Interviews with pioneers@Tokyo CASE 01

CASE 01 "We bring high value-added consumer products to Tokyo's trend-sensitive market."

Big Smile Products,LLC Chairman/President
Mr. Marc Bookman
会長 マーク・ブックマン氏

Mr. Bookman has been engaged in internet services for more than 20 years. He founded MCN, a vertical search provider, and was the company's chief executive. As an adviser to many start-up companies in Silicon Valley and a published author, Mr. Bookman talks about the reasons he chose to invest in Tokyo

"We bring high value-added consumer products to Tokyo's trend-sensitive market."

Big Smile Products is an e-commerce company with its head office in the U.S. Established in February, 2014, it has also set up regional offices in Thailand, and Japan (as of May, 2014).

The company, which markets innovative products to consumers in Asian markets through direct digital & TV promotions, had a plan to set up regional headquarters in Tokyo from the start. The reasons are because of the location and due to the huge economic influence of Tokyo's metropolitan area. The area is one of Asia's largest and most influential economic and e-commerce hubs. Furthermore, its sophisticated residents have a sizable appetite for high value-added consumer products. Also "the high reliability of services available in Tokyo" was a major factor in its selection.

In Tokyo what locally may be regarded as "the way things should be", such as public transportation that is precisely on time, the high degree of safety of city life, and the well-maintained public infrastructure and internet, are actually the strong appealing factors of Tokyo which separates it from other international rivals. "Moreover, the time difference between the U.S. and Tokyo allows businesses to run in real time compared to Hong Kong and Singapore," Mr. Bookman says.

In setting up regional headquarters in Tokyo, Big Smile Products received free consulting support from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), which forms part of the TMG's incentive program to attract foreign investment to the capital city.

The government subsidized free consulting service from a major consulting firm, has provided a lot of valuable information for how to apply for the subsidy program, finding office space and hiring well-qualified talent in Tokyo.

In fact, in the case of Mr. Bookman, he was aware of the special economic zone incentives before he established Big Smile Products.

First of all, for a start-up company which is limited in terms of size and human resources, it is difficult to access information like rental office listings that are open to smaller foreign companies. The presence of consultants, who provide business support, is very helpful. In a certain sense, Big Smile Products is a fine example of a foreign business which has made the best use of TMG's incentives, and is successfully launching its operation in Tokyo.

Mr. Bookman who set up the Tokyo office as a regional headquarter for Southeast Asia also commented that "Japan needs to strengthen its cooperation with other Asian countries, and needs to deepen the relationships."

It seems that in order to allow foreign businesses to take full advantage of Tokyo's competitive edge, there are still many points that can be learned from "Tokyo perspectives" as seen from a foreign entrepreneur's viewpoint.

(Tami Kawasaki)

Interviews with pioneers@Tokyo

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