Business / Corporate

Japan launches entrepreneurial matching platform to boost space startups

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

In a bid to boost investment in domestic space startups, the government launched on Thursday an online platform to help connect investors with entrepreneurs seeking funds to put unique ideas into action.

The platform, named S-Matching, invites entrepreneurs in the space sector to post their ideas on its website. If investors are interested, they can contact the entrepreneurs directly and start negotiations.

Entrepreneurs can also use the platform to find and contact investors who are likely to be interested in their ideas. The website started accepting user registrations on Thursday, and the function to exchange messages will be available in about two weeks.

Despite the enormous potential in the field, many early-stage space startups have experienced difficulties raising funds as investors often view investments in space businesses as riskier than putting money into IT ventures, said Masanori Tsuruda, director of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Space Industry Office.

“I believe (the space industry) has enormous possibilities that are far beyond our imagination,” he said.

As of Thursday, the platform had already attracted 52 investors, including well-known firms such as SoftBank Corp., trading house Itochu Corp., Japan Airlines and Mizuho Bank, as well as individual investors.

Space development for commercial purposes is attracting growing attention globally, with business ideas ranging from the removal of space debris to using data from satellites to assess crop conditions on farms. The government estimates there are more than 1,000 space startups worldwide.

In February, U.S.-based SpaceX, founded by Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk, launched a rocket carrying a red Tesla Roadster intended to orbit the sun. In May, OneSpace, a Beijing-based startup, became the first private Chinese company to successfully launch its own rocket into space.

The government announced last year that it aims to double the size of the nation’s domestic space business market to around ¥2.4 trillion by the early 2030s. To achieve that goal, the government aims to expand the role played in the space industry by private-sector enterprise, which it claims will create new growth opportunities and become a significant driver of improved productivity across many sectors.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also pledged in March that the government would invest a total of about ¥100 billion in the nation’s space sector over the next five years, to encourage more homegrown startups to get into the space business.

The S-Matching platform is run by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, a state-backed research body.