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Just 3 months to go until tech startup event

Google's Don Dodge, left, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies' Dirk Ahlborn, center, and Beenext's Teruhide Sato

TOKYO -- The first-ever Pioneers Asia tech event kicks off in Tokyo on March 23. With just three months to go until the networking event, startups are invited to get involved by applying to Pioneer Asia's entrepreneurship program. 

     The program has three categories -- the Pioneers Asia 90 Second Pitch, targeting startups that have just been launched; the Pioneers Asia Challenge, for more mature startups that have procured between 400 billion and 700 billion yen ($3.29 million to $5.76 million) in capital; and the Pioneers Asia Showroom, which focuses on in-house entrepreneurs and new businesses within large companies.

     Applications for all three categories can be made for free via the Pioneers Asia website, and the forms are available in English. Pioneers Asia Challenge will kick off in Europe on Jan. 14 and in Asia on Feb. 4. The other two programs are set to begin on Feb. 14.

     A team of experts selected by Pioneers Asia will assess each application on three broad points: whether the team members have the passion and ability to overcome difficulties, whether the product or service being offered has a large potential market, and whether the enterprise will be able to gain traction with users, investors and the media.

     After the assessments are completed, 12 young startups will be selected from the 90 Second Pitch program to make a short presentation to a large audience at the main event, to be held at Happo-en, a venue in Minato, Tokyo, on March 23. In addition, 30 companies will be allowed to exhibit their latest products at the venue, and 15 companies selected from among the in-house entrepreneur and new business teams that applied in the Showroom category will be invited to make presentations at the event.

     The top 24 companies selected from applicants in the Challenge category will be invited to make a presentation on Collaboration Day, a select gathering of investors and corporate participants to be held the day before the main event. Four of those companies will then be selected to make a presentation on the main stage the following day. Winners will be chosen at the main event.

Lots to learn

In addition to the entrepreneurship program, Pioneers Asia will also include seminars, panel discussions and workshops on a variety of themes held on three stages -- large, medium and small. Speakers will include experts from various fields recognized as leaders in their respective venture markets, as well as world-renowned entrepreneurs.

     Among those already slated to participate are Hyperloop Transportation Technologies founder Dirk Ahlborn, Google Developer Advocate Don Dodge and Beenext venture capital founder and managing partner Teruhide Sato.

     The Hyperloop is a conceptual transportation system that would carry passengers at speeds of 800 miles per hour (around 1,287kph). The idea was laid out in 2013 by U.S. entrepreneur Elon Musk, and Ahlborn launched HTT to make that idea a reality. One of the company's unique features is that it uses crowdfunding to procure capital and crowdsourcing to secure human resources and manpower.

     Dodge, an engineer, worked as a "startup evangelist" at Microsoft before signing on with Google. His previous experience includes working at AltaVista, Napster and Groove Networks.

     Sato founded e-commerce site, which later became Beenos, in 2000. After handing over the reins to his successor as CEO in 2014, he began actively investing in startups, especially those in Asia. In September 2015, he established Beenext, a fund management company that supports startups in India, Southeast Asia, Japan and the U.S. immediately after they launch. The company established its first fund with $60 million in capital.

     Many of the seminars, panel discussions and workshops will have themes developed in partnership with, and will be hosted by, companies that have signed on to be major sponsors of the event. Two of the pillars of the event will be fintech, the marriage of finance and information technology, and the sharing economy, which is based on the exchange and sharing of goods and services.

     Other fields to be featured include robotics, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, automated learning, life sciences, food and agriculture.

     The Pioneers Asia event site will have Intranet infrastructure both indoors and outdoors so that startups can readily provide demonstrations of their products and services.


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