2019 Japan-US Innovation Awards Symposium
Combining the best of Japanese creativity and American entrepreneurial skill to create unimagined opportunities
On July 26, 2019, the Japan Society of Northern California hosted its 9th annual Japan-US Innovation Awards Symposium in cooperation with the US-Asia Technology Management Center of Stanford University. The event featured innovative companies from the Bay Area and Japan that showcased their products with interactive displays, along with presentations from several influential speakers on key subjects dealing with business and innovation between the US and Japan.
The symposium began with opening remarks from PhD Richard Dasher, Stanford University’s US-Asia Technology Management Center’s director, and Tomochika Uyama, the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco. The first speaker to start things off was Shawn Layden, the Chairman of Worldwide Studios for Playstation, who discussed “Innovations Driving the Interactive Entertainment Industry: A US-Japan Perspective.” Layden’s career experience with Playstation has allowed him to develop a great understanding of the video game industry in both the US and Japan. He discussed the rising market of virtual reality video games and how the recent progress seen is only just the beginning.
After the keynote speaker, the Sunbridge Emerging Leader Awards were given and graciously received by this year’s US and Japanese recipients: Zoom Video Communication, Inc. (US) and WHILL (Japan). The Founders/CEOs of both companies, Eric S. Yuan of Zoom and Satoshi Sugie of WHILL, gave captivating presentations on how their companies have transformed global markets through their innovative ideas and the success of their companies. Sugie explained how his company, WHILL, empowers its consumers with intelligent personal electric vehicles (EVs), which enable everyone to explore the world in both comfort and style. In particular, as the US and Japan are both aging societies, the demand for WHILL’s products seems to be higher than ever and will likely emerge in the rental industry as well when their products begin being distributed to public retailers such as airports. Yuan then discussed how Zoom has improved the lives of businesses and organizations around the world by providing an easy, reliable platform to communicate through video, voice, content sharing, and chat rooms across multiple devices. Both companies have taken advantage of the existing needs of both the US and Japanese market to create products that would improve the lives of millions of people, as well as bringing success to their companies.
Next, a thought-provoking discussion was led by Tim Romero, a Tokyo-based entrepreneur, podcaster, and author from Disrupting Japan, and Allison Baum, a Silicon Valley-based investor and blogger from Trinity Ventures, on “Japan’s Surprising Source of Innovation.” They discussed the unique characteristics of both Japan and Silicon Valley’s markets and how to best approach them as a start-up.
The discussion was followed up by the innovation showcase which included four innovative companies that are bringing new ideas to the forefront and modernizing societies around the world. Presentations included Prakash Murthy, Founder and CEO of Atonarp, Yoshi Ieada, Co-Founder and COO of Cinnamon AI, Junji Adachi, CEO of Kyulux, Atsushi Nakanishi, Founder and CEO of Triple W, and Tatsuo Nakamura, Founder and CEO of VALUNEX.
After the symposium, guests enjoyed a lovely reception, sponsored by MUFG Union Bank and complemented by the beautiful landscape of Stanford’s campus.
Japan Society’s 2019 Innovation Awards Symposium was the biggest yet, with over 400 guests in attendance. As innovative ideas continue to transform the US, Japan, and beyond, next year’s symposium will surely be met with the participation of many more groundbreaking companies—so stay tuned!