In addition to the resident mentors who participate in the program, we feature guest experts on topics necessary for startup founders, and answer the founders' questions and concerns in a lecture/workshop style, sometimes in a panel talk, and sometimes in an interview format. Some mentors have time for individual office hours, and founders can receive advice tailored to each startup. The eight-week program invited 23 guest speakers and mentors throughout, and spent a total of about 280 hours. I will briefly touch on the content covered below.
Week 1: Foundations of Growth
Lectures by a young mentor Stephan von Perger living in Berlin included questions and answers based on pre-assignments and pre-recorded video lectures. As he has experience working at a VC, he has succeeded in startups and been mentoring in various programs; thus, the advice and information shared were quite accurate and helpful. In this lecture, which is the basis of the eight weeks, founders deepened their understanding of 10K, mainly from how to create KPI dashboards and growth experiments. For the next week, individual mentoring enabled proposals and Q&A tailored to each company.
Week 2: Marketing and Healthcare
The mentor living in Taiwan, I-Chien Jan, is a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist holding a PhD in biomedical engineering. The lecture focused on healthcare-related startup trends. It was helpful information and included the relevant parallels in Taiwan. During individual mentoring, founders had the chance to learn more about the tendency of competitors in Taiwan, success cases and failure cases, and were also introduced to relevant companies.
Separately, a lecture by mentor Mate Kovacs, who is located in Hungary, discussed branding and marketing. The lecture went deep into unique branding techniques startups should think about related to marketing strategy. In individual mentoring, each company could introduce their products and services and receive consultation related to their specific branding and marketing.
A guest speech by Soichiro Tada, CEO of a healthcare company living in Japan, introduced his career and connected life story - including how his experience working at a startup is useful for his current management. Also, Japan's healthcare-related information was very helpful and answered many questions for founders who knew how difficult it was to get into the Japanese market. Lastly for the week, companies could again connect through individual mentoring; making it a good opportunity to better understand the information and market of Japan tailored to each company.
Week 3: Growth Experiments
A talk session was held by two guests through a healthcare panel. A session with Jowy Tani, a doctor living in Taipei and CEO of Biomedical Accelerator, and a guest speaker who is also a scientist supporting the clinical innovation group at a major American company. The first half started with an introduction about what the two are currently working on. After that, Jowy covered the Medtech strategy and the need for corona countermeasures for startups in each country. The second half was devoted to questions and answers, and ended with further insight on the biggest challenges in the medical sector; allowing each company the opportunity to learn more about the healthcare sector globally.
Week 4: Growth Experiments
A lecture was led by Masashi Kiyomine, a Japanese living in Silicon Valley, who has many years of experience as a venture capitalist related to healthcare. Beginning with an explanation of the landscape of digital health and trends of investors, he explained previous digital healthcare-related investment decisions & startup business models based on actual examples. Startups were also able to obtain information about the Japanese market and collaborations with Japanese companies.
Next, a session by Peter Wasowski a healthcare-related CEO who also lives in Silicon Valley, mainly focused on the mindset as an entrepreneur. He started a business for the third time, even post-70 years old. One of the resident mentors asked the question on why he started his own business. It was a valuable opportunity for the founders to look back on their lives, including what they valued and what they have been doing. Interesting insights into: What do you need mentally, not just the technical part? What keeps you driven? All the participants may have been able to better understand in a personal-sense, be confident, and reaffirm their original intentions.
Week 5: Growth Experiments
Joining this week was an investment principal of a major VC centered on health tech who lives in Silicon Valley. This time, we gathered questions from the founders in advance and the resident mentor facilitated based on these questions. Since the speaker herself has established a startup and has since sold the company, she started to share her experience with how she sees the startup ecosystem from a different angle. There was also a question asked on how to deal with investors, which was a very exciting topic for the founders. At the end, the speaker covered what you need to be aware of when talking to CVC.
Additionally Dr. Masayo Takahashi - who also holds a doctorate - was a special guest for 500Kobe this year; she is also the founder and CEO of a startup. She started with lectures on Japanese healthcare-related and healthcare startups. She talked about how she came to launch a startup based on her own background. In the second half, a talk was facilitated by Charu Sharma, one of the resident mentors living in Boston, in response to a question about Dr. Takahashi's strong belief of "I can do it absolutely." There was also a question from the founder about the timeline for business development, R&D and clinical trials. The lecture ended with sharing the vision of what kind of startup she would like to make in the future.
Week 6: Growth Experiments
This featured a mentor who lives in Singapore and has work experience in Japanese companies - Arvind Sethumadhavan, an expert on AI / VR tech, e-commerce, and data. Various information needed for startups was widely covered; especially content about a world after COVID-19, which was very interesting. Based on this, he explained the growth business model through digital and data innovation. The lecture proceeded with reference to the model case. Participating founders also asked how serious major companies were looking for innovation solutions from startups when collaborating with them. In individual mentoring, the founders received further advice tailored to each company.
In addition this week - it was joined by a mentor living in Silicon Valley, Maya Kanehara, who has been involved in product development for major American companies. During this pitch prep time, each company pitched for 2 minutes and received accurate advice and feedback at a later mentoring time. The advice based on her work experience with CVC was very helpful for each company, and it was a good preparation period for Demo Day.
Week 7: Sales
Robert Neivert, a serial entrepreneur living in Silicon Valley and having experience of exiting several companies in the past, gave a lecture on sales. The workshop - starting in a format in which each company answered based on the preliminary assignments - was interactive. Each company read the answers about the phrases to use for sales and received feedback from him. By doing this, the founders would be able to train themselves to have an objective point of view. They also learned the secrets of sales talk, and other content that can be used immediately. In the subsequent mentoring of each company, the mentor responded to in-depth questions.
Next featured Lars Vestergaard, a speaker living in Copenhagen, who gave a lecture on keywords such as enterprise sales, corporate innovation, and partnership strategy. He is collaborating with startups at a major American company, and batch members could receives advice based on this experience. Resident mentor Marcus, who resides in Sweden, was the facilitator for this lecture. The lecture also covered the problems faced by startups and the strengthening of networks using LinkedIn. Of course, mentoring reservations could be made at a later date in order to respond to questions and answers that suit each company.
Lastly, a session hosted by Ajay Chainani, a resident mentor who grew up in Kobe, was about "price." There were suggestions for how much their services and products should be as a startup. It was mentioned that most startups have low pricing and it was suggested to reconsider the price. Each company took notes seriously and it was also very helpful to know what is the true value of a service that hasn't come out to the world yet.
Week 8: Fundraising
Candice Tait, a mentor living in Australia, gave a lecture on how investors relate to startups. She has experience in finance, VC, and fundraising as a startup. The lecture started with the data room, and she covered the quality of the data. She also mentioned the importance of relationships with investors.
Continuing from the first week, a lecturer on financing by Berlin-based mentor Stephan took place. Marcus Sandberg, a resident mentor who resides in Sweden, also joined as a facilitator asking questions based on his own experience as a serial entrepreneur. It was a practical lecture, covering the content that should be included in the pitch on Demo Day. It was also very helpful to the founders on how to get the funding process to move fast, the difference between early stage funding and subsequent funding, and what to do after talking to investors.
Lastly, Sean Percival, is a marketing expert living in Norway. He is also an author of a book about accelerators. He shared information about financing, with a focus on marketing. After sharing things to be careful about when getting introduced by investors, he also explained how investors are scoring. In the breakout session, founders were able to objectively grasp the situation of the company by scoring their own company.
In addition to the experts mentioned above, if you include video lectures, the number of mentors is about 34, totaling about 300 hours of lectures. Furthermore, founders can connect with over 400 mentors around the world who are registered in 500 Startups mentor network (lists are shared and founders can make their own reservations for 1:1 office hours). It really is a 500 Startups Family. Despite being a virtual program, learning from mentors selected from around the world has helped each startup with considerable growth. Next time, I would like to introduce more about the community mingle activities in this remote program.