In recent years local governments in the Netherlands, most notably in the city of Amsterdam, have been very active on creating a well-functioning sharing economy ecosystem. This has led to the emergence of numerous successful companies such as Peerby, Konnektid and Snappcar. In Japan similar initiatives are taking place, mainly led by a group of dedicated ‘sharing’ companies. Developments are however still in a rather early stage.
Over the last year the Netherlands Embassy in Tokyo noticed an increased Japanese interest in sharing developments in the Netherlands. This was mainly ignited by the efforts of ShareNL, an Amsterdam based company that plays an important role in showcasing the Netherlands globally as a leading sharing nation. To further build on our positive image as a sharing country, the embassy - in close collaboration with ShareNL and RvO - decided to organize a working visit to the Netherlands around the sharing economy. We invited Japanese sharing companies (Coconala, SpaceMarket, Gaiax, Spacee Inc.), venture capital investors (OPT Ventures, CyberAgent Ventures, Gaiax Incubate) and the Sharing Economy Association Japan to join.
The program focused on the concept of the sharing economy; how should the sharing economy be defined and what kind of opportunities and threats does it offer present-day societies in metropolitan and rural areas? Secondly we looked at ‘building a sharing company’ in the Netherlands. The group visited startup incubators, learned about accelerator programs and met with investors and entrepreneurs. On the last day the group visited one of the biggest co-working spaces in the Netherlands, B. Amsterdam. Lastly the visit focused on how corporates incorporate sharing solutions into their business models, thereby showing that ‘sharing is not just competency of startups. Additionally there were multiple networking events in which in total about 30 Dutch companies participated.
As with many missions concrete followup is always the trickiest part. The main aim was to bring interesting Dutch sharing solutions under the attention of Japanese venture capital investors. Secondly we hope that Dutch and Japanese sharing companies that operate in similar fields of work, will explore potential for collaboration. Lastly, this mission offered us the opportunity the showcase the Netherlands as a startup destination. Before this mission none of the participants associated the Netherlands with a flourishing startup ecosystem. Especially the global mindset of Dutch investors and entrepreneurs was inspirational to them, as most Japanese entrepreneurs for various reasons do not consider going abroad. The participants indicated they “will spread Dutch global message within their networks”. Hopefully this will eventually lead to an increased ambition among Japanese startups to explore the European market via the Netherlands. In any case the Sharing Economy Association Japan expressed its ambition to organize a similar mission for Dutch companies (startups/corporates) to explore the Japanese market, and to determine whether the Dutch ‘sharing solutions’ can help address challenges in Japan.
This article was written by Pieter van den Berg from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan.