UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), a VC firm backed by the University of Tokyo, has agreed with the University of Tsukuba, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, and Tokyo Institute of Technology to operate together the firm-led entrepreneurship support program called 1st Round. This means four national universities in the Tokyo metropolitan area join forces in sourcing more budding startup teams to help nurture and fund.
The 1st Round program was originally launched in 2017 and then rebranded as the current name in 2019. Inspired by Stanford University-backed StartX, the program helps graduates, faculty members, and students who are looking to start their own businesses, as well as university-related seed startups that have not yet raised funds, with up to 10 million yen (about $100,000 US) in funding and hands-on support for six months.
Selected startups will receive a variety of resource support for PoC (proof of concept), collaboration, and commercialization from the program’s partners. Fuyo General Lease, JR East Japan Startup, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, PCA, Mitsui Fudosan, Nippon Life Insurance, Toyota Motor, Yamato Holdings, and Yaskawa Electric are joining the latest batch, the fifth of its kind, as partners.
The program has turned out 34 startups to date. Among the alumni, our readers may recall interesting startups which have secured funds from UTokyo IPC, such as HarvestX (from the 3rd round, developing automated pollination and harvesting of strawberries), ARAV (from the 3rd round), developing remote control and autonomous drive of construction machinery), as well as Sonus (from the 4th round, developing the power-saving multi-hop wireless network technology). 90% of the teams graduated from the program have successfully secured VC funding.
UTokyo IPC revealed that it has significantly enlarge the size of the firm’s AOI Fund (named after Accelerating Open Innovation) which was introduced announced last May. Worth 2.75 billion yen (about $25 million) at the time, it has now grown up to 24 billion yen (about $219 million). In addition to conventional investors like Mitsubishi UFJ Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, SBI Group, Daikin Industries, Development Bank of Japan Group, Hakuhodo, Fuyo General Lease, and Mitsubishi Estate have newly invested in the fund as limited partners.
The disclosed six startups which have secured investments from the AOI fund are:
- Fimecs …… research and development of novel drugs based on proteolysis induction (carve-out from Takeda Pharmaceutical)
- Onedot …… operating the Chinese childcare media Babily and helping Japanese e-commerce companies make digital strategies and marketing efforts for the Chinese market (carve-out from Unicharm and BCG Digital Ventures)
- Bird Initiative …… Offering consulting services for solving company issues through digital transformation as well as prototyping services for expanding R&D functions (joint venture with NEC and others)
- UrbanX Technologies …… building a real-time Digital Twin for road inspections and urban infrastructure management
- HarvestX …… developing automated pollination and harvesting of strawberries
- ARAV …… developing remote control and autonomous drive of construction machinery
UTokyo IPC plans to more actively invest in startups from these universities. As the fund has become larger, it is now able to handle ticket sizes ranging from a seed investment worth tens of millions of yen to a large-scale one worth more than 2 billion yen, according to the firm.