Japanese Technology start-up companies present their credentials to Silicon Valley

In a test of Japanese startups’ global competitiveness, a dozen firms took part last month in a contest to pitch their ideas — in English — to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. The SF New Tech Japan Night event gave 12 Japanese entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their products, ranging from Web browsers to music-sharing and social-networking services in the hope meeting prospective financiers.

Many startups have sprouted in Japan since 2000, and the recent advent of cloud computing has made it easier for tech-savvy Japanese to launch their own businesses with limited resources. Yet the language barrier, lack of presentation skills and a reluctance to take risk has meant few Japanese make it to Silicon Valley.

All of the presenters held a global perspective of the market rather than a domestic one. But for many, the most challenging part of the event was doing the five-minute pitch and follow-up questions in English — one of the critical skills needed to succeed in the U.S./Global market.

Although many of the competitors were able to give impressive presentations, others ran out of the time or misunderstood the judges’ questions.

“If they can’t survive here, they can’t make it in Silicon Valley,” said Craig Mod, a mentor at 500 Startups and founder of Pre/Post, one of the seven judges.

Analysts say some of the major reasons why Japanese start up companies haven’t done well in Silicon Valley is the language barrier, lack of presentation skills and a reluctance to take risks.