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Elevator Pitches Out, Office Hours In For Japan's Timid Startups

Venture capital investing in Japan is dominated by corporations. 500 Startups sees an opportunity for Silicon Valley-style disruption.

When he worked in Silicon Valley, venture investor James Riney was used to aggressive entrepreneurs who pitched him for financing any time they got a two-minute opening. Now that he’s in Tokyo, the culture is so different he’s changed his ways. Startup founders are so timid about asking for money that he decided to open his office a few hours each week to let them stop by and chat. 

“We realized we had to create excuses for founders to contact us,” Riney, 27, said in an interview at his office near Tokyo Station. “We created office hours and said come ask us anything. They’ll be like, ’Oh yeah, tell me about this thing. Oh and by the way, I need to raise money.”’