Message from the Founder
As a lawyer and strategic advisor in the international field for nearly 30 years, I have had the privilege of leading successful businesses in more than 100 countries, supported by a team that is trusted by top Japanese and international companies, as well as local governments. In particular, I was stationed in Cairo more than 10 years ago, and through my business experience in various countries in the Middle East and Africa, I saw the potential and energy of the region. Ever since, I have been exerting efforts to encourage more investment towards the region.
Why Japan, the Middle East and Africa?
As an advisor to the embassies of the Middle East and Africa, I have had the opportunity over the past ten years to see the needs and challenges of these countries from a local perspective. In the Middle East and Africa, everyday life is full of challenges, and trying to solve these challenges in and of itself is creating businesses. This is in contrast to Japan, where the relative affluence of the people makes it difficult for them to find business opportunities and to innovate.
At ZENMONDO, we believe that innovation is the key to solving social issues in Japan, the Middle East and Africa. Japan is facing the challenges of a “lost 30 years” and “declining international competitiveness”, whilst the Middle East needs to “break free from oil dependency and develop next-generation industries”, and Africa is experiencing a “leapfrogging phenomenon due to the still developing local infrastructure”. Although the three regions are very different in terms of resource wealth, social maturity and challenges, they are in a win-win situation, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
How ZENMONDO was set up
Through our profession, we have seen a lot of risk behind our clients’ successes. It is our job to face the challenges, unravel the complexities of the facts and find solutions. In order to produce as many companies as possible that can face risks and find opportunities within them, we have decided to launch a “Global Innovation Ecosystem” with the mission of finding solutions to social issues in Japan, the Middle East and Africa, with the aspiration of “challenging a world without answers” – as embodied by the name ZENMONDO. We were fortunate to receive the support of the then Egyptian and UAE Ambassadors to Tokyo, and in July 2018, we held a reception with both embassies to celebrate our founding.
What ZENMONDO Ecosystem aims to achieve
Today, the world is entering an era of uncertainty and challenges are becoming more complex. There is only so much that an individual or an organization can do on its own. There is a need for like-minded members from government, academia, business, venture companies and experts, regardless of industry or nationality, to work together to solve problems and create value as a whole by bringing together technology, know-how and knowledge in their areas of expertise.
To pursue this, ZENMONDO will connect startups from Japan, Middle East and Africa, large Japanese companies and investors from Middle East and Africa through an “ecosystem” consisting of (1) Like-Minded Community, (2) Dojo Academy and (3) Investment Fund through open innovation. Our vision is to “build a bridge of innovation” between Japan, the Middle East and Africa by nurturing the next generation of leaders and creating businesses with growth potential.
Why now is the best time
The situation in the Middle East and Africa has changed remarkably over the last decade or so. It is similar to the stage of the times in South East Asia about 30 years ago (when I was stationed there), which has developed faster than we could have imagined. The global market is becoming a “red ocean” – a highly competitive market – with money and talent concentrated on innovation in developed and emerging countries. ZENMONDO, with its unique ecosystem strategy, can become a pioneer in the Middle East and Africa, the last remaining “blue ocean” in the world, by leveraging the financial power of the Middle East and the technical capabilities and human resources of Japan.
Japan’s role to play
As a resource-poor country, Japan has developed by focusing on technology, organization and human resource development. Now, as the world seeks sustainable growth under the SDGs, the know-how that Japan has developed over many years is sought after. In the Middle East and Africa, where there are many pro-Japanese people, ZENMONDO aims to find the seeds of innovation from local business needs, create businesses in fields where Japan is strong, and pursue both economic and social returns with our business partners. ZENMONDO aims to “connect the world, create the future, and unify our spirit”.