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Nagano and Utah

This time, I would like to blog about a thought that I have expressed in words but not in writing.
(See: Why Utah Is Fast Becoming a Tech Hub for Startups?)

I was a student at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah from 2005 to 2010. During that time, I noticed that many students from Shinshu University in Nagano, Japan were visiting the campus as international students to study the language. (The University of Utah has inter-university academic exchange agreements with Shinshu University, Tsukuba University, Hosei University, Waseda University, etc.) From that time on, I began to think of Utah and Nagano Prefecture in connection with each other.

After returning to Japan, I began to visit the central part of Nagano Prefecture every summer and fall to see the scenery of the Northern Alps and the beauty of nature, and I realized that Utah and Nagano Prefecture are very similar in terms of environment. When I actually decided to start a business in Nagano Prefecture, I wanted to make Nagano Prefecture a place where many leading IT startups would be born one after another, just like in Utah.

Because it takes less than two hours to fly from San Francisco, California, where Silicon Valley is located, to Salt Lake City, Utah, it is similar to Seattle, Washington, Austin, Texas, and Boulder-Denver, Colorado, and Lehi, Utah, has become a leading tech hub and is known as ” Silicon Slopes,” as it is also known. How did Utah manage to become a tech hub with this geographic advantage? (Adobe and Domo, to name a few, are based in Utah.)

The first is land prices and cost of living. Silicon Valley is famous for having one of the highest land prices and cost of living in the United States. This is a very attractive point for leading start-up companies that need a huge data center, which is important for platform businesses, and spacious offices with plenty of space to recruit and retain talented people. I think Nagano Prefecture more than satisfies this need.

Next, there is the talent pool. Utah has a strong focus on technology and has one of the highest rates of technology-related degrees per capita in the U.S. Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, and Utah State University are all major contributors. In Nagano Prefecture, Shinshu University’s College of Engineering is relatively well known, but it produces far fewer engineers and other professionals.

Third, the government supports start-ups. Utah’s name is sometimes ranked among the top five states for business in the U.S. For decades, Utah’s state government has focused on building healthy partnerships among business, education, government, and community, helping to create a strong foundation for Silicon Slopes to succeed. In the 1990s, for example, the Governor of Utah appointed a new governor. For example, in the 1990s, the state’s governor regularly visited Silicon Valley to encourage high-tech companies to set up offices in Utah. As a result, eBay opened its main customer service center and Intel Corporation began doing research work. Also, a few years ago, the state government gave Facebook a huge $150 million tax incentive to open a data center in Utah. Such moves have begun to emerge in Nagano Prefecture over the past few years, but we have yet to hear of any major start-up attraction or nurturing.

The fourth is a community created by founders and executives of major companies. In fact, the name Silicon Slope comes from the name of a non-profit organization founded by the founder of Domo in 2008. Its purpose is to promote Utah’s growing technology ecosystem. The Silicon Slope community is home to more than 6,000 of the most innovative startups and technology companies. Some of these companies are worth more than $1 billion and are run by some of the brightest minds in the technology industry. The managers of these leading companies believe in creating companies that revolutionize their industries while giving back to society. They seek to provide equal opportunities for entrepreneurs of all backgrounds who wish to make an impact on society and shape their business plans. When we look at Nagano Prefecture, this part also makes a big difference. Since most of the leading local companies are in the manufacturing industry, it is a movement that has not yet occurred where the founders and managers of major local companies are leading the way in this area of bringing together start-ups with strengths in technology to create a community. I believe that this is a movement that has not yet occurred.

We will continue to refine and enhance our strengths to create such a tech hub in Nagano Prefecture.

Masaki “Mark” Iino
Founder & CEO