How can startups find manufacturers in Japan?

In the last decades, Japan has gained a reputation for high quality manufacturing and production efficiency, but this club used to be limited to large corporations. In this post, we will guide you on how to work with Japanese manufacturers in order to help build your startup product.

Why manufacture in Japan?

In terms of technology and innovation, Japan is one of the world’s leading high-tech countries. Along with ‘monozukuri’ mindset and extensive craftsmanship culture, Japan’s commitment to producing high-quality products is well known all over the world. Products with label ‘Made In Japan’ imply extreme attention to all details— no matter how tiny or easily unnoticed it would be to the final user.

To learn more about the power of the country as a brand, see “Future Brand” index chart below.

The value of “Made in Japan”: the country ranks №1 in world, as a country consumers want to buy products from

Establishing a hardware startup is ridden with challenges. When it comes to manufacturing products, many startups find themselves hitting a brick wall. The difficulty of scaling a concept from business idea to a batch production can make or break your business. Whether you’re making IoT watches or smart shoes, finding the right supplier for your startup is essential for success.

It is difficult to cross over DFM (Design for Manufacturing), the ‘valley of death’ for hardware startups.

How to choose manufacturers in Japan?

Find partners that you can trust your project with. There are many suppliers and manufacturers in Japan you could work with, but it would be impossible to approach all of them personally. Our Japanese partners Kyoto Shisaku Net have an extensive suppliers’ network and can connect you to the wide range of prototype experts for an affordable price. They have already helped startups to tackle business challenges and build strong, long-term relations with manufacturers.

Smartshopping used to be a software company and once they decided to build a physical product — IoT scales to automatically replenish stocks — they faced with turbulent times. Unaware of know-how for hardware projects’ management, they had no contacts for reliable suppliers, nor time to find and evaluate them. After they reached out to Makers Boot Camp, manufacturing went smoothly: crossEffect designed an external case, Kyoso Technology helped with PCB commonly known as printed circuit board and Goodwood-Kyoto assembled the parts together.

Smartshopping IoT scales

Tokyo-based startup Coban, that produces e-money reader for IC cards, needed to solve a problem of a very basic prototype. Crosseffect helped them to add a high-tech look in order to match a target price, while KSN worked on a final design before proceeding with mass manufacturing in China.

How to approach manufacturers in Japan?

Once you have your business plan and a working prototype, it’s important to identify a few manufacturers who can help you to nail your manufacturer needs. Monozukuri Tour organized by Makers Boot Camp could be your chance to gain much deeper insight into a potential supplier’s network in Japan. A tailor-made business field trip provides an opportunity for you to get in touch with global investors and prototype experts. In addition, you can meet potential partners and receive a valuable feedback on your business model.

Some of the visitors from overseas who approved our Monozukuri Tour are Kickstarter, Nike & many startups.

One of the Kyoto-based manufacturers is Hilltop, an innovation factory specializing in the prototyping of aluminum products. Another manufacturer is crossEffect, which is known for the developing and prototyping industrial resin mold products.

Hilltop makerspace Foo’s Lab. Photo Tugi Guenes

Once to approach a suitable partner?

Collaborating with somebody that knows the ropes can grow your hardware startup and save you a lot of time and money. Partners who know what they are doing can negotiate all sorts of terms and options in your favor.

Makers Boot Camp supports startups’ growth from business model to supply chain by connecting global startups to Japanese partners and supporting startup manufacturing and investment. We can help you in several ways:

Hardware Consulting: Make your small lot prototypes with our experienced team. No minimum order required!

Community Shaping: Meet and connect with entrepreneurs working on the latest innovative projects. Welcome to our Kyoto Makers Garage makerspace, where ideas are made from concept to working prototype.

Project Funding: Startups working on a prototype can apply for MBC Shisaku Fund, the 1st Japanese fund for global hardware startups. Check out portfolio startups already funded: Bonbouton, Boston Biomotion, Hoplite Power, no new folk studios, Smart Shopping etc. More to me announced soon!

Makers Boot Camp team with Challenergy, Smartshopping and Hachitama, 2018 Hardware Cup winners

To summarize:

How to manufacture in Japan?

  1. Go to the factory tour in Japan to identify a few manufacturers and get in touch with prototype experts.
  2. Find a Japanese partner who can connect you to the wide range of prototype experts for an affordable price.
  3. Apply for MBC Shisaku Fund, the 1st Japanese fund for global hardware startups.

Contact us from anywhere in the world to get support. We are thrilled about innovation and eager to discuss your hardware project!