Celebrating the 2023-24 Year of the Dojo

Last night we had the last event for the (Japanese financial) year, and it was a celebration of the impact of the work our team, partners, clients and supporters have contributed these last 12 months since April began in 2023. We showcased companies from three of our portfolio initiatives: the Kobe Global Startup Support program with Invest in Kobe , the promotion of R&D and spin-off companies from Australia's leading university for entrepreneurship with UNSW Innovation Community and the first cohort of our Innovation Dojo Japan flagship Biz Dev Japan Accelerator program.

We were grateful to the guests who joined both in person and online, including representatives from large Japanese corporations with a focus on innovation across various sectors such as MUFG , 大塚製薬株式会社 , オムロングループ ,Toyota Tsusho, Daikin Industries, Ltd. , Honda, AstraZeneca Japan and more. We were also joined by friends from venture capital firms like 株式会社バリュークリエイト , Headline - Asia , InterValley Ventures , Incubate Fund , Delight Ventures in addition to university representatives from the venture capital department of 神戸大学 , 京都大学 , Kobe Gakuin University and 関西国際大学 . Foreign and local government affiliated organisations such as JETRO - Japan External Trade Organization , American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and Consulate of Switzerland, Swissnex in Japan were also in attendance.

Reps from Veritus, UNSW and Antler shared insights on their respective Japan market entry

The audience were first given the opportunity to hear from three very different organisations, global VC firm Antler Japans Ryo Umezawa who spoke about their interactions with large corporations as a foreign VC recently entering the market, Australian R&D powerhouse university, UNSW Japan representative Marisa Watanabe who shared her view on the opportunity for corporations in Japan to collaborate with world leading researchers and Manas Kala who represented a foreigner-founded AI startup company, Veritus recently having established it's office in Kobe city.

Following the panel discussion, the lineup of companies presenting was impressive;

Naoya Yoshizumi, Director of Business Development for Innovation Dojo explains the Kobe Global Startup Support program

RobCo - a leading German robotics company, that has just raised 39.1M Euros from some of the worlds leading VC firms. RobCo enables SMEs to automate their operations, and solves challenges such as skilled labour shortages, production scalability, and the transition to Industry 4.0. RobCo is looking for partners in Japan to assist with market entry and distribution.

Digital X - provides AIoT technology solutions for health related challenges such as assisted living for the elederly, protected living and energy efficiency. With teams in Australia, Vietnam and Japan, Digital X has worked alongside global governments, smart city associations worldwide, building and construction businesses, and development banks. Digital X has a Kobe city based staff member and is looking to find Japanese corporate and government partners in 2024.

Veritus - utilises AI technology to simplify complicated research and technical documents into language everyone can understand. Based in Kobe, Veritus has been selected by top accelerator programs and successfully closed a capital raising round with Japanese venture capital firms. The team are looking forward to working with academic organisations and corporations in Japan that struggle with complicated and technical documents.

Diraq - Originating in Australia, at the University of New South Wales, Diraq is delivering revolutionary quantum computing technology to the world. The company is world-leading in its field, and recently secured $23 Million in Series A funding. Diraq is looking for Japanese corporate partners interested in world-leading quantum computing research and technology.

Marisa Watanabe, Business Development Manager (Japan) for the University of New South Wales showcased some of the impressive university born innovations

LLEAF Greenhouse Film Technology Also originating in the research labs of UNSW in Australia (and with deep links to Western Sydney University), LLEAF engineers sunlight for increased productivity in farming and agriculture to help the world’s crops grow bigger, faster. With a representative based in Kyoto, LLEAF has already raised $3.5M for its future development and received grants and support from various government and university organisations. LLEAF is looking for Japanese corporate partners involved in food production and agriculture to discuss collaboration opportunities.

RobotAI - is an Israel based technology companies, giving robots the ability to see and become capable at tasks that were previously impossible, utilsing AI and 3D vision technology. The company has already worked with several Japanese companies including Denso and counts global motor vehicle company Ford as a client. Robot AI is looking for partners in Japan with robots integrated in the manufacturing process for potential collaboration discussions.

MAOLAC Decoding Nature - is a company born in Israel, which has enabled humans to enjoy the health benefits that replicate those of human breast milk, by identifying and developing new protein products powered by proprietary AI technology. The company has already raised $3.2M to date and is in discussions with major health and medical corporations in Japan. Maolac is looking for Japanese health industry partnerships, to discuss bringing new health benefits to the Japanese market.

I had the chance to briefly summarise the progress Innovation Dojo has made in the last year

Besides the gems from the panel discussion, and the bringing together of large corporations and investors with the amazing tecnology companies described above, we had a brief segment to look back at our journey growing Innovation Dojo in Japan these last 12 months. As the snapshots of some of the slides above and below this paragraph show - we had a massive year, enabled by our team, partners, collaborators and clients. It's hard to imagine up until I was hospital bound for 3 months back in 2021, when all of this was just an idea scribbled down in my messy handwriting before deciding to establish our Japan subsidiary company.

Above: From presention regarding Innovation Dojo Japan growth these last 12 months

So what will we be focused on in the next 12 months across 2024-25?

1. Global Venture Capital firms

We would love to speak with you if you are a global VC that recognises Japan as a priority market. After a successful Global VC invitation program we managed on behalf of the Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe city governments in January we will have our second program like this in April - this time in partnership with a major Japanese financial instition. Watch this space!

2. Corporations and Financial Institutions

We would love to speak with Japanese or global corporations and financial institutions interested in a new venture capital model that de-risks market entry for cutting edge technology companies, and creates revitalisation mechanisms for the local Japanese economies. It's called Black Belt™ (Corporate Innovation Consulting & Fund) .

3. Global R&D organisations & Universities

We would love to speak with global universities that recognise Japan as a key market for the potential of research, startup and global entrepreneurship based partnerships with corporate Japan.

Thanks for all of your support this (financial) year and I cannot wait for what the next 12 months brings!

Celebrating the 2023-24 Year of the Dojo
Joshua Flannery

Joshua is a recognised innovation ecosystem leader in both Japan and Australia, as the co-founder and CEO of Innovation Dojo Japan. His experience includes Country Manager for European open innovation firm Rainmaking, lead Director for the largest startup hub in the Southern Hemisphere, Sydney Startup Hub, and he was the first hire and leader of the University of New South Wales startup programs, which grew to become the leading university for entrepreneurs in Australia. He also has direct experience bringing a tech startup into Japan.

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