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DTVS's challenges to accelerate the startup ecosystem from Tokyo to the world


Ecosystem Builder

7AM, a room in a high-rise Tokyo office building. Despite being so early in the morning, there is not a hint of sleepiness in this meeting room. Many audience members—seeking to generate synergy and new business opportunities—listen intently, their eyes aglitter, to an enthusiastic entrepreneur relate a grand vision.

This is a scene from Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support (DTVS)’s Morning Pitch sessions*. (*Due to the influence of COVID-19, it is held remotely now.) Every week, 5 startups give presentations to companies, venture capitalists, media members, and others in attendance. Presenters at the event are given only 4 minutes. However, that condensed timeslot is packed with enthusiastic drama, and those ideas have become the driving force generating numerous meetings between people. Early events were small and drew less than 10 attendees, but the buzz has gradually expanded into an event that now draws nearly 200~300 participants. This year marks Morning Pitch’s 9th year. Some say it has already grown beyond an “event” into a “platform” that functions as a community where large enterprises can network with startups.

DTVS, established by the Deloitte Tohmatsu Group as a new business and the entity behind Morning Pitch, also was originally, so to speak, the Deloitte Tohmatsu Group’s internal startup organization. It was initially created from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu’s viewpoint of assisting startups in the period leading up to their IPO. However, the organization became a firm thanks to members with a strong desire to do more than that and work closely alongside startups. At first, DTVS introduced startups to large supporting companies one by one, but they were unable really boost interest or enthusiasm among those large companies. This led to DTVS refining its various approaches for supporting startups: it began offering consulting services about new business to large companies, and it created partnership generating opportunities such as CVCs, business contests, and acceleration programs. As a result of step-by-step, continued diligence, DTVS has grown into an organization of 170 members across Japan with a network of approximately 3,500 startups in Japan and elsewhere.

Leading DTVS now is Yuma Saito, who has been a central member since the business’s establishment. In 2010 Mr. Saito was involved in the creation of DTVS’s predecessor organization, and he was appointed DTVS Managing Director in 2019. At 36 years old, he is an exceptionally young company leader within the Deloitte Tohmatsu Group. Mr. Saito attributes DTVS’s strengths to the fact that its “members come from diverse backgrounds in fields such as strategy, marketing & sales, financing, talent acquisition & development, coaching, and media/PR. We are able to offer highly specialized support that closely aligns with each startup’s needs”.

Now that it’s been nearly 2 years since becoming managing director, what are Mr. Saito’s goals in the rapidly evolving startup world? “Although Japan’s startup ecosystem has developed immensely over the past 10 years, I feel it still has issues. The number of new companies founded has been steadily increasing, but Japan still has not produced a large number of unicorn companies [i.e. with a market capitalization of more than $10 billion]. In order to make that happen, I feel that Japanese startups need to focus more on partnering with large foreign companies. Large companies cluster themselves around certain parts of Tokyo based on their characteristics. For example, IT and creative companies go to Shibuya, fintech companies go to Otemachi/Marunouchi/Yurakucho, life science companies to Nihonbashi, and foreign companies to Roppongi. This situation makes it easy to form industry-based collaboration, which also allows it to accelerate collaboration between the large companies that support ecosystems and the ecosystems that arise from universities. I want to build a platform in Tokyo that comprehensively supports startups.”

DTVS’s mission is to “create the future alongside innovators”. Mr. Saito said his goal is to produce 20 unicorn companies by 2023, and he will relentlessly continue that pursuit in Tokyo, a city that attracts startups with the potential to solve not only Japan’s but the world’s social issues.

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