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Japanese online classifieds startup Jimoty files for IPO

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Jimoty, the Japanese startup behind online classifieds site under the same name, announced in late December that the IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. Jimoty provides listings in a wide range of categories, including items for sale, job listings, services, and events. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on Feb 7 with plans to offer 50,000 shares for public subscription and to sell 190,600 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 1,220,700 shares. The underwriting will be led by Daiwa Securities while Jimoty’s ticker code will be 7082. Its share price range will be released on January 22 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on January 23 and pricing on January 29. According to the consolidated statement as of December 2018, they posted revenue of 935.89 million yen (about $9 million) with an ordinary profit of 7.06 million yen (about $64,000). Led by Opt Holdings (30.68%), their major shareholders include NTT Docomo (16.22%), Infinity Venture Partners (14.23%), Proto Corporation (10.71%), Energy & Environment Investment (9.51%), Jimoty CEO Takahiro Kato (8.71%), Lifull (4.29%), Japan Best Rescue System (2.14%), and Seibu Shinkin Capital. See also: Japanese…

Jimoty Headquarters in Tokyo
Image credit: Jomoty

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Jimoty, the Japanese startup behind online classifieds site under the same name, announced in late December that the IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. Jimoty provides listings in a wide range of categories, including items for sale, job listings, services, and events.

The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on Feb 7 with plans to offer 50,000 shares for public subscription and to sell 190,600 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 1,220,700 shares. The underwriting will be led by Daiwa Securities while Jimoty’s ticker code will be 7082.

Its share price range will be released on January 22 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on January 23 and pricing on January 29. According to the consolidated statement as of December 2018, they posted revenue of 935.89 million yen (about $9 million) with an ordinary profit of 7.06 million yen (about $64,000).

Led by Opt Holdings (30.68%), their major shareholders include NTT Docomo (16.22%), Infinity Venture Partners (14.23%), Proto Corporation (10.71%), Energy & Environment Investment (9.51%), Jimoty CEO Takahiro Kato (8.71%), Lifull (4.29%), Japan Best Rescue System (2.14%), and Seibu Shinkin Capital.

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Translated by Masaru Ikeda

Japan’s TimeTree, shared calendar app for couples, raises $18M

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based TimeTree (previously known as Jubilee Works), the startup behind shared calendar app for couples under the same name, announced in late December that it has raised about 1.96 billion yen (about $17.9 million) in the latest round. Participating investors are Seoul-based Stonebridge Ventures, Persol Innovation Fund (investment arm of Tokyo-based human resource services company Persol Holdings=TSE:2181), and Orient Corporation (TSE:8585). This follows their venture round (raising undisclosed amount) back in December of 2018, series A round (raising $4.6 million) back in August of 2017, and seed round (raising $1.9 million) back in October of 2016. The TimeTree app allows users to share their calendar with their family members, loved ones, friends and colleagues. It surpassed 20 million registered users in December, planning to launch TimeTree Ads, the ad network which can target users based on their schedule, as well as the TimeTree API that enables an easy integration with other apps for input and output schedule data.

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based TimeTree (previously known as Jubilee Works), the startup behind shared calendar app for couples under the same name, announced in late December that it has raised about 1.96 billion yen (about $17.9 million) in the latest round.

Participating investors are Seoul-based Stonebridge Ventures, Persol Innovation Fund (investment arm of Tokyo-based human resource services company Persol Holdings=TSE:2181), and Orient Corporation (TSE:8585). This follows their venture round (raising undisclosed amount) back in December of 2018, series A round (raising $4.6 million) back in August of 2017, and seed round (raising $1.9 million) back in October of 2016.

The TimeTree app allows users to share their calendar with their family members, loved ones, friends and colleagues. It surpassed 20 million registered users in December, planning to launch TimeTree Ads, the ad network which can target users based on their schedule, as well as the TimeTree API that enables an easy integration with other apps for input and output schedule data.

Barkation, startup conference by ex-Slush Tokyo team, cancels 1st edition this year

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See the original story in Japanese. As previously reported, a brand new startup conference called Barkation was announced to take place on February 19 and 20 this year, primarily organized by the former Slush Tokyo team, but we learned today that it will be canceled this year. The main reason behind the cancellation is the team couldn’t spend enough time preparing for the conference, such as training volunteers, and they will focus on building the Bark community this year. Thanks to their concept that the conference shouldn’t come first but is just as part of the Bark community, the cancellation will give no significant impact on their ongoing activities. In an interview with Bridge, Bark CEO Haruka Furukawa said her team decided to cancel because they don’t want participants from Japan and the rest of the world to get disappointed. Over the past few years, there has been a series of announcements of cancellations and suspensions of global startup conferences. Austria’s flagship conference Pioneers, which has been running for eight years since 2011, announced a break last year. Tech in Asia has shut down their conferences in Singapore and Tokyo and currently runs it only in Jakarta. RISE, hosted in…

The Bark Launch Party took place in October in Harajuku, Tokyo.
Image credit: Bark

See the original story in Japanese.

As previously reported, a brand new startup conference called Barkation was announced to take place on February 19 and 20 this year, primarily organized by the former Slush Tokyo team, but we learned today that it will be canceled this year. The main reason behind the cancellation is the team couldn’t spend enough time preparing for the conference, such as training volunteers, and they will focus on building the Bark community this year.

Thanks to their concept that the conference shouldn’t come first but is just as part of the Bark community, the cancellation will give no significant impact on their ongoing activities. In an interview with Bridge, Bark CEO Haruka Furukawa said her team decided to cancel because they don’t want participants from Japan and the rest of the world to get disappointed.

Over the past few years, there has been a series of announcements of cancellations and suspensions of global startup conferences. Austria’s flagship conference Pioneers, which has been running for eight years since 2011, announced a break last year. Tech in Asia has shut down their conferences in Singapore and Tokyo and currently runs it only in Jakarta. RISE, hosted in Asia by the WebSummit organizer, has also announced that it will cancel the 2020 edition over the recent tension in Hong Kong.

Japan’s Samurai Incubate launches new $18M fund for African startups

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Thursday, 6pm JST – Update: Minor correction applied into Yoneyama’s previous position, Samurai Africa Fund II’s targeted geographical markets, and my misunderstanding that the first fund’s investment capacity is still remaining. Tokyo-based VC firm Samurai Incubate announced on Thursday that it has launched a new fund focused on starups in Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria. The fund is titled Samurai Africa Fund II, aiming to acquire 2 billion yen (about $18.3 million US) for investments. As for the ticket sizes, the fund invests a minimum cheque size of 5 million to 50 million yen (about $46,000 to $460,000 US) for startups in the seed to series A stage while targeted verticals are FinTech / InsureTech, logistics, MedTech / healthcare, retail and e-commerce, AgriTech, transport and mobility, and entertainment. Since the fund is called in that way, some of our readers may be wondering when its first fund was formed, but it seems to refer to Leapfrog Ventures, a seed-stage fund jointly launched in May of 2018 by Samurai Incubate and its former employee Takuma Terakubo. According to their corporate history, the firm rebranded Leapfrog Ventures into Samurai Incubate Africa back in June of 2019. As of June last year when…

From left: Hironari Kubo (Senior Manager / Fund Controller, Samurai Incubate), Rena Yoneyama (Senior Manager, Samurai Incubate / Managing Partner, Samurari Incubate Africa), Kentaro Sakakibara (CEO, Samurai Incubate / CEO, Samurai Incubate Africa), Nao Koike (Manager, Samurai Incubate), Yoshihiro Honma (Executive Officer, Corporate Group, Samurai Incubate)
Image credit: Samurai Incubate

Thursday, 6pm JST – Update: Minor correction applied into Yoneyama’s previous position, Samurai Africa Fund II’s targeted geographical markets, and my misunderstanding that the first fund’s investment capacity is still remaining.

Tokyo-based VC firm Samurai Incubate announced on Thursday that it has launched a new fund focused on starups in Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria. The fund is titled Samurai Africa Fund II, aiming to acquire 2 billion yen (about $18.3 million US) for investments. As for the ticket sizes, the fund invests a minimum cheque size of 5 million to 50 million yen (about $46,000 to $460,000 US) for startups in the seed to series A stage while targeted verticals are FinTech / InsureTech, logistics, MedTech / healthcare, retail and e-commerce, AgriTech, transport and mobility, and entertainment.

Since the fund is called in that way, some of our readers may be wondering when its first fund was formed, but it seems to refer to Leapfrog Ventures, a seed-stage fund jointly launched in May of 2018 by Samurai Incubate and its former employee Takuma Terakubo. According to their corporate history, the firm rebranded Leapfrog Ventures into Samurai Incubate Africa back in June of 2019.

As of June last year when the African investment vehicle was rebranded, we can confirm Terakubo was still serving the company as CEO at that time but Samurai Incubate CEO Kentaro Sakakibara has taken over the position by now. With all these facts, we can understand that the vehicle has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Samurai Incubate for their startup investments in Africa. According to reliable sources, Terakubo is currently preparing for his own new fund for African startups. We’ll keep you updated about his progress when it becomes available.

Rena Yoneyama, Managing Partner of Samurai Incubate Africa, will play a management role for the second fund. Prior to Samurai Incubate, she previously worked with the Development Bank of Japan and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation followed by serving Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Moroccan office as an assistant Project Formulation Manager and Tokyo-based Techfund as a director. Samurai Incubate Africa is commissioned by JICA to conduct research on promoting entrepreneurship and finding out the local startup ecosystem in Africa. The firm says the work doesn’t in any way imply in evaluating the fund.

The first fund has chosen Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa as the geographical region as their focus while Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania are removed and Nigeria is added for that of the second fund.

(The firm told Bridge that they are NOT intended to remove Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania from their targeted geographical markets.)

Seeing a remarkable growth, Nigeria boasts the largest market in the Sub-Saharan region. With this in mind, it seems that Samurai Incubate Africa has re-shuffled their targeting markets to put the limited resources into places with the potential largest output. At the time of launching the first fund, they said they were aiming to invest in about 80 startups. It has now become clear that they have invested in 18 companies in Africa, which is equivalent to about a quarter of the initial target.

The first fund was so far invested in the Senri sales optimization platform for manufacturing and distribution businesses in Africa, Kenya-based sales bot and SaaS startup Biashara, and Rwandan regional FinTech startup Exuus. The first fund appears to have investment capacity remaining, but it is still unclear whether the fund’s focused investment region will remain the same or will follow the second one.

(In addition to 500 million yen as the initial target size of Leapfrog Ventures, Samurai Africa Fund I incorporated 10% of Samurai Incubate Fund VI (3.45 billion yen) which was launched back in February last year. The first Africa fund has no further investment capacity remaining since it has completed investing. We can assume the ticket size per startup was larger than initially expected while the number of investees is less than a quarter of their initial target.)

In this area, there are some companies in Japan offering corporate advisory and startup support initiatives in Africa, such as Tokyo-based Double Feather Partners.

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Japanese exoskeleton developer Innophys raises $32.4M

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See the original story in Japanese. Japanese startup developing Innophys announced in late December that it has secured 3.53 billion yen (about $32.4 million US) in the latest round. Participating investors are HI-LEX Corporation (TSE:7279), Fidelity International, Brother Industries (TSE:6448), Future Venture Capital, Nac (TSE:9788), Towa Pharmaceutical (TSE:4553), Tokai (TSE:9729), Bic Camera (TSE:3048), and among others. The company has developed an exoskeleton suit that charges by squeezing a hand pump to fill pressurized air-powered ‘muscles’ that are then used to augment the worker’s natural strength. Allowing users to reduce the burden on the waist when lifting a person or a heavy object, and doing other tasks in a half-crouching position, it can help prevent their back pain and improve working conditions. The Muscle Suit series has sold a total of 5,000 models since its first release back in 2014. via PR Times

Image credit: Innophys

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese startup developing Innophys announced in late December that it has secured 3.53 billion yen (about $32.4 million US) in the latest round. Participating investors are HI-LEX Corporation (TSE:7279), Fidelity International, Brother Industries (TSE:6448), Future Venture Capital, Nac (TSE:9788), Towa Pharmaceutical (TSE:4553), Tokai (TSE:9729), Bic Camera (TSE:3048), and among others.

The company has developed an exoskeleton suit that charges by squeezing a hand pump to fill pressurized air-powered ‘muscles’ that are then used to augment the worker’s natural strength. Allowing users to reduce the burden on the waist when lifting a person or a heavy object, and doing other tasks in a half-crouching position, it can help prevent their back pain and improve working conditions. The Muscle Suit series has sold a total of 5,000 models since its first release back in 2014.

via PR Times

Japan’s Cluster secures $7.7M in series C to enhance VR hangout and performance platform

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Cluster, the Japanese startup behind the social VR (virtual reality) platform under the same name supporting thousands-scale events in VR space, announced today that it has secured 830 million yen (about $7.7 million) in a series C round. This follows their series B round back in September of 2018 and brings their total funding raised so far to 1.48 billion yen ($13.7 million). Participating investors in the latest round are KDDI Innovation Fund (operated by KDDI and Global Brain), TV Asahi Holdings, Gree’s virtual YouTuber management agency Wright Flyer Live Entertainment (WFLE), 31Ventures (operated by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), and several angel investors. Cluster has partnered with TV Asahi and WFLE for joint business development. Since its official launch back in May of 2017, Cluster has been acquiring gaming companies and virtual YouTuber agencies as clients to provide VR-powered live music and other performance events for viewers. They could offer only one paid event back in 2018 but was seeing solid growth by serving about 100 events last year alone thanks to higher demand promoting virtual YouTubers. Since users are able to hold VR events for free on the platform, the company…

Image credit: Cluster

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Cluster, the Japanese startup behind the social VR (virtual reality) platform under the same name supporting thousands-scale events in VR space, announced today that it has secured 830 million yen (about $7.7 million) in a series C round. This follows their series B round back in September of 2018 and brings their total funding raised so far to 1.48 billion yen ($13.7 million).

Participating investors in the latest round are KDDI Innovation Fund (operated by KDDI and Global Brain), TV Asahi Holdings, Gree’s virtual YouTuber management agency Wright Flyer Live Entertainment (WFLE), 31Ventures (operated by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), and several angel investors. Cluster has partnered with TV Asahi and WFLE for joint business development.

Since its official launch back in May of 2017, Cluster has been acquiring gaming companies and virtual YouTuber agencies as clients to provide VR-powered live music and other performance events for viewers. They could offer only one paid event back in 2018 but was seeing solid growth by serving about 100 events last year alone thanks to higher demand promoting virtual YouTubers.

Since users are able to hold VR events for free on the platform, the company monetizes by helping companies produce and hold their events. This B2B2C (business-to-business-to-consumer) model worked well, which helped them improve their cash flow. Because of the growth of viewers from overseas as more events are being organized, Cluster is planning to more focus on global expansion. The company also further develop the platform to support more head-mounted display models including Oculus Quest while it can now work with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift only.

Regarding partnerships with investors participating in this round, Cluster will work with TV Asahi to develop content and TV programs using VR, with KDDI to develop content optimized for 5G networking that enables high bandwidth and low latency connectivity in addition standalone VR that requires no desktop for image rendering, will work with WFLE to integrate their Reality app so that their users can view and participate in events on the Cluster platform. Going forward, the company also plans to enhance it so that real human artists can also perform with virtual YouTubers on the platform.

Naoto Kato, founder and CEO of Cluster, said:

As apps like Mirrativ are being emerged, more individuals want to have their own avatar. I would like to offer user experience allowing such avatars to participate and give virtual gift items each others across different platforms while I don’t think all these functions can be provided by one company. […]

With the business model in place, we will focus on cultivating the content through this financing. We would like more gaming companies and animation studios to use the platform as one not only for live music events and concerts but also for various virtual events.

Not to mention engineers focused on system development, the company will strengthen hiring people for business and content development. While Cluster’s simultaneous viewership record is about 30,000 so far, the company aims to hold larger events attracting a six- to seven-digit number of people in the future.

Japan’s Thai Embassy holds 2nd batch helping startups connect with local conglomerates

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See the original story in Japanese. On Monday at True Digital Park in Bangkok, the Japanese Embassy in Thailand together with the CP Group (Charoen Pokphand Group) held a Demo Day of the second batch of Rock Thailand, a matchmaking event aiming to help Japanese startup and Thai conglomerates to work together. The event is part of the Open Innovation Columbus (OIC) initiative, which promotes strategic alliances between Japanese startups and Thai conglomerates. The majority of Thai conglomerates do not reap the benefits of a digital economy. In Japan, large companies are moving to start digital transformation (DX) by collaborating with startups (it’s so called ‘open innovation’), while in Thailand, due to the nature of the verticals that local startups specialize in, DX through open innovation will likely still take time. In response to this, OIC selected a team of 10 Japanese startups that lead verticals likely to be useful for DX (AI, robotics, IoT, logistics), and that are particularly interested in advancing into Southeast Asia, including Thailand, and invited them to Bangkok. This is an attempt at targeting cross-border open innovation and focuses on using the power of Japanese startups to foster DX for Thai conglomerates. Since top executives…

See the original story in Japanese.

On Monday at True Digital Park in Bangkok, the Japanese Embassy in Thailand together with the CP Group (Charoen Pokphand Group) held a Demo Day of the second batch of Rock Thailand, a matchmaking event aiming to help Japanese startup and Thai conglomerates to work together. The event is part of the Open Innovation Columbus (OIC) initiative, which promotes strategic alliances between Japanese startups and Thai conglomerates.

The majority of Thai conglomerates do not reap the benefits of a digital economy. In Japan, large companies are moving to start digital transformation (DX) by collaborating with startups (it’s so called ‘open innovation’), while in Thailand, due to the nature of the verticals that local startups specialize in, DX through open innovation will likely still take time.

In response to this, OIC selected a team of 10 Japanese startups that lead verticals likely to be useful for DX (AI, robotics, IoT, logistics), and that are particularly interested in advancing into Southeast Asia, including Thailand, and invited them to Bangkok. This is an attempt at targeting cross-border open innovation and focuses on using the power of Japanese startups to foster DX for Thai conglomerates. Since top executives from local conglomerates including CP group listen to startup pitches, their effort is more likely to lead to PoC (proof of concept) and other collaborative work because of top-down decision making.

From left: Thanasorn Jaidee (President, True Digital Park), Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin (CEO, Digital Economy Promotion Agency (depa), Thailand), Soopakij Chearavanont (Chairman, CP Group), Kobsak Pootrakool (Deputy Secretary-General for political affairs to Thai Prime Minister), Shiro Sadoshima (Japaese Ambassador to Thailand), John Jiang (Chief Digital Officer, CP Group)
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

As a result of the initiative’s previous batch, our readers may recall that there were an announcement regarding the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on PoCs towards collaboration between Japanese startups and Thai conglomerates:

  • Umitron (IoT-powered aquaculture tech) – CP Foods (Thailand’s largest food distributor)
  • Ground (autonomous collaborative robot for the logistics industry) – WHA (logistics facility giant in Thailand)
  • Skydisc (AI and IoT) – TTCL (Thiland’s engineering giant)
  • Toppan Printing – DRVR (fleet analytics)
  • Flare (ad-wrapping service for car owners and telematics) – Toyota Tsusho Thailand
  • Leave a Nest – Innospace (Thailand’s startup accelerator backed by the government and private sectors)

Since Shiro Sadoshima were finishing his term as the Japanese ambassador to Thailand, attending the Demo Day was the last opportunity for him to be involved in a series of the OIC activities. In the event, Kobsak Pootrakool, Deputy Secretary-General to the Thai Prime Minister for Political Affairs, made a keynote speech and thanked Sadoshima for his great work for many years. Because of high reputation from the Thai Government and local conglomerates, Roch Thailand and other OIC activities are expected to be taken over and followed up by the next ambassador.

The founders of participating 10 startups from Japan made a pitch to Soopakij Cheravanont, chairman of CP Group, and other 60 representatives from his group companies in addition to 80 people from other local conglomerates. Discussions between potential partners with Japanese startups have just begun after the pitch, so please stay tuned to their future progress and eventually public announcement as their previous batch grads recently did. For now, let’s have a quick look down on how the participating startups are working to tackle.

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Paronym

Founded back in 2016, Paronym has developed the TIG interactive video solution that allows viewers to obtain necessary information by tapping an item in a video clip. Use cases include e-commerce sites selling interiors and fashion outfits, recipe sites (linking to foods and ingredients in the recipe), and online travel guides (linking to travel destinations). The platform offers tracking editing tool that allows content owners to associate objects in a clip with link destinations in addition to heat map tool showing them which part of the clip their viewers are tapping.

The company offers a different line-up for each of six different verticals including movies splitting off into multiple case scenarios, magazines, digital signage, commerce, learning and live (performance). Due to its high interactivity, they claim that the platform can help e-commerce sites gain their conversion rate twice that of Instagram, three times that of YouTube. The company is seeking business partnership, series B investment, and sales partnership in Thailand.

Connected Robotics

Connected Robotics was founded back in 2014 by CEO Tetsuya Sawanobori who has been developing industrial robot controllers and won a robot contest organized by Japanese public broadcaster NHK when he was attending the university of Tokyo. Their portfolio products include OctoChef offering automated cooking of Octopus Dumplings, the Reita ice cream serving robot, Dish Washing System, hot snacks serving robot for convenience stores, and the Loraine breakfast cooking robot.

The company won the Startup Weekend Robotics back in 2017, and was also selected for Kirin Accelerator 2017 and IBM BlueHub 4th Batch. Their robot is not intended for sale but is provided as a service (Robot as a Service=RAAS) that allows store owners to use it by paying installation and monthly usage fees so that then can start using it as an alternative to clerks. Supporting various robot arms with its control software and computer vision-based positioning system, the system is very flexible in dealing with a variety of ingredients and cooking procedures.

IntegriCulture

IntegriCulture has developed cell farming technology for producing cultured meat. As a means of supplying animal protein, meat products derived from livestock has many issues from the viewpoint of sustainable society because of excessive consumption of water resources, deforestation, and emission of greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, the technology for producing cultured meat is very expensive and still far from far from our daily consumption.

The company has succeeded in producing meat for human consumption by culturing actual cells. For example, it enables to produce chicken liver paste equivalents by putting muscle cells into culture solution (biocatalyst). In the actual animal body, internal organs secrete hormones to change cells to support every different function in the body but the company’s solution, called CulNet, made it possible virtually. The company is currently developing cultured foie gras, hoping to work with Thai companies to market artificial anti-aging serum based on the same culture technology.

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A.L.I. Technologies

A.L.I. Technologies has three business domains: drone, air mobility, and computing power sharing. in the air mobility business, the company unveiled the prototype of hoverbike for public road use back in March. In the machine computing power sharing using high-spec GPUs, our readers may recall that the company invested in Pegara, the startup behind a CPU cloud service for deep learning called GPU Eater, back in September this year.

The company’s drone can be also used for streamlining the regular semi-annual inspection of power plant facilities and eventually saving up to $9 million yen. Having formed a nationwide network of drone pilots who have received high-level training, the company is looking to increase demands of drones in periodical facility inspections, agriculture, and surveys in addition to those of hoverbikes in racing, entertainment, and mobility use.

LinkWiz

The working population, especially in the manufacturing industry, is shrinking not only in Japan but also in Thailand as the aging society advances. LinkWiz automates manufacturing and inspection processes of industrial products using robots, realizing labor savings and gaining efficiency. Their flagship products are the L-Qualify 3D weld bead inspection system and the L-Robot teaching tool that helps robots correct movements aligned with target work.

The company claims their technology has helped precision machinery and auto parts manufacturers like Yamaha, Mitutoyo, and Aisin Seiki cut down their production cost. LinkWiz hopes clients to use these robots “as sensors” and use them throughout the entire manufacturing process at the factory. In June, the company secured about $8.2 million from round INCJ, SMBC Venture Capital, Mitutoyo, Panasonic, Global Brain, Hamashin Lease, and other investors in a series B round.

TBM

TBM has developed a new limestone-based material called Limex, an alternative to paper, plastic, and vinyl. Making paper consumes a lot of wood and water, while producing plastic also consumes fossil fuels and releases greenhouse gases. As plastic pollution in the ocean has become a mindful issue, Limex can replace traditional materials and be used for business cards and packages. The new material is used for a menu at Yoshinoya beef bowl restaurants in Japan while it’s also attracting people’s attention as plastic bags provided at supermarkets are being charged for environmental reasons.

In addition to recycling collected materials into equivalent products, the technology enables to create a value-added product such as converting collected old Limex-made menus into new bowls, which they call ‘up-cycle’. The company runs their business in over 30 counties by licensing their technologies to local partners in over 30 countries, exploring potential partnership with manufacturing companies as well as investment. They were ranked in the second place both in Nikkei’s Next Unicorn Survey and For Startups’ estimated valuation raking.

Metro Engine

With the increasing supply of hotels and vacation rentals, price wars with competitors are intensifying for owners. It is difficult for them to hire experienced pricing managers, and price adjustment process ridiculously time-consuming. Metro Engine provides hotels with dynamic pricing function (enabling them to maximize profit by price optimization) leveraging AI-powered demand forecast forecasting. It’s currently used by more than 30 hotel chains in Japan.

The platform offers sales management, demand forecasting, past data analysis, OTA (online travel agency) ranking and other functions for hotels, as well as other services supporting demand forecasting and pricing for car rental agencies and rental property owners. In the future, the company wants to offer the best means of transportation for visitors by aggregating data from car rentals, highway bus, events, and trains as well as hotels. Having partnered with Toppan Printing, the company was qualified for both the IBM BlueHub (inbound) open innovation program and the JR East Accelerator Program 2nd batch.

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SAgri

SAgri gets soil conditions (corrosion content) using satellite data and updates on farm products and varieties from farmers to create a blockchain-powered database. Putting these altogether, the company tells farmers how to improve soil conditions from biological, chemical and physical viewpoints in addition to offering them with accurate measurement to help farmers get more harvest. They have also developed a scoring scheme evaluating farmland by soil conditions data and macro data of corrosion content.

Conventional methods measuring nitrogen in soil were expensive while the company has succeeded in lowering the cost using satellite data. Focused on what, rice and sugar cane, the technology can give farmers harvest prediction and advise them how much fertilizer they should use. By sending all these insights to financial institutions, the company encourages them give loans to local farmers in India while the Japanese government leverages the technology to determine the status of fallow fields to see if then can resume cultivation. They were qualified for the MUFG Digital Accelerator 4th Batch and the 500 Kobe 3rd Batch.

Terra Drone

Terra Drone provides drone-powered services for industry use. In August, Drone Industry Insights published the Service Provider Ranking for this year and put Terra Drone in the second place following ZipLine. Currently targeting markets include oil and gas fields, power houses and grids, mines and quarries. The technology visualizes the layout of power grids in 3D using LIDAR data from drones while the recently-launched technology enables aerial livestreaming for hot spot corrosion monitoring for pipelines.

Other use cases include detecting crime from high places, detecting gas leaks in pipelines, and ultrasonic flaw detection in LNG tanks. With the unique feature of their LIDAR-based mapping technology that can visualize terrain data, demand for the technology is growing in many industries, especially in the construction one. The company is looking at series A round funding soon, exploring partnerships with local companies in Thailand and other Southeast Asian markets.

Optimind

Oprimind has developed a route planner for last-mile delivery providers called Looqia, leveraging the Combinational Optimization technology spun off from Nagoya University. In addition to Looqia as SaaS (Software as a Service), the company offers an algorithm platform as PaaS (Platform as a Service) and R&D service for enterprises. Logistics companies had been planning routes and delivery orders manually, but Looqia allows them to find the most efficient route considering traffic conditions and parking / loading restrictions on roads.

The platform can complete route plannings in 100 seconds for 30 drop-offs for each of 5 deliverers. It also has functions allowing drivers to less u-turns, helping them find easy parking lots, appropriately allocating tasks to deliverers. Their targeting industries include home delivery providers, food, liquor and medicine wholesalers, as well as vending machine vendors. In order to create a local routeing map, the company wants to partner with companies owning car driving data in Thailand. They won the Demo Day at Post LogiTech Innovation Program Batch 1, or the startup acceleration program by Japan Post.

Attendees enjoying networking opportunities.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda
IntegriCulture’s Yuki Hanyu (left) in talk with CP Group CDO John Jiang (right)
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Japan’s Space Market, on-demand venue rental marketplace, files for IPO

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Tokyo-based Space Market, offering a marketplace of unused or idle venues for on-demand rental use, announced today that the IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 20 with plans to offer 520,000 shares for public subscription and to sell about 269,200 shares in over-allotment options for a total of about 1,274,700 shares. The company’s valuation is expected to reach 5.8 billion yen ($53.3 million) through the IPO. Their ticker code will be 4487. Space Market lists unused or idle venues and allows users to pick one to rent on demand for business or private needs such as corporate meetings, shareholder meetings, training courses, photo shooting of costume players, and other events. The company adds 5% charge on the price in the venue listing for users while it takes 30% commission from venue owners when their deal is made between them and users. According to the consolidated statement as of December 2018, they posted revenue of 578.2 million yen (about $5.3 million) with an ordinary loss of 271.9 million yen ($2.5 million). Led by founder and CEO Dausuke Shigematsu and his asset management company Double…

Space Market CEO Daisuke Shigematsu

Tokyo-based Space Market, offering a marketplace of unused or idle venues for on-demand rental use, announced today that the IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved.

The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 20 with plans to offer 520,000 shares for public subscription and to sell about 269,200 shares in over-allotment options for a total of about 1,274,700 shares. The company’s valuation is expected to reach 5.8 billion yen ($53.3 million) through the IPO. Their ticker code will be 4487.

Space Market lists unused or idle venues and allows users to pick one to rent on demand for business or private needs such as corporate meetings, shareholder meetings, training courses, photo shooting of costume players, and other events. The company adds 5% charge on the price in the venue listing for users while it takes 30% commission from venue owners when their deal is made between them and users.

According to the consolidated statement as of December 2018, they posted revenue of 578.2 million yen (about $5.3 million) with an ordinary loss of 271.9 million yen ($2.5 million).

Led by founder and CEO Dausuke Shigematsu and his asset management company Double Pines (47.63%), the company’s major shareholders include Opt Ventures (10.64%), CyberAgent Capital (6.57%), My Navi (2.86%), Orix (2.18%), and Mizuho Capital (1.75%), Tokyo Tatemono (1.46%), XTech (1.46%), and Docomo Innovation Fund (1.46%).

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Japanese crowdsourcing startup Lancers files for IPO

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Lancers, the Japanese startup providing a major crowdsourcing platform under the same name, announced on Wednesday that the IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 16 with plans to offer 2,270,000 million shares for public subscription and to sell up to 1,100,600 shares in over-allotment options, for a total of 5,067,400 shares. Daiwa Securities will lead the underwriting. Its share price range will be released on November 17 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on November 29 and pricing on December 6. According to the consolidated statement as of March 2019, they posted revenue of 2.52 billion yen (about $23.2 million) with an ordinary loss of 93 million yen ($854,000), serving 33,000 companies in Japan while unit sales per client reaches 194,000 yen (about $1,780). See also: Can crowdsourcing startups change Japan’s employment landscape? Lancers CEO Yosuke Akiyoshi on obstacles facing crowdsourcing in Japan Japanese crowdsourcing startup Lancers launches matchmaking platform for regional businesses Since its launch back in 2008, the company has been offering a platform allowing companies outsource tasks to freelancers. The traditional concept of crowdsourcing…

Lancers CEO Yosuke Akiyoshi

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Lancers, the Japanese startup providing a major crowdsourcing platform under the same name, announced on Wednesday that the IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 16 with plans to offer 2,270,000 million shares for public subscription and to sell up to 1,100,600 shares in over-allotment options, for a total of 5,067,400 shares. Daiwa Securities will lead the underwriting.

Its share price range will be released on November 17 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on November 29 and pricing on December 6. According to the consolidated statement as of March 2019, they posted revenue of 2.52 billion yen (about $23.2 million) with an ordinary loss of 93 million yen ($854,000), serving 33,000 companies in Japan while unit sales per client reaches 194,000 yen (about $1,780).

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Since its launch back in 2008, the company has been offering a platform allowing companies outsource tasks to freelancers. The traditional concept of crowdsourcing has been that someone in a remote location helps you finish minor tasks at an affordable rate. But platforms like Lancers are being used for more, serving as a primary income stream for some.

Led by CEO Yosuke Akiyoshi (62.47%), the company’s major shareholders include Globis Capital Partners (15.62%), KDDI (5.95%), Persol Holdings (5.38%), GMO Venture Partners (3.05%), Shinsei Bank (2.3%), and Gree Ventures (1.18%, now known as Strive).

Japan’s Money Forward acquires SaaS comparison startup Smartcamp for $18M

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Money Forward (TSE:3994), the Japanese company providing cloud-based accounting solutions, announced on Monday that it will take a 72.3% stake in Smartcamp, the Japanese startup behind the Boxil SaaS comparison site and the Bales inside sales support service, for about 2 billion yen, or $18.3 million US. Smartcamp eventually made an exit by joining the Money Forward group. Founded back in June of 2014, Smartcamp launched Boxil back in May of 2015 by pivoting from their previous Sket service through participating twice in Incubate Camp, an annual 2-day bootcamp program by Incubate Fund offering budding entrepreneurs with mentoring opportunities. As of October, the company boasted 1 million monthly page views and more than 120,000 registered users with bringing over 30,000 potential users to SaaS providers. Smartcamp launched a service called Bales back in September of 2017, which allows SaaS providers to outsource their sales operations to the startup. In August, they launched another new service called Biscuit, a cloud-based customer relationship management tool for inside sales. Through these services, the company has successfully been offering marketing channels for over 100 third parties. Meanwhile, Money Forward has been acquiring approximately a startup an year…

Money Forward President & CEO Yosuke Tsuji (right), Smartcamp CEO Satoshi Furuhashi (left)
Image credit: Money Forward

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Money Forward (TSE:3994), the Japanese company providing cloud-based accounting solutions, announced on Monday that it will take a 72.3% stake in Smartcamp, the Japanese startup behind the Boxil SaaS comparison site and the Bales inside sales support service, for about 2 billion yen, or $18.3 million US. Smartcamp eventually made an exit by joining the Money Forward group.

Founded back in June of 2014, Smartcamp launched Boxil back in May of 2015 by pivoting from their previous Sket service through participating twice in Incubate Camp, an annual 2-day bootcamp program by Incubate Fund offering budding entrepreneurs with mentoring opportunities. As of October, the company boasted 1 million monthly page views and more than 120,000 registered users with bringing over 30,000 potential users to SaaS providers.

Smartcamp launched a service called Bales back in September of 2017, which allows SaaS providers to outsource their sales operations to the startup. In August, they launched another new service called Biscuit, a cloud-based customer relationship management tool for inside sales. Through these services, the company has successfully been offering marketing channels for over 100 third parties.

Meanwhile, Money Forward has been acquiring approximately a startup an year to expand their business, including acquiring Klavis, the Japan-/Singapore-based startup behind accounting and book-keeping software Streamed, as well as knowledgelabo, the Osaka-based startup behind cloud-based business management analytics tool Manageboard.

With the acquisition, Money Forward can boost customer acquisition effort for their product series leveraging Smartcamp’s marketing intelligence while Smarcamp aims to attract more users for their products leveraging Money Forward’s vast network and customer base.