Studying in U.S. ‘key’ for entrepreneurs: Roos

by Junko Horiuchi

Kyodo News

Studying and pursuing careers in the United States will improve ability to communicate across borders and help Japanese entrepreneurs collaborate with talent around the world, U.S. Ambassador John Roos said Monday.

“The value of outside education, of getting intraperspectives and practices, directly bolstered Japan’s incredible economic growth through (the 1950s and 1960s and beyond),” Roos said at a Tokyo symposium on how to spur entrepreneurship.

“It was also common for young Japanese to earn their undergraduate or graduate degrees in the United States, including MBAs,” he added. “My government puts a high priority on supporting Japan’s return to the trend of studying in the United States.”

The number of Japanese students studying abroad has been on the decline, partly due to difficulty in finding jobs when they return home and because they have become more inward-looking than before, analysts said.

There were about 29,000 students who studied in the U.S. in 2008-2009, down from the peak of some 47,000 in 1997-1998, according to the Japan-U.S. Educational Commission.

Roos, who sees mobility of talent in the workforce and diversity as keys to enhancing healthy entrepreneurship, said, “Working with partners around the world means that you have the most talented specialists for each market and industry working with you.

“Collaboration encourages, to generate discovery and success, not hinders it. It opens markets, not constrains them,” he added.

“English is now the key” for Japanese entrepreneurs to tap into talent worldwide, he said, finding it “interesting” that Rakuten Inc. recently decided to adopt English as its official in-house language by 2012.

Roos, who grew up in San Francisco, has served as chief executive officer at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a law firm headquartered in Silicon Valley known for its representation of technology, life sciences and growth companies.

Reflecting back on the 25 years he spent in Silicon Valley, he said entrepreneurs there created “an energy and an excitement that is truly intoxicating,” allowing everyone to dream.

“The United States is proud of its reputation for receiving and encouraging the best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the world,” he said, adding that attracting the world’s top level creates a positive cycle of competition and synergy.

Promoting the development of small and midsize enterprises and entrepreneurship, including enhancing women’s roles in the area, was one of the issues addressed at the recent 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit and other meetings.

“It has been proven . . . that a healthy entrepreneurial environment strengthens a country’s economy,” Roos said after emphasizing that Japan, along with the United States must remain strong economic powers to ensure strategic goals of peace and prosperity under the U.S.-Japan security alliance.

Entrepreneurship in Japan is also important to the United States because “it creates investment opportunities and therefore jobs across borders,” he said.