Japan is slowly waking up to the rise of start-ups around the globe. While Silicon Valley corporations, rising Chinese tech companies and other start-ups dominate global business news, Japan Inc. has yet to see this fervor for new entrepreneurs and small businesses. In fact, Japan only has one unicorn (a start-up that is valued at one billion dollars or more) compared to more than 60 in China and over 100 in the United States. Even neighboring South Korea, which has a population less than half of Japan, has three unicorns.

Many in Japan, including the national and municipal governments, are trying to change this trend by encouraging entrepreneurs and investors with startup-friendly policies. For example, the “Startup City Fukuoka” initiative in Fukuoka is leading the way with cutting taxes and creating visa exemptions for new businesses, making the city one of the fastest growing in Japan outside of Tokyo.

Additionally, the Japanese economy is looking positive in anticipation for the Tokyo Olympics coming up in just two years. The influx of people, goods and money is expected to create the perfect opportunity for new businesses to scale up and expand. Put together with a supportive environment, there has never been a better time for Japanese entrepreneurs.

However, one glaring issue remains; funding is still hard to come by, especially for expats and foreign-born residents. The additional legal and language hurdles often pose a severe burden on foreign entrepreneurs in the race for investment.

Tokyo Star Bank’s new initiative, the Foreign Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition 2018, does away with this obstacle and gives foreign entrepreneurs an opportunity to become the next star in Japan’s business scene. The Grand Prize winner of the competition will be awarded a whopping ¥1,000,000 in funding, while the runners-up receive ¥300,000. Only foreign nationals living in Japan or foreign-born Japanese are eligible to apply, making it a rare opportunity for expats to grow their small enterprises.

The competition calls upon entrepreneurs to submit business plans related to any of the four key topics: businesses creating new markets, businesses with high added value, differentiated businesses and businesses utilizing cutting-edge technology. Applicants go through a round of screening before a selected few deliver their pitches at the final selection stage on July 18.

In addition to judges, the final selection stage will also be attended by venture capitalists and private equity funds looking for new businesses in which to invest. Even if contestants lose out on the cash prizes, they may still pique the interest of investors and be contacted for further opportunities.

The deadline for applications is June 8. Applicants must submit several documents including a business proposal in Word or PowerPoint that is up to 20 pages long. For more information, visit the Tokyo Star Bank’s official website at www.tokyostarbank.co.jp (Browsing recommended on PC).