the intense periods of change in its history, it is remarkably slow to change its ways of business and politics. Japan is known for its technology industries, but is often accused of lacking true innovation. Japan is highly dependent on its connections with the outside world for resources and trade, but is still very much closed off and hard to penetrate. Among these contradictions is the “Japanese Startup Gap”: Japan, as all modern societies, has benefited greatly from the innovation and value creation of entrepreneurship, yet has a culture that is highly resistant against, if not openly hostile to startups.

While entrepreneurs are ubiquitous in Japan as shop owners and small business people focused on highly localized markets, “Startup Entrepreneurs” are rare. For the purpose of this analysis, “Startups” are companies that form in search of as-yet-unproven business models –companies like Google GOOG -0.02%, Yahoo YHOO -1.61%, Square and Ebay EBAY -0.64%. The difficulty in Japanese entrepreneurship comes when they attempt to create market geometries that reach beyond hyper-local ‘street corner’ markets to national or global scale. Startup entrepreneurs are present of course, but often seen as a ‘breed apart’.

What Are The Best Ways To Think Of Ideas For A Startup?

Our first clue to the state of startup entrepreneurship in Japan comes from the Japanese language itself. When I first visited Japan almost 20 years ago, as now, I was an entrepreneur – and would introduce myself as such. In Japanese there are not any specific words (that I was aware of) that convey the full meaning of the English/French word “entrepreneur”. The closest I could get was “Kojin de bijinessu wo keiei shiteimasu”. That means “I am running a business on my own (without the aid of an organization or external capital”). This type of introduction immediately triggers a specific set of emotional reactions in Japan:

You are practically unemployed.

You must be an outsider, since you are not participating in a corporate business structure. Perhaps you are not good enough to be accepted in such a desirable institution so you are doing something else.

You are going to fail.

Right off the bat, we are feeling pretty hostile with regard to entrepreneurship in Japan.

Beyond the language nuances, there are also very serious social implications for entrepreneurship in Japan. When Japanese take the leap and become entrepreneurs they can inadvertently threaten the social assumptions of the people around them. Individuals in traditional roles in Japan must tow the line, subjugating themselves and their initiative, time, and ideas to the needs of their respective groups. This is accepted, though not relished by most Japanese. When group members successfully break out of the social norm and start their own businesses, it can cause a painful reevaluation amongst those who chose to stick with the group and avoided such risk. I spent over 5 years working for a large Japanese semiconductor manufacturer, and knew top executives who had seen one of their team members leave the company years before and found his own venture. That engineer is now a recognized success story, appearing on television and in publications. When talking about their entrepreneur friend, the company executives shook their heads, their body language and expressions (interpreted by me) as regret at not having taken such risks themselves.

Yet another contradiction of entrepreneurs is that while on one hand the common wisdom says “it can’t be done”, there is simultaneously a culture that celebrates the most successful entrepreneurs as legendary figures. The founders of established Japanese companies like Honda, Toyota, and Panasonic have been elevated to almost ‘superhuman’ status – a stratospheric level of regard reserved for very few. Despite the hero worship of these company founders, there is very little sense that such success can be achieved by people in the here and now.

Another difficulty in Japan for startup entrepreneurs is the high cost of failure. As many traditional cultures around the world, failure is not regarded as a valuable resource, and the social cost of failure is very high. Unlike Silicon Valley, where startup failure is often regarded as a valuable credential, starting a company and closing down would be extremely embarrassing and would likely result in a loss of social status in Japan. This high social cost is a clear impediment to innovation. Without failure, it is improbable that entrepreneurs can gain the wisdom and experience to succeed in meaningful ways, and as a result across the board you see less people taking chances.

In discussing this topic with a Japanese entrepreneur in Tokyo in February of this year, it was pointed out that access to startup capital is another problem in Japan. The fact is that there there are no established VC ecosystems or precedent for intersecting talent, ideas, and capital in structured ways as we commonly see in the US.

Beyond the psychological and purely financial barriers, business itself is resistant to entry of new startups. Established power and economic patterns reflexively protect themselves through network barriers and sometimes through legislation.

This resistance to entrepreneurs is, like many things in Japan, slowly changing. For one thing, as a manager from a major Japanese corporation pointed out to me in an interview for this article, corporate lifetime employment is no longer a choice – so this fact alone shifts workers more towards the sphere of entrepreneurship.

Horie Takafumi, founder of Japan’s popular Internet portal called “Livedoor” was the first Internet era entrepreneur that represented startups as a pathway to success, and in some ways was the “Mark Zuckerberg” of Japan. He was ostentatiously rich, always on TV and in the news, and seemed to thrive on his self-styled and open rejection of “The Japanese System”. With Horie on TV news and talk shows on a regular basis, it seemed the beginning of a sense that “startup success CAN be possible” in Japan, but it was short lived. In 2006 he was arrested for securities fraud and ended up spending 2 years in jail. Many observers had hoped that “Horie-mon”, as he is often called, would open the door to social acceptance of the startup lifestyle, but the criminal proceedings brought that hope to an end with people nodding that “He was successful because he was cheating. We knew it.”

There are many successful entrepreneurs in Japan, but for now, an established path to startup success remains something of a mystery. While we wait for success stories to permeate the culture, and for norms to loosen up to embrace the uncertainty of startup culture, it would seem that Japan will continue to have challenges to overcome in the startup tech space. For the individuals who choose the startup route in Japan, they are presented with a number of social and business obstacles that for now, ironically, only success itself can solve.

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