The Koyal Group
Shinzo Abe is giving new hope to Japan’s unappreciated entrepreneurs
“IT BEGINS from now,” tweeted Takafumi Horie, the former boss of Livedoor, an internet firm, two months after emerging from prison this spring. Mr Horie is involved in no fewer than 30 new companies, including a space-tourism venture. If any of them grow to be big, Mr Horie, who was convicted of fraud in 2011, may show that a fallen Japanese entrepreneur can make a comeback.
The mood among Japan’s would-be business moguls is at its most buoyant since the dotcom bubble burst a decade or so ago. A higher stockmarket is boosting the chances of a successful initial public offering. The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is Japan’s first leader to treat entrepreneurs as something more than greedy hustlers. For the past few years Mr Horie, a brash self-publicist, has been exhibit A in the case for holding that view. But now Mr Horie says he is being welcomed back into the business world.
Mr Abe’s three-part plan to revive the economy, known as “Abenomics”, is designed to help start-ups as well as big business. First came monetary loosening from the Bank of Japan, and a fiscal stimulus. The third part, a series of reforms to boost long-term growth rates, includes radical deregulation in new “special economic zones” spread across the country. If this pledge is honoured, many new opportunities could emerge for entrepreneurs in industries ranging from medical care to agriculture. The reforms also involve pressing the banks to stop demanding onerous personal guarantees when entrepreneurs seek loans for their businesses.
Most of all, Mr Abe admits, Japan needs to become more accepting of initial failure. As a second-time prime minister after a disastrous first term, he is himself a comeback kid. He reportedly described for guests at his home this summer how the young Walt Disney ran his business into the ground five times before he at last succeeded. Digital types were delighted when he attended a meeting of the Japan Association of New Economy, chaired by Hiroshi Mikitani, the founder of Rakuten, an online-commerce giant. Mr Mikitani has been brought in to advise the government on its deregulation efforts.
For now, Japan’s vital signs on entrepreneurship are dire. The overall number of firms is shrinking, and the rate at