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Japan’s handmade item C2C startup Creema files for IPO

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Tokyo-based Creema, the Japanese startup behind C2C (consumer-to-consumer) marketplace for handmade items under the same name, that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on November 27 with plans to offer 113,000 shares for public subscription and to sell about 167,200 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 1,559,700 shares. The underwriting will be led by SBI securities while Creema’s ticker code will be 4017. Based on the estimated IPO price of 3,250 yen (about $31) a share, the company’s market valuation will be about 19.8 billion yen (about $189.1 million). Its share price range will be released on November 19 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on November 11 and pricing on November 18. According to the consolidated statement as of February 2020, they posted revenue of 1.49 billion yen (about $14.2 million) with an ordinary profit of 70.6 million yen (about $674,000). Creema was founded in 2009 by Kotaro Marubayashi, who worked as a manager for a subsidiary of Japanese Internet service company Septeni Holdings after engaging in the music industry when he was attending Keio University. The company launched the handmade item marketplace…

Creema Store in Sapporo
Image credit: Creema

Tokyo-based Creema, the Japanese startup behind C2C (consumer-to-consumer) marketplace for handmade items under the same name, that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved.

The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on November 27 with plans to offer 113,000 shares for public subscription and to sell about 167,200 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 1,559,700 shares. The underwriting will be led by SBI securities while Creema’s ticker code will be 4017.

Based on the estimated IPO price of 3,250 yen (about $31) a share, the company’s market valuation will be about 19.8 billion yen (about $189.1 million).

Its share price range will be released on November 19 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on November 11 and pricing on November 18. According to the consolidated statement as of February 2020, they posted revenue of 1.49 billion yen (about $14.2 million) with an ordinary profit of 70.6 million yen (about $674,000).

Creema was founded in 2009 by Kotaro Marubayashi, who worked as a manager for a subsidiary of Japanese Internet service company Septeni Holdings after engaging in the music industry when he was attending Keio University. The company launched the handmade item marketplace back in 2010.

It has over 200,000 professional and semi-professional creators selling over 10 million original craft items. In order to increase engagement with sellers and buyers, the company also hosts an annual large-scale showcase event and has flagship stores in several cities across Japan.

Led by founder and CEO Marubayashi, the company’s major shareholders include Global Capital Partners (13.7% through two funds), KDDI (11.9% through two funds), Animarism Group (9.1%, Marubayashi’s asset management company), Global Brain (7.1%), and Yuki Ohashi (6.92%, Creema co-founder and managing director).

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Japanese male skincare brand Bulk Homme raises over $14M to accelerate global expansion

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Tokyo-based Bulk Homme, the Japanese online subscription startup behind male skincare brand under the same name, announced today it has secured 1.5 billion yen (about $14.1 million US) in the latest round. Participating investors are Nissay Capital, local department store chain Marui Group (TSE:8252), Dimension (investment arm of Japanese consulting firm Dreram Incubator), and Kiraboshi Capital. The amount raised includes debt financing from the Japan Finance Corporation and other financial institutions. This round follows 500 million yen in December 2018 and 300 million yen in November 2017. Nissay Capital and Marui Group participated in past funding rounds respectively. Bulk Homme said it will use the funds to further strengthen its domestic marketing efforts, strengthen its CRM department and promote global expansion. The company already has operations in Taiwan, China, South Korea, the UK and France, planning to expand into Southeast Asia, Europe and the US markets. Bulk Homme started its business as part of the company’s founder’s father’s company back in 2012. Launched in 2013, the skincare brand offers a variety of products at their online store as well as retailers and hair salons all across Japan. The business was then incorporated in May of 2017.

Image credit: Bulk Homme

Tokyo-based Bulk Homme, the Japanese online subscription startup behind male skincare brand under the same name, announced today it has secured 1.5 billion yen (about $14.1 million US) in the latest round. Participating investors are Nissay Capital, local department store chain Marui Group (TSE:8252), Dimension (investment arm of Japanese consulting firm Dreram Incubator), and Kiraboshi Capital. The amount raised includes debt financing from the Japan Finance Corporation and other financial institutions.

This round follows 500 million yen in December 2018 and 300 million yen in November 2017. Nissay Capital and Marui Group participated in past funding rounds respectively.

Bulk Homme said it will use the funds to further strengthen its domestic marketing efforts, strengthen its CRM department and promote global expansion. The company already has operations in Taiwan, China, South Korea, the UK and France, planning to expand into Southeast Asia, Europe and the US markets.

Bulk Homme started its business as part of the company’s founder’s father’s company back in 2012. Launched in 2013, the skincare brand offers a variety of products at their online store as well as retailers and hair salons all across Japan. The business was then incorporated in May of 2017.

Digital Base Capital sets up local PropTech startup community in Taiwan

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Tokyo-based Digital Base Capital, a PropTech-focused investment firm in Japan, announced today that it has set up PropTech Taiwan, a local PropTech startup community. Since the VC firm has been operating a local community in Japan, the announcement suggests that it expands the activity into Taiwan. The community is headed by Kensuke Ko, Taiwan-based analyst working for the VC firm. Ko decided to launch the community because of the lack of a hub community in Taiwan while many PropTech startups are emerging there. To celebrate the launch, the community is holding an online meetup event on September 25th having the executives of Taiwanese PropTech startups such as Ark Intelligence, BigFun, LIOVE, and HousePro as panel speakers.

The PropTech Taiwan team. From left: Kensuke Ko (Analyst, Digital Base Capital), Jimmy Chen (CEO, HousePro), Tracy Sedinkinas (Doctor Researcher, National Taiwan University), Bennson Tsai (CEO, LIOVE)

Tokyo-based Digital Base Capital, a PropTech-focused investment firm in Japan, announced today that it has set up PropTech Taiwan, a local PropTech startup community. Since the VC firm has been operating a local community in Japan, the announcement suggests that it expands the activity into Taiwan. The community is headed by Kensuke Ko, Taiwan-based analyst working for the VC firm.

Ko decided to launch the community because of the lack of a hub community in Taiwan while many PropTech startups are emerging there. To celebrate the launch, the community is holding an online meetup event on September 25th having the executives of Taiwanese PropTech startups such as Ark Intelligence, BigFun, LIOVE, and HousePro as panel speakers.

Japan’s X-ray image sensing startup ANSeeN secures over $10M in series B round

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ANSeeN is a startup spun out of Shizuoka University and has been developing x-ray image sensors and color cameras. The company announced on Monday that it has secured 1.08 billion yen (about $10.1 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors in this round are Cyberdyne (TSE: 7779) and its subsidiary CEJ Capital, Environmental Energy Investment, Drone Fund, Shinkin Capital inn addition to Shizuoka Capital. The amount raised includes debt financing from the Shoko Chukin Bank and Hamamatsu Iwata Shinkin Bank, as well as a grant from the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). This follows the startup’s series A round in November 2018 when they secured about 300 million yen (about $2.8 million US). Shizuoka Capital and Shinkin Capital participated in the previous series A round as well. ANSeeN’s X-ray camera has a higher resolution than conventional ones, which makes it easier to identify the shape of the content in a an inspection object. The company aims to develop a system that can be used for automated and unattended baggage inspection in conjunction with artificial intelligence. The company claims that this system can make it possible to visualize cast metal parts, such as automobiles and trains,…

Image credit: ANSeeN

ANSeeN is a startup spun out of Shizuoka University and has been developing x-ray image sensors and color cameras. The company announced on Monday that it has secured 1.08 billion yen (about $10.1 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors in this round are Cyberdyne (TSE: 7779) and its subsidiary CEJ Capital, Environmental Energy Investment, Drone Fund, Shinkin Capital inn addition to Shizuoka Capital.

The amount raised includes debt financing from the Shoko Chukin Bank and Hamamatsu Iwata Shinkin Bank, as well as a grant from the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). This follows the startup’s series A round in November 2018 when they secured about 300 million yen (about $2.8 million US). Shizuoka Capital and Shinkin Capital participated in the previous series A round as well.

ANSeeN’s X-ray camera has a higher resolution than conventional ones, which makes it easier to identify the shape of the content in a an inspection object. The company aims to develop a system that can be used for automated and unattended baggage inspection in conjunction with artificial intelligence. The company claims that this system can make it possible to visualize cast metal parts, such as automobiles and trains, which have been difficult to visualize in the past.

AnSeeN will use the funds to install a facility to mass-produce X-ray image sensors and X-ray color cameras, aiming to establish a mass-production system by the end of 2021 to use them for non-destructive testing and dental inspection equipment. The company partnered with Cyberdyne to promote the application and commercialization of the camera in the cybernics industry.

AnSeeN was selected for the second phase of Tokyo-based railway company JR East’s incubation/acceleration program in November 2018 and then won the top prize for the team eligible for the program’s incubation course at the Demo Day event.

Japan satellite startup Synspective launches ground deformation monitoring solution

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Synspective is building a constellation system for earth observation mini-satellites employing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and integrates SAR data with a variety of ground truth data. The Japanese startup launched today a new service called Land Displacement Monitoring, which enables millimeter-scale ground deformation monitoring over wide areas based on image analysis of SAR satellites. Traditionally, understanding the risk of land settlement and landslide risk over wide areas has required a lot of time and effort. The service can be used to reduce the cost and time involved in observing and managing the risk of ground deformation and can be used to manage risks associated with construction projects, airport maintenance and underground construction, the company said. Synspective has been conducting Proof-of-Concept (PoC) projects with several companies as well as the Singapore Land Authority. Based on the feedback from these early users, the service has been improved and its user-friendly web-based interface requires no installation of software and has now allowed even users who are less familiar with satellite data to intuitively understand the results of the analysis. Synspective was founded in February of 2018 by CEO Motoyuki Arai and co-founder/managing director Seiko Shirasaka (Shirasaka is a professor at System Design and…

Land Displacement Monitoring
Image credit: Synspective

Synspective is building a constellation system for earth observation mini-satellites employing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and integrates SAR data with a variety of ground truth data. The Japanese startup launched today a new service called Land Displacement Monitoring, which enables millimeter-scale ground deformation monitoring over wide areas based on image analysis of SAR satellites.

Traditionally, understanding the risk of land settlement and landslide risk over wide areas has required a lot of time and effort. The service can be used to reduce the cost and time involved in observing and managing the risk of ground deformation and can be used to manage risks associated with construction projects, airport maintenance and underground construction, the company said.

Synspective has been conducting Proof-of-Concept (PoC) projects with several companies as well as the Singapore Land Authority. Based on the feedback from these early users, the service has been improved and its user-friendly web-based interface requires no installation of software and has now allowed even users who are less familiar with satellite data to intuitively understand the results of the analysis.

Synspective was founded in February of 2018 by CEO Motoyuki Arai and co-founder/managing director Seiko Shirasaka (Shirasaka is a professor at System Design and Management, Keio University). The company announced about $80 million funding in a series A round last year, which let them make the fastest record in terms of securing such a large amount funds in such a short period since the launch of a company according to a report by Japanese space business consultancy CSP Japan.

Synspective signed agreements with Arianespace in April of 2019 and with RocketLab in April this year for the launch of its StriX-alpha SAR satellites, which is scheduled to be launched by the end of this year. The company plans to build a constellation of these satellites to offer high-frequency and stable monitoring service leveraging it.

Synspective plans to launch one small SAR satellite by 2020, six satellites by 2022, and 25 satellites after that. So far, the company has secured funds enough for six satellites in operation, which will enable on-demand earth observation at least one time a day for 99 cities with an over-one million population in Asia.

Japan’s powered prosthetic leg developer BionicM secures $5M in series A funding

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Tokyo-based BionicM, the Japanese startup developing powered prosthetic legs, announced today that it has secured 550 million yen (about $5 million US) in a Series A round. Participating investors are The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC), Utokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyoIPC), and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). UTEC’s investment follows the startup’s seed round last year. UTokyoIPC financially backed BionicM by selecting for the third batch of the former’s entrepreneur support program in 2018. BionicM is developing a powered prosthetic leg that solves the challenges of traditional non-powered passive prostheses. Since the pre-foundation research stage, it has received high recognition from the public, such as winning the SXSW Interactive Innovation Award and the James Dyson Award in Japan. BionicM will represent Japan to participate in the Advanced Technology and Engineering Challenge (A-TEC), the global startup competition to be held later this month in Shenzhen by Leaguer Group, a Chinese startup support company. Founded by Xiaojun Sun who himself had to have his right leg amputated at the age of 9 due to osteosarcoma, BionicM began research and development in 2015 at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Information Science and Technology. Of the 10 million potential users…

Image credit: BionicM

Tokyo-based BionicM, the Japanese startup developing powered prosthetic legs, announced today that it has secured 550 million yen (about $5 million US) in a Series A round. Participating investors are The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC), Utokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyoIPC), and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). UTEC’s investment follows the startup’s seed round last year. UTokyoIPC financially backed BionicM by selecting for the third batch of the former’s entrepreneur support program in 2018.

BionicM is developing a powered prosthetic leg that solves the challenges of traditional non-powered passive prostheses. Since the pre-foundation research stage, it has received high recognition from the public, such as winning the SXSW Interactive Innovation Award and the James Dyson Award in Japan. BionicM will represent Japan to participate in the Advanced Technology and Engineering Challenge (A-TEC), the global startup competition to be held later this month in Shenzhen by Leaguer Group, a Chinese startup support company.

Founded by Xiaojun Sun who himself had to have his right leg amputated at the age of 9 due to osteosarcoma, BionicM began research and development in 2015 at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Information Science and Technology. Of the 10 million potential users of prosthetic legs worldwide, only about 40% actually have access to them because they are expensive or have limited functionality. The company established a corporate entity in 2018 to commercialize the product in order to bring a high-performance prosthetic leg to all those who need it at a low price.

According to BionicM, more than 99% of the global prosthetic leg market deals with passive type, and has not benefited from the technological advancements that have taken place in recent years with the proliferation of robotic technology. Passive leg prostheses not only place a heavy physical burden on the user, but also place a mental burden on the user, as they are unable to walk naturally or take turns walking up and down stairs in both legs, making them uncomfortable to watch. Powered prostheses have the potential to solve this problem.

BionicM is preparing for the mass production of powered prosthetic legs with a view to commercial launch in 2021, and the financing at this time is intended to strengthen the company’s structure to achieve this goal. The company hopes to establish a B2B2C business model where powered leg modules are offered to artificial limb factories to be built into sockets for lower-limb amputees.

BionicM hopes to have its powered leg certified as a complete prosthetic component from the government by next year. Once certified, the company would generally be eligible for the government’s subsidies under the Services and Supports for Persons with Disabilities Act, but powered prosthetic legs are high-end and expensive and may not be eligible for subsidies at the time of user purchase. The company is also looking to collaborate with other companies to introduce installment payments and leasing.

Sun says,

It is difficult to get subsidies for expensive prosthetic legs. BionicM will not only innovate in technology, but will also look to partner with other companies to provide services such as rentals and leases in a new way.

BionicM established a subsidiary in China in June where four employees have begun sales development. Due to the large population in China, the Chinese prosthetic market is larger than that of Japan. From a sales standpoint, there is a good chance that the company’s post-start-up growth will be greater in China than in Japan, Sun said.

In conjunction with the funding, BionicM also announced that Tao Cheng, founder and CEO of Japanese online ad startup popIn, has joined the company’s board of directors. Sun and Cheng are both from China and have similar backgrounds in that they were spun off from the University of Tokyo and were initially backed by UTEC. Looking up to Cheng as a predecessor who has completed an exit in Japan (popIn was acquired by Baidu in 2015), Sun said Cheng’s experience in running a software company will be of a great help of BionicM as a hardware company.

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Japan’s “flying car” developer SkyDrive secures $37M series B, unveils piloted demo flight

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Tokyo-based SkyDrive, the Japanese drone startup spun off from the Cartivator volunteer group consisting of aircraft, drone and automotive engineers, announced on Friday that it has secured 3.9 billion yen (about $36.8 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors in this round are: Development Bank of Japan Itochu (TSE:8001) Itochu Technology Ventures Eneos Innovation Partners Obayashi Corporation (TSE:1802) Energy & Environment Investment Strive NEC (TSE:6701) Veriserve Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing For SkyDrive, this follows their series A round back in September of 2019. Among the investors participating in the latest round, Itochu Technology Ventures, Energy & Environment Investment, and Strive participated in the previous round. Since its seed round back in November of 2018, the company has raised a total of 5.7 billion yen (about 53.8 million US) to date. SkyDrive’s so-called “flying car” is an electrically-powered, vertical take-off and landing pilotless aircraft. As a new trend in the mobility industry, the drone is expected to be used for taxi service in cities, means for transportation in remote islands and mountainous areas, emergency transport in the event of a diaster. Compared to conventional air crafts, the drone is cost-effective, makes lower noise but requires a smaller space…

Tokyo-based SkyDrive, the Japanese drone startup spun off from the Cartivator volunteer group consisting of aircraft, drone and automotive engineers, announced on Friday that it has secured 3.9 billion yen (about $36.8 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors in this round are:

  • Development Bank of Japan
  • Itochu (TSE:8001)
  • Itochu Technology Ventures
  • Eneos Innovation Partners
  • Obayashi Corporation (TSE:1802)
  • Energy & Environment Investment
  • Strive
  • NEC (TSE:6701)
  • Veriserve
  • Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing

For SkyDrive, this follows their series A round back in September of 2019. Among the investors participating in the latest round, Itochu Technology Ventures, Energy & Environment Investment, and Strive participated in the previous round. Since its seed round back in November of 2018, the company has raised a total of 5.7 billion yen (about 53.8 million US) to date.

SkyDrive’s so-called “flying car” is an electrically-powered, vertical take-off and landing pilotless aircraft. As a new trend in the mobility industry, the drone is expected to be used for taxi service in cities, means for transportation in remote islands and mountainous areas, emergency transport in the event of a diaster. Compared to conventional air crafts, the drone is cost-effective, makes lower noise but requires a smaller space for take-off and landing.

Along with the announcement of the funding, SkyDrive has also announced that it has successfully conducted a four-minute public manned flight test at a test field in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, using its newly developed manned SD-03 aircraft. The company plans to continue to develop even safer and more secure technology by conducting further flight tests under a wider range of conditions based on the results.

SkyDrive hopes to have the SD-03 approved for flight by the end of this year and turn the prototype into a commercial model by 2023. The company is also developing another concept model, the SD-XX, which is said to be capable of flying at a maximum altitude of 500 meters, 100 kilometers per hour, and a range of 19 kilometers.

Studist ties up with Docomo Asia to expand visual workflow management tool into Singapore, APAC

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Tokyo-based Studist announced today that it has partnered with NTT Docomo Asia to expand the former’s TeachMe Biz visual workflow management platform in Singapore and other Asia pacific regions. In Singapore, the Circuit Breaker measure has been forcing people to stay home for working and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Studist wants to help companies digitize their employee training and adot e-learning programs through the platform. Founded in March of 2010, Studist learned about 90% of all jobs in the world do not rely on qualifications, experience, or sensory knowledge through a survey, which let them decide to develop the platform. Its official version was launched back in late 2012 September of 2013. The company has raised over $12 million US in total, including a series C round back in April of last year. At that time, the company said it would focus on strengthening marketing, targeting sales boost in Southeast Asia, integrating APIs with other various cloud-based platforms in addition to upgrading the platform into the one for managing standard operating procedures. The company has already set up a Thai subsidiary which are expanding sales to Thai companies in addition to having started serving the platform in Malaysia in…

Tokyo-based Studist announced today that it has partnered with NTT Docomo Asia to expand the former’s TeachMe Biz visual workflow management platform in Singapore and other Asia pacific regions. In Singapore, the Circuit Breaker measure has been forcing people to stay home for working and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Studist wants to help companies digitize their employee training and adot e-learning programs through the platform.

Founded in March of 2010, Studist learned about 90% of all jobs in the world do not rely on qualifications, experience, or sensory knowledge through a survey, which let them decide to develop the platform. Its official version was launched back in late 2012 September of 2013. The company has raised over $12 million US in total, including a series C round back in April of last year. At that time, the company said it would focus on strengthening marketing, targeting sales boost in Southeast Asia, integrating APIs with other various cloud-based platforms in addition to upgrading the platform into the one for managing standard operating procedures.

The company has already set up a Thai subsidiary which are expanding sales to Thai companies in addition to having started serving the platform in Malaysia in partnership with TK International, a local IT service provider in Kuala Lumpur. Leveraging the partnership with Docomo Asia, Studist wants to boost the sales in Singapore and APAC to help companies in these regions solve their challenges over human resource development.

The platform is serving 2,600 companies in Japan (as of February 2020) and 66 companies in ASEAN countries as of today. The company aims to introduce it to 100 companies by the end of February 2021.

Daiz rolls out plant-based meat burger to nearly 180 fast-food restaurants in Japan

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Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced today that it is offering The Good Burger using the company’s proprietary meat alternative as a patty at all stores of the Freshness Burger fast-food restaurant chain all across Japan. The Good Burger has been offered at selected stores in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area on a trial basis since the middle of this month. In the burger, a patty made from soybeans is smothered in teriyaki sauce and sandwiched with low-carb buns and vegetables. Freshness Burger, the fast-food brand operated by Japanese restaurant chain giant Colowide (TSE:7616), has 183 locations nationwide and is ranked in the sixth place in Japan by number of outlets. The new product will be available from September 1 through the end of the month exclusively to Freshness Burger app members, and will be available to all customers after October 1. DAIZ adopts the patented Ochiai method in germinating soybeans, which activates enzymes and increases the amount of free amino acid contained by imparting stress such as lower oxygen level and higher temperature at the right timing of germination. This eventually contributes to bringing out the flavor of the raw ingredients and reproducing the…

The Good Burger ordered at Jiyugaoka store, the Freshness Burger fast-food chain restaurant.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced today that it is offering The Good Burger using the company’s proprietary meat alternative as a patty at all stores of the Freshness Burger fast-food restaurant chain all across Japan.

The Good Burger has been offered at selected stores in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area on a trial basis since the middle of this month. In the burger, a patty made from soybeans is smothered in teriyaki sauce and sandwiched with low-carb buns and vegetables.

Freshness Burger, the fast-food brand operated by Japanese restaurant chain giant Colowide (TSE:7616), has 183 locations nationwide and is ranked in the sixth place in Japan by number of outlets. The new product will be available from September 1 through the end of the month exclusively to Freshness Burger app members, and will be available to all customers after October 1.

DAIZ adopts the patented Ochiai method in germinating soybeans, which activates enzymes and increases the amount of free amino acid contained by imparting stress such as lower oxygen level and higher temperature at the right timing of germination. This eventually contributes to bringing out the flavor of the raw ingredients and reproducing the meat-like texture without adding any additives.

In May, the company secured about $6 million US in a series A round, which brought the total sum of funding to date up to about $11.4 million US.

Japan’s Medmain nabs over $10M to expand AI-powered telepathology diagnostic system

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See the original story in Japanese. Fukuoka-based Medmain, the Japanese MedTech startup behind the PidPort telepathology solutions and the Medteria cloud for medical students, announced on Monday that it has secured 1.1 billion yen (about $10 million US) through the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that Hike Ventures has set up for this round. The company has not mentioned the stage of the rounud but it’s believed as a series A round. The latest round follows the 100 million yen funding back in August 2018, and brought the total sum of funding to date up to 1.2 billion yen (about 11.3 million US). Participating investors in this round are Fukuoka Wajiro Hospital Group, IHW Group from International University of Health and Welfare (IUHW), QTnet, Hike Ventures, Innovations and Future Creation, Deepcore, Dogan Beta as well as unnamed angel investors. Deepcore and Dogan Beta participated in the previous round. SPVs have advantages for startups, including lowering the time and effort required to raise funds, and some of our readers may recall that Japanese HRTech startup SmartHR used this scheme for their Series B round. Medmain said it adopted the scheme this time to streamline raising a large sum of funding from multiple…

The Medmain team, CEO Osamu Iizuka stands on the center.
Image credit: Medmain

See the original story in Japanese.

Fukuoka-based Medmain, the Japanese MedTech startup behind the PidPort telepathology solutions and the Medteria cloud for medical students, announced on Monday that it has secured 1.1 billion yen (about $10 million US) through the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that Hike Ventures has set up for this round. The company has not mentioned the stage of the rounud but it’s believed as a series A round. The latest round follows the 100 million yen funding back in August 2018, and brought the total sum of funding to date up to 1.2 billion yen (about 11.3 million US).

Participating investors in this round are Fukuoka Wajiro Hospital Group, IHW Group from International University of Health and Welfare (IUHW), QTnet, Hike Ventures, Innovations and Future Creation, Deepcore, Dogan Beta as well as unnamed angel investors. Deepcore and Dogan Beta participated in the previous round.

SPVs have advantages for startups, including lowering the time and effort required to raise funds, and some of our readers may recall that Japanese HRTech startup SmartHR used this scheme for their Series B round. Medmain said it adopted the scheme this time to streamline raising a large sum of funding from multiple investors including hospital managements.

The Fukuoka Wajiro Hospital Group has 24 medical institutions and seven medical education institutions in Japan, while the IHW Group from IUHW is made of medical, educational, and welfare groups with about 60 facilities nationwide. With the participation of these groups, the company intends to accelerate product development involving the clinical environment.

The PidPort functions.
Image credit: Medmain

Medmain is the first startup born out of Kyushu University’s officially approved club activity for encouraging entrepreneurship. PidPort, one of the startup’s flagship products, leverages deep learning and proprietary computer vision technology to enable quick and accurate pathology diagnosis.

In partnership with the Kyushu University School of Medicine and Kyushu University Hospital, the company has been using supercomputers to conduct high-speed learning for artificial intelligence (AI). Launching the alpha version back in winter in 2018 followed by the official version in February this year, it is conducting joint research with over 50 medical institutions in Japan.

Medical care and computer vision are considered to be a good match. Among many medical applications (e.g., radiological and endoscopic images), the company has chosen pathology as a focus because it believed this area was particularly behind in digitalization. In pathology, a doctor takes tissue samples from a patient’s body and a pathologist uses a microscope to check them. Medmain provides pathologists with an environment so that they can remotely complete this process by checking scanned images. In addition, the more images and learning data are collected, the more precise diagnosis the platform can provide. This may contribute to solving the delay in diagnosis due to the shortage of pathologists.

PidPort viewer’s image
Image credit: Medmain

Because of the restrictions of medical-related laws, PidPort is used only on a research basis at this point in Japan, but it is used for actual medical diagnosis in other countries. In countries and regions where pathologists are scarce, pathologists in Japan have provided consultation and advice to a local doctor based on images of the latter’s patient’s tissue using the platform.

In addition, the spread of the novel coronavirus has restricted the movement people including even pathologists, but the platform allows pathologists to make diagnoses online without traveling multiple hospitals, which becomes a good opportunity to advance digital pathology.

Medmain plans to use the funds to enhance its AI algorithms, investing in image scanning equipment in addition to hiring talents for global business expansion effort. In Japan, the AI-powered diagnostic function is currently limited to research use due to legal restrictions, so the company will highlight the potential of remote pathological diagnosis leveraged by digital scanning and cloud storage functions for domestic sales.