#Asia #Japan 95: How This American Got The Japanese Government to Fund His Startup – enTouch


Two of the most persistent and damaging myths about Japan are that it is hard to start a company here and that it is hard to do business as a foreigner.  Well, those are not complete myths. Both of those things are indeed difficult, but no harder than they are in any other country.

Today Marty Roberts explains not only how he started and rapidly grew a successful startup here in Japan, but how he got the Japanese government to pay for it.

To contain health care costs, the Japanese government is pushing doctors to prescribe more generic drugs, and that is forcing the pharmaceutical industry to change they way they do business or to go out of business. Marty saw an opportunity in this shift, and his company has quickly grown to be the leader in its space.

Marty also offers some very practical advice for anyone thinking of leaving a senior management role to start a startup.

It’s a great discussion, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Show Notes

How pharma sales is broken in Japan
Why work is about to get a lot harder for Japan’s Doctors
How Japan plans on cutting medical costs in the future
Why enTouch needed services to sell software
How to negotiate non-compete agreements with your current employer
Getting funding from the Japanese government
Why you don’t want to invest in technology early
How enTouch will survive the next phase of market distortion
What needs to change about childcare in Japan

Links from the Founder

Find out more about enTouch

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Disrupting Japan Episode 95.

Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs.

I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.

Work is about to get a whole lot harder for doctors in Japan. Japan’s rapidly aging population combined with a pressure to decrease costs in the National Health Insurance program means that doctors and well, all parts of Japan’s health care industry are going to have to do a lot more with a lot less.

Of course disruptive innovation in health care is rare and frankly, that’s a good thing. Most advances in health care are steady if unpredictable incremental innovation, and we’re going to be looking at one of those today. Japan’s pharmaceutical companies are under pressure not just from the drugs going off patent but the Japanese government’s plans to drastically increase the percentage of generic drugs being prescribed by Japanese doctors. This means a lot less money flowing to pharma and Japanese pharma companies are scrambling to cut cost and remain competitive.

Marty Roberts saw a startup opportunity here and he founded enTouch which provides what the industry calls remote detailing services. Now, this basically means explaining drugs to doctors online rather than face-to-face meetings but as you might expect, there’s a lot more to it than that and Marty soon discovered that it required a very specific Japanese twist to make this technology work here in Japan. Marty also provides some very sober advice for you if you are thinking of leaving a large company position to start your own startup. But you know, Marty tells this story much better than I can.

So let’s hear from our sponsor and get right to the interview.


Tim: So I’m sitting here with Marty Roberts of enTouch. A company that lets pharma reps more efficiently connect with doctors. I know that’s a really broad description, so can you explain a bit better what enTouch does?

Marty: You did a pretty good job there, Tim. EnTouch is focused on helping pharmaceutical companies communicate better with doctors so that doctors know about newest medicines, newest trends in health care so that they can treat their patients better. Pharmaceutical companies spend huge amount of money, like $20 billion a year promoting drugs to doctors in Japan and th…

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