If you attended the SXSW Interactive trade show last week you may have seen a small Japanese flag perched in the back corner of the Austin Convention Center’s main exhibit hall. Beneath this flag stood the largest international section at SXSW where ten of the “Todai to Texas” startups (Todai being the short name for the University of Tokyo) discussed their products. These are some of the most interesting and promising tech startups in Japan, and they have the funding to prove it.
Visitors to last week’s SXSW Interactive trade show might not have even noticed the small Hinomaru flying above the back corner of the sprawling Austin Convention Center’s main exhibit hall. The simple white rectangle with a big red circle in the middle – Japan’s national flag – depicts a rising sun. It may have also been symbolic of the Japanese startup ecosystem’s continued rise to prominence, as young entrepreneurs shun corporate life to strike out on their own and venture capitalists slowly but surely begin to embrace risk-takers. Beneath the understated flag was SXSW’s largest international section – Japan held more real estate at the trade show than any other country besides the hosting US. Despite an occasional language barrier for the predominantly English-speaking attendees, representatives from each of the Todai to Texas (“Todai” being short for the University of Tokyo, or “Tokyo Daigaku” in Japanese) startups used the opportunity to spread the word about their gadgets and plug recently-launched crowdfunding campaigns.