Meet Hiroshi Nishikawa, Partnership Manager at Orange and Programme Manager for Orange Fab Asia


“What makes Orange Fab Asia unique is that it doesn’t focus on any single market”

I’ve advised companies of various shapes and sizes over the years and worked as a management consultant for Japanese start-up incubators and corporations, as well as for foreign start-ups entering Japan. Working as consultant provided me with an in-depth view of the local and regional ecosystem. After joining Orange as a Partnership Manager, I started Orange Fab Asia in 2013.

“I believe innovation has the power to overcome barriers of distance and language if we bring the right people together!”

Hiroshi Nishikawa, Partnership Manager at Orange and Programme Manager for Orange Fab Asia

“Orange Fab Asia was originally founded in Tokyo, but it now covers three countries: Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. We cater to Asian start-ups with pre-existing products that operate in a wide range of vertical markets from AI and machine-learning to eHealth, IoT and video technologies, to name a few.

In each of these three countries, start-ups who enrol at Orange Fab Asia receive business advice and mentoring from local and foreign experts, many of whom are our corporate partners. The mentoring can be anything from strategy consulting with Japanese corporations to Silicon Valley lawyers advising our participants on how to get started in the US.

What makes Orange Fab Asia unique is that it doesn’t focus on any one single market. Start-ups can take our programme either in Tokyo, Seoul or Taipei, and we ensure that all three countries are represented in our six Demo Days per year. This helps us connect our participants to the right people in different markets to play off their specific strengths, and export their service wherever it has the greatest potential for success. We also cultivate international business ties by sponsoring events like Tech in Asia Tokyo and Innovfest Unbound, where around 10 of our start-ups have benefited from a free booth in the last three years.

Judging by the results, we’re happy to say that our approach has worked quite well, Since 2013, more than 100 start-ups have participated in eight seasons at Orange Fab Asia. Not only are they all still active, but more than 60% have also succeeded in raising capital from investors!

In addition to our own ecosystems, we also look to connect start-ups to the wider Orange business network: in the Asia-Pacific region, notably through the Singapore OBS office, but also in Europe and MEA. This is a fantastic way for Orange and the start-ups to create innovative, long-term partnerships. I believe innovation has the power to overcome barriers of distance and language if we can bring the right people together—and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing!”

“Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively change the landscape of all modern industries. We decided to take up the challenge of spearheading this change.”

ABEJA has been developing and applying advanced deep learning technology to solve practical problems in industries such as manufacturing, logistics, infrastructure and retail for over five years. ABEJA’s expertise in AI development has been widely recognised at academic and industrial conferences and by several major companies. Nvidia is one such company that has invested in ABEJA – its first investment in Japan and its first in an Asian AI company.

Naoki Tonogi, Director, COO & CFO of ABEJA, tells us more about his company.

What does ABEJA do?

ABEJA offers several AI-related products, notably in deep learning. It provides the “ABEJA platform” that includes the components needed to manage the entire lifecycle of AI models from data validation and data annotation to model training, model deployment and operations, model accuracy reporting and model re-training. These features help us meet the specific business needs of our clients. We also aim to provide multiple industry-specific SaaS using AI, starting with a retail SaaS solution.

Where did the idea to create ABEJA come from?

The founder of ABEJA, Yousuke Okada, visited Silicon Valley in 2012 where he discovered deep learning technology, which was still new and at the seed level at that time. He could see how this disruptive technology and the Cloud would help us achieve things that weren’t possible before. In 2012, we succeeded in reducing the error rate in the field of object recognition by more than 10%, demonstrating the fact that Artificial Intelligence had the potential to massively change the landscape of all modern industries. We decided to take up the challenge of spearheading this change. It was the start of ABEJA.

ABEJA joined Orange Fab Asia in 2014. How did it impact your business?

We found out about Orange Fab Asia through our friends. Back then, we were developing our business to promote industrial restructuring using deep learning but we realised that very few people knew about deep learning in Japan. We were looking for a channel for overseas expansion. We received support from Orange to present our start-up in English and participate in overseas exhibitions such as Innovfest in Singapore.

How is the company doing today?

We’ve released ABEJA Platform and have many partners in the world, including large companies such as Salesforce. Moreover, we set up our first overseas branch in Singapore this year. We’re also working with the retail distribution industry and have already supplied our products to 70 companies and 420 stores.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?

Have your eyes on the top of the world from the very beginning without putting limits on your ideas. And get support from Orange!