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What lured billionaire Taizo Son to Singapore from Tokyo

  • Japanese billionaire Taizo Son, founder and CEO of Mistletoe, says Southeast Asian start-ups can leapfrog their peers in developed markets
  • Mistletoe plans to invest $100 million in the region over the next five years

The promise of Southeast Asia's tech start-ups recently lured Japanese billionaire Taizo Son to move from Tokyo to Singapore.

The 44-year-old serial entrepreneur is founder and CEO of Mistletoe, a venture capital firm that's also part accelerator and part incubator. The Tokyo-based company set up shop in Singapore this April as Son, the younger brother of SoftBank founder and Japan's richest man Masayoshi Son, looks to invest $100 million in Southeast Asia over the next five years.

Emerging companies in the area are promising "because there are no legacies or traditions to break," he said on the sidelines of SWITCH, the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology.

"Instead of catching up to developed countries, Southeast Asia can leapfrog them ... it's a very attractive region for me."

New businesses in that part of the world boast significant advantages compared to more advanced markets, Son explained, using the example of his home country.

Taizo Son, chief executive officer of Mistletoe
Akio Kon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Taizo Son, chief executive officer of Mistletoe

"Japan is a developed and sophisticated society, but it's difficult to make great innovations in a short period of time. In Singapore, on the other hand, we can move very quickly because there's no legacy to break."

Mistletoe hasn't wasted any time since entering the region, recently announcing a new accelerator program in India for agri-tech and food-tech start-ups.

Called Gastrotope, the program is aimed at updating India's food supply chain to the 21st Century, Son said, adding that the idea was inspired by the nation's food struggle and its massive pool of tech talent.