Cultivating tech investment, new opportunities with Japan

Japan + Seattle A.I. Innovation Meetup 6.0 was an inbound trade mission connecting a dozen Japanese companies, including multinationals Mitsubishi Corporation, Fujitsu and Sojitz, with about 100 members of Washington’s tech startup community. The event is the sixth such business-to-business meetup since Commerce entered into a memorandum of cooperation with Japan and partnered with Tokyo-based Innovation Finders Capital and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe.

Japan is keenly interested in artificial intelligence (AI) and has entered into dozens of partnerships as a result of these events, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in new business deals.

Washington startups participating in the last event held in Tokyo earlier this year have already secured more than $3 million in projected funding with more expected. About half of the 10 businesses selected to pitch at a special session prior to a welcome gathering Oct. 4 at Japan Consul General Yamada’s official residence on Queen Anne Hill were on the earlier investment mission to Tokyo.

Successful companies featured in opening remarks by Commerce Director Bonlender at the event included Bellevue-based Tupl, which now has a subsidiary in Japan, thanks to connections made at the Tokyo meetup. Matchbox Mobile landed contracts with Japanese automakers for their AI and machine learning apps. Defined Crowd, a company that created a platform combining crowdsourcing and machine learning, landed investment from Sony and was unable to attend the Seattle 6.0 meetup because their team was presenting at CEATEC, Japan’s largest IT and electronics expo.

Over three days in Seattle, the companies explored business and investment opportunities at the cutting edge of AI and machine learning. The Puget Sound region in particular is a hotspot for incredible new technologies such as natural language processing and chat bot, big data for predictive analysis, Internet of Things (IoT), robotic machine vision and manufacturing, and autonomous vehicles.

By close of business last week, over 100 one-on-one meetings had taken place and multiple deals are in the works.

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