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Bringing Global Startups to Osaka

Joshua Flannery: With ten years of experience supporting global innovation, Joshua is the CEO of Rainmaking Innovation Japan. He has over 20 years of international business experience including over 7 years in Japan including as a startup entrepreneur, as the head of a university innovation center and as the Director of the largest innovation hub in the Southern Hemisphere – Sydney Startup Hub.

Q: What does Rainmaking do?

Rainmaking was founded in 2007, in Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen and later we established our main office in London, and today we have 23 locations across the world.

Rainmaking is trying to solve big problems in the world by supporting startup entrepreneurship.

We have three main strengths; Firstly, helping Japanese corporations identify and prioritize innovation opportunities. Secondly, to deliver tangible business results by our programs. Thirdly, by combining business impact with sustainability.

GVH#5 here in Osaka is Rainmaking’s base in Japan, and also the location of our startup support program, Startupbootcamp Scale Osaka. 7 large Kansai companies (Hankyu Electric Railway Co., Ltd., Dentsu Inc., JR West Group, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Tobacco Inc., Sakura Internet Co., Ltd., and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation) have joined in partnership with us for this program.
All of these are very large-scale corporations here in Japan, and these partnerships offer great potential for entrepreneurs.

The program has two main goals.
The first is to use startups to introduce new technology that doesn’t yet exist here in Japan and help corporate partners execute projects with tangible business impact. The second is to show the world that Osaka and Kansai are great places to do business, and to attract new startups.

We’re planning to hold Startupbootcamp Scale Osaka every year for three years until 2021, so this year (2020) is our second year of the program. In the first year, 13 businesses were selected from Japan and overseas, and we worked to find partnership opportunities for them. We’re planning to continue the program in the same way, with a really unique combination of global business sense and the perspective of localization in Japan.

Q: What made you select GVH#5 as the base for both Rainmaking and Startupbookcamp Scale Osaka?

We were actually approached by Hankyu Railways, which runs GVH#5. We came into contact about 5 years ago in Berlin, and they seemed to think we would be a good match for what they were looking for, and the fact that our organization was in line with their philosophy became the deciding factor in our collaboration. GVH#5 became our base in a really organic way.

Q: In your mind, what are the advantages of a place like Osaka/Kansai?

Osaka has advantages that other cities don’t. It’s a big city, the market is expected to keep growing, and you can find highly skilled employees. Transportation is extremely convenient, too, so it’s a great place from which to expand your business across Japan. It’s also much more affordable than Tokyo, which is an important factor for cost-sensitive startups.

I also feel that in Osaka, people are more entrepreneurial, and are ready to try new things. True to the stereotype, people in Osaka are friendly, but I think they’re also fearless about jumping in and giving things a go, and they’re able to deal with failure. That kind of risk-taking is really important in entrepreneurship.

Osaka corporations are also more willing to collaborate with one another. At Startupbootcamp Scale Osaka, I was surprised to see JR West and Hankyu Hanshin—which you might think of as rivals in the transportation industry—working together to enliven the Kansai area.
The Kansai Economic Federation and the Kansai Association of Corporate Executives are also good communities with a lot of openness between competitors.

Q: What do you most like about GVH#5’s support and/or set-up?

Having fully equipped seminar and meeting rooms, of course, but also that the staff at GVH#5 are so friendly, and quick to help if you have any trouble. There are English-speaking staff as well, and I think there’s great support here.
For us, GVH#5 is a home, and we feel that we’re really building close friendships and relationships with the staff and other entrepreneurial members. Some of the staff also have a thorough understanding of the workings of business overseas.

Also, GVH#5 is the innovation base for both Oxford University from the UK, and Osaka University, which is a prestigious national university in Japan, so I have a lot of confidence in GVH#5’s system of industry-academia collaborators.

Q: What would you like from GVH#5 in the future?

Until now, GVH#5 has been a kind of supporter and a friend to us. They understand our business needs, but they also really understand our situation as people, so we can get some advice or some help for something we urgently need, but we can also have a laugh and have actual friendships with the people that work here. That’s the kind of relationship I’d like to continue to have.
On the business side, GVH#5 is also linked to Hankyu Hanshin Group, which is a global conglomerate, and in the future, we’d like to potentially do more work together with them. The Hankyu Hanshin Group is developing a hotel chain, for example, and we werere looking into the possibility of a collaboration with a food-related startup participating in Startupbootcamp Scale Osaka.

Q: Please share a message for up-and-coming startups who may be considering joining GVH#5.

The Osaka/Umeda area where GVH#5 is located is really an ideal place for startups. You’re in the heart of Kansai, so you can easily get from A to B, whether it’s downtown in Namba, or to Tokyo and other big cities on the shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station, everything is close. On top of that, the team at GVH#5 are extremely knowledgeable about how businesses work. Even putting business aside, Osaka is a wonderful place to live, as well.
Why wouldn’t you want to start your business in this fun and dynamic city?


GVH#5 has produced many budding businesses that have achieved great success, receiving business awards and exiting. We interviewed some of GVH#5's distinguished alumni entrepreneurs, supporters, and people involved with GVH#5 about what drives them.


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