Becoming an international entrepreneur: From Mexico to Sweden, to Japan, and around the world!

From summer internship in Japan, to how my startup has been growing internationally.

During the spring semester, my classmates and I were given the chance to apply for summer internships all over the world: Silicon Valley, China, Japan among others. As I am studying Entrepreneurship and Business Design and been aspiring to grow my startup, Lucero, in an international setting, this was a great opportunity to challenge myself, learn from the best practices, and make new contacts. I heard about this internship in Fukuoka, Japan while talking with two students from the year above who told me about their good experiences and how different it was from Sweden, so I decided to go.

I worked for Saino, a company located at Fukuoka Growth Next (FGN) that is embedded in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the city and manages several projects like MYOJOWARA​KU - the biggest Tech Festival of the region and the Engineering Café. One of the best things I experienced is that I always felt surrounded by driven entrepreneurs, businesses and innovation.

In contrary to the general perception of Japan as this High-Tech Innovation giant, the startup scene in the country performs weakly when compared with other smaller economies. Japan has only 3 unicorns (privately held startups valued at over $1 billion), while Indonesia has 5, South Korea 10, and China has an outstanding number of 94.   How was that possible? During my short time there I got some hints of what was going on.

I will start by saying that Japan is such a fascinating place due to its contrasting character. Living there was a surrealistic experience, especially the feeling of “new vs traditional”. I witnessed futuristic technologies mixed with a rich and interesting culture. I also realized that there are many unwritten social rules. For instance, it is considered rude to take phone calls on the train for example, and the passengers are suggested to speak in low volume to not disturb the others.

Going back to the entrepreneurial culture, when talking with different entrepreneurs I noticed that there are several challenges they face every day. The corporate world is still a huge one where hierarchy is achieved through age, working in the same company for several years is important and respected. Many young people’s dream is being hired by one of the large corporations like Toyota, Sony, or Mitsubishi which makes it harder to quit everything and build an uncertain startup.
But things are changing. The country (and the people!) is committed to grow through innovation and there's more support by the Japanese Government to different players, especially startups on the quest of finding new innovative solutions for their new challenges. Fukuoka is the perfect example of one of these initiatives. 

I was fortunate to work and meet this talented community of entrepreneurs, investors, engineers, and people working in the government and private companies as part of my internship experience. I brought back a lot of new experiences, working in such an unfamiliar environment with a big language barrier tested my resilience, confidence and adaptability skills. This has been important for my self-growth as well as for my startup. 

Besides, since my startup Lucero is aiming to make cutting-edge laser technology easy to use and available to anyone, the network that I built in Japan has helped us to gain more insights from the needs of potential customers in Asia-Pacific. I’m looking forward to going back soon. It has been an exciting journey, especially the fact that studying at Chalmers brought me and my friends (who now became my business partners) across the globe to experience the real world of being an international entrepreneur.

The latest update, my startup which was born at the Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship, has brought us even to San Francisco where we were given an Early Entrepreneur Travel Award and got to compete as semifinalists in the SPIE Startup Challenge at the biggest conference of Optics and Photonics in the world.
As I am finishing writing this blog we are preparing our trip to Riga, where we will compete at the Fifty Founders Battle Semifinals in Techchill, one of the biggest tech events in the Baltics. Wish us luck!

Author: Rich 

Read more:
Rich's blog about his experience in solving real-life business cases during his studies

Page manager Published: Fri 18 Feb 2022.