JETRO Global Connection -Accelerate Innovation with Japan-

Techstars is bringing its world-renowned accelerator to Tokyo

Apr 17, 2024

One of the world’s foremost pre-seed investors is coming to Japan, and will host its first cohort of the Techstars Tokyo accelerator programExternal site: a new window will open. later this year, bringing together 12 seed-stage startups who will receive funding, expert mentorship, and network access. The program, the first Techstars accelerator in Japan, will be hosted at Tokyo Midtown Yaesu's Innovation Field Yaesu, and has already generated significant buzz.External site: a new window will open.

“What's really interesting is that you see applications coming both from within and outside of Japan,” said Maëlle Gavet, Techstars Chief Executive Officer. “To me, that was confirmation that Japan is an attractive market, and we see Tokyo as a hub for future investment across Asia.”

Maëlle Gavet, CEO of Techstars (taken by JETRO)

Gavet took on her role at Techstars in 2021, and has more than 15 years of experience as a leading technology entrepreneur. She was a principal at Boston Consulting Group, led the real estate platform Compass, and was Executive Vice President of Priceline group, which operates OpenTable,, and other well-known digital brands.

Techstars is widely considered the globe's most active pre-seed investor, driving top-tier startups with a focus on breakthrough technologies in sectors like Deeptech, Fintech, Cleantech, and Climate Tech. Founded in 2006 in Colorado, their portfolio of thousands of companies has now raised $26.8 billion USD from investors. Some notable alumni of their program include Digital Ocean, Sendgrid, Classpass and Contently.

Gavet is excited about tapping into Asia’s second-largest economy.

“In Japan, there is a new generation of young graduates who are looking at entrepreneurship as something interesting to explore, and they have ideas, and that's extremely positive,” said Gavet.

Techstars' accelerator programs are hosted in various cities across the globe . For example, startups like Refr Sports, LOWR, and Cup Carrier Media have participated in the Minnesota Twins Accelerator by Techstars. Recently, a collaboration with the U.S. Space Force and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory focused on enabling a new wave of space tech companies from industries such as automotive and agriculture. Techstars also runs Startup Weekend, a 72-hour immersive program for budding entrepreneurs, held in numerous global cities.

In Tokyo, Techstars will run its flagship, three-month accelerator program complete with elite mentorship. The timing, to Gavet, is right, to come to Asia, and specifically, Japan.

“The mindset is shifting in Japan,” said Gavet. “We see the government more interested in tech startups and putting more money into the ecosystem, and we feel more interest from young Japanese people. Being an entrepreneur is starting to become cool.”

Techstars Tokyo Program Presentation at Techstars Tokyo Kick-off (taken by JETRO)

Techstars is a very competitive program, with an average acceptance rate of just around 1 percent, making the cohort a highly selective, often ambitious and elite group. The program is, as expected, challenging, meant to emulate the realities of a start-up business. The benefits, however, are significant – participants in Techstars Tokyo will have access to a vast network of partners, investors, and alumni, funding opportunities, workshops, and a plethora of peer learning experiences.

“There is a dedicated team of Techstars employees, as well as support from JETRO and from Mitsui Fudosan bringing mentors to support the companies,” added Gavet.

Applications for the 2024 cohort opened in December, and closed on March 27th, and the accelerator will begin this summer, and finish with a demo day in autumn. Gavet encourages entrepreneurs who are ready to take the next step to apply and become part of the Techstars community.

“No one succeeds alone. Being a successful entrepreneur requires a lot of hard work, a lot of luck, and a lot of people behind you to help you. Even just going through the application process will give you a taste of what it is like to start talking to professional investors,” said Gavet, adding that rejection does not mean your idea is not worth pursuing.

“Even if you're not accepted in our program, because we're very selective, keep going, because that's what’s required for you to be successful,” added Gavet.

Perhaps they can try again in Japan, because, for Gavet, this year’s Techstars Tokyo is hopefully the start. The scale and breath of applications has been strong, and she believes that Techstars can do a lot more in Japan.

“It's quite phenomenal to see how broad of an appeal Japan has for entrepreneurs,” said Gavet. “The tech ecosystem in Japan is undersized compared to the overall economy. So there's a major upside.”

If all goes well, she sees potentially holding programs in other parts of Japan. “We have big dreams. We're expecting to go way beyond Tokyo at some point,” said Gavet.

Profile of Maëlle Gavet, CEO of Techstars

Maëlle, the most active pre-seed investor in the world that provides access to capital, programming and connections to early-stage entrepreneurs. Gavet was drawn to Techstars as an entrepreneur at heart, having founded her first business at 16 and going on to start two other companies. She has been a senior executive at numerous large tech companies around the world, including Ozon, the Priceline Group (OpenTable, Kayak, and Compass. She was also a principal at the Boston Consulting Group for six years.

Report by:
WATANABE,Keita, Startup Support Division, JETRO

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