NTT Docomo calls out to startups with $109M fund

Japanese telco hopes its 10 billion yen venture fund and new incubation program will help foster startups that can bolster its mobility business.

NTT Docomo will create a 10 billion yen (US$109 million) venture fund to accelerate development of new businesses for smartphones and tablets, as well as launch an incubation program for startups and venture companies.

In a statement Thursday, the Japanese telco said it will set up the venture fund and a related operating company in late February to kickstart innovations in the mobile space in its domestic market.

NTT Docomo is launching a 10 billion yen (US$109 million) venture fund as well as an incubator program.

It also launched an incubation program in Japan on Thursday to support startups and venture companies. Interested companies are invited to submit their applications from now until March 11. Those selected will be provided with various resources, including up to 2 million yen (US$23,000) in seed funding, use of office space and mentoring on management and development, it said.

As part of the incubation program, NTT Docomo will also invest in an incubation fund established by U.S. startup accelerator 500 Startups which is based in Silicon Valley, the company said. The investment will be carried out by Docomo Capital, a U.S.-based subsidiary.

Both the telco and 500 Startups will jointly help the selected companies tap into markets in North America and other regions, it added.

With the venture fund and incubation program, NTT Docomo will strengthen cooperation with venture companies through initiatives such as investments--primarily in Japan--and help upgrade services and technologies for smart devices in NTT Docomo's existing fields of business, the company said.

"It will accelerate development of business models, services and technologies in eight new strategic fields [for the company]: media and content; finance and payments; commerce; medical and healthcare; machine-to-machine (M2M); aggregation and platforms; environment and ecology; and security and safety. Such efforts are expected to rapidly expand NTT Docomo's involvement with integrated services centered on mobility," it added.

NTT Docomo announced last October it would establish a venture fund, called the Docomo Innovation Fund, as well as the Docomo Innovation Village incubation program by March 2013. The fund, it said, will focus on startups and venture companies primarily in Japan that possess business models, services or technologies related to mobility, and have the potential to be developed as new or upgraded offerings by NTT Docomo.