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Yokohama’s new PoC Support Program is a chance for international startups to hit the ground running in Japan

by | Jun 28, 2024

*Applications open now through August 15, 2024*

Entering a new international market and accessing its many benefits can be a daunting proposition, both for large companies and especially for startups. But Yokohama City, Japan just launched a new program that will allow startups from around the world to establish a foothold in Japan faster and more easily than ever before. This program, dubbed the “Technical Startup Demonstration Experiment Support Program” and referred to here as the Yokohama PoC Support Program, will allow companies to run Proof of Concept (PoC) demonstration experiments of their new and innovative technology in collaboration with the city, providing a much-needed springboard for companies entering Japan.

 

What the Yokohama PoC Support Program offers, and why it matters

 

Yokohama City’s new PoC Support Program is specifically designed to help startups overcome some of the challenges that startups can face in entering a new international market like Japans’. By providing a structured environment for PoC experiments, the program offers several advantages:

  • Field Coordination: Startups receive comprehensive support to coordinate their on-the-ground PoCs and tech demonstrations in Yokohama, ensuring that logistical and operational needs are attended to.
  • Prototype Development and Partner Matching: The program facilitates connections with local partners and support for prototype development, allowing startups to tailor their products to the Japanese market and receive a jumpstart in connecting with potential business partners.
  • Trial Implementation: Startups can implement trials in a real-world environment, gaining valuable insights and feedback from local stakeholders.
  • Post-PoC support: Startups can receive free consultation support on future business development plans in Japan after the PoC has concluded.
  • PR Support: The backing of Yokohama City itself and its partners means that participating startups can receive a wide range of publicity support through various local channels, helping startups find traction without having to spend on advertising.

 

The Strategic Importance of PoCs in Japan

 

Some companies or founders might wonder why this program that focuses on PoCs is such a great opportunity, but PoC experiments are a critical step for technological startups entering new markets. They allow companies to:

  • Validate Product-Market Fit: Conducting a PoC helps startups determine if their product or service meets the needs of the local market, and make changes to adjust.
  • Mitigate Risk: By testing the waters with a PoC, startups can identify potential issues early and make necessary adjustments before a full-scale launch.
  • Gain Credibility: Successfully completing a PoC in collaboration with local partners can significantly enhance a startup’s reputation and credibility in the new market.

 

Gaining credibility through partnerships is especially important in Japan, where trust goes a long way in business partnerships and larger companies and investors have been known to be risk-averse when it comes to working with startups. When larger Japanese corporations and potential partners enter discussions with startups, they love to see examples of large and trustworthy organizations that the company has worked with before. Companies that participate in Yokohama’s PoC Support Program will be able to cite their collaboration with Yokohama and its operational partners through this program in the future, giving them a track record of successful partnerships in Japan that they can use to leverage into further partnerships.

 

Program Details

 

Yokohama’s PoC Support Program is designed to be flexible, and is open to any international startups that meet the following criteria:

  • Intention to establish an office in Yokohama: Participants must be interested in the Japanese market and open to considering Yokohama as their base in Japan.
  • Developing products/services based on advanced, unique technologies: Since this program focuses on technology demonstration experiments, Yokohama and its partners are looking for companies with exciting, innovative tech.
  • Proposed projects to be conducted in Yokohama or in collaboration with domestic partners: All this requires of startups is the understanding that the PoCs will be held in Yokohama, as opposed to other areas in Japan.
  • Incorporated for less than 15 years: Yokohama is looking to support the startups that need it, so applicant companies must be reasonably young.

 

Some examples of industries that are listed as being a good fit for the program include Advanced Mobility, Cleantech and Green Transformation, AI, Robotics, Electronics, Semiconductors, Quantum, Biotechnology, Medical Devices, New Materials, Energy, Environment, Aerospace, etc. So there’s a lot of leeway when it comes to what solution your advanced technology provides!

Also note that selected startups are required to submit a post-program report on their PoC by March 2025, and agree to the privacy policy for the program.

 

Timeline

 

This PoC Support Program, which launched in June 2024, is only available for a limited time! To ensure you fully understand the timeline involved and can take advantage of the program, here are the details you need to know:

Application Period: June 3, 2024, to August 16, 2024.

Final Deadline for Applications:

                                                JST: August 16, 5 PM

                                                PDT: August 15, 2 PM

                                                EDT: August 15, 5 PM

Program Period (Support for PoCs and Business Matching): Early October 2024 to Late February 2025

Post-PoC Report Submission: March 2025

 

How to Apply to the Yokohama PoC Support Program

 

The official page for the Yokohama PoC Support Program lists the details of exactly what materials and information about the company are required for the application process (namely a Powerpoint or PDF document with some specific info on your company), but the City of Yokohama’s partners for the program are making it easy: All you have to do to apply is contact the following email address indicating your interest in the program, and you’ll be well on your way. After a preliminary consultation, you’ll be assisted in submitting the files needed for your application.

Email here to apply: ke-poc-admin@hml.nttdata.co.jp

See the Official Program Page for more details about the program, requirements, and required application materials

 

Why Yokohama?

 

Japan is a country with a lot of vibrant, exciting ecosystems to tap into. Besides the convenience of this program’s current availability, why should international startups be interested in Yokohama City specifically, when compared to other cities like Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto?

There’s a ton of information out there about what makes Yokohama unique and attractive as a business destination, but here are some examples:

  • This support program from Yokohama, is the newest in a series of efforts from the City of Yokohama to provide more support for startup companies in the city. From the 2019 opening of a startup support center called YOXO BOX to a Yokohama startup visa program launched in 2023 to support international entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the city, Yokohama has been dedicated to finding new ways to lower the barrier to entry for international startups interested in Japan.
  • Yokohama is the second most populous city in Japan, and is a part of one of the most active business regions of the entire world.
  • Yokohama is a R&D powerhouse, with an extremely innovative culture, and a wealth of talent in the city to empower international companies looking for local engineering talent
  • Yokohama is one of the most international cities in Japan, offering a high quality of life for everyone who chooses to live there

 

Ultimately, Yokohama’s Technical Startup Demonstration Experiment Support Program provides a unique and invaluable opportunity for startups looking to expand into Japan. By leveraging the support and resources provided by the City of Yokohama and its partners, startups can get a head start on navigating the complexities of international expansion and establish a strong presence in one of the world’s most dynamic markets.

This program is a chance to accelerate growth and innovation in Japan’s thriving technological landscape. Apply now and take the first step towards a successful international expansion!

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