Introducing the I² Startup Accelerator Program’s latest venture
The nutritional supplement industry is expected to be worth 30.4 trillion yen ($278 billion) by 20241, a rising trajectory driven by increased consumer demand. Yet innovation within the market remains limited, with many leading products offering little more than messy powders with questionable nutritional benefits.
Enter Shoreditch-son, the nutrition-tech company bringing novel delivery systems and evidence-based formulations. The founding members met during their PhD training at the University of London, then relocated to Okinawa to receive support and funding from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University’s (OIST) I² Startup Accelerator Program.
“We are bringing innovation and technology to an industry where it currently doesn’t exist,” says CEO Dr. Zachary Bell.
Shoreditch-son aims to replace supplement powders with their “SEEDs”, compact capsules that are easily transported without breaking, while retaining the ability to quickly dissolve in water.
Beyond their expected use by fitness enthusiasts, SEEDs could also benefit a subset of Japan’s older population that struggles to consume enough protein. Instead of shopping for oversized bags of powder, they could instead conveniently carry SEEDs as they would any lightweight prescription medicine.
The startup accelerator journey
So far the team has focused on creating new delivery systems to solve the problems posed by conventional supplement powders, resulting in a variety of SEED compositions and shapes tailored to specific nutrients. They already have two patent applications pending, as well as steady ongoing support from investors.
Having demonstrated the SEED delivery system, the team is also working on novel formulations unique to Okinawa, consulting with a herbologist who specializes in locally cultivated tea. This unique blend of herbs has long been known for its anti-inflammatory properties, illustrating the potential for medicinal use in treating several conditions.
Shoreditch-son is now setting up trials with human subjects, to determine whether there is truth to the claim of the tea’s anti-inflammatory properties. If the clinical trials can demonstrate this benefit, Shoreditch-son aims to partner with the local herbologist to convert the tea into a SEED format that will be accessible throughout Okinawa and beyond.
From academia to entrepreneurship
The startup journey has not always been smooth for a team of scientists making the transition into business.
“Coming from an academic background, we had never received any formalized training in entrepreneurship or team leadership,” explains Zach. “Couple that with being a non-native Japanese speaker, and the journey could well have been impossible.”
As part of OIST’s I² Startup Accelerator Program, Zach and his team had access to mentorship, training, and professional services, in addition to laboratory facilities for R&D.
“The strong network at OIST and their ability to find solutions to challenges have been invaluable. That said, we have been given autonomy to explore without having our hands held — which is, after all, the best way to learn.”
“A strong and passionate team accounts for a significant part of the success of a startup, sometimes even more than the idea or technology. OIST’s I² Startup Accelerator Program aims to put its support behind the smartest, most determined founders we can find, regardless of where they come from or whether we think their idea will be the next big thing,” said Lauren Ha, Associate Vice President of the Technology Development & Innovation Center, which houses the program.
“It also helps that aspiring entrepreneurs get to incubate their companies on the site of a beautiful university campus in Okinawa.”
About the I² Startup Accelerator Program
The I² Startup Accelerator Program helps entrepreneurs bring a product from proof-of-concept to market within 10-12 months, by leveraging the network, resources, and state-of-the-art facilities at OIST. Attracting the most promising entrepreneurs to Okinawa, I² aims to support self-sustaining economic development on the island. The program partners with the government and private sector to give startups access to market insights, collaborations, funding, and investment opportunities. Applications for the I² Startup Accelerator Program are open now.