7 Tech Startups in Tokyo With English-Speaking Positions
Everyone knows companies like Sony, Nintendo, Rakuten, or Google. Big, international companies are often more open to hiring foreigners and tend to gel better with the cultural background of international candidates. But because these companies are so well-known, you’ll be facing a lot of competition upon application. When the goal is to find a job in Japan, focusing only on the big names can make your job search a lot harder.
However, there is another type of company that tends to be open to foreign applicants while also employing “non-traditional” working styles (by Japanese standards): Startups. While not as famous as other country’s, Japan has its own startup scene that has even lead to the birth of a few “unicorns” in the past ten years. Below, we picked up 7 companies supported by the J-Startup project managed by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. All companies on this list offer job opportunities for candidates with little to no Japanese ability.
Out of all the entries on this list, this is probably the most famous one. Upon going public in June 2018, Mercari was valued at over 1 billion USD, making it Japan’s first-ever unicorn.
Mercari’s main service is the flea market app of the same name, where users can sell all sorts of personal items that they don’t need anymore. Their subsidiary Merpay also develops and maintains a cashless payment service that has already been introduced at major convenience store chains like 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson as well as other shops like Tsutaya and Bic Camera.
The company maintains an international atmosphere both in Its messaging and in practice. All job openings and even the company blog are available in English (most non-engineering positions require some degree of Japanese though).
Per their mission statement, ExaWizards focuses on “solving social issues through Artificial Intelligence.” The company focuses on the issues that accompany Japan’s population trend – an increase in elderly people coupled with a low birth rate and a shrinking working population. Their AI solutions cover a wide range of fields, from CareTech/MedTech and FinTech to HRTech as well as Robotics.
In addition to their Japanese Offices in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hamamatsu, and Nagoya, ExaWizards also has a location in India (Hyderabad). Several positions open at the moment require no high-level Japanese skills.
Kotozna’s main service is Kotozna Chat, a multi-lingual chat service that enables people to talk to each other in their respective native languages through simultaneous, automatic translation. Other services include a smartphone app that translates restaurant menus in foreign languages from smartphone photos (Kotozna Camera) and a customer service for hotels combining translation tools with chatbots.
Currently, there are open positions for server and web engineers (Python, Node.js, Vue.js), marketing, and sales.
A spinoff of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), Rapyuta Robotics develops a cloud platform for robotics management. The goal is to merge robotics with cloud computing to make it easier for businesses to introduce robotics solutions without requiring in-house experts to manage all the tech that comes with them.
Since the company isn’t originally from Japan, it has a very international makeup. Rapyuta is active at two locations: Tokyo and Bengaluru (India).
This is another big one. Downloaded by over 50 million users and the winner of multiple awards, SmartNews is an app that uses machine learning to deliver quality content to its users. To further improve their services, the company behind the app is looking for software engineers, translators/interpreters, UX researchers, and more. Aside from their regular communication on social media (Twitter), SmartNews also hosts semi-regular online meetups about everyday work and recent news trends.
In addition to the Japan HQ, the company has offices in San Francisco, Palo Alto, New York, Shanghai, and Beijing.
Empath develops an emotion and conversation AI, used in tandem with audio files and calls. The mission is to improve communication through the use of technology. The AI’s analysis is not based on what people say, but on physical voice properties such as pitch and tone. In addition to an API aimed at developers (for use in robotics, automotive, and other fields), Empath also provides a software assistant for call centers.
Empath is currently recruiting data scientists and software programmers (Ruby, Python, Java). For both positions, Japanese skills are preferred, but not required.
Two of the company’s three main services focus on language: Tegaki, an handwriting recognition tool, and Kaidoku, a natural language analysis engine. Recently, Tegaki has been used to aid the vaccine rollout against Covid-19 in Japan. Aside from their language-related services, Cogent Labs also provides AI-based forecasting that analyses market data and assists existing statistical methods.
Preferred Networks (or PFN for short) is Japan’s second tech unicorn. The company focuses on deep learning and AI to support research and development activities. PFN is active in a wide range of fields ranging from manufacturing (factory robots and machine tool learning) and bio/healthcare (medical image analysis) to transportation (autonomous driving) and others. Recently, the company has also collaborated with companies such as Nissin Foods (nutritional analysis) and Mitsui & Co. (subsurface structure analysis).
Aside from the HQ in Tokyo, the company also has an office in Burlingame, California.