The impact of Nordic Innovation House on Tokyo … and on you!

NIH Tokyo homepage header

Nordic Innovation House is a global innovation platform created by the five Nordic countries in collaboration for now and for the future. Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland work together in a unique partnership. Primarily, it’s in order to help the best startups and scaleups to save time, make the right connections and grow further. Secondary gains are the promotion of Nordic culture and Nordic values of sustainability, cooperation and fairness. This blog article is a dive into the early and impressive start of NIH Tokyo and an interview of Niklas Karvonen, NIH Tokyo’s director.

In 2020, Tokyo became Nordic Innovation House location #5

Before Tokyo, NIH established themselves in the World’s most interesting melting pots: Silicon Valley, New York, Singapore and Hong Kong. Each NIH having a slightly different focus, but all essentially being industry agnostic. As long as you have ambition, traction, see expansion as the next step and innovation with some technical height, they will want to speak to you.

Are you a tech company from the Nordics? Connect to get a head start in Japan!

Niklas Karvonen
Niklas Karvonen, director of Nordic Innovation House Tokyo, NIH Tokyo.

Do you also want to contribute or collaborate with us in Tokyo? Contact me directly!

Niklas Karvonen,

In Tokyo, the director is Niklas Karvonen, an expatriate Finn. He’s a strikingly friendly, humble and bright guy with an amazing network. At 29 years of age, he’s already lived in Japan for 4 years and has worked as community and marketing lead for a tech company in Tokyo, business designer for a Japanese IoT startup, and he’s been an active member of the global startup community in Japan through organizing events such as Slush Tokyo. He tells us:

– What makes me the proudest, is that we are a Pan-Nordic collaboration that saves time and resources for our growing companies. It takes time to find the right partners on a new market, and you always run the risk of partnering with someone who doesn’t understand your needs. As we have access to tried and tested consultants, back-office companies, business lawyers, auditors, investors, companies working along the lines of Open Innovation and all the other resources you need, our goal is to help the Nordic companies hit the ground running in Japan. Our partners, including also Japanese governmental institutions and the Nordic support agencies, are all eager to get to know you in order to see how they can be of use.

Nordic Innovation House (NIH) is funded by Nordic Innovation (NI) and saw its first NIH come into existence in Silicon Valley in 2014. It proved to be a success and they now host several hundreds of members, all of which are startups or scale-ups from the Nordics. The impressive and ever-expanding list of the Nordic membership companies in Silicon Valley you can check out here. In Tokyo, the work of finding eligible members has only just begun.

– We are very excited that we, in fact, just last week (!) launched our campaign and work in finding our Nordic member companies. Naturally, we are looking for eligible members where Tokyo and Japan is a great fit for their business growth and expansion plans. It’s well worth mentioning that we will also invite our pioneering members to join us in talks on how to develop our offering. We are looking forward to becoming the best possible innovation community and platform for the Nordic business ecosystem in Japan.

Japanese investment in Nordic startups is on the rise! Diagram from the report Nordic Ecosystem.

Before setting up the organization for active members that are used by the assistance of NIH, many things need to be in place. For that reason, Niklas and his aides have been busy creating connections to trusted service providers, mentors, Japanese corporations and investors, industry associations and media, as well as increasing NIH Tokyo’s organic reach in mapping key opportunity verticals for Nordic companies. They are working with large governmental organizations like JETRO and all the way down to one-woman-sized companies.

– We only look for the best and most trustworthy partners with great tracking records. We want outstanding Nordic companies to meet with great mentors. We believe that by putting quality at the centre of our actions, we can deliver the most value to our complete ecosystem. We are happy to say that our Pan-Nordic collaboration is unique in the world, and saves our members’ most valuable asset: time.

Resources for you to dig in to:

Want to join NIH Tokyo’s Newsletter? Subscribe from the website:

Contact NIH in South East Asia directly:

Tokyo: Niklas Karvonen Mobile: +81 80 8908 4814

Singapore: Sami Jääskeläinen  Mobile: +65 9722 5131 

Hong Kong: Binh Johansson Mobile: +852 6623 8799

Want to learn more about NIH in SE Asia? Then you have to watch this:

A 1-hour jam-packed session explaining everything about NIH Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore on Youtube:

Everything you ever wanted to know about Nordic Innovation House in Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong.

You can download the slides here:

Useful links:

Nordic Innovation House Tokyo:

Nordic Innovation House:

Nordic Innovation:

Great resources:

The graph in this blog post comes from Innovation Lab Asia’s “Nordic Ecosystem” report (2019). Please access it here: , it’s a good read presenting the Nordic startup ecosystem for a Japanese audience.

If you want to tracks investments from Japan to the Nordics, have a look at this site: A lot of interesting stuff there.

The picture of Tokyo comes from Nordic Innovation House Tokyo’s homepage.

The Three Most Powerful Industrial Organizations in Japan

Businessmen and businesswomen in Japan

Japan has three private powerhouses that organize the country’s various industries and different sized companies. All three help develop and push policies aimed at achieving the best possible evolution of Japan’s business climate. Keidanren is considered the most conservative and quite similar to The Confederation of European Business, or as we usually say: “BusinessEurope”. Japan Chamber of Commerce is a network of comprehensive local economic organizations, organizing some 1.25 million members businesses nationwide, embracing companies in every size, from sole proprietors to large companies. Japan Association of Corporate Executives organizes around 1400 top-level executives from Japan’s 1000 largest and most influential industrial companies. They work with issues related to the development of Japan in many aspects from social to reform and economy in both a domestic and global context.

Keidanren – Japan Business Federation

Its original name translates to Japan Federation of Economic Organizations and was established just after WW2 with the aim of recovery for the Japanese economy. In 2002 it merged with Nikkeiren (Japan’s Federation of Employers’ Association), keeping the name Keidanren. For most of the post-war period, Keidanren has been the voice of Japan’s largest industrial companies. Noteworthy is the fact that they always supported the government’s efforts to raise Japan’s consumption tax to 10%. It has even called for the consumption tax to be raised higher, namely to 15%.

Keidanren organizes over 1400 member companies, some 100 nationwide industrial associations and 47 Regional economic organizations. Their own organization comprises a large number of committees, devoted to all different industrial sectors as well as special projects, including COVID-19.

The aim of Keidanren’s work is to achieve sustainable development of the Japanese economy in order to improve the quality of life for all of the Japanese people. The work they carry out is prepared in committees and then communicated to regulatory bodies, government and the various ministries.

An example of Keidanren’s communication:

Subcommittee on Digital Economy

Japan has proposed Society 5.0 as its concept for the future society, with the aim of realizing economic growth and solving social problems by making full use of digital technology and data. The government and the private sector are working together toward this goal.

To realize Society 5.0, it is essential to formulate consistent rules backed by a global consensus that facilitate the secure use of data across national borders. Therefore, all countries must pay attention to ensuring a balance between the consumers’ values, protection of privacy, and public interest while deepening international cooperation in order to build international systems and mechanisms for the free flow and utilization of data across national boundaries.

From this standpoint, we would like to give the following comments on “A European strategy for data” released by the European Commission on February 19, 2020:

(Read the full communication here!)

This was COMMUNICATED by keidanren On May 30, 2020.

Keidanren’s mission

The mission of Keidanren is to work for accelerating the growth of Japan’s and the world’s economy. Their means are through strengthening corporations and to transform the Japanese economy into one that is sustainable and driven by the private sector.

Keidanren has always been very clear that they work with always achieving consensus among their own. However, one recent decision resulted in something very unusual. Their work to influence the government in one area was not smooth. Keidanren’s official policy view was to restart Japan’s nuclear reactors as soon as possible after the Fukushima disaster. This led to an astonishing rift in Keidanren’s fabric. Rakuten’s president, Hiroshi Mikitani, left the federation over this issue. Masayoshi Son of SoftBank Group publicly objected to the organization’s focus on restarting the nuclear plants but remains a member.

Japan Chamber of Commerce, JCCI

This organization has an immense amount of tradition and history under its belt. The first Chamber of Commerce and Industry was established in Tokyo in 1878. Chambers later sprung up in other cities. In 1892, 15 chambers gathered together and formed a federation that found its current form as the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) in 1922. Today, there are 515 Chambers of Commerce spread out through Japan’s cities.  They form a large-scale nationwide network that boasts 1.25 million organized members. Chambers in Japan are designated as corporations with special status and operate under a special government law called the Chambers of Commerce and Industry Act. The Japanese Chambers all have the following characteristics apart from being public, non-profit, and non-political:

  • Regional, one chamber per city.
  • Large and small companies of every industry are welcome as members.
  • International in their organization and outlook.

Understandably, the JCCI is a strong voice for a huge part of Japan’s Industries. As they also organize SME’s, they also communicate the future of Japan’s new companies. They are an opinion leader in mainly economic circles. JCCI give voice to the local chambers by representing them to the government and other relevant bodies. There’s strong work performed in helping with the implementation. JCCI also plays an important role in the dissemination of information concerning government policies and programs, and the promotion of various nationwide projects.

JCCI Formulating Policy Proposals for the Japan of Tomorrow

Arguably, their most important function is to help solve the problems facing regional communities. This is achieved by speaking on behalf of the local economies and societies. JCCI is harnessing the immense power of the private sector in order to actively recommend and lobby for needed new or updated policies, and by working toward their implementation.

JCCI’s toolbox includes surveys and studies from the medium-to-long-range perspective. The key issues they work with are economic measures, small business policies, the tax system, finance, economic regulations, the global environment and reforms. Education, labour issues, international relations, and the Constitution are other important areas of focus.

Japan Association of Corporate Executives

The Japan Association of Corporate Executives is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of professional association of independent leading executives. It was founded in 1948 and engages in advocacy on public policy issues related to the development of the Japanese economy in both a domestic and global context.

The work in the organization is based on each member shedding her/his corporate identity and instead participates as an individual. Unconstrained by the interest of any specific company or industry members are completely free to express privately held opinions and ideas. This feature distinguishes them clearly from the other two organizations.

Their approximately 1,400 members are all top senior executives from almost 1000 of Japan’s most influential corporations. Membership is by invitation only. All members share the idea that corporate managers should be key players in formulating solutions of a broad range of political, economic, and social issues.

They conduct in-depth policy studies and organize seminars on a variety of important issues that relate to the development of the Japanese economy. The association engages with political parties, government officials, ministries, labour organizations and other of society’s stakeholders.

Japan Association of Corporate Executives promotes a progressive, innovative and market-based approach for Japan’s future best well-being. This is in stark contrast to the position of the other two main corporate business associations: Keidanren and the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. However, it’s useful to keep in mind that this is “progressive” from a deeply traditional Japanese perspective. This progressive organization only extended membership to female executives as late as in 1986. As always, better late than never.

A key concept that they are advocating is the notion that corporate social responsibility is an integral part of responsible business activities, not simply a legal compliance issue or limited to discrete charitable giving.