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  Emily Benson

Gengo Pulse on Globalization: Startup Asia Tokyo 2014

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Last month at Tech in Asia’s Startup Asia Tokyo 2014 conference, companies from Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and beyond came to Tokyo to discuss the rise of startups in Asia. What are the disadvantages of being an Asia-based startup? What are the advantages?

A number of recently-launched tech startups were in attendance, and gaming, ecommerce and mobile were hot topics for attendees and speakers alike. GREE CEO Yoshikazu Tanaka spoke about the latest ways apps are being used to make things more convenient for consumers, and how thanks to the nonstop plugged-in culture that smartphones help create, business opportunities in this area are abundant.

Our CEO also spoke, describing how being based in Asia presents unique language-related challenges for companies—an issue that led to the birth of Gengo. He explained how launching in a new market is comparable to starting a company because of the amount of market and audience research needed to find profit. In his experience, overcoming the language barrier is an integral part of that success.

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We chatted with tons of forward-thinking users to get an idea of just how important problems around language are for global startups. Fellow language company Waygo is solving the translation problem on an everyday level for users with an app that instantly translates signs and menus from Chinese and Japanese into English. Another interesting company, FlowerAdvisor, is trying to make floral deliveries a breeze from any country—something that seems simple in concept, but is difficult to execute. These two startups were part of a larger trend: if businesses exist to make our lives better and easier, then solving for the struggles that globalization leads to is creating a new market in and of itself.

In all, this year’s Startup Asia Tokyo emphasized three themes that all startups in Asia can take to heart. First, stay connected both with the broader startup community and with users worldwide. Always work to improve (a concept known as kaizen, or “continuous improvement,” a Gengo company value), and remember that starting a company in an area with a relatively small startup ecosystem like Asia needn’t be a barrier to success.

 

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Emily Benson
THE AUTHOR
Emily Benson
Bostonian turned Tokyoite, Emily handles enterprise marketing at Gengo. Passionate about translation, she joined Gengo after working with Lionbridge, the world's largest language company. When she isn't adding stamps to her passport, she can be found learning all sorts of languages, from Hebrew and Japanese to Klingon (nuqneH!).