From Tokyo to Texas: The University of Tokyo at SXSW 

Helping Japanese technologists build international businesses, sell their ideas, and capitalize on conferences

Entrepreneurs and innovators coming together from across the globe is a beautiful thing

This March at Austin’s SXSW Interactive conference, Actionworks led a project for the University of Tokyo and The Launchpad at the University of Texas. The was to create an environment for Japanese technologists and SXSW attendees from all corners of the globe to hone their business acumen.

From Nintendo gaming consoles to Sony’s Walkman, Japanese craftsmanship and innovation have long been admired worldwide. This cohort of all-star technologists from the University of Tokyo hoped to follow in the footsteps of those legendary Japanese innovators by showcasing tools and tech ranging from real-time karaoke translation software to low-latency video compression algorithms. 

However, as history and experience teach us, great technology alone doesn’t guarantee business success. The art of communicating a business idea effectively—highlighting its market potential, the size of its target user base, and presenting it compellingly to investors—are key to business success.

Actionworks’ role was to design an engagement that showcased these innovative technologies and gave the founders an opportunity to practice the skills needed to succeed in the market. In this case, we focused on teaching them how to communicate with customers, refine their English-language pitching, and enhancing their interpersonal communication abilities.

Nina (University of Texas), Me (Cam/Actionworks), and Toshi (University of Tokyo)
Plotting and planning with Toshi and Taketo 

The highlight of the engagement was a “speed dating for ideas” session. This setup provided founders with five opportunities to pitch their ideas to entrepreneurially-inclined members of SXSW community, refining their presentation skills with each iteration. For our Japanese founders, this also meant invaluable practice in presenting their business ideas in English, navigating cultural nuances while pitching to an international audience.

Our aim was to emphasize the importance of clear, compelling storytelling in entrepreneurship. By the end of the workshop, participants left with a deeper understanding of how to articulate their visions effectively, a crucial step in turning groundbreaking ideas into successful businesses.

Big thanks to the partners: The University of Tokyo’s Toshinari Shimokawa and Sugewara, The Launchpad at the University of Texas’ Nina Ho, and SXSW.