Monozukuri Hardware Cup 2019 crowned top Japanese hardware startups

Last week’s Monozukuri Hardware Cup 2019 marked the 3rd edition of one of the region’s leading startup pitch competitions held in English. The semi-final battle held at HackOsaka, when eight innovative Japanese startups pitched their business to an international jury, awarded tickets to Pittsburgh, where AlphaLab Gear's Hardware Cup Global Final will happen!

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Monozukuri Hardware Cup 2019 finalists on stage at the Award Ceremony. Photo Credit: Amanda Narumi.
What is Monozukuri Hardware Cup?
Monozukuri Hardware Cup, an annual pitching contest for Japan-based hardware startups, aims to foster local innovation by bringing together the most promising local startups developing IoT solutions that include hardware products. It provides a platform to connect the aspiring entrepreneurs with potential investors from global hubs, while offering networking platforms with industry experts.
Startups who apply to this competition have to go through a screening process that helps the judges in selecting eight prospective finalists and are offered English pitch coaching by startup mentors. The winner of the final pitching contest will represent Japan at the Hardware Cup Finals in Pittsburgh, US, organized by AlphaLab Gear, and compete alongside other prominent startups from all over the world for a chance to win a US$50K prize.

Click to learn more about Monozukuri Hardware Cup 2018 winners

The 2019 competition initially started with over 28 submissions, which were whittled down to a top 8 before the event. At this year’s pitch competition we had a great mixture of exciting business models and ambitious startup teams from all over Japan. A panel of startup mentors/investors lent their critical eyes and expertise, selecting the top startup that will represent Japan at the global contest.

Meet The Judges

  • Allen Miner (Sunbridge CEO)
  • Hongwei Yuan(Green Pine Capital Partners Partner)
  • Paul Kim(Air Liquide Japan Ltd., Digital Transformation Project Manager)
Three international judges grilling startups with tough questions. Photo Credit: Amanda Narumi.

Each startup had exactly four minutes to pitch in front a live audience and five minutes for Q&A session, following Hardware Cup’s AlphaLab Gear official format. After hours of pitching and deliberations, judges narrowed the list down to three finalists, using the International criteria applied for such competition.

Smart home tech startup stak was crowned the winner of the competition and received JPY 300K as a award for a round-trip ticket to fly to Pittsburgh finals. Its team will represent Japan at Hardware Cup Finals and compete along with startups from South Korea, Israel, India, Canada and USA.

mui Lab, a wood platform designed for a more calm experience with digital devices, took the second spot winning JPY 200K yen for the tour to Pittsburgh.

Xela Robotics with its tactile robotics sensors came in third with JPY 100K award. All the 3 top startups will exhibit at the demo area at the Japan booth in Pittsburgh and participate in the networking with investors in the following day after Hardware Cup finals.

1st place

Stak

Shinichiro Ueda, CEO of stak. Photo Credit: Amanda Narumi.

Whether it’s climate control, or appliances, your home is now completely under your control from any remote location. Hiroshima-based startup stak is developing a bulb-shaped IoT device that helps to automate your routine tasks and keep you running on schedule. This smart home solution has got you covered on all fronts and doesn’t require any installation work, according to its CEO Shinichiro Ueda. With its simple approach to connectivity, you never have to worry that you accidently left the air conditioner on.

2nd place

Mui

Kazunori Oki, CEO of mui LabPhoto Credit: Amanda Narumi.

In many ways, technology is cool and it helps us in daily life. But the ubiquity of laptops and mobile devices has some powerful downsides to go along with its benefits, like constant distraction and addictiveness, says mui Lab CEO Kazunori Oki. His team is developing a smart interface mui shaped like a simple wooden plank which is aimed to create a relaxing, distraction-free digital environment. Once activated by a hand swipe across its polished surface, a display composed of glowing LED dots allows you to talk, send and receive messages, check the news and weather.

Read more: What mui and other hardware startups learned from CES 2018

3rd place

Xela Robotics

Tito Pradhono Tomo, Product Development of Xela Robotics. Photo Credit: Amanda Narumi.

The robotic arms are seeing increased demand from numerous applications which is driving the global packaging market market growth. However, it requires intelligent automation to ensure that grasping and manipulation is performed without failure. That is why spin-off startup from Waseda University Xela Robotics started to develop tactile 3-axis force sensors for robot hands and grippers. Their skin sensors provide a detailed feedback for robots about contact position, shape, shear forces etc, says Product Development Tito Pradhono Tomo. With a mission to achieve safe human-robot interaction, his team is aiming towards an ambitious goal to integrate tactile sensors with human fingers and arms.

Check out Xela Robotics pitching their product in Tokyo

Other Finalists:

HoloAsh

Yoshua Kishi, HoloAsh CEO. Photo Credit: Amanda Narumi.

A global surge in using smartphones puts people at a higher risk of developing ADHD, a mental disorder where low attention span and hyperactivity flourish. Being diagnosed with ADHD, HoloAsh CEO Yoshua Kishi knows all about the never-ending roller coaster ride of highs and lows. His San-Francisco-based startup develops holographic AI to create a safe environment for people struggling with mental disorders on a daily basis. Yoshua Kishi believes that a virtual assistant is more effective and cheaper than other treatments where patients have to deal with high medicine costs or out-of-pocket therapy rates.

Check out other startup making a difference: Smart Insole From Bonbouton To Help Diabetic Patients

FutuRocket

Hiroumi Mitani, CEO of FutuRocket. Photo Credit: Amanda Narumi.

Smart wireless cameras with built-in AI capabilities have rocketed in popularity, but the image recognition technology still remains a challenge for small businesses due to the high installation and rental cost. FutuRocket is developing an affordable solution called ManaCam camera which tracks number of visitors at the certain date, period of time and location. It is relatively cheap and easy to install, says CEO Hiroumi Mitani, which makes it a great pick for maximizing your store efficiency.

Camera For Pet? NYC-startup PlayDate aims to rescue your pet from loneliness and boredom!

Mira Robotics

Ken Matsui, Mira Robotics CEO. Photo Credit: Amanda Narumi.

According to Mira Robotics CEO Ken Matsui, delegating mundane chores to robots can ultimately be used to help cope with a swelling elderly population and dual-income households in Japan. His team is working on an interactive robot called UGO that performs a range of housekeeping duties while controlled remotely. Under the service terms, trained operators will remotely operate a mobile manipulator it so busy homeowners don’t have to worry about the worst and most inconvenient household chores. From that perspective, the teleoperator robot will guarantee a level of privacy that a human housekeeper doesn’t.

Novars

Toru Yamanaka, Novars Inc. CMO, CSO. Photo Credit: Amanda Narumi.

Soon, there’ll be no need for replacing or re-charging batteries since the devices will ‘share’ the energy data by themselves. Found in 2015, Tokyo-based startup Novars is working on a battery typed IoT product MaBeee which helps to control battery-powered devices such as toys, remote controllers and clock alarms. The gadget has won several awards proving once again that dry batteries are universal superpower batteries.

TeNKYU

Hideki Kan, TeNKYU CEO. Photo Credit: Amanda Narumi.

What if your lamp bulb could tell you the weather and remind you to grab an umbrella on the way out instead of smartphone weather alerts? TeNKYU is a IoT platform that displays the weather forecast using a smart lamp bulb that will change colors to notify you. Its CEO Hideki Kan says that in the future, a smart bulb will come with virtually endless possibilities for ways to program and use them. As they work with external services, you will be able to set up your lights to notify you when motion is detected by the security camera, check train delays or latest news.

Makers Boot Camp team greeting winning startups. Photo Credit: Amanda Narumi.