By Shintaro Matsumoto, President and CEO
In 2018, NEC Corporation, originally known as the Nippon Electric Company, a Japanese multinational IT innovator based in Tokyo, launched a Silicon Valley-based Corporate Accelerator called NEC X. The mission was to leverage the dynamic startup ecosystem of Silicon Valley to fast-track technologies and business ideas selected from inside and outside NEC.
Entrepreneurs sit at the very core of NEC X, serving as the driving force behind our company. They are not just any individuals; they possess distinct business acumen, profound insights, and boundless ambitions. More crucially, they identify and understand the pressing issues facing either customers or society. At NEC X, we harness the power of our advanced technology to transform these entrepreneurial visions into tangible solutions. Our role doesn’t stop there – we guide them meticulously from the initial incubation stage all the way to the grand startup launch.
Our journey is a testament to evolution.
Our initial strategy revolved around recruiting entrepreneurs inspired by the technology concepts in NEC’s R&D pipeline when we were launched. However, our perspective shifted. We recognized that, while technology indeed shapes society, it is the problem and solution that holds the power to instigate real change. There is no doubt that technology impacts society, but the solution is what has the greatest potential to create change. The next evolutionary shift in the NEC X program was centered on the problem and the need to find the perfect solution. Several social problems, needs and drivers have arisen during the pandemic that are stimulating new technology development and new application areas that can help impact positive economic growth moving forward. This will drive demand for innovative systems that effectively deliver solutions to the world’s social needs. Ultimately, everything NEC X does is centered on creating an environment in which the entrepreneurial spirit can thrive.
Another shift in our program occurred when we looked at our relationship with entrepreneurs and decided to put more emphasis on mentoring them. Before, our offering was simply an accelerator program working with entrepreneurs towards the road to success. Today, NEC X acts as a co-founder with the entrepreneurs. With a hands-on approach, we work side-by-side with the entrepreneurs at every stage, from a pre-selection ideation phase to Customer Discovery, Customer Validation to graduation, and beyond, fostering the great ideas entrepreneurs have brought in, together with us. Collaboration has been key, and with our ever-expanding nexus of partners, we’ve transitioned into a Venture Studio.
During our first five years, it was a kind of validation phase of our venture studio model, resulting in the launching of ten startups, and the annual number of launches has been increasing proportionally. Most of these startups align with NEC’s long-standing global strengths in areas like public safety, enterprise digital transformation, marketing, and engineering support.
Emboldened by our success, we are now on the lookout for entrepreneurs keen on exploring new areas, including AgriTech and HealthTech. With the robust network we’ve cultivated at NEC X and our collaboration with NEC group companies, we’re confident that these areas hold the promise of synergistic growth and scaling. In fact, in AgriTech, we announced our partnership with SVG Ventures | THRIVE as soon as I joined NEC X this past June. This was because I previously led new business development in the AgriTech field at NEC, founded NEC’s AgriTech business “CropScope” and established the joint venture DXAS Agricultural Technology in Portugal, which sparked my interest in the agrifood area.
This collaboration seeks to connect the AgriTech entrepreneurial ecosystem with NEC X’s venture-building capabilities. Building on this foundation, we aspire to forge partnerships not only in AgriTech but also with entities that possess specialized domain expertise in different areas, allowing us to leverage their unique capabilities.
This year, the NEC X Venture Studio celebrates its fifth anniversary. To celebrate, we are really looking forward to bringing together the entire technology startup ecosystem – including entrepreneurs, investors, and AI experts – at the FutureFusion Forum, taking place September 14th at the Hyatt Centric in Mountain View, Calif.
The event will be co-hosed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Industrial Liaison Program (ILP), of which NEC Corporation has been a member for over 40 years. Event highlights include:
- Keynote sessions by Aude Oliva, PhD, MIT director in the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab and John Carrier, senior lecturer in the System Dynamics Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management
- A panel discussion: “Innovation Ecosystems and Artificial Intelligence,” with Aude Oliva (MIT) and Motoo Nishihara (VP and CTO, NEC Corporation)
- Pitch presentations from a promising portfolio of startups that graduated from the NEC X venture studio program such as NavigateIO, Flyhound, Q.I., and more
- Updates on the future direction of NEC X
Like our startups, NEC X has evolved and made strategic adjustments over the past five years and, today, we are excited about our ability to apply technology to solutions that improve the world. We hope you can join us at the FutureFusion Forum to celebrate our fifth anniversary with us. There will be plenty of insight and discussion on how technology and innovation can fuel positive change.
To learn more about the FutureFusion Forum or to register for the event, visit: https://nec-x-futurefusion.eventbrite.com.