Monozukuri Hardware Cup 2018 winners ready to represent Japan in Pittsburgh!

Sasha Kaverina
Mar 8, 2018 · 8 min read

On February 27th, tech-savvy experts, entrepreneurs and investors gathered at HackOsaka to witness the presentations of 8 Japan-based hardware startups. Entrepreneurs pitched their business projects to win a chance to join the Global Hardware Cup in Pittsburgh, USA and $50,000 as investment prize.

The winners Challenergy (2nd place), Hachitama (1st place) and SmartShopping (3rd place) with Narimasa Makino (Makers Boot Camp CEO), Ryota Matsuzaki (Kibidango CEO) and Nobuhiro Seki (FabFoundry NYC CEO).

Monozukuri Hardware Cup is the annual pitch competition for Japan-based hardware startups trying to convince the judges that their project deserves a chance to be seen by a broader audience. The main stage they aim to reach is Hardware Cup 2018, organized by AlphaGear Lab, one of the top accelerators in the world and part of GAN (Global Accelerator Network).

At the same time, it is a great opportunity for startups to grow their awareness and build strategic partnerships with investors and business stakeholders from all around the globe. Though the name implies a competition, the event provides an international networking session where participants can connect to the community and receive valuable insights from experts on approaching the market and accelerating their business growth.

Monozukuri Hardware Cup 2018 was organized by Monozukuri Hardware Startup Consortium, an organization promoting hardware entrepreneurship in Japan, and co-organized by Hack Osaka. The event is sponsored by Hankyu (Steel), Tsuneishi Group (Gold) Amazon Launchpad Japan (Silver) Kyoto Makers Garage (Bronze), Dassault Systèmes Japan (Bronze) & Analog Devices (Bronze).

In order to qualify, 27 initial applicants went through a rigid screening process where 8 selected startups moved to the next level. The candidates were given four minutes to pitch their business plan to the esteemed panel of judges and key members of the startup community. This was then followed by five minutes to answer questions asked by the panel of judges, entrepreneurs and mentors from different backgrounds.

2018 Hardware Cup Judge Team:

Allen Miner (CEO of Sunbridge Group)

Nobi Fujita (Representative of Entrepreneurs Osaka)

Ryota Matsuzaki (CEO of Kibidango Co., Ltd.)

Paul Kim (Digital Transformation Project Manager of Air Liquide Japan Ltd.)

Pitching startups:


Speaker: CEO Ko Kijima

While the size of electronic gadgets are shrinking and energy efficiency increasing, we see IoT embedded in more and more things. Reinventing the way humans communicate with technology in a daily life, 16Lab offers a lightweight ring-type device OZON that allows customers to control a wide array of devices using natural hand movements. A Bluetooth connection flawlessly synchronizes with tablets, TV sets, smartphones and other compatible devices.

Ko Kijima, 16Lab CEO

All-in-one type module with 6.4mm x 9.5mm x 1.7mm size boasts an ultra-slim battery that prolongs a lifecycle. An accurate 3D motion analysis technology can be fully utilized in the entertainment, medical and robotics industry. Aside from its gesture-tracking functions, OZON is promoted as a contactless door key and e-wallet for transactions on-the-go.


Speaker: CEO Atsushi Shimizu

Most people see typhoons as a disaster, but Challenergy believes that its vertical axis-type turbine can stand up to the destructive storm. Using a Magnus effect, a tremendous force that makes a spinning object to change its trajectory, engineers can control over the turbine blades and generate electricity even during the severest conditions. In addition, the slower rotation speed lessens a chance of bird-strikes and noise volume, reducing environmental impact.

Atsushi Shimizu, Challenergy CEO

Challenergy already succeeded in testing its prototype with a 1kW capacity in a southern islands of Okinawa, which is frequently hit by passing typhoons. The team aims to commercialize a turbine with 10kW capacity by 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic games.


Speaker: CEO Koji Hori

Among the many diseases that may affect cats, chronic kidney disease is the most common. Untreated, it can cause serious health problems and eventually lead to death. But with early detection and supportive care, it is possible to boost and extend a furry pal’s life.

Miran Muraki & Koji Hori, Hachitama team, presents Toletta

Tokyo-based Hachitama turns cat’s litter box into a smart monitoring system for health and wellbeing called Toletta, a device with three different layers that shows up changes in a litter box usage and frequency as well as weight loss. By monitoring vitals, it can detect early signs of chronic kidney diseases. For pet owners with several cats, there is a camera for accurate tracking of each one of their beloved ones.


Speaker: Zhao Qian

Most periodontal diseases might be caused by an ‘invisible’ plaque that has a diverse bacterial structure. Kumamoto-based startup Ha-ppy believes that a sticky plaque around the gum margin can also lead to cavity and tooth decay. In order to monitor oral hygiene and keep plaque away, they develop a smart toothbrush that comes with a plague detection function, built-in optical system. It is a way more effective that a regular toothbrush, and could be used at care centers and dental clinics, even for patients with limited communication.

Smart toothbrush intro by Zhao Qian & Akinori Oyama Ha-ppy


Speaker: CEO Shunsuke Tsuboi

Advances in AI become increasingly useful in our day-to-day lives. As a labor shortage hits Japan, Ibot creator sees robots as helpful assistants in dull and energy-consuming tasks where lack of manpower occurs. His robot system can move furniture at big events like seminars and workshops. Gently lifting up the chair and carrying it to the designated place, it saves money and labor. In the future, iBot is planning to expand a range of items robots can carry, from suitcases to industrial cameras and much more.

CEO Shunsuke Tsuboi and his iBot robot


Speaker: CEO Yoshiyuki Kawai

An idea of a wearable bracelet occurred to Mimamora CEO Yoshiyuki Kawai when his 68 years old father was diagnosed with a mild dementia. Being a techie and concerned son, he dove into a technology to find an affordable solution for his family problem. In collaboration with EASEL (Yokohama City), Mimamora develops the world’s smallest LORA + GPS device for tracking missing people and pets. With a communication range over 5 km and weight 30g, it helps dementia patients to live independently for longer, while their care takers can monitor them remotely.

Yoshiyuki Kawai, Mimamora CEO

Oton Glass

Speaker: CEO Keisuke Shimakage

Oton Glass, developing a set of smart glasses for impaired vision people, has already been spotted by the techworld. Built-in camera that activates by simply clicking a button captures pictures of text and converts into a speech delivered through an earpiece. In addition, it is possible to translate a text using online dictionary. A pair of glasses comes without cable, allowing visually impaired people read without hindrance.

Currently, Oton Glass is seeking for funds to take their product into its next production stage, aiming retail cost of approximately JPY 5,000. (around USD 47,00).

CEO Keisuke Shimakage, Othon Glass demo

Smart Shopping

Speaker: CEO Hidetoshi Hayashi

Tokyo-based Smart Shopping presents new automation opportunities for Supply Chain. Its digital mat can automatically reorder stocks of items when running low, before they run out of stock. The device uses its original algorithm with sensors and connects to a smartphone via Wi-Fi. When using it for the first time, you must weight a necessary item onto the smart mat so it can calculate the total weight — that’s all. Once the product is gone, the smart mat will automatically order a new one for you.

Smart Shopping recently received an investment support of JPY 30,000,000 from MBC Shisaku Fund, and succeeded in developing 20 prototype unities with Makers Boot Camp.

Hidetoshi Hayashi, Smart Shopping CEO & Co-Founder

Award ceremony: announcing winners

With so much talent, judges had their hands full in selecting the top three finalists. After careful deliberation and debate, winners were announced on the Stage Arena.

Smart mat developer Smart Shopping took the 3rd place and had a chance to have demo booth at Hardware Cup Finals and JPY 100,000 for 3rd place. 2nd Place and JPY 200,000 for travel reimbursement went to Challenergy with its turbine tailored for typhoon winds. The solution for cat’s health from Hachitama was chosen as a winner and took the grand prize: round trip ticket between Japan and New York and JPY 300,000 to help cover all travel expenses.

Hachitama will represent Japan at Hardware Cup Finals and will have the chance to compete for the USD $50,000 investment prize along with startups from South Korea, Israel, India, Canada and USA.

All the 3 top startups are granted a right to exhibit at the demo area at the Japan booth in Pittsburgh and participate in the meeting with investors next day.

Hachitama first words: The most difficult part was to prepare speech in English. We had drilled our pitch so much, at least ten times since morning!

Monozukuri Hardware Cup 2018, award ceremony

All three Japanese finalists will have a chance to fly to Pittsburgh to participate at the Hardware Cup Final booth area. Hailed as one of the most desirable hardware startup pitch competitions in the globe, Hardware Cup is held once a year, after preliminary tournaments in other hubs. The winning startup doesn’t just take home the grand prize, but also receives exposure to crucial investors and visibility from a qualified stage of stakeholders.

Ryota Matsuzaki, CEO of Kibidango: It’s idea and creativity, and the team that makes a business successful in a global saying. So why don’t you or your friends participate in the next Hardware Cup? Having an opportunity is a first step to make something great.

Makers Boot Camp

A global VC focused on IoT startup investment.

Makers Boot Camp

A global VC focused on IoT startup investment. Support to hardware growth from business model to supply chain. #NYC #PGH #JP #ARINTech #EASEL @atmoph @cleanrobotics @bonbouton @bostonbiomotion @hoplitepower @kakaxi_usa @nonewfolk @veldtinc @smartshopping @teplobottle

Sasha Kaverina

Written by

Japan-based journalist | Open for collaborations

Makers Boot Camp

A global VC focused on IoT startup investment. Support to hardware growth from business model to supply chain. #NYC #PGH #JP #ARINTech #EASEL @atmoph @cleanrobotics @bonbouton @bostonbiomotion @hoplitepower @kakaxi_usa @nonewfolk @veldtinc @smartshopping @teplobottle