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Unicorn startups in Japan | Japanese Startups 2024

In the last decade, Japan's startup ecosystem has been experiencing steady growth, drawing in top-tier talent to fuel the expansion of high-growth startups. Historically, a major constraint on Japan's startup scene had been the lack of labor market dynamism, with top talent often bound in lifetime employment arrangements at established corporations.

In the last decade, Japan’s startup ecosystem has been experiencing steady growth, drawing in top-tier talent to fuel the expansion of high-growth startups. Historically, a major constraint on Japan’s startup scene had been the lack of labor market dynamism, with top talent often bound in lifetime employment arrangements at established corporations.

However, a notable shift is underway, thanks to increased investment and a shift in mindset that encourages entrepreneurship, largely driven by a government keen on fostering innovation.

A robust network of support organizations, scattered across various hubs in the country, underscores Japan’s commitment to nurturing its startup landscape. Notably, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) spearheads initiatives such as the Startup City Acceleration Program, aiding startups in their global expansion endeavors.

Moreover, governmental entities like the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and municipalities such as Startup Fukuoka City and Startup City Sapporo, along with initiatives like Shibuya Startup Support, are actively working to promote and assist their respective startup ecosystems. The implementation of Japan’s Startup Visa in key locations like Fukuoka City and Kobe City further solidifies the country’s commitment to attracting and retaining entrepreneurial talent.

With fintech and healthtech sectors showing significant promise within Japan, the trajectory of the country’s startup ecosystems appears poised to garner even greater global recognition in the foreseeable future.

Top Unicorn Startups in Japan

Here are some of the unicorns of Japan, leading the charge in transforming the startup landscape with their innovative ideas and execution.


Spiber Inc., established on September 26, 2007, by Hideya Mizutani, Junichi Sugahara, and Kazuhide Sekiyama, is headquartered in Tsuruoka, Japan. Specializing in synthetic textiles, Spiber is a private company focused on new-generation biomaterial development. Utilizing advanced synthetic biology, polymer, and material science, it pioneers Brewed Protein, an innovative protein-based material.

Brewed Protein is created through microbial fermentation, using agricultural feedstocks as its primary raw materials. This novel material can be fashioned into fibers, films, resins, and more, poised to play a crucial role in animal-free and plastic-free initiatives across various industries, including apparel and automotive sectors.


Founded in 2020 by Michael Carter, Justin Waldron, Takeshi Otsuka, and Teddy Cross, Playco is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. It specializes in instant-play gaming, developing titles that enable billions of players to enjoy together.

With a wide-reaching network of partners spanning global tech and social media giants to innovative startups, Playco pioneers the concept of instant-play gaming. Collaborating closely with platforms like Facebook, SNAP, LINE, Viber, and others, Playco strives to create top-tier games that bring together billions of players worldwide.

Clean Planet

Established in 2012 by Hideki Yoshino and based in Tokyo, Japan, Clean Planet is a company focused on producing and distributing clean energy technologies. Their goal is to improve the welfare of humanity and the global community.

Clean Planet specializes in developing quantum hydrogen energy, a revolutionary technology that produces heat through hydrogen quantum diffusion. This innovative energy source offers a sustainable alternative to traditional thermal and nuclear power generation methods, paving the way for a cleaner and more efficient energy future.


Founded on January 5, 2015, by its founders Ishibashi Tadashi, Joled is based in Tokyo, Japan. The company serves as a manufacturer of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display lights tailored for premium monitors, medical monitors, and automotive applications.

Joled specializes in printing technology utilized in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) production, as well as transparent amorphous oxide semiconductors and flexible display technology. These advancements cater to a diverse range of sectors including medical, filmmaking, gaming, electronic devices, and signage.

Preferred Networks

Established in 2014 by Toru Nishikawa ,it is  headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, Preferred Networks specializes in applying advanced technologies like deep learning and robotics to various sectors such as transportation, manufacturing, life sciences, and entertainment. Their services include developing software frameworks, algorithms, and hardware to support research and development across these fields.

By leveraging deep intelligence technologies, they integrate data from both physical and digital sources using machine learning and deep learning, enabling applications like autonomous driving, robotics, and medical diagnosis to automate business operations.


SmartHR, Inc. was established on January 23, 2013 by Kensuke Naito and Shoji Miyata. Its headquarters is located in Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan. SmartHR, Inc. is a developer of cloud-based human resources software aimed at automating social insurance and employment insurance procedures.

Their software allows users to complete online forms and generate digital versions of pension, employment insurance, and other relevant documents for easy submission to the appropriate offices with a simple click, enabling businesses to efficiently manage and streamline their human resources processes. 


Established in 2013 by Jun Hasegawa and headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand, Opn is a leading provider of online payment and digital transformation solutions used globally by merchants and businesses. Operating across Japan, Southeast Asia, and the U.S., Opn is a prominent payments provider in the Asia-Pacific region and ranks among the top 25 in the U.S. market.

With a commitment to facilitating universal access to the digital economy, Opn fosters connections between individuals, businesses, and society through innovative methods, ensuring an open and expanding economic ecosystem. 


SmartNews was founded on June 15, 2022 by Kaisei Hamamoto and Ken Suzuki, with headquarters situated in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. It operates as a personalized news discovery platform, utilizing machine learning to aid users in discovering the most relevant and compelling stories of the moment.

Through its algorithm, SmartNews evaluates millions of articles, user behaviors, and social interactions to curate stories on a global scale. Its mobile application is accessible on both Android and iOS platforms. SmartNews focuses on delivering timely and significant news content to its users.

Go Japan

Established in 2016 by Mr. Bao Quoc Nguyen, a Vietnamese entrepreneur, Go Japan Co. is headquartered in Tokyo. The company specializes in providing portable Wi-Fi and SIM cards tailored for long-term usage with monthly payment plans.

As Japan’s premier telecommunications service provider for foreigners, Go Japan partners with major telecommunications networks, including Softbank, Au KDDI, and Docomo, to offer a comprehensive range of services covering voice, mobile, internet access, and international travel devices. Committed to maintaining top-notch quality standards, Go Japan is renowned for its innovative solutions and stands out as a leader in the market.

Rakuten Securities

Established in 1999 by Rakuten Ichiba, Rakuten Securities is an investment bank headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. The firm provides a range of services including trading channels, funding services, market information delivery, real-time deposit service, convenient fund transfers, foreign currency settlement, point services, and email services. Rakuten Securities, Inc. is an Internet securities firm within the Rakuten group, known for operating one of Japan’s largest internet shopping malls.

TBM Japan

Established in 2011 by Nobuyoshi Yamasaki, TBM is situated in Tokyo, Japan, and specializes in the production of bio-composite materials. This manufacturing process involves blending limestone, thermoplastic resin, and various additives to create a molten composite, which is subsequently shaped into pellets or sheets using extrusion or molding methods.

These materials serve as eco-friendly alternatives to paper and plastic products, including business cards, tags, POP displays, posters, booklets, banners, stickers, labels, bags, containers, backlit posters, folders, durable materials, and stationery items.

Kakao Japan

Established in 2011 by Kim Beom-su, Kakao Japan is based in Tokyo, Japan. The company specializes in developing messaging and media applications aimed at enhancing customers’ daily experiences, bringing joy, and leaving a lasting impression.

Offering a range of internet and mobile applications, including those for communication and media content such as manga and comics, Kakao Japan enables users to effortlessly exchange messages anytime, anywhere, domestically and internationally, while also providing access to an extensive library of media content.

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