A is for Innovation--Toyota's Secret Startup Society


This look at the A-1 Contest, Toyota's enigmatic breeding ground for innovation, reveals what exactly that A stands for!

A first step

“The A-1 itself may not generate many new businesses,” says Doi. Then what is the contest’s goal?


The contest's aim is not to allocate budgets and people to outstanding ideas, but to encourage everyone involved to act with initiative.

Over the roughly four months between initial research and final presentation, contestants engage earnestly in creating a business. The confidence gained in the process sparks action, becoming a driving force for creating new value in the world.

Toyota also has an internal new business proposal system called B-project. Each year, teams that start out in the A-1 apply for the B-project and work hard to commercialize their ideas, a cycle, and a culture that the contest has fostered.

If you act, you can turn ideas into reality. If you bring others on board, you can do things that aren’t possible alone. The A-1 aims to make people realize this and encourage them to get started.

As Doi explains, he wants to create the first step that will lead participants to act independently for the benefit of others.

Many promising business ideas from the A-1 later lead to actual startups or come to life at company events. Both result from individuals who continue to be driven to act long after the contest is over.

The 2023 A-1 Contest is already underway. What kind of fools will take the challenge this year, and what kind of business models will they bring to the table? As a contest that makes Toyota more interesting, this is undoubtedly one to watch.

Also, look out for our follow-up article, where we showcase an array of initiatives born out of the A-1.