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START in KOBE (2) – What is the 500 Startups Kobe Accelerator?

1. Introduction

In this series of articles of SUGEE
Kansai, we are focusing on Kobe city, a city that has been selected as a Global
Startup Hub City by the Japanese government, and is attracting attention from
Japan and the rest of the world as a “Startup City”.

In Part 1 of this series, we introduced the philosophy and background of Kobe’s startup supports. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, check out the article here! [START in KOBE (1) Why Does Kobe focus on Startups?‎]

This is the second in this series, and we are pleased to introduce the 500 Startups Kobe Accelerator, the first-ever world-famous Venture Capital’s partnership with the government. What are the benefits of participating in this program for you? Let’s take a look!

[Series: START in KOBE]

  1. Why Does Kobe focus on Startups?
  2. What is the 500 Startups Kobe Accelerator?
  3. What is Startup VISA?
  4. What is UNOPS and Global Innovation Center Japan?
  5. Why You Should Start in KOBE Now?

■Check out the key phrases in this

✔︎500 Startups 

One of the most active early-stage
investment firms in the world originated from San Francisco. Their investment
and acceleration programs are spread all around the globe. (

✔︎500 Startups Kobe Accelerator

The Startups Acceleration Program,
provided by 500 Startups in collaboration with Kobe City, allows startups from
around the world to apply. It has been held four times since 2016. Startups
that are approved to participate in this program can brush up their business
models while receiving mentoring and lectures during the program.

2. Interview

Interviewer: Haruki Morikawa
Atsunobu Kasagi, an Innovation Specialist from New Business Promotion Division, Kobe City
Ai Endo from New Business Promotion Division, Kobe City

> To start with, could you please tell us what the 500 Startups Kobe Accelerator is.

This is a program run by Kobe city in conjunction with 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital. It’s a six-week program that gives participating startups the opportunity to brush up on their business models through mentoring from successful entrepreneurs and lectures from experts. The last four sessions have been held in Kobe, Japan, and the fifth and the latest session will be held online in 2020, bringing startups together from around the world.


While the first three sessions were open to a wide range of startups in the digital industries, the fourth program in 2019 was the first to focus on the healthcare field. The city of Kobe has a history of success as a medical-industrial city, so we aimed to strengthen the link between this field and our startup support programs. For this reason, we focused on gathering health-tech startups, and in fact, half of the participating companies were healthcare startups.

This year’s conference will be held online under the theme of “COVID-19 Emerging Technology”. The spread of the coronavirus has brought up a lot of social issues. These issues are not limited to medical industries, but also include distance education, remote work, hoaxes, and logistics. The purpose of this year’s event is to support startups that are trying to solve these social issues.

>What makes Kobe’s 500 startups program special when compared with other programs provided by them?

First of all, 500 Startups Kobe Accelerator was the first program of its kind in Asia, and it was also the first time that 500 Startups worked in partnership with a local government.

 One of the biggest differences between this program and the other 500 Startups programs is that there is no transfer of shares. Their programs basically require that a percentage of shares be transferred to 500 Startups to participate. But the city of Kobe is a government agency, and it’s not a profit motive, so the Kobe program is a completely free educational program. Although there are some costs associated with coming to Japan for offline programs, there are no fees for participation in the program. In addition, the length of the program in Kobe is six weeks, and the regular 500 Startups programs take three weeks, so you can focus on your business model improvement for a longer period.

> How many companies have participated in this program so far?

71 companies have participated over the past four years. As for the participants from abroad, 3 to 4 companies participated in the first three sessions. Last year, however, two-thirds of the applicants were from outside Japan, and half of the participants were from overseas.

> What are the benefits of participating in the 500 Startups Kobe Accelerator?

Firstly, the program itself is a great way to brush up your business model. The program is divided into three parts of two weeks each. It’s a time where you focus on improving your business model, with lectures and mentoring. Also, the level of mentoring is top-notch. You can update your business plan by being mentored by entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of the field.

Secondly, at the end of the program, you will have the opportunity to pitch your business to many companies and investors during the demo day. During the program, you will also learn how to inspire investors in a short period of time.

Some of the startups that have taken part in the Kobe 500 Startups program have already set up their business in Kobe. Therefore, the program is a great benefit to startups looking to expand in the Japanese market, as it allows them to find business partners in Kobe and access to the city’s support systems, such as the Startup Visa.

> Are there any upcoming programs you are working on with 500 Startups that we can apply for?

 The 500 Startups Kobe Accelerator for the year 2020 is now in the execution phase of the application process. Therefore, this year we want you to see the upcoming execution phase. The demo day will be open to the public, so you can get a sense of how sophisticated 500-trained startups can be.

[After the interview]

It was announced on 27th August 2020 that 500
Kobe Accelerator 2020 finished the selection process. This year, there were 237
applications (75 from Japan, 162 from overseas) and 17 teams (6 from Japan, 11
from overseas) are selected. The programme this year which finishes on 30th
October has been started since 7th September. The demo day of
participants is scheduled on 12th November.

You can check the participate teams from this link.

3. Summary

In this article, we introduced 500 Startups Kobe Accelerator, a program that is attracting attention from all over the world.

Here’s the recap!
✔︎ The city of Kobe has collaborated with a global VC to run a startup development program called 500 Startups Kobe Accelerator.
✔︎ The 500 Startups Kobe Accelerator is open to applications from all over the world, and the program is free of charge.
✔︎ You will receive mentoring from high-level entrepreneurs and lectures from top-notch speakers during this intensive 6-week program.
✔︎ Your business plan will be further brushed up on!
✔︎ It’s also a great stepping stone for you to expand into the Kobe and Japanese markets!

The theme of the third issue will be the Startup VISA, which is a new visa system for overseas entrepreneurs launched in Kobe last year. Stay Tuned!!

Check them out too!

■Kobe Startup Support Department: Global Website

■500 Startups Kobe Accelerator

■START in KOBE Series Past Article
(1) Why Does Kobe focus on Startups?

Interview: 3rd, September 2020


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