Today we sat down with Jason Ball, owner of the Business In Japan Community on LinkedIn. Set up in February 2008, as well as one of the oldest groups on LinkedIn, ‘BIJ’ has grown to be the largest, most active LinkedIn Communities in general and certainly related to business or a professional life in, with or related to Japan!
Benji: Hi Jason, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. Can you tell us a bit about the history of Business In Japan?
Jason: Sure. Business In Japan (BIJ) was founded in February 2008 by Rob Pereyda. At the time, there were a lot of spammy LinkedIn groups that were just trying to collect email addresses. Rob was in Marketing for Cruchyroll at the time and wanted to create a group that was different, a place where people could come to learn and ask questions about doing business in Japan.
The group quickly grew, and in 2009 we started organizing events. Our first event was a meet-up at the Shin Marunouchi Building in Tokyo. We expected about 50 people, but over 200 showed up! So we planned the next event for 250, and 700 showed up! The third one at that venue we planned for 1,000… it was freezing cold and raining, but being on top of Tokyo Station (Shin Marunouchi) while we don’t think we got to 1,000 it would have been close!
Since then, we’ve organized dozens of events, including networking events, workshops, and online webinars. We’ve also grown our membership to over 80,000 people from all over the world.
Benji: That’s amazing! What do you think has made BIJ so successful?
Jason: I think there are a few things. First, we have a great community of members who are passionate about doing business in Japan or just a professional life related to Japan. Many members are willing to help each out others in the group, and in Tokyo at least & before COVID, they’re always up for a good time! Tokyo is a small place when it comes down to Business involving foreigners and global markets, and Business In Japan has been a community which has attracted some amazing people with amazing stories. I see you guys have interviewed Jared Campion, who’s been an active member of Business In Japan for many years!
Second, we offer more formal help, introductions to GoodPeople in the community whom I know and trust. I call this growing list of people and companies ‘the BIJ Partner Network’! We also have a team of moderators who are dedicated to keeping the group spam-free, which is getting harder since we accepted LinkedIn’s suggestion to make the group ‘Public’.
Finally, we’re always evolving. We’re constantly looking for new ways to connect people and share information. We’re also working on expanding our reach and providing more services and tools for members on our website BusinessInJapan.com
Benji: That sounds great. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in running BIJ?
Jason: There have been a few challenges. One is that LinkedIn really isn’t a great platform to build a thriving community online alone. Indeed over the years some might say groups like Business In Japan have succeeded despite LinkedIn, not with their help! We’re hoping things will continue on this upswing of improvements we have seen recently, like the Public Group option, and some moderation tools they have rolled out for our sometimes overwhelmed Moderator/Managers!
Another challenge is that it can be difficult to stay relevant. The business landscape in Japan is constantly changing, the world is – so we have to make sure that we’re listening, sharing new and up to date insights and developing resources to help with the Japan of today.
Benji: Those are all valid challenges. But it sounds like you’re up for the challenge. What are your plans for the future of BIJ?
Jason: We have a lot of exciting plans for the future. We’re going to continue to grow our membership, and we’re going to expand our reach to people who haven’t to this point realized the community is more than just Networking. That we have Partners and resources that just might be able to help members get a job, open a business, hire a staff member, organize simultaneous interpretation or find a local partner. We’re also going to launch a couple of new sections to our relaunched services website, and we’re going to develop new tools and resources for our members.
We’re also going to continue to organize events, particulary for Companies who want to bring people together to network around what they do, to bring togethert global event attendees to mix with more domestic Japanese networls. We’re planning a second event in conjunction with Japan Computer Vision and WeWork Japan in September in Tokyo later in the year, and we’re also going to host smaller events and support events others are putting on that have Japan and a business/professional theme.
Benji: So our audience are people learning Japanese and with a desire perhaps to visit Japan in the future. What advice would you give people across the world looking to come to Japan some time in the future?
Jason: Well first of all, you can get to Japan if you want to, it can be done! Of course for a holiday but knowing a lot of your website visitors are looking to study possibly event work in Japan in the future, I would encourage people to start building their network in Japan. You don’t need to have an ‘ask’ and indeed it is better to not lead with you and what you want when first reaching out to and building your network.
Join the Business In Japan network, and feel free to reach out to me. I’m a hub networker and have a large and active network in Japan. I’m always connecting GoodPeople around the subject and interest in Japan. I’d be glad to connect and hear about your interest and connection to Japan!
Benji: That sounds great! Thank you for that. I’m looking forward to seeing what BIJ does next. Thanks for your time, Jason.
Jason: Thanks for having me!
If you’re interested in exploring the Business In Japan community , check out the links below including the Japan Startup themed Podcast ‘Founded In Japan: Uncommon Knowledge About Starting Up !