Starting the very first team in Japan

#1

Hello, I’ve been working on starting a new team for the first time in Japan right now.

I’ve participated in FRC once in 2011 in Canada. I came back to Japan 2 years ago and now I’m trying to make a new team. But I find this quite hard… I’m just a secondary school student :confused:

I only got 8 people in my team and one sponsor who’ll give us $10,000 (but we need at least $25000!) I’m trying to persuade companies to sponsor us but it’s not working that well. How can I get them interested in FRC and be a sponsor? What kind of companies should I go for?

I know it’s like a dream to have a team in Japan, but I’m thinking, if I didn’t make a team right now then no one will ever do it.

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#2

Start with in kind donations of tools, tables, computers, etc. Basically any sort of item/product you need you CAN get for free. Some things are harder than others. We started out asking for ratchets and hand tools then grinder, drill press. Now I’m trying to get a small mill. Just take it slow start with what you absolutely must have and reduce what non-FIRST specific stuff you have to pay for. Also ask for help form a machine shop and ask a lot. I tried over 15 different shops. Only got 2 but I got them.

Edit: Forgot to add that networking and getting to know people in larger companies is the best way to get larger grants. Also don’t underestimate a few $250-$1,000 (I’m talking USD here) from smaller businesses. We got money from a car dealership before.

Edit2: We stared with 6 students 8 is like a legion and competed with a $6,000 (USD) budget this year (obviously you have more travel but you get the picture).

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#3

Get the marketing going.
Find effective videos and practice with your fellow acolytes, a presentation.

In this thread:


There is so much discussion about engineers developing effective communication skills.

The Dog & Pony show:

One of the wonderful aspects of FIRST is that is about so much more than the Robot.

Good luck in your aspiration.

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#4
  1. Find mentors. You cannot compete well in FRC without them, certainly not in your first year. This is the single most important point.

  2. Have a plan. Do not wing it as you go. Make sure you do something productive in the preseason to familiarize your students with the type of work they’ll need to do in build season. Every bit of learning done before kickoff is one less bit of learning you’ll have to do during build season, when time is at a premium.

  3. Do not aim too high. Grounded, humble robot designs are important for a rookie FRC team with limited resources. Always ask yourself during the design process, “can we actually build this,” and more importantly, “can we actually build this well?” Find one simple task and try to be the very best you can at it.

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#5

Talk to other Japanese teams in other robotics programs. Japan has a strong presence in VEX, FLL, the robogames, and other robotics competitions. Ask these teams how they cover their expenses. They will probably be more familiar with the landscape for soliciting charitable donations for robotics competition in Japan than we will.

Also, get in touch with some top level Chairman’s teams. They have done some amazing things to spread FRC globally, and may be able to provide more direct advice. Team 359 immediately comes to mind, especially because attending the Hawaii regional would likely be a logical choice for your team.

Short of that, here’s my stock advice for sponsor recruitment:

  • Do your research! Learn about the companies you approach, and what kind of giving they are best equipped to do. Don’t make unreasonable requests. Be on the lookout for unique, non-financial ways a company can support your team, from donated materials, to mentors, to publicity. If you do well here, you can get a majority of materials donated directly, rather than spending funds on them.

  • The two huge areas where you will likely be unable to get any signifigant in-kind donations are event registration and travel. Every other aspect of your team, approach companies who would be able to make donations in-kind. One huge thing here is machining services. Approach machine shops, sheet metal shops, manufacturing plants, vocational schools, and universities for help, you can get a surprising amount done for free. You may even be able to get some old tools donated to your team.

  • Find out what companies have a history of charitable donations. Companies with a track record will be much more likely to contribute to you. Larger companies will often have a department or person in charge of this.

  • Start with local companies rather than big names (local, big names are best). In the US at least, all but the largest companies tend to be primarily interested in supporting their immediate community, instead of spreading themselves too thin.

  • Every member, mentor, parent, and supporter of your team is a resource here. Connections at their workplaces can be a great place to start and get your foot in the door. We have an entry survey for our students which asks for parent employers, and we pursue many of these which show additional green flags for sponsorship.

  • Tech and manufacturing companies are always a solid place to start, but think outside the box. I’ve heard of teams getting support from some real unusual sources, including dentists, a minor league baseball team, and a perfume company. Again, a history of charitable donations/support and connections are more important than a direct link to the kind of work you do as an FRC team.

  • Make sure you have whatever the Japanese equivalent of 501c3 status is. Being registered as a nonprofit organization is a requirement for sponsorship from the vast majority of companies, especially larger ones which have a formal process for this. If you are directly affiliated with a school or school district, this may be taken care of for you already.

  • Crucial:
    Don’t make your relationship with sponsors one-sided. Rather, seek out ways in which you can act as partners to your sponsors. Go beyond a simple thank-you letter. Connect these companies to your students for internships and jobs, encourage employee involvement with the team, help support community events the company puts on or supports, provide robot demonstrations, whatever you can. Companies will provide much greater support when they gain just as much from it, rather than feeling like they’re doing you a huge favor.

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#6

MathFreak,

You opened by saying you want to start a FIRST team in Japan, but then you went on to focus only on FRC (I think). FIRST is more than FRC. With that in mind, one option is staring you right in the face.

Blake

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#7

ASIJ considered starting a team at one time.
They currently participate in VEX and would have the resources to do FRC.

After spending time in the school on several occasions in recent years, I would love to work in that school if the situation was right. They have the necessary infrastructure and resources to get started.

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#8

One word: Crowdfunding.
(That might be two words. )

I am sure that the FIRST community would be happy to help contribute, especially if you are the FIRST (pardon the pun) team in Japan.

We use IndieGoGo because of their discounted nonprofit rates.

Additionally, start the process of becoming nonprofit now.

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#9

If you are intersted, I can share my team’s Sponsorship strategy paper with you. A lot of it is obvious stuff but a lot is ideas and strategies that have surprised us. Just PM me and I’ll dig it up for you.

Also, listen to what other people have said here:D There’s some smart dudes here.

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