Tim Romero is the Head of Google for Startups Japan. He is a Tokyo-based entrepreneur, podcaster, author and teacher who has started four companies and led Japan market entry for others since coming to Japan more than 25 years ago. Tim hosts the Disrupting Japan podcast, teaches corporate innovation and entrepreneurship at the NYU Shinagawa campus and is CTO of TEPCO's Business Innovation Task Force. Tim is deeply involved in Japan's startup community as an investor, founder and mentor.
Startups in Japan have a problem. It's the same problem that faces startup founders around the world, but the misunderstanding is so strong here that it causes a lot of companies to go out of business just as they should be starting to scale.
Japanese companies have long been known for their widespread practice of overtime, with employees toiling late into the night after the official end of the business day. Japanese drone startup Blue Innovation has offered a technological solution, a special drone called T-Frend designed to reduce overtime by flying around the office after hours, playing loud music and taking pictures of any staff who are still working and reporting them to management.
A lot has been written on Uber’s disastrous failure in Japan. Most authors point to the fact that taxies in Japan are abundant, clean, safe and affordable. While that’s all true, it misses a more important truth.
We were told that technology would fix it. In 1930 John Maynard Keynes predicted that the work week would need to be reduced to 15 hours in response to improved productivity from automation. It hasn’t worked out that way. Things certainly have gotten better. Economies have grown, standards of living have increased, workplaces have become safer, but we are working more than ever.