David Blecken
May 10, 2017

Why a Japanese startup consultant is opening in the US

TBWA Hakuhodo's Quantum hopes to connect more startups to Japanese corporations through an operation in San Francisco.

Yuta Inoue
Yuta Inoue

Quantum, a subsidiary of TBWA Hakuhodo that works to bring startups and large corporations together, has expanded internationally with the launch of an office in San Francisco, Quantum Global.

TBWA Hakuhodo set up Quantum in 2016 in an effort to offer consulting services beyond advertising and communications. The unit draws on the resources of TBWA’s global network and Hakuhodo’s international partnerships, but acts as something of a matchmaker for startups and established businesses. It aims to promote mutually beneficial collaboration between Japanese companies (many of which want to modernize or expand but are struggling to do so) and startups from around the world. It also helps companies rethink their processes to function more like startups.

One of Quantum’s clients is Panasonic. Quantum began working with the electronics giant last year, supporting its ‘Game Changer Catapult’ initiative, which encourages staff to develop their own product innovations. Ten of these were unveiled at SXSW 2017. It is also managing a partnership between Fujitsu and TechShop, an ‘open-access workshop’, and is helping Cambly, a mobile language tutor, to gain a footing in Japan.

Yuta Inoue, who has led Quantum since it launched and will now serve as president of Quantum Global, said there were demands to enter the US “from both sides of the table”. “We’ve already been active in the US, both supporting innovation of Japanese corporations in the global market, and partnering with US startups to enter Japan,” he said. “To meet rapidly growing demand, more resources based in the Bay Area are essential.

Large Japanese corporations are in many ways the antithesis of modern startups. Inoue said by partnering with them, these companies stand to get to grips with new technologies and become faster and more flexible in their working style. “Japan market leaders are looking ardently for new technologies they can leverage such as AI, IoT and blockchain,” he said. To do that, they are increasingly accepting the principles of open innovation.

“Open innovation with startups can accelerate the speed of the corporation through changing the way they work,” Inoue noted. “For startups overseas, the best way to enter Japan is through effective partnerships with Japanese corporations that help drive revenues, recruit and understand the unique business and consumer environment.”

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