Naoki “Nick” Sugimoto serves as chief executive for Honda Innovations, the US-based open innovation and corporate venturing arm for Japan-headquartered mobility company Honda. In this role, he manages transformative partnerships for various Honda divisions encompassing different aspects including product development, manufacturing and new business creation.
Throughout his time at Honda, he has helped the corporate identify advanced information technology research and development (R&D) and corporate venture capital (CVC) opportunities in Silicon Valley, as well as its cross-border strategic partnerships.
Formally known as Honda R&D Innovations and previously called Honda Silicon Valley Lab (HSVL), the unit focuses on forging new collaborations with innovation ecosystem builders, particularly in the mobility space.
Honda Innovations has the open innovation program called Honda Xcelerator. Honda Xcelerator supports startups with funding, workspaces and mentoring, as well as access to Honda’s test vehicles to build POCs.
In 2018, the unit invested in four venture capital firms: 360 Capital Partners, JB Nordic Ventures, SOSV and Yunqi Partners.
Sugimoto had led HSVL as Senior Program Director for six years from 2011, which was under the auspices of Honda R&D Americas at the time. The lab concentrated on collaborations between Honda and global tech companies to create innovative products for its customers.
“A lot of change is happening in the technology and automotive industries, and going forward it is more important now than ever for Honda to work with innovators of all types to remain competitive,” Sugimoto already said back in 2016. “Your experience in the car is going to be very, very different in the future.”
He was quoted by Forbes in 2017 as saying: “We will be the Honda hub globally for open innovation, with much more speed and scale.
“We are adding an open innovation angle as a new methodology for all R&D centers to tap into and use to accelerate their process.
“We are pretty broad in scouting new technology, innovations from the venture community, not just automobile technology but all aspects of Honda. We are serving all of them.”
Sugimoto was instrumental in helping Honda become a founding member of the Open Automotive Alliance, which is an industry organization for automotive manufacturers and technology companies working on integrating Android system with cars.
Before that, he had overseen the CVC scheme for six years from 2005 at Honda Research Institute, where he invested in several disruptive startups and formed strategic partnerships.
Prior to Honda, Sugimoto was a prolific entrepreneur leading a number of technology companies in the United States and Japan. For example, he created a community website that was similar to crowd-sourced review platform Yelp and classifieds portal Craigslist targeting Japanese speakers globally.
Sugimoto holds mechanical engineering degree from University of Tokyo and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley.