UTokyo’s incubator ties up with Cyber Valley to support portfolio teams mutually

Cyber Valley’s AI Incubator Demo Day in 2023
Image credit: Cyber Valley

See the original story in Japanese.

UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC for short), the University of Tokyo’s answer to Stanford’s StartX incubator, announced in April that its 1stRound deep-tech startup support program has signed an agreement with Cyber Valley, a research consortium in the fields of AI and robotics based in Stuttgart, Germany, offering mutual support for startups between Japan and Europe. Both organizations will mutually invite startups from Japan aiming for the European market and startups from Europe aiming for the Japanese market, and supporting them on a non-equity basis.

Aiming to help qualified teams build collborative relationships with companies and raise funds from investors, 1stRound (originally called the Startup Support Program) has adopted a total of 85 startup teams over the past eight years. Among all the teams from the program, over 90% of them has secured follow-on investment while over 50% of them has received grant. In recent years, the company has also focused on helping teams expand globally, including helping more teams appply for accelerator programs at major universities in the US.

Hideki Nagasaka

Meanwhile, Cyber Valley was founded by the Max Planck Institute (MPI) and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Germany to support AI and robotics startups. Based in Baden-Württemberg, where many of the world’s top research institutes are concentrically located, it has been working with universities and institutes all across Europe, global companies such as Amazon and BMW, and VCs to promote entrepreneurship among researchers and support the growth of startups.

Through the collaboration, qualified startups from each of the programs on both sides will be mutually eligible to participate in the initiative.

According to 1stRound director Hideki Nagasaka, startup support organizations in the local market are best at helping conduct proof-of-concept projects with local enterprises. In order to establish a practical support system on a non-equity basis across borders, he decided to build a mutually beneficial relationship between 1stRound and Cyber Valley, in which both parties support each other’s startups without compensation.

He added,

Cyber Valley provides the resources and costs to support 1stRound’s startups in Europe while we 1stRound do and vice versa. Both organizations are committed to supporting the startups sent by the other in their mutual market..

In the deep-tech space, accelerators are growing faster than startups, but there are still no accelerators from Japan in the top 10. UTokyo IPC hopes to establish this position by building a cross-border PoC track record in the top three markets – Japan, the US, and Germany – in terms of top-ranked markets in GDP, R&D spending, and researcher population.

Unlike space-tech startups which are typically forced to startup their business on a global-scale from Day 1, deep-tech startups need to have their sights set on the global market at an early stage, and only then will result in more unicorn and decacorn startups. Even Y Combinator, which is regarded as a global unicorn maker, is not able to support startups in Japan especially with offering PoC opportunities for startups. If UTokyo IPC can establish a non-equity deep-tech support system in the aforementioned three markets, they will be able to play a top performance role.

With four universities and two national research institutes in Japan recently onboard, 1stRound is now organized jointly with 17 universities and two national research institutes in Japan. In addition, the UTokyo IPC announced last week that it has recently launched the University Startup Promotion Fund Limited Liability Partnership (commonly known as the ASA Fund), which invests in university-backed VCs in a fund-of-funds scheme, with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyu Land Corporation, the University of Tokyo (to be determined), and others as limited partners. The fund will be up to 10 billion yen (about $64 million US) in scale.

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