U.S. and Japanese officials confer with SPRIE-STAJE

A group of leading American and Japanese venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, academic experts, government officials, and leaders in business and related fields joined the "U.S. - Japan Dialogue to Promote Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Job Creation" symposium, organized by the Stanford Project on Japanese Entrepreneurship (STAJE), the largest U.S.-Japan event held at Stanford in many years, on February 23, 2011.

Representatives from both governments opened the event by underscoring the economic and strategic reasons for closer U.S.-Japan cooperation in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos emphasized how an economically vibrant Japan is critical to the security of the United States, and how it creates opportunities for U.S. trade, investment, and job creation. Moreover, innovation and collaboration are vital to addressing critical global issues, such as climate change. Under Secretary of State Robert D. Hormats noted how innovation and entrepreneurship, often involving young firms bringing new technology to market, are fundamental to ensuring sustainable growth and inclusive prosperity, both at home and across the globe. For Japan, Teruhiko Mashiko, a Ranking Member of the Diet's Committee on Economy and Industry and a former Senior Vice Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, highlighted the potential for greater employment, development of green technology, and the circulation of human and other resources through innovation and entrepreneurship.

Several speakers pointed to ways government and the private sector can foster the creation of entrepreneurial ventures with a global outlook. Professor William F. Miller, co-director of the Stanford Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SPRIE), focused attention on the need to support the full entrepreneurial habitat—including an active angel investor and venture community, entrepreneurial education, passionate entrepreneurs, and business services (legal, consulting, financial) that understand the needs of start-up companies. Additionally, several speakers suggested that mid-career hiring by large Japanese firms and greater willingness on their part to grow by acquisition would increase labor mobility and expand opportunities for entrepreneurial ventures. They expressed concern that, at present, a public offering of shares is practically the only option for startup firms to exit the venture stage in Japan. Others highlighted how greater English-language proficiency and changes in immigration law could expand the linkages between Japan and the global community of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Larry W. Sonsini, Chairman of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, reflected on the waves of innovation that Silicon Valley has generated, both in terms of new technologies coming to market as well as the maturing of technology already out. Defining Silicon Valley as a culture rather than a place, he outlined the ingredients in the recipe for its success: an entrepreneurial culture, with such features as mobility of talent, diversity, and acceptance of failure as a type of learning; ready access to capital; sources of technology and technologists, particularly from universities and large forward-looking corporations; government support; developed laws and accounting systems; availability of exit options for ventures; and an infrastructure of lawyers, accountants, bankers, and consultants. He also offered his thoughts on key trends that will influence the position and direction of emerging technology companies, including: globalization, regulatory changes, development of capital markets, education, and the rule of law.

In the closing remarks of the day-long symposium, Robert Eberhart, a SPRIE researcher and the leader of the SPRIE-STAJE project, summarized the three potential roles for governments to play in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship: to establish rules to ensure fair dealing and access to the market; to rewrite (i.e., reform) the rules of a market thereby ensuring firms will address it in new ways; and to stimulate demand for advanced technology by purchasing it for its own reasons, thereby creating new opportunities for entrepreneurial technology ventures.