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James Riney

Managing Partner & Head
500 Startups Japan

Hometown: Tokyo

Number of years in Japan (cumulative): 17 (as of October 2018)

James Riney
Q1: What was your first encounter with Japan?

I basically grew up here! I was in Japan on and off until I was 12 years old. So unfortunately, I don’t have an interesting “Lost in Translation” story. I feel more like Bob Harris in that movie when I’m in the U.S. than when I am in Japan. Japan is home for me.

Q2: Please state your motto in life and why you have chosen it.

I live by co-founder and former CEO of Intel Andy Grove’s quote: “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” No matter how much we think we have achieved, there is always someone or something lurking around the corner hoping for our downfall. Stay hungry and always bring your A-game.

Q3 : Over your career, what achievement are you the proudest of?

I am most proud of the team I have put together. We would never have achieved as much as we did in such a short time without them. Empires are not built by one person — they are built by surrounding yourself with star players and setting them up for success.

Q4 : What are your goals during your time in Japan, your current position or in life?

Although Japan is the third-largest economy in the world, it is far behind as a startup market. While $70 to $90 billion are invested in startups every year in the U.S., just under $3 billion are invested in Japan. We can do better than that. I hope we can work together to build Japan’s ecosystem up to at least $10 billion. Japan’s future depends on the new generation.

Q5 : What wisdom, advice or tips can you give to people living and working in Japan?

When ordering yakitori, always go with salt, not sauce. The real test of yakitori quality is if it is good with salt. All true yakitori connoisseurs know that yakitori with sauce is blasphemy. The only exceptions are tsukune (ground chicken balls) and chōchin (egg yolk). Heed my advice and your tastebuds will thank you.

Last updated: Oct 1, 2018