Where “History And Innovation” Coexist – What Japan Can Learn From London’s Startup Ecosystem



2017 was a record year for tech investments in London, UK. There have been fears that Europe’s technological brain drain to the US would affect London as well, but UK’s capital seems to be immune to it.

It’s in that very city where you can find the headquarters of Tech City Ventures. They specializes in making organizations more efficient and helping scale best ideas for small, medium, and large businesses, as well as the government. Ever since being founded in 2014, the company has supported over 2,000 startups, more than 150 business leaders in and outside the UK, and over 300 corporate managers and executives.

How has London’s startup ecosystem developed, and what can Japan do to catch up to it? We posed these questions to George Johnston, the CEO of Tech City Ventures.

Be it small-to-medium-sized companies or the government,
we support enterprises throughout their entire growth process.

Tech City Ventures describes itself as an “innovation platform.” Could you tell us how exactly do you support businesses and the government?
We work with startups to support their growth in several different ways. One of our areas of focus is helping earlier stage SMEs to validate their products with the market by connecting them with prospective customers. Another approach is getting them in front of senior decision makers from large organisations – predominantly in sales or relationship-building environments.

We know their customers and have a track record in spotting and championing market-leading entrepreneurs.
You mainly support British organizations, correct?
We also work with many foreign companies that have expanded to the UK. We already have a substantial network of cities around the globe, including New York, Singapore, Barcelona and Berlin – and also have good relationships with organisations and startups around the world.

During the five years since the company was founded, Tech City Ventures has continued to grow together with London’s startup community. Eventually we will become a portal of innovation in every corner of the world.

London is a city where you can find both a hunger for innovation and a solid infrastructure.

Tech City Ventures is headquartered in London. What do you think makes the city’s startup ecosystem so special?
I think that London’s startup ecosystem is very dynamic. Within a few miles, you have law, government, financial, and media organizations, and at the same time, it’s a place where companies and customers are hungry for change. This has created a fertile ground where businesses can thrive and a market that isn’t opposed to technological advancements. It’s easy to create and spread innovation in such an environment.
It’s true that London’s government, corporations, and startups are all working closely together in the field of fintech. Why is that so?
London’s corporations don’t threaten or snatch up startups. Instead, they lend a hand to them in ways that are beneficial to their own business. I think the public sector tries to do the same thing.

That being said, the link between startups and the government should be stronger. Going forward, I think it will be necessary to devise a way to better connect the two.
What other fields, besides fintech, are on the rise in London right now?
I think all fields can benefit from innovation. It’s because, right now, many organizations are throwing away past frameworks and trying to reorganize themselves in more efficient and profitable ways. If they make use of things like retail tech, legal tech, or ad tech, there’s no telling how far they can go.

6 Pillars Of A Successful Startup Ecosystem

Could you tell us your impressions of Japanese startups and the country’s ecosystem?
Japan is known around the world as an innovator. I think this will continue to work in its favor. Japan should focus on its industry, taking those technologies used in the automation or optimization of automotive manufacturing, and using them in other fields as well.

Going forward, as it becomes normal for startups to dedicate huge resources to R&D and create their own products, the need for governmental and economic support will only increase.
X-HUB TOKYO hopes to create Japanese startups able to compete on the global stage. What do they have to do in order to achieve that?
There are six vital pillars of a successful ecosystem:

・Community: A connection between individuals and organizations where both groups support each other in order to grow together.
・Infrastructure: Coworking spaces, connectivity (5G) and transport links.
・Branding: Something that informs and entices entrepreneurs, investors, and customers.
・Talent: Opportunities to learn and provide training in necessary skills, so that the ecosystem is full of talented individuals.
・Framework: Legal and governmental outlines that support innovation.
・Funding: A structure of economic support for startup activities.

London was able to grow so much because it has all six pillars in place. Of course, Japan can say the same, but I think it needs to strengthen and balance out all those elements.

Technologies like legal tech or fintech have already started to change how the real world works. As this continues, it will become necessary for corporations, the government, and startups to work together to construct an ecosystem that creates innovation. The scale and progress of London’s collaborative efforts are of unprecedented proportions. There are many things that Japan’s startup ecosystem can learn from it all.