Photo: Slush Asia
Photo: Slush Asia

Exchange journal: Starting things up in Tokyo

Cindy Huang is completing a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Japanese Studies). She spent a semester at Waseda University in Tokyo and followed this up with an internship and volunteer experiences that immersed her in the exciting world of startups.

“Before I left Japan, I was determined to find an opportunity to plug into the startup ecosystem in Japan and Asia, learn more about startups and forge professional relationships between Australia and Asia as a recipient of the inaugural New Colombo Plan Scholarship.

My chance came when I got roped into the first of many startup events I would volunteer at over my 10 months in Japan. The first  was SLUSH Asia, which pulled in over 3000 attendees from across Asia.

cindy-pitchDuring this event I challenged myself to join a pitching competition and I was overwhelmed to be awarded an Oculus Rift and a Google Nexus Player from two of the event’s generous sponsors, Colopl and Google.

Having the chance to connect with hundreds of entrepreneurs driving economic, social, cultural and technological change drove me to join the volunteer team of another startup event Skyland Ventures Fest – a place for ‘Global Startups to meet Global Talent’.

It was a challenging experience, because the communications were completely in Japanese. But I definitely learned a lot about event management (and improved my rather poor Japanese) and met some of my best friends in Japan during that experience. I then later volunteered at Tech in Asia Tokyo during my full-time internship at J-Seed Ventures.

Japan is often regarded to be a country of the future: high-tech, innovative, advanced. Yet its students and workers tend to be risk-adverse, change-resistant and reluctant to confront challenges, harbouring perhaps one of the most conservative mindsets in the world.

Yet my time in Japan showed me that there are people working hard to change this – entrepreneurs that are leading the quest to reimagine Japan. It was an honour and a privilege to have met them. They have not only globalised my own personal and professional network but also inspired me to relentlessly pursue my own path of driving global innovation.”

Japan is one of more than 40 countries where you can complete an exchange semester as part of your Macquarie University degree.