By Shige Ihara, President & CEO, NEC X
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a revolutionary technology that is dramatically changing our world. We have seen AI applied across many vertical markets, from automotive, healthcare, retail, finance, and more. Machine learning (ML) and AI play a more significant role in IoT applications today by enabling devices connected to the internet to learn from their data and experience.
The intersection of AI and the Digital Twin―bridging between the real world and the cyber world―is an exciting development that has the potential to create a new approach to the way we interact on the internet. Imagine an interconnected virtual world where people can work, socialize, collaborate, and connect. This could truly transform our lives.
AI has no limits or barriers. As we begin our 2022 fiscal year, I would like to share that three of our 2021 graduates, Metabob, eCommerceInsights.ai, and a stealth-mode agritech startup, have all applied AI in different ways and for a variety of use cases. Metabob created a python code debugging solution, eCommerceInsights.ai developed a customer insight platform, and the agritech startup applied AI to create a more efficient method for specialty crops.
With a rich portfolio of technologies within NEC R&D Labs, we will continue to be focused on AI and ML applications in the coming future. We see tremendous business opportunities in 2022 and beyond, with unlimited potential for our incoming EIRs.
We are excited to bring a new set of EIRs into our Corporate Accelerator Program (CAP) this month―Batch 7. Our goal is to increase the number of our EIRs by 25% in 2022. We want to achieve up to eight projects per cohort with upcoming batches―this is a 2x increase compared to previous years. And we are targeting a minimum of four graduates from our CAP during our fiscal year 2022. This is a challenging goal, but we aspire to it and believe it is possible, as we see tremendous potential for our new EIRs coming into the CAP.
After we iterated the batch cycles several times over the past few years, we reached a point where we believe NEC X is unlike any other corporate accelerator. Instead, we consider ourselves a hybrid model of a startup studio and an accelerator, which enables us to work very closely with the EIRs as their co-founders. We support our EIRs from day zero―even before incorporation of the startups―walking them through each step of the process, from their entry into the CAP through graduation, where they engage external investors. We work on daily activities with the EIRs, connecting them with the NEC R&D team, providing hands-on coaching and mentorship, focusing on validating Problem-Solution Fit and Product-Market Fit, and injecting some funding. All of these activities are to prepare them in a short timeframe for seed funding with intensely qualified business ideas with potential customers.
I plan to be fully integrated at all stages of the CAP, and we have added new resources and expertise that will help us accelerate the quality of each project. We will spend more time brainstorming opportunities and business ideas to determine which have the most potential for growth and society. We will hold intensive Customer Discovery workshops that involve team members from AlchemistX and new domain experts to the program, Kathryn Segovia and Julia Byrd.
Kathryn is Head of Learning Experience Design, Executive Education at Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. She facilitates workshops to help EIRs generate ideas and guides them to discover customers from many different viewpoints, taking the Design Thinking approach.
Julia is a Lean Startup and Program Development Consultant who teaches our EIRs to interview customers to learn about their real problems and needs and validate hypotheses on problems, solutions, and customers, which will be the core of the startups’ business.
With all the lessons learned from our experiences, we are excited to kick off our new year. Again, I want to congratulate the 2021 graduates and welcome Batch 7 EIRs to the CAP. And I am excited to introduce Kathryn and Julia as part of the program. There is truly no limit to the potential applications of AI for any new market, and I am excited to see and support each EIR as they discover new opportunities to improve the world and society we live in.