Ex-head of Orange Fab Asia launches cross-border open innovation program on AI and Data

Image credit: MoBagel

Orange Fab Asia, a startup accelerator run by French telecom giant Orange in the region, came to an end in October after nine years of activity. We had been wondering what was going on with Hiroshi Nishikawa (西川浩司), who has been supervising the program, and others involved, but as for Nishikawa, we learned that he had joined MoBagel (行動貝果), the Taiwanese founder-led startup offering an AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) platform.

MoBagel was founded in March of 2015 and is currently headquartered in Santa Clara, US. The company has secured about $20 million in total to date, mainly backed by Taiwanese VC firms and others. Some of our readers may recall that they delivered a pitch at Slush Asia, Rising Expo as well as having been selected by AppWorks and SparkLabs Taipei for their respective acceleration programs.

We learned that MoBagel has established a Japanese subsidiary called Solve AI while Nishikawa has been appointed as its CEO to launch a cross-border open innovation program called the Solve AI Challenge. The program aims to connect enterprises (partners) seeking ideas and startups that want to propose ideas on topics such as AI and data collection and analysis. According to Nishikawa, the name of the program was inspired by the Startup Challenges program at VivaTech, an annual startup conference in Paris to which Orange Fab Asia’s selected teams were often invited.

It has not yet been known what companies will participate as partners, but we have been told that one major Japanese tech company has been confirmed to join so far. In the program, every partner will individually set their Challenge topic while startups are requested to propose methods and ideas for solving it. Partners will offer some benefits (financial rewards, invitations to startup events, business collaboration opportunities, etc.) to the startups with the most highly evaluated proposals.

Image credit: MoBagel

According to Nishikawa, when Orange Fab Asia was about to end, Adms Chung (鍾哲民), CEO of MoBagel, also one of the alumni from the program, heard about it and proposed Nishikawa to launch an open innovation program in MoBagel. The new company, Solve AI, will focus on building a startup ecosystem around AI and data, with the intention of finding potential users for MoBagel in the future.

The Solve AI Challenge will make full use of the vast network that Nishikawa has cultivated at Orange Fab Asia. Danny Han and Clare Fan, former directors of Orange Fab Asia in Seoul and Taipei respectively, will participate as advisors for the new program. Taking advantage of their global presence with offices in Santa Clara, Taipei, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Singapore, MoBagel will fully assist operating the Solve AI Challenge with considering offering MoBagel products free of charge to startups participating in the program.

In the program, each partner will evaluate and select startups to work with on their respective conditions. After several months of PoC (proof-of-concept), the Demo Day is expected to take place to showcase their results. The approach of inviting startups from different partners in the same industry to collaborate on a specific topic is similar to what Plug and Play and others have been running. Solve AI is currently inviting partners for the program while details will be announced in the future.