Q. Why Kobe?
To further economic development in Kobe, the city has been actively engaged in programs to support the education and growth of startups capable of driving social innovation.
Kobe has partnered with 500 Startups on the accelerator to help bring a flow of young companies from Japan and all over the world to Kobe, and to strengthen its reputation as a great incubator for entrepreneurs.
The city has provided their accelerator space, based in KOBE Startup Office. Anyone from any part of Japan or overseas may apply to this program.
In the summer of 2016, 500 Startups launched a new pre-accelerator in partnership with the government of Kobe, Japan. The 4-week program by 500 Startups was focused on providing entrepreneurs advice and growth hacking techniques. Members of 500 Startups also helped boost Japanese and international entrepreneurial presence in Kobe.
Q. What is the background of the program?
A. The 6-week program is designed for Japanese and international startup companies that want to learn from 500 Startups’ global team of mentors and network of entrepreneurs. The program is funded by the Kobe Government and sponsors.
Q. Are there any fees for this program?
A. No, there are no fees for participating in the program.
Q. What level of English is required for attendees?
A. This program is provided in English, however translations are available:
Simultaneous translation for the sessions and interpreters for the 1 on 1 mentoring.
Q. Who are the mentors?
A. The mentors are drawn from 500’s global team and network of entrepreneurs. Speakers are still being added, so the full list is not yet available.
Q. How long does the program last?
A. The program will last 6 weeks, with a 2 week break in the middle. Please note that participants in the program in Kobe, Japan will receive mentoring, growth hacking learnings, and access to 500 Startups’ extensive ecosystem without financial support or investment from the firm.


Q. Why will this program focus on Health?
A. For past three years, this program has accelerated 56 startups, who collectively have received over US $7M. A total of 257 startups applied for last year’s program. Half of these applicants were based outside of Japan, which demonstrates how the 500Kobe Accelerator Program has caught the attention of startups from all over the world.
In addition, Kobe Medical Industry Development Project (currently KOBE Biomedical Innovation Cluster) has grown to become one of the largest biomedical clusters in Japan, consisting of 355 corporations and organizations ranging from small and medium-sized businesses and venture companies, to large pharmaceutical firms as of April 2019. There is also a movement in the private sector to support ventures in Kobe. Bayer Yakuhin Ltd. established an incubation laboratory, “CoLaborator Kobe”, and Nippon Boehringer Ingelheim Co ., Ltd. is conducting a supporting program, called “Innovation Prize.” Next year, Kobe City will open “Creative Lab for Innovation in Kobe”, where venture companies and major corporations can work together to create new products and services in order to develop the startup ecosystem in the field of life science. Moreover, there are 355 corporations, organizations, hospitals and research institutes in Kobe, which make up a total of 1,100 employees, and are great resources to create innovation.
This year’s program will have a focus on the startups in the field of “Digital×Healthcare = Health-Tech”, combining our knowledge of developing startups in the general digital industries and KOBE Biomedical Innovation Cluster.
Q. What kind of support is provided for participating health-tech startups?
A. Health-Tech startups will benefit from the following tailored support;
(i) Customized office hours with mentors who have experience in the healthcare sector
(ii) Field trips to visit various healthcare companies and the Kobe Biomedical Innovation Cluster
(iii) Business support to collaborate with the Foundation for Biomedical Research and Innovation at Kobe (FBRI).

In addition, We are also considering to give subsidy for moving -in to “Creative Lab for Innovation in Kobe” opening in 2020.
Q. Are there other programs in Kobe?
A. Kobe City has other accelerator programs supporting startups who have a business in the pharmaceutical or medical device fields, which takes time to commercialize, or startups whose businesses are still being conceptualized.
Kobe City holds “Med-tech Grand Prix KOBE”(the applications already closed this year), and major corporations in Kobe such as Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp Corp., Sysmex Corp. and Bayer Yakuhin Ltd. also hold business contests in Kobe.
Q. What kind of startups can apply?
A. Pre-seed and seed stage technology companies from all sectors are welcome to apply. However, we will also have a focus on startups in the fields of diagnosis-treatment support, improvement of operation of hospitals, health promotion, nutritional management, care support, support for persons with disabilities and etc. Businesses in the fields of medical equipment or hardware will also be considered.


Q. When is the application deadline?
A. The application due date is September 15th.


Q. What is the timeline of this program?
A. The program itself runs from November 4th to December 13th, with a two-week break in the middle. It ends with a Demo Day in on December 16th.


Q. How does full time and part time participation work?
A. The program is open to startups working full time. Full time participants have access to an office 7 days a week and for the duration of the program to interact with the mentors around the clock. Only approved participants can work part time, which is designed for teams that will spend 2 days a week at the Kobe Accelerator (for example, Wednesdays and Thursdays), which is ideal for teams based in other cities.
Q. Do I need to take time off from work to attend this program?
A. The program is designed for startup companies that are working full time. Part time participation in the program is available mainly for teams that are based in cities other than Kobe or have business reasons to be outside of the city.
Q. Is there anything scheduled on the weekends?
A. There are no sessions on weekends.
Q. Can I stay in Kobe during the two-week break?
A. You are welcome to remain in Kobe for the break to work on your company but can also travel during this time.
Q. What accommodation is available for participants?
A. Accommodations will not be available for participants this year.


Q. What startups qualify for this program?
A. Applications are now open to Japanese and international startups in the seed stage. Funding is not provided, so companies must be able to procure outside funds.
We are looking for: startups in seed stage, in the following fields: B2B, B2C, E-Commerce, FinTech, EdTech, HealthTech, IoT, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, SaaS and Messaging services. Conditions: Startups with some traction, and which already have a working product.
Q. How do I know if I am qualified to apply?
A. The 500 Kobe Accelerator program is designed for start-ups at the seed or early-growth stage. Having a working product and the necessary team members is recommended. However, depending on your team, product, or service, we may select your team as early as the idea stage. Additionally, we may in some cases accept companies regardless of how long they have been established, their funding, or their investors and are open to both individuals and corporate teams.
Q. How many team members can join a team?
A. We accept startups at all stages. However, multiple team members are preferable.
Q. Who evaluates the teams?
A. The applications will be reviewed by a team from 500 Startups in conjunction with the City of Kobe. Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide feedback to each team that applies.

More Questions?

If you have any other specific questions about the program, please reach out to us here: 500startups.kobe@gmail.com
*We will make all reasonable efforts to answer your questions. However, given the limited resources, we may not be able to answer all of your questions.