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Japan is well known as a global tech hub and growth is especially notable in the artificial intelligence and financial technology, or fintech, areas. A hotbed of invention and discovery, it hosts global tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon, but also domestic giants like Rakuten or Softbank.

It is also worth to note that the tech start up space is continuing to grow in Japan. A Nikkei survey finding estimated corporate value of 20 new start ups at combined value of 1 trillion yen.

So, if you‘re looking to pursue a tech career and finding yourself caught between a tech giant or a tech start up, we are here to support you in overcoming this dilemma.

What we mean by ‘tech giant’ and ‘tech start up’?

Before we start to break it down for you, we thought it would be worthwhile explaining exactly what we mean by ‘tech giants’ and ‘tech start up’ companies.

Tech giants, also commercially known as ‘tech titans’ are your large organisations ruling the tech scene – companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Tencent to name a few.

Tech start ups, often better known as ‘tech unicorns’, who start out with a smaller team will often act as disruptors to the tech scene. They do so by delivering new technology products or services or look to deliver existing technology products or services in new ways.


Choose based on your priorities

When it comes to your career, your priorities will change over the years. A lot of candidates have come to us saying things like, "I now feel like a small cog in a massive machine" or "I’m not getting the exposure that I want".

The reality is they want change, but they don’t always know what their best option would be. This is where our specialist tech recruitment consultants come in - offering personalised advice.

To help, we’ve put together a list of priorities and a short explanation as to which one would be the better choice – tech giant or tech start up. This is based on our conversations with professionals in the industry.


You like to focus on smaller elements of projects – tech giant

At tech giants, you’re more likely to spend your time concentrating on one particular aspect of a project or your role, instead of having a complete overview. This is generally because big tech companies are more process driven, as the projects are usually larger and for bigger innovations - so you play your part in the process and focus solely on that element. This gives you the opportunity to perfect your experience in one particular area of your job and will be exposed to the best practice whilst doing so.


You think about the bigger picture – tech start up

If you think about the bigger picture of what you’re working on, you’re most likely to enjoy working for a tech start up. You’ll be able to see how things are implemented and how the project you’re working on will benefit others. You’ll be working with the patient very much in the forefront of your mind, whereas in a tech giant, you tend to be focused on smaller elements of the project so it’s hard to see the end results of what you’re working on.

In addition if you are planning to be your own founder of a company, a start up environment is where you'll actually learn how to do so. That's where you will see a lot of mistakes made, and a lot of successes as well.


You would prefer structured processes – tech giant

Processes are a big part of any tech company – big or small – however, if you prefer to work in an environment whereby there is more pre-defined process and more involved in decision making, you’ll better suit a tech giant. Unlike tech start ups or unicorns, who give more autonomy to individuals, tech giants have spent years developing their ways of doing things.


You prioritise company culture – tech start up

Quite often, candidates that have worked at both big and small organisations have said that, although tech giants have a perfected company culture, usually you either fit in or you don’t. What candidates prefer with a tech start up is the opportunity to influence the culture and diversity with your own background and ways of working. So if you like knowing that you can express your own personality and shape the team you’re working in, your safest bet is to go with a tech start up.


Your focus is on career progression – tech start-up

Whilst you can still progress at small or medium companies, you’re more likely to receive regular growth in tech start-ups. Despite their size, there’s a lot more opportunity for growth within the company whereas in tech giants, you can sometimes find yourself reaching the top much slower due to red-tapes and bureaucracy especially when it comes to Japanese companies.

Nonetheless, in a large organisation, you’ll go up a pre-defined career ladder, whereas in a smaller company, you could have the team grow out beneath you.


You’re looking for high job satisfaction – tech start up

Many professionals find that there’s far too much ‘red tape’ at the tech giants to get the same level of job satisfaction as they would in a smaller company. As a result, processes can take a long longer than they would in a tech start up. You also have more opportunity to see the benefits of the asset you’re working on, as you get to see the bigger picture and work closer to the patient. All of this can result in much higher job satisfaction.


Take the next step in your career

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong choice; it all depends on personal preference and your own career goals and our consultants are ready to give you as much advice and guidance as you need.

Tommy Haviland, Manager at Computer Futures Japan, says that “While tech giants are certainly an appealing option with powerful brand weight behind them, I always urge candidates to consider challenging themselves in a tech start-up. The potential for accelerated career growth is much higher with ability to step into leadership and team building roles in a short period of time, not to mention the opportunity to gain exposure to a variety of jobs and activities across the business. A career in a tech giant is always going to be available no matter how early or late in your career you are, but start-up opportunities often come up only once or twice in your career, and it is an opportunity that should not be missed.”

Here at Computer Futures, we work with companies of all sizes which means we have access to some of the most in-demand IT jobs. So if you’re looking to find a new opportunity, or interested to look at IT job salary benchmarks, we can help. You can either use our job search or sign up for a job alert, so we can notify you whenever a role comes up that suits what you’re looking for. Feel free to contact us from the form below if you'd like the latest market information.


Whether you’re a professional looking for a job or a business seeking highly skilled talent, the team at Computer Futures are here for you. By combining our local expertise and specialist market knowledge, we can provide expert recruitment and employment solutions across a range of IT markets.