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Young people are increasingly playing a key role in Internet-related ventures amid the information-technology revolution in Japan.

Yu Jie, a 26-year-old Chinese graduate student at Waseda University, is working as an intern producing programs for the Internet at a venture business tied up with a Tokyo television station.

“This is the job I always wanted to do. A venture business gives you the opportunity to obtain knowledge and experience that would otherwise take several years to get at a large company,” Yu said.

Yu is one of some 500 students sent as interns since 1997 by the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Entrepreneurs’ Training for Innovative Communities.

“Students in the postbubble era are focusing more on job satisfaction than chasing well-paying careers,” said Haruo Miyagi, the organization’s 28-year-old chief.

He pointed out that the number of students wishing to gain practical work experience while at school is on the rise, a trend that major companies are reluctant to accept.

Network-related ventures are pinning their hopes on students who can step in anytime and make a valuable contribution from the get-go. Such companies are even prepared to entrust projects worth tens of millions of yen to students full of fresh ideas.

Hands-on work experience at such firms is also helping to spread the spirit of entrepreneurialism among students, who used to automatically join an established company upon graduating, said Shuichi Matsuda, a professor at Waseda’s graduate school.

About 2,000 students are enrolled in the university’s MBA course, with 1,200 of them competing to attend venture business lectures, according to Matsuda.

The professor said 10 percent of students completing the course are either setting up their own companies or planning to enter venture businesses, a rate unimaginable 10 years ago.

“Many graduates from elite universities still prefer working for major firms, but half of them quit such companies in three years. It is quite natural for young people to enter the venture business world, believing in the possibility of their future growth,” he said.

Will the popularity of network-oriented venture businesses among graduates be instrumental in breaking down a society with major companies at its core, eventually leading to structural reforms?

Sachio Senmoto, president and founder of E Access, a Tokyo-based company specializing in high-speed communications technology, is skeptical. “Japan is still only toying with venture businesses,” he said.

In the United States, he said, people wishing to establish venture enterprises first round up top-rate personnel in each field from finance to planning to secure a presence high enough to compete with major companies.

“What is actually emerging in Japan is a pattern of business tieups among venture entrepreneurs and major enterprises,” Senmoto said.

But Waseda University’s Matsuda pointed out, “The consciousness that ‘if you need shelter, choose a big tree’ is changing, and such change is gradually reforming an enterprise-based society.”

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