Japanese Investments In Nordic Startups: When Ikigai Meets Sisu.

According to the tourist report from the University of Helsinki, Japanese visitors constitute 5% of all foreign arrivals which makes Japan the 7th most important market for Finland. Yet, it is not only Moomins and Marimekko that brings Japanese people in the country of thousand lakes. Interest in innovative tech and startups turned Finland into a new playground for Japanese investors.

Since their $1.5 billion investment in Supercell in 2013, Japanese investors have invested in or acquired at least 36 Nordic founded startups. 28 of these took place in the last 2 years while 22 have gone to Finnish and Estonian startups.

The Japanese are big fans of the Nordic startup culture, and they are eager to explore it.

Claes-Mikko Nilsen, NordicNinja VC
Tech conferences such as Slush Tokyo (now BARK), Arctic15 and Latitude59 are great gateways to Japanese investors

“The Japanese are big fans of the Nordic startup culture, and they are eager to explore it. There is a lot of interested and cooperation possibilities for startups with large Japanese tech companies,” says Claes-Mikko Nilsen from NordicNinja VC.

His fund is a joint venture between Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) IG Partners and BaltCap. The €100 million fund is backed by Panasonic, Honda, Omron, and JBIC. Launched in February 2019, it is the first fund from Japan focused on the Nordic & Baltic region. NordicNinja target sectors are enterprise software, robotics, AI, cybersecurity, digital health, and mobility.

Together with and Copenhagen Capacity, TechBBQ and Asia House, NordicNinja went through Japanese M&As and investments to the Nordics which they listed in the Japanese Startup Investment report. What they found was that Japanese venture capitalists express their interest in the emerging Nordic tech, specifically such sectors as Robotics, AI, Big Data, Mobility and DeepTech. Plus, Japanese investors have engaged as Limited Partners in Nordic funds: Digital Garage was an early Limited Partner in the Nordic VC byFounders, and has engaged once again in its newest fund in 2019. The report also lists the most active Japanese VCs with an international outlook and those actively looking for opportunities in the Nordic countries.

The full report is available here.