Information to support new challenges and startups

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Startup-related events & programs in Okinawa

Okinawa offers a variety of events, programs, and courses that provide support before and after starting up a business. Here are some of the examples.

Startup-related events in Okinawa️

Event Pick Up

Biggest event in Okinawa! An annual Startup Festival
The biggest startup festivals in Okinawa started in 2019. Held annually mainly at Lagoon Koza, a startup cafe in Okinawa City. This event provides a place for startups to learn and polish their skills through a variety of programs, including talk sessions by “business professionals” from in and out of Okinawa, and a pitch event (business model presentation) where innovative ideas are exchanged.

Pitch run event to support the growth of startups and Atotsugi ventures
The special Okinawa competition of “Sta★At Pitch️ Japan”, a nationwide event that encourages startups and young successor ventures. The event provides a venue for startups and second-stage ventures, which holds the key to the future of the Japanese economy, to be widely recognized by society, and to be a catalyst for a leap forward. The Grand Prix winner will be given a right to participate in the finals of “Sta★At Pitch️ Japan”. The deadline for application is around September every year.

Business contests to foster open innovation
A business contest aims to realize open innovation beyond existing frameworks. New services that utilize digital technology are widely invited. The event provides support to commercialize the ideas and matchmaking opportunities with local and major companies. It is a regional co-creation event across Japan and co-hosted by five major regional banks, including The Bank of Okinawa.

Program Pick Up

Encouraging “bootstrapping from scratch”
A specialized startup support seminar for new entrepreneurs who have just started a business or those who are just starting. The instructor is Mr. Yoichi Aso (entrepreneur, investor, and manager), who has produced more than 1,100 start-up entrepreneurs for a total of 300 companies. The program is open to small businesses as well as so-called “startups” aiming to go public. In approximately three months of taking the program, students will be able to take a solid first step as an entrepreneur. Applications start mid-year.

A strong ally to realize an entrepreneurship
A support program for those who have a strong will to start a business and have a business idea but don’t know how to realize it. This program accompanies its participants for five months until the process of starting a business, including learning of steps to commercialization based on case studies, validation and feedback of the idea, preparation of prototypes and business plans, etc. Applications are accepted once a year in the summer.

If you have an established idea or product, this one’s for you!
This program, which supports early-stage business startups and growth, provides opportunities to polish their business plans by holding study sessions related to entrepreneurship. At the results presentation, participants present their services and products to investors and companies and have opportunities to raise funds and form business partnerships with companies. The program is co-hosted by eight major companies in Okinawa including the Bank of the Ryukyus, Japan Transocean Air, JTB Okinawa, and others. Recruitment briefings are held around September each year.

A next-level program that lets you collaborate with experts
A program launched by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), renowned for its high-quality research and world-class research centers by inviting outstanding researchers from Japan and abroad, to support startups and create an innovation ecosystem in Okinawa. Once selected after an application, you will be able to participate in a regular training program as an OIST employee and receive the financial, mentoring, and partnership support necessary to launch a technology startup in Okinawa. The application deadline is mid-October.

Others: Nationwide Program Pick Up

Many of those who are currently starting businesses in Okinawa have also participated in the nationwide programs and have earned high evaluations. For other support measures nationwide, please refer to the startup support measures page of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Overseas dispatch program for Entrepreneurs etc.
An entrepreneur development and overseas dispatch program run by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in cooperation with the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). This program will select entrepreneurs, corporate innovators, students, and others who aim to create new businesses and send them to various parts of the world, providing opportunities to connect with and learn from the world’s top players. A new course designed specifically for female entrepreneurs has also been established.

Impact Startup Support Program by public and private
A program that provides intensive public-private sector support to an impact startup with high potential. This program was newly established in FY2023, and 30 companies were selected from over 500 applications. The program targets “startups with the potential to drive innovation in Japan with effective initiatives aimed at increasing social impact.” 
Selected companies will receive support for exhibiting at large-scale domestic and international events, overseas local support, expanded bidding opportunities, matching with private companies, as well as support for measuring and managing impact, promoting the use of expert consultation services for global certification acquisition, etc., and providing domestic and international communication and PR support at various events, etc. Applications will begin around July.

For those with an idea of an innovative technology that requires long-term research and large-scale funding
A publicly solicited project of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), a national research and development agency.
It targets “deep tech startups” who are engaging in the research and development of innovative technologies that contribute to solving economic and social issues that need to be addressed by the nation and the world as a whole, although they require large-scale funding and long-term R&D to establish and commercialize their technologies.
There are three phases of development namely “R&D for practical application,” “R&D for practical application,” and “demonstration of mass production.” Applicants may apply by selecting the phase that best suits their company. Applications are accepted four times a year and will be reviewed each time.

If you are considering starting a business in Okinawa
or would like information about entrepreneurship,
please feel free to contact us.