JETRO Global Connection -Accelerate Innovation with Japan-

“Corporate Open Innovation Japan 2022” was held, with Techstars giving key points on collaborations between startups and major companies

(Japan, United States)
Aug 8, 2022

*This article was originally published in Japanese. All information in this article is as of May 11, 2022.

On April 21st, Corporate Open Innovation Japan 2022 was an online event hosted jointly by the renowned US accelerator TechstarsExternal site: a new window will open. and JETRO to advance further the development of innovations in Japan’s startup ecosystem. Presentations featured Techstars co-founder David Cohen and other speakers, with discussions that included real-life examples to explain the importance of having collaborations between startups and major companies.

The distinctive characteristics of Techstars as seen in its philosophy of “#Give First”

Techstars, established in 2006, is a famous accelerator in the US that has launched many unicorns, such as SendGrid and DataRobot. Techstars is characterized by having programs that revitalize not only corporations, governments, and local municipalities but also the ecosystem of each area. American accelerators like Y Combinator and 500 Global provide small-scale funding of $100,000 to $150,000 in exchange for about 6-7% of the startup’s shares. Convertible notes are often used, and accelerators offer programs from three to six months.

The company operates globally based on the solid mission of “Give First.” David Cohen explains this mission as the act of helping others to succeed without any expectation of something in return. One successful example of this mission is an email distribution service called SendGrid, where he served on the board. He explained that SendGrid helped people with their email problems, whether they were customers or not, increasing the number of customers.

Presentation by David Cohen (photographed by JETRO)

Presentation by Mr.David Cohen (Photo credit: JETRO)

The essence of collaborations with startups

Shinji Asada, the CEO of One Capital, explained that to create corporate innovations, you need to establish a corporate development organization within the company and then put your funds into potential investments that would complement your company’s products. Acting strategically when making mergers and acquisitions to access new business areas or expand engineering talents is important.

Since 2020, JETRO has been working together with Techstars on implementing the Startup City Acceleration ProgramExternal site: a new window will open. which does not involve making investments. Program participants Ms.Natsumi Ito, the co-founder of Water Design JapanExternal site: a new window will open., and Mr.Daisetz Sasaki, the CEO of Kyoto Meditation CenterExternal site: a new window will open., gave comments from the standpoint of startups on what is required from major companies. They stressed that it is crucial for major companies to have quick decision-making processes and to commit firmly to collaborative efforts with startups. These were very thought-provoking ideas for companies considering participating in collaborations.

Session with Mr. Asada of One Capital (Photo credit: JETRO)

Session with Mr.Asada of One Capital (Photo credit: JETRO)

The effects of accelerator programs by Techstars

Dave Drach from Techstars spoke about the company’s history of launching multiple unicorn companies and introduced the essential elements for a startup to achieve success: clear objectives, quality, consistency, and delivery. Then, Dhritiman Hui of Techstars explained that after running accelerators for 15 years, previous successes and failures are reflected in their program’s procedures, using accumulated diverse knowledge. Natsumi Ito and Daisetz Sasaki shared that their global network expanded after Demo Day. Demo Day is an event that is held at the end of accelerator programs where the startups make their pitch to investors and partners. They were contacted by VCs, companies, and universities from outside of Japan due to the high visibility of Techstars.

During this two-hour seminar, questions from the participants provided a highly engaging opportunity for everyone to share information. We hope this initiative will act as a springboard to encourage even more collaboration between startups and companies inside and outside of Japan, leading to the further expansion of business partnerships.

Report by:
IIMURA Toru , Innovation Promotion Department, JETRO

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