Companies

Sony opens up internal startup program to anyone with an idea

Bloomberg Tokyo | Updated on February 20, 2019 Published on February 20, 2019

The initiative, now known as Sony Startup Accelerator Program, was started in 2014 by Yoshidas predecessor, Kazuo Hirai. File photo   -  Reuters

Depending on the opportunity, Sony may invest, strike an alliance, provide office space or support the startups with its own marketing and sales expertise. It may also acquire the businesses

Sony Corp will begin to back entrepreneurs outside the company with money, marketing support and more as it seeks more breakthroughs.

The Tokyo-based company said on Wednesday it would open up an internal accelerator program to external entrepreneurs, including a partnership with Tokyo University under which students can turn ideas into businesses.

Depending on the opportunity, Sony may invest, strike an alliance, provide office space or support the startups with its own marketing and sales expertise. It may also acquire the businesses.

“All kinds of people should have a chance to be an entrepreneur, that’s our slogan. We will offer the know-how and the environment of our enterprise. Through these things, we want to realize the vision of creators,” said Shinji Odashima, head of Sonys accelerator program.

After years of restructuring, Sony is again looking for innovation under Chief Executive Officer (CEO)Kenichiro Yoshida. This month, the company cut its annual revenue forecast and reported weaker profits in the PlayStation business, triggering the sharpest share drop in more than three years. A week later, it announced its largest stock buyback ever to support the shares.

The initiative, now known as Sony Startup Accelerator Program, was started in 2014 by Yoshidas predecessor, Kazuo Hirai, to encourage innovation and risk-taking among employees. Till date, 34 ideas have been incubated and 14 of them have become new businesses, Sony said.

The most prominent so far include smartwatches line Wena, the digital smell dispenser Aromastic, and self-flying drone startup AeroSense. Another product called toio, small toy robots that can be programmed to perform custom games, was brought into the PlayStation division late last year.

Sony said the program will span all stages of starting a business; from creating an idea to marketing and expansion.

The program is not directly related to the company’s existing corporate venture fund, Sony Innovation Fund, according to a spokesman.

Published on February 20, 2019
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