See the original story in Japanese.
On Monday at True Digital Park in Bangkok, the Japanese Embassy in Thailand together with the CP Group (Charoen Pokphand Group) held a Demo Day of the second batch of Rock Thailand, a matchmaking event aiming to help Japanese startup and Thai conglomerates to work together. The event is part of the Open Innovation Columbus (OIC) initiative, which promotes strategic alliances between Japanese startups and Thai conglomerates.
The majority of Thai conglomerates do not reap the benefits of a digital economy. In Japan, large companies are moving to start digital transformation (DX) by collaborating with startups (it’s so called ‘open innovation’), while in Thailand, due to the nature of the verticals that local startups specialize in, DX through open innovation will likely still take time.
In response to this, OIC selected a team of 10 Japanese startups that lead verticals likely to be useful for DX (AI, robotics, IoT, logistics), and that are particularly interested in advancing into Southeast Asia, including Thailand, and invited them to Bangkok. This is an attempt at targeting cross-border open innovation and focuses on using the power of Japanese startups to foster DX for Thai conglomerates. Since top executives from local conglomerates including CP group listen to startup pitches, their effort is more likely to lead to PoC (proof of concept) and other collaborative work because of top-down decision making.
As a result of the initiative’s previous batch, our readers may recall that there were an announcement regarding the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on PoCs towards collaboration between Japanese startups and Thai conglomerates:
- Umitron (IoT-powered aquaculture tech) – CP Foods (Thailand’s largest food distributor)
- Ground (autonomous collaborative robot for the logistics industry) – WHA (logistics facility giant in Thailand)
- Skydisc (AI and IoT) – TTCL (Thiland’s engineering giant)
- Toppan Printing – DRVR (fleet analytics)
- Flare (ad-wrapping service for car owners and telematics) – Toyota Tsusho Thailand
- Leave a Nest – Innospace (Thailand’s startup accelerator backed by the government and private sectors)
Since Shiro Sadoshima were finishing his term as the Japanese ambassador to Thailand, attending the Demo Day was the last opportunity for him to be involved in a series of the OIC activities. In the event, Kobsak Pootrakool, Deputy Secretary-General to the Thai Prime Minister for Political Affairs, made a keynote speech and thanked Sadoshima for his great work for many years. Because of high reputation from the Thai Government and local conglomerates, Roch Thailand and other OIC activities are expected to be taken over and followed up by the next ambassador.
The founders of participating 10 startups from Japan made a pitch to Soopakij Cheravanont, chairman of CP Group, and other 60 representatives from his group companies in addition to 80 people from other local conglomerates. Discussions between potential partners with Japanese startups have just begun after the pitch, so please stay tuned to their future progress and eventually public announcement as their previous batch grads recently did. For now, let’s have a quick look down on how the participating startups are working to tackle.
- True Digital Park’s “Togetherness of Possibilities” drives digital transformation in Thailand (e27)
- Asia’s first Google Learning Center launches in Thailand (e27)
Founded back in 2016, Paronym has developed the TIG interactive video solution that allows viewers to obtain necessary information by tapping an item in a video clip. Use cases include e-commerce sites selling interiors and fashion outfits, recipe sites (linking to foods and ingredients in the recipe), and online travel guides (linking to travel destinations). The platform offers tracking editing tool that allows content owners to associate objects in a clip with link destinations in addition to heat map tool showing them which part of the clip their viewers are tapping.
The company offers a different line-up for each of six different verticals including movies splitting off into multiple case scenarios, magazines, digital signage, commerce, learning and live (performance). Due to its high interactivity, they claim that the platform can help e-commerce sites gain their conversion rate twice that of Instagram, three times that of YouTube. The company is seeking business partnership, series B investment, and sales partnership in Thailand.
Connected Robotics was founded back in 2014 by CEO Tetsuya Sawanobori who has been developing industrial robot controllers and won a robot contest organized by Japanese public broadcaster NHK when he was attending the university of Tokyo. Their portfolio products include OctoChef offering automated cooking of Octopus Dumplings, the Reita ice cream serving robot, Dish Washing System, hot snacks serving robot for convenience stores, and the Loraine breakfast cooking robot.
The company won the Startup Weekend Robotics back in 2017, and was also selected for Kirin Accelerator 2017 and IBM BlueHub 4th Batch. Their robot is not intended for sale but is provided as a service (Robot as a Service=RAAS) that allows store owners to use it by paying installation and monthly usage fees so that then can start using it as an alternative to clerks. Supporting various robot arms with its control software and computer vision-based positioning system, the system is very flexible in dealing with a variety of ingredients and cooking procedures.
IntegriCulture has developed cell farming technology for producing cultured meat. As a means of supplying animal protein, meat products derived from livestock has many issues from the viewpoint of sustainable society because of excessive consumption of water resources, deforestation, and emission of greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, the technology for producing cultured meat is very expensive and still far from far from our daily consumption.
The company has succeeded in producing meat for human consumption by culturing actual cells. For example, it enables to produce chicken liver paste equivalents by putting muscle cells into culture solution (biocatalyst). In the actual animal body, internal organs secrete hormones to change cells to support every different function in the body but the company’s solution, called CulNet, made it possible virtually. The company is currently developing cultured foie gras, hoping to work with Thai companies to market artificial anti-aging serum based on the same culture technology.
- These Japanese Bio-Hackers Are Growing Affordable Meat in A Lab – Shojinmeat (Disrupting Japan)
- Lab-grown food startup Memphis Meats raises $17 million from DFJ, Cargill, Bill Gates, others (VentureBeat)
A.L.I. Technologies has three business domains: drone, air mobility, and computing power sharing. in the air mobility business, the company unveiled the prototype of hoverbike for public road use back in March. In the machine computing power sharing using high-spec GPUs, our readers may recall that the company invested in Pegara, the startup behind a CPU cloud service for deep learning called GPU Eater, back in September this year.
The company’s drone can be also used for streamlining the regular semi-annual inspection of power plant facilities and eventually saving up to $9 million yen. Having formed a nationwide network of drone pilots who have received high-level training, the company is looking to increase demands of drones in periodical facility inspections, agriculture, and surveys in addition to those of hoverbikes in racing, entertainment, and mobility use.
The working population, especially in the manufacturing industry, is shrinking not only in Japan but also in Thailand as the aging society advances. LinkWiz automates manufacturing and inspection processes of industrial products using robots, realizing labor savings and gaining efficiency. Their flagship products are the L-Qualify 3D weld bead inspection system and the L-Robot teaching tool that helps robots correct movements aligned with target work.
The company claims their technology has helped precision machinery and auto parts manufacturers like Yamaha, Mitutoyo, and Aisin Seiki cut down their production cost. LinkWiz hopes clients to use these robots “as sensors” and use them throughout the entire manufacturing process at the factory. In June, the company secured about $8.2 million from round INCJ, SMBC Venture Capital, Mitutoyo, Panasonic, Global Brain, Hamashin Lease, and other investors in a series B round.
TBM has developed a new limestone-based material called Limex, an alternative to paper, plastic, and vinyl. Making paper consumes a lot of wood and water, while producing plastic also consumes fossil fuels and releases greenhouse gases. As plastic pollution in the ocean has become a mindful issue, Limex can replace traditional materials and be used for business cards and packages. The new material is used for a menu at Yoshinoya beef bowl restaurants in Japan while it’s also attracting people’s attention as plastic bags provided at supermarkets are being charged for environmental reasons.
In addition to recycling collected materials into equivalent products, the technology enables to create a value-added product such as converting collected old Limex-made menus into new bowls, which they call ‘up-cycle’. The company runs their business in over 30 counties by licensing their technologies to local partners in over 30 countries, exploring potential partnership with manufacturing companies as well as investment. They were ranked in the second place both in Nikkei’s Next Unicorn Survey and For Startups’ estimated valuation raking.
With the increasing supply of hotels and vacation rentals, price wars with competitors are intensifying for owners. It is difficult for them to hire experienced pricing managers, and price adjustment process ridiculously time-consuming. Metro Engine provides hotels with dynamic pricing function (enabling them to maximize profit by price optimization) leveraging AI-powered demand forecast forecasting. It’s currently used by more than 30 hotel chains in Japan.
The platform offers sales management, demand forecasting, past data analysis, OTA (online travel agency) ranking and other functions for hotels, as well as other services supporting demand forecasting and pricing for car rental agencies and rental property owners. In the future, the company wants to offer the best means of transportation for visitors by aggregating data from car rentals, highway bus, events, and trains as well as hotels. Having partnered with Toppan Printing, the company was qualified for both the IBM BlueHub (inbound) open innovation program and the JR East Accelerator Program 2nd batch.
SAgri gets soil conditions (corrosion content) using satellite data and updates on farm products and varieties from farmers to create a blockchain-powered database. Putting these altogether, the company tells farmers how to improve soil conditions from biological, chemical and physical viewpoints in addition to offering them with accurate measurement to help farmers get more harvest. They have also developed a scoring scheme evaluating farmland by soil conditions data and macro data of corrosion content.
Conventional methods measuring nitrogen in soil were expensive while the company has succeeded in lowering the cost using satellite data. Focused on what, rice and sugar cane, the technology can give farmers harvest prediction and advise them how much fertilizer they should use. By sending all these insights to financial institutions, the company encourages them give loans to local farmers in India while the Japanese government leverages the technology to determine the status of fallow fields to see if then can resume cultivation. They were qualified for the MUFG Digital Accelerator 4th Batch and the 500 Kobe 3rd Batch.
Terra Drone provides drone-powered services for industry use. In August, Drone Industry Insights published the Service Provider Ranking for this year and put Terra Drone in the second place following ZipLine. Currently targeting markets include oil and gas fields, power houses and grids, mines and quarries. The technology visualizes the layout of power grids in 3D using LIDAR data from drones while the recently-launched technology enables aerial livestreaming for hot spot corrosion monitoring for pipelines.
Other use cases include detecting crime from high places, detecting gas leaks in pipelines, and ultrasonic flaw detection in LNG tanks. With the unique feature of their LIDAR-based mapping technology that can visualize terrain data, demand for the technology is growing in many industries, especially in the construction one. The company is looking at series A round funding soon, exploring partnerships with local companies in Thailand and other Southeast Asian markets.
Oprimind has developed a route planner for last-mile delivery providers called Looqia, leveraging the Combinational Optimization technology spun off from Nagoya University. In addition to Looqia as SaaS (Software as a Service), the company offers an algorithm platform as PaaS (Platform as a Service) and R&D service for enterprises. Logistics companies had been planning routes and delivery orders manually, but Looqia allows them to find the most efficient route considering traffic conditions and parking / loading restrictions on roads.
The platform can complete route plannings in 100 seconds for 30 drop-offs for each of 5 deliverers. It also has functions allowing drivers to less u-turns, helping them find easy parking lots, appropriately allocating tasks to deliverers. Their targeting industries include home delivery providers, food, liquor and medicine wholesalers, as well as vending machine vendors. In order to create a local routeing map, the company wants to partner with companies owning car driving data in Thailand. They won the Demo Day at Post LogiTech Innovation Program Batch 1, or the startup acceleration program by Japan Post.