Transforming the Economy of Aichi Prefecture, Japan

  • Mentorship
  • Venture acceleration
  • Strategic planning and foresight
  • Roadmapping

In 2021, ADG’s principal and founder Noteh Krauss helped design and run the inaugural Accelerate Aichi, organized in partnership between 500 Global and the Aichi Prefectural government, as the program’s founding lead mentor.

Opportunity: Lead an Accelerator in Aichi, Japan

A client of ADG, 500 Global is a venture capital firm that invests in innovative tech startups with potential to scale. With US$2.5 billion in assets under management, the firm has backed over 2,700 startups including Canva and Credit Karma. Their seed accelerators and founder programs are among the world’s leading, with programs operating in nine countries.

In 2021, in partnership with the Aichi Prefectural government, 500 Global launched Accelerate Aichi in Japan. Already, Aichi Prefecture was a hub for automotive and manufacturing, leading the country in shipments of manufactured products since the late 1970s with the second highest GDP and per capita income after Tokyo. The aim of the accelerator is to foster innovation and encourage the growth of an ecosystem meant to support startups in achieving success.

With previous experience mentoring 30 startups across two different cohorts for the first international accelerator program in Georgia — a partnership between 500 Global, the World Bank, Bank of Georgia and Georgia's Innovation and Technology Agency — ADG principal and founder Noteh Krauss was invited to be the lead mentor of Accelerate Aichi for its inaugural session.

ADG founder and principal Noteh Krauss travelled to Japan to design and lead the inaugural session of Accelerate Aichi, a partnership between 500 Global and the Aichi Prefectural government.

Design a Curriculum and Select Participating Ventures

As lead mentor, Noteh assisted in selecting participating startups from a pool of applicants, developed the curriculum, designed and ran workshops, and lectured on a range of subjects. Along with one other mentor, he guided the cohort of 20 startups through six weeks of programming to demo day, where founders presented their pitches.

“What I’m looking for are companies with a good idea,” said Noteh of his selection criteria. But more than that, he said, he looks for ventures with potential market fit and founders who can clearly communicate it. Startups should be efficiently scalable and ideally have traction, either through sales or existing customers or clients, and founders should be open-minded and coachable.

Noteh helped select the 20 startups whose founders he would mentor through six weeks of programming.

Empower Growth Through Education

Of the ventures he mentored, Noteh saw these qualities in many, and helped coax them out in others. Masaru Fukunaga entered the Accelerate Aichi program in 2021 as a co-founder of one startup, and graduated to found another, using all the knowledge he gained to inform his new business.

“We learned everything about the startup business; fundraising, how to make a strategy, how to make a product and how to promote,” said Fukunaga of the accelerator. “Noteh especially taught us about how to attract users.” That learning put Fukunaga and his new company xCare in a position to succeed. Recently, ADG has collaborated with xCare, using their network to connect with patients and healthcare experts in Japan.

Other Accelerate Aichi 2021 alumni have also continued to grow since graduating. Naoko Kita is the founder of Joconne, a startup aimed at improving health literacy for women in Japan. She said there is still a widespread belief that for a business to succeed it takes luck, instead of mentorship, support, guidance and a strong network — all things Kita gained from the program.

“It’s very rare to establish and found a startup company,” said Kita, but Accelerate Aichi and Noteh’s mentorship helped her do just that. As a mentor, she credited Noteh with providing deep insights. “His advice was very total,” she said, adding that he was able to advise on everything from how to organize narrative when storytelling and stage presence to design support and strategy. “I feel that he is an artist,” Kita said.

As the lead mentor, Noteh worked closely with founders, offering advice on all aspects of their business from branding and strategy to product offering and public speaking.

Impact: Supporting an Ecosystem

Accelerate Aichi has continued its Seed Bootcamp and Noteh has returned as a visiting mentor. Designed for pre-seed and seed-stage ventures, today the program exists as immersive five day sessions followed by seven weeks of post-program mentorship and support with the goal of preparing ventures for global market launch.

“Noteh is an artist. He has a real balance of art and theory, or logic. His advice was very total, touching on all aspects of the business. He is the best mentor I’ve ever had.”

Naoko Kita,

Founder of Joconne, and Alumnus of Aichi Accelerator 2021