Updated on August 23, 2017
Sony's Seed Acceleration Program (SAP) was launched in April 2014 to collect ideas that are beyond existing business categories and develop them for commercialization. The Sony Group has a broad array of human and management resources in electronics, entertainment, financial services, and other fields. Sony seeks to launch new businesses and achieve innovative breakthroughs by leveraging collaboration involving technologies and talents that cut across the boundaries of existing specialties, and by accelerating the establishment of tie-ups with joint venture companies that are active in complementary fields.
SAP is a new approach Sony uses to quickly launch new businesses by tapping into the manufacturing know-how it already possesses. One initiative that Sony has undertaken under SAP is "First Flight," a crowdfunding and e-commerce website set up in 2015 to provide a platform where Sony's new business projects can make connections with customers who are ahead of the curve and want to use new products and services and with customers who are interested in helping to turn those projects into vibrant businesses.
Under the First Flight crowdfunding model, a project undergoing evaluation for possible launch as a new business is announced to the public as quickly as possible to get more people involved in considering whether it meets real market needs and exploring whether it can be turned into a marketable product. In addition, business proposals and progress in the development process are reported on the website to elicit customer feedback that can then be incorporated into the development process.
In February 2017, Sony launched Hatsuhiko, a test marketing platform for markets outside Japan. Using the Hatsuhiko platform, Sony provides opportunities for in-house startup projects born from the SAP program to assess the needs of markets outside Japan and engage in co-creative development and product improvement in direct dialogue with customers around the world. The Hatsuhiko platform accelerates collaboration with customers by facilitating "co-vision" and "co-creation" to boost the growth of each business.
In addition, Sony headquarters in Tokyo has set up a Creative Lounge with 3D printers and other machinery that people can use to test out ideas for new businesses. The Creative Lounge is also open to outside users, who can interact there with Sony employees, use the equipment to make and test prototypes, and try out Sony's prototypes. Working in direct contact with customers facilitates joint efforts to develop and improve products, and makes it possible to launch totally new types of business more quickly and with much greater assurance of success.
Two of the things Sony envisions SAP accomplishing are the cultivation of a new generation of entrepreneurial talent and the training of teams of professionals who can accelerate the creation of new businesses. The startup projects that have emerged from SAP have been led by small teams of elite employees, to be sure, but these teams have also received a lot of in-house support from knowledgeable people and professionals specializing in many different fields. It is also possible for people from outside Sony to take part in projects. Utilizing Sony's wide range of talent pool, combined with a system of communication and open innovation, affords opportunities to make the most of the abilities of Sony employees.