Even as Japan Inc.'s influence has diminished under a series of internal scandals and international competition, the prevailing image of Japanese business remains tied to massive corporate conglomerates rather than innovative startups.

But behind the scenes a unique mix of entrepreneurs are planting their flags in up-and-coming markets in a wide range of industries, from restaurants to venture capital.

Many of these upstart companies were on full display in late August at the annual Global Venture Forum organized by the World Association of Overseas Japanese Entrepreneurs (WAOJE). Held this year in Phnom Penh, the event featured 400 Japanese entrepreneurs and investors who have made their mark around the world. At the gathering, they discussed the challenges and opportunities that go along with testing their business acumen abroad.