One of the year’s most spectacular startup payoffs isn’t in Silicon Valley or China, it’s in Japan.

Mercari Inc.’s $3.7 billion coming-out party will deliver a 149-times return to early investor United Inc., which engineered a 300 million yen ($2.7 million) round in the flea-market app in 2013. That stake will be worth at least 45 billion yen when Mercari goes public June 19, a mega-windfall that may galvanize the No. 3 economy’s stunted startup scene.

“The environment is right to see several more unicorns appear over the coming decade,” said Yozo Kaneko, president of the Tokyo-listed investment and internet services firm. “But the real consequence is that we’ll see more experienced entrepreneurs come out of those unicorns, and they’re the ones who could have a really big impact on the entire ecosystem.”

About time. Japan’s first wave of big startups — Rakuten Inc., Yahoo Japan Corp., CyberAgent Inc. — ended with the bursting of the dot-com bubble. The 2006 downfall of Livedoor Inc. (later reborn as Line Corp.) and the global financial crisis further damped startup creation, convincing millions of graduates that entrepreneurship was too risky and corporations like Sony Corp. offered better careers.

Read more: How $5 a Night Hostels Led to Japan’s First $1 Billion Startup



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