Toshiyuki Shiga is on a $10 billion quest to discover Japan’s top entrepreneurs, people who can found companies as globally competitive as Tesla Motors Co. and Apple Inc.

The former chief operating officer of Nissan Motor Co. described the search as an urgent mission for Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, the state-backed investment fund he took over as chairman in June.

Shiga, 62, was brought in to lead INCJ after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited California's Silicon Valley, where he met Elon Musk and Twitter Inc. co-founder Jack Dorsey. The fund already has dozens of investments from entertainment startups to airlines, Internet companies and water utilities and has been shifting its focus to small manufacturers working on robotics and technology for emerging industries such as driverless cars, Shiga said.