Japan port city of Kobe launches pre-accelerator program with 500 Startups

500 Startups founding partner Dave McClure at the Kobe city office. (Photo from his Instagram timeline)

See the original story in Japanese.

Silicon Valley-headquartered VC firm 500 Startups and the City of Kobe, Japan today announced the establishment of a collaborative pre-accelerator program. It will be run at the Kobe Institute of Computing located near Kobe-Sannomiya station from 1 August to 9 September. On the last day of the program, a Demo Day will be held for participant teams to show the result of the program, to which partners of 500 Startups will be invited, namely, Dave McClure, Christine Tsai, Zafer Younis, Marvin Liao and Mat Johnson.

The City of Kobe and 500 Startups just started today accepting applications from participant startups via the program’s website. Eventually 15 to 20 teams will be selected from among them, and allowed to join the pre-accelerator program over a one month period. Applicants are limited to startups at seed stage inside / outside Japan, and covering fields including BI (business intelligence) tool, commerce, FinTech, EduTech, healthcare, IoT (Internet of Things), SaaS (Software as a Service) and so on. In particular, for cases on themes which focus on regional challenges in the Kobe area, the teams will be allowed to enter into partnership with sponsoring big companies (as part of Open Innovation support).

As in a former case where 500 startups had engaged in incubation by tying up with local government, one may be reminded of the joint activities with the City of Osaka in 2013. Taking this as an opportunity, currently various events or programs related to startup acceleration have been carried out in the Osaka area, such as an annual startup conference every February like the collaboration HackOsaka, a 4.8 billion yen (about $44 million)-fund Hack Ventures backed by Osaka City / Osaka-based companies, incubation efforts conducted mainly at OIH (Osaka Innovation Hub) / GVH (Global Venture Habitat) in front of Osaka station, or a startups dispatch program to Silicon Valley.

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On the other hand, the City of Kobe has been running startup competition Kobe Global Startup Gateway or a startup support business called Kobe Startup Office which gathers promising startups from within or outside Japan from last year. Looking at startup support activities by local government in Japan other than Tokyo, they are in fierce competition with each others in trying to differentiate their own support plans or to capture startups. For example, Fukuoka City aims at globalization of the community by inviting startups from Taiwan, which is rather close geographically.

It is likely that Kobe decided to rely upon 500 Startups for ‘globalization’; the word also can be seen in the name of the startup competition KOBE Global Startup Gateway which was started as of last year. We hope the startups from Kobe will enhance their presence in global startup hubs including Silicon Valley, triggered by the establishment of this pre-accelerator program.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy