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Japan curated news app SmartNews secures $230M in series F at $2B valuation

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SmartNews announced on Wednesday that it has raised US$230 million in a Series F round. This brings the company’s total amount raised to date to over US$400 million, and its valuation up to US$2 billion, the highest for a single news app, securing its “double unicorn” status. This follows the close of their previous series E round announced 22 months ago. Participating investors in this round include Princeville Capital and Woodline Partners from the US, JIC Venture Growth Investments, Green Co-Invest Investment, and Yamauchi No.10 Family Office (by Nintendo founder’s family) from Japan in addition to existing investors like ACA Investments and SMBC Venture Capital. According to AppAnnie’s monthly average usage of mobile apps for iOS and Android in the U.S., SmartNews ranked first with 4.7 hours, followed by FlipBoard (4.5 hours) in the second as well as Google News (2.9 hours) and Apple News (0.8 hours). Futhermore, the number of monthly active users has doubled since 2019 (as of 2019, the total number of users in the US and Japan was 20 million). SmartNews plans to use the additional funding to double its headcount in the U.S. (currently 500 staffers globally) and add engineers and leaders, especially in Silicon…

SmartNews announced on Wednesday that it has raised US$230 million in a Series F round. This brings the company’s total amount raised to date to over US$400 million, and its valuation up to US$2 billion, the highest for a single news app, securing its “double unicorn” status. This follows the close of their previous series E round announced 22 months ago.

Participating investors in this round include Princeville Capital and Woodline Partners from the US, JIC Venture Growth Investments, Green Co-Invest Investment, and Yamauchi No.10 Family Office (by Nintendo founder’s family) from Japan in addition to existing investors like ACA Investments and SMBC Venture Capital.

According to AppAnnie’s monthly average usage of mobile apps for iOS and Android in the U.S., SmartNews ranked first with 4.7 hours, followed by FlipBoard (4.5 hours) in the second as well as Google News (2.9 hours) and Apple News (0.8 hours). Futhermore, the number of monthly active users has doubled since 2019 (as of 2019, the total number of users in the US and Japan was 20 million).

SmartNews plans to use the additional funding to double its headcount in the U.S. (currently 500 staffers globally) and add engineers and leaders, especially in Silicon Valley, New York, and San Francisco. The company will also expand its dashboard on the COVID-19 vaccine and its “News From All Sides” feature which gives users easy access to a wide range of political views.

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Teatis closes seed round with $700K, offering meal replacement for diabetic Americans

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Launched by Japanese serial entrepreneur Hiroshi Takatoh, Teatis offers meal replacement / superfood powders for diabetic consumers mainly in the US. The company announced on Friday that it has secured $700,000 in a seed round. Participating in the round are Genesia Ventures, Ryo Ishizuka (co-founder of Japanese C2C company Mercari), Takuya Noguchi (founder of Japanese men’s skincare D2C brand Bulk Homme), and seven unnamed angel investors. This round follows the company’s angel round announced in June and brings their total funding amount up to over $1 million. Noguchi participated in the previous round. Focusing on diabetes, one of the most common lifestyle-related diseases among people today, Teatis started offering meal replacements, which contain a lot of superfood ingredients such as seaweed polyphenols, in the US, where about 120 million people are said to have pre- and diabetes. When dissolved in water, it can be drunk as a smoothie or latte with a focus to help curb blood sugar spike, contains no chemicals nor sweeteners but seaweed extract which has been proven to inhibit the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract and help maintain normal blood sugar levels. Prior to the official launch, Takatoh revealed Teatis already had about 4,000…

Image credit: Teatis

Launched by Japanese serial entrepreneur Hiroshi Takatoh, Teatis offers meal replacement / superfood powders for diabetic consumers mainly in the US. The company announced on Friday that it has secured $700,000 in a seed round. Participating in the round are Genesia Ventures, Ryo Ishizuka (co-founder of Japanese C2C company Mercari), Takuya Noguchi (founder of Japanese men’s skincare D2C brand Bulk Homme), and seven unnamed angel investors. This round follows the company’s angel round announced in June and brings their total funding amount up to over $1 million. Noguchi participated in the previous round.

Focusing on diabetes, one of the most common lifestyle-related diseases among people today, Teatis started offering meal replacements, which contain a lot of superfood ingredients such as seaweed polyphenols, in the US, where about 120 million people are said to have pre- and diabetes. When dissolved in water, it can be drunk as a smoothie or latte with a focus to help curb blood sugar spike, contains no chemicals nor sweeteners but seaweed extract which has been proven to inhibit the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract and help maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Prior to the official launch, Takatoh revealed Teatis already had about 4,000 pre-registered users in June. Asked these users a try, the company received a lot of feedback that they felt it helped control elevated blood sugar levels. In September, they plan to launch a platform called Teatis RD on Demand, aiming to give users nutrition advice by registered dietitians.

via PR Newswire

Japan biotech firm Spiber nabs $310M to offer protein polymers to apparel brand

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Spiber has been developing plant-based artificial protein fiber material called Brewed Protein. The Japanese startup announced on Wednesday that it has secured 24.4 billion yen (about $218 million) in funding from investors including Carlyle, Fidelity International, Baillie Gifford, and the Japanese Government-backed Cool Japan Fund plus 10 billion yen (about $91 million) utilizing a value securitization structure. The structure was arranged by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities with participation from unnamed initial lender(s) and investor(s). For the startup, this follows their $240 million funding announced in January which was arranged by the same securities company with participation from The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ as the initial lender and a credit investor. Spiber was founded in 2007 as a spin-off from the Institute for Advanced Biosciences at Keio University in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. Since its incorporating, the company has to date secured an estimated total amount of over 70 billion yen (about $6.4 million) in past rounds, and is reportedly valued at 133 billion yen ($1.2 billion). Initially focused on spider silk which is said to be the strongest material on earth, the company had been developing a man-made synthetic fiber material called Qmonos. However, although the protein fibroin in…

Brewed Protein
Image credit: Spiber

Spiber has been developing plant-based artificial protein fiber material called Brewed Protein. The Japanese startup announced on Wednesday that it has secured 24.4 billion yen (about $218 million) in funding from investors including Carlyle, Fidelity International, Baillie Gifford, and the Japanese Government-backed Cool Japan Fund plus 10 billion yen (about $91 million) utilizing a value securitization structure.

The structure was arranged by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities with participation from unnamed initial lender(s) and investor(s). For the startup, this follows their $240 million funding announced in January which was arranged by the same securities company with participation from The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ as the initial lender and a credit investor.

Spiber was founded in 2007 as a spin-off from the Institute for Advanced Biosciences at Keio University in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. Since its incorporating, the company has to date secured an estimated total amount of over 70 billion yen (about $6.4 million) in past rounds, and is reportedly valued at 133 billion yen ($1.2 billion).

Initially focused on spider silk which is said to be the strongest material on earth, the company had been developing a man-made synthetic fiber material called Qmonos. However, although the protein fibroin in spider silk is strong, it causes super shrinkage when wet, making it difficult to maintain the dimensional stability of products made from the material. Subsequently the startup succeeded to develop a protein fiber with high dimensional stability by removing the amino acid sequence features causing shrinkage from the fibroin gene, and rebranded Qmonos into Brewed Protein.

The new material is produced by microbial fermentation from plant-based sugars such as glucose and sucrose, which does not require any petroleum-derived material at all. It attracts huge attention because of many use cases: a microplastic-free and non-animal-derived material in the apparel industry, contributing to weight reduction in the logistics industry, a next-generation core material for artificial hair in the medical industry.

The biotech firm is currently working on a joint project with an undisclosed global apparel brand using Brewed Protein. In order to meet the brand’s demand, the firm is planning to launch its first mass-production plant in Rayong, Thailand by the end of this year, followed promptly by another plant in the U.S.

via PR Times

Japan EdTech startup Atama Plus secures $46M+ series B round for global expansion

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See the original story in Japanese. Atama Plus, the Japanese startup offering AI-based learning materials for cram schools under the same name, announced Wednesday that it has fundraised about 5 billion yen (about $46.4 million US) in a series B round. In addition to existing investors such as DCM Ventures and JAFCO Group, participating investors include the Singapore Government-backed Temasek Holdings’ Pavilion Capital and US-based T. Rowe Price. This has brought the company’s funding sum to date up to about 8.2 billion yen (about $74.6 million). The learning platform allows users to shorten the time to acquire basic academic skills. It can detect where students are likely to get stuck during learning, so it can teach the teacher when they are likely to get stuck, enabling precise and efficient coaching. It is being used in more than 2,500 classrooms, including Japanese notable cram school chains like the Sundai Group and the Z-kai Group, as it is expected to have a high learning effect. In July of last year, the company began offering online mock exams, and in December, it launched a joint research group with Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto to link the company’s learning data to the university’s entrance exams….

The Atama Plus team
Image credit: Atama Plus

See the original story in Japanese.

Atama Plus, the Japanese startup offering AI-based learning materials for cram schools under the same name, announced Wednesday that it has fundraised about 5 billion yen (about $46.4 million US) in a series B round. In addition to existing investors such as DCM Ventures and JAFCO Group, participating investors include the Singapore Government-backed Temasek Holdings’ Pavilion Capital and US-based T. Rowe Price. This has brought the company’s funding sum to date up to about 8.2 billion yen (about $74.6 million).

The learning platform allows users to shorten the time to acquire basic academic skills. It can detect where students are likely to get stuck during learning, so it can teach the teacher when they are likely to get stuck, enabling precise and efficient coaching. It is being used in more than 2,500 classrooms, including Japanese notable cram school chains like the Sundai Group and the Z-kai Group, as it is expected to have a high learning effect.

In July of last year, the company began offering online mock exams, and in December, it launched a joint research group with Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto to link the company’s learning data to the university’s entrance exams. With the latest fund, the company aims to expand its business by increasing employees from the current 160 to 250.

Overseas investors joined the round for the first time

Image credit: Atama Plus

It is rare for foreign funds such as Temasek and T. Rowe Price to invest in privately held Japanese companies, but there have been a few cases in the past, including Studyst and SuperStudio (both from Pavilion Capital), and Freee and Sansan (both from T. Rowe Price).

Global investments (mostly in the US) in the first half of 2021 totaled $288 billion, up significantly from $110 billion in the same period last year. Among these investments, Temasek has invested in 47 companies in the first half of 2021 alone. Temasek invested in 47 companies in the first half of 2021 alone, while T. Rowe Price’s investments totaled $5 billion.

So, why haven’t they paid more attention to Japanese startups so far? As I heard from a local investor, typical overseas investors tend to evaluate deals based on market size. They simply evaluate companies based on their market cap, so the upside is Apple as their market cap hit $2.4 trillion as of this writing.

Manwhile, foreign investors are unlikely to invest in startups which cannot compete in the global arena. Conversely, these investors recognized that Atama Plus CEO Inada and his team could compete globally. In fact, Inada said that the reason for having foreign funds in this round is aiming for a global IPO.

Competing in the global market

The world’s most valued EduTech companies – Toppr (India), Byju’s (India) Yuanfudao (China), and Descoplica (Brazil)

According to Inada the global education market is estimated $3.8 trillion, while $226 billion in Japan alone including $9 billion for cram and prep schools. The Yano Research Institute’s report (forecast as of 2019) says that the market of cram schools, prep schools, language learning and qualification courses is estimated to be about $25.3 billion, with Benesse at the top of the industry with sales of about $4 billion while other businesses scattered across the country.

Meanwhile, as shown in the list of unicorns, Asian startups are making remarkable progress in the global education market. In particular, India’s Byju’s (valued at $16.5 billion) and China’s Yuanfudao (valued at $15.5 billion) may be definite rivals for Atama Plus in the global competition because both of the startups were founded back in 2017 when Atama Plus was so. By the way, Japanese largest education company Benesse is valued at about $2.4 billion (as of this writing).

Inada and his team’s idea wants to take a firm position as a top player by starting with cram and prep schools in Japan first (there about 50,000 schools nationwide), while at the same time expanding the business beyond cram and prep school materials, such as online mock exams and the joint project with Ritsumeikan. The platform used to have a problem taking a long time for onboarding, but now it has been streamlined and the introduction to cram and prep schools has become smoother than before.

Inada thinks that the education market in China and India is still under development, and the challenge there is offering better access to education rather than pursuing the quality of learning materials. The inflated valuations of education startups in these markets are much dependent on marketing-led growth but his company may have a better chance of winning the competition with the quality of products, he says.

Merpay’s Aoyagi joined the board

From left: Naoki Aoyagi (newly-appointed advisor for Atama Plus, CEO of Merpay), Daisuke Inada (Founder and CEO of Atama Plus)

Prior to the latest funding, Merpay CEO Naoki Aoyagi joined the advisory board of Atama Plus. Inada’s intention having him on the board is to learn how to compete in the global market. In the past decade, we haven’t seen that many tech entrepreneurs from Japan challenging the world.

Aoyagi is around Inada’s age, and his experience having startups like Gree and Merpay grown up to giants will certainly be very beneficial for Inada’s team. Atama Plus uses the funds to expand to 250 employees, and such a growth at a startups is the first-time experience for Inada even if he has worked at the education business unit at an enterprise like Mitsui & Co. Inada wants to property deal properly with growing pains that may occur in the future by learning from him in advance.

The company’s latest funding has a huge potential in terms of not only a rare case of funding for a Japanese startup from global institutional investors but also a case study of those looking at global expansion. We’ll keep our eyes on how they will fare from now on.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda

Kamereo secures $4.5M in series A to expand food supply chains in Vietnam

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Ho Chi Minh City-based Kamereo, the startup behind a B2B food marketplace for restaurants in Vietnam under the same name, announced today that it has raised 500 million yen (about $4.5 million US) in a Series A round. Participating investors in this round are CPF Group (the food distribution arm of the Thai business conglomerate Charoen Pokphand), Singapore-based Quest Ventures, Tokyo-based Genesia Ventures, and several unnamed individual investors. Genesia Ventures follows Kamereo’s previous round back in January of 2019. Quest Ventures is a VC firm founded in 2010 by Singaporean entrepreneur James Tan and Chinese entrepreneur Yunming Wang, both of whom successfully launched Chinese Groupon clone Wowo a.k.a. 55Tuan and subsequently listed it on NASDAQ. The firm has so far invested in more than 60 startups including notable names in South East Asia such as automobile marketplace and subscription-based rental startup Carro (joined the Unicorn Club last month), flea market app Carousell (reportedly planning the US IPO via SPAC within this year). Kamereo was founded back in June of 2018 by HCMC-based Japanese entrepreneur Taku Tanaka. Prior to launching the startup, he previously worked at Credit Suisse followed by joining Pizza 4Ps, one of the most popular pizza chains in…

KAMEREO management: CEO Taku Tanaka stands in the third from left, CTO Hiroshi Tokaku stands in the fifth from left.
Image credit: Kamereo

Ho Chi Minh City-based Kamereo, the startup behind a B2B food marketplace for restaurants in Vietnam under the same name, announced today that it has raised 500 million yen (about $4.5 million US) in a Series A round. Participating investors in this round are CPF Group (the food distribution arm of the Thai business conglomerate Charoen Pokphand), Singapore-based Quest Ventures, Tokyo-based Genesia Ventures, and several unnamed individual investors. Genesia Ventures follows Kamereo’s previous round back in January of 2019.

Quest Ventures is a VC firm founded in 2010 by Singaporean entrepreneur James Tan and Chinese entrepreneur Yunming Wang, both of whom successfully launched Chinese Groupon clone Wowo a.k.a. 55Tuan and subsequently listed it on NASDAQ. The firm has so far invested in more than 60 startups including notable names in South East Asia such as automobile marketplace and subscription-based rental startup Carro (joined the Unicorn Club last month), flea market app Carousell (reportedly planning the US IPO via SPAC within this year).

Kamereo
Image credit: Kamereo

Kamereo was founded back in June of 2018 by HCMC-based Japanese entrepreneur Taku Tanaka. Prior to launching the startup, he previously worked at Credit Suisse followed by joining Pizza 4Ps, one of the most popular pizza chains in Vietnam, as the Chief Operating Officer. In a previous interview with Bridge, they were advocating a platform that would streamline communication, trading, and management that restaurants have with a variety of suppliers, similar to what Infomart (TSE: 2492) has been doiing in Japan, but it looks like their business has pivoted a bit since then.

Tanaka explained:

The structure of food supply chains is different in Japan and Vietnam. In Japan, there are many restaurant chains with multiple stores, and once a supplier starts selling to one store, it may be relatively easy to expand into other store in the same chain. Restaurants can also receive exactly what they have ordered to suppliers.

However, in Vietnam, both the system of restaurants and suppliers are still developing. There are many family-run restaurants which don’t usually require a huge amount of food supply so they buy directly from a nearby market. That’s why we pivoted to a food supplier in August of 2019. We are buying foods from producers and delivers to stores.

The Kamereo team
Image credit: Kamereo

If you’ve visited Ho Chi Minh City, you may know that there are still narrow alleys in the old town area while development is going on all over the city. In order to deliver food to restaurants in these places in a timely manner, motorcycles are very useful. Although motorcycles cannot carry a large amount at once, the company has set up multiple distribution centers in the city to ensure efficient deliveries to these restaurants. In addition to Cash on Delivery, the company accepts selling on credit on a semi-monthly or monthly payment basis.

On the contrary to most vegetables which can be procured from small-scale businesses such as farmers, it will be necessary to deal with majors for obtaining meats because it requires capital investment such as slaughterhouses and HACCP-certified fresh meat plants. With this background, Kamereo decided to raise funds from CPF Group.

B2B food supply platforms are showing steady growth in many countries, such as FoodMarven in the U.S., Meicai in China (Bloomberg reported in May that it’s preparing for an IPO in the U.S.), Ninjacart in India (with a market cap of US$500 million as of May), Twiga Foods in Kenya, and Supp.li in Poland and Hungary. Kamereo currently has about 100 employees, and aims to become a leading player in this sector in Vietnam by 2022 by expanding into Hanoi, the country’s capital and second most populous city.

Japanese chat fiction app Peep secures series D from Tencent for global expansion

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Tokyo-based Taskey, the Japanese startup behind chat fiction app Peep, announced last week that it has secured a series D round from Chinese tech giant Tencent. For the startup, this follows their previous funding rounds in June of 2015, July of 2018, and May of 2019. The funding amount of the latest round has not been disclosed but it is estimated seven-digit or more figures in US dollars based on the size of previous rounds. The company was founded in 2014 by Hiromu Oishi who is also known as novelist Romy Oishi for his works “Love is a Loaded Pistol” and “Escalator Boy”. In December of 2017, his startup launched the Peep app, which allows subscribers to read stories in the category of chat fiction, a format of web fiction written solely in the form of text-message or instant messaging conversations. A flock of excellent works created by novelists and editors have contributed to achieving the 3 million downloads milestone to date. Compared to comics and video clips, text may seem unremarkable but it can be a base for derivative works in other formats, which is very advantageous for creating more potential for films or TV drama series. Despite only…

Image credit: Taskey

Tokyo-based Taskey, the Japanese startup behind chat fiction app Peep, announced last week that it has secured a series D round from Chinese tech giant Tencent. For the startup, this follows their previous funding rounds in June of 2015, July of 2018, and May of 2019. The funding amount of the latest round has not been disclosed but it is estimated seven-digit or more figures in US dollars based on the size of previous rounds.

The company was founded in 2014 by Hiromu Oishi who is also known as novelist Romy Oishi for his works “Love is a Loaded Pistol” and “Escalator Boy”. In December of 2017, his startup launched the Peep app, which allows subscribers to read stories in the category of chat fiction, a format of web fiction written solely in the form of text-message or instant messaging conversations. A flock of excellent works created by novelists and editors have contributed to achieving the 3 million downloads milestone to date.

Compared to comics and video clips, text may seem unremarkable but it can be a base for derivative works in other formats, which is very advantageous for creating more potential for films or TV drama series. Despite only 2,000 titles available on the app at the moment, “let’s read” video clips featuring these titles have been viewed more than 45 million times to date. It has also succeeded in winning the hearts of the Gen Z by creating clips starring notable influencers.

The company plans to use the funds to add a new viewing experience called Illustrated Novels (literally translated) to the app. In addition, they will launch a global version app in August where users can read English translation of the works from the Peep app. By teaming up with Tencent, the Chinese tech giant renowned for its strength in promoting and developing various types of games, Taskey expects to turn their smash-hit fictions into games and expand them globally.

 

 

Webtoons have been driving force behind the creation of movies and TV drama series in Korea. Our readers may recall that Korean webtoon studio Tapas Media was acquired by portal giant Kakao for US$510 million last year, and more recently, Korean short-form drama startup WhyNot Media secured funding from Japanese telco KDDI to expand into the Japanese market.

Kakao Japan, the Japanese subsidiary of Korean platform giant known for running the Piccoma digital comics platform, secured $526.5 million in funding, which brought their market cap to $7.7 billion and is expected to soon join the so-called Decacorn Club. Rocket Staff, the Japanese startup joining the umbrella of Japanese anime conglomerate Animate back in January, is aiming to develop its webtoon business in Japan while Korean portal giant Naver has announced that it will integrate Wattpad, a Canadian novel creation social networking service acquired earlier this year, with its webtoon business to begin full-scale global expansion.

In this way, a number of platforms have been emerged to distribute content born out of the community. Although Japanese manga is highly regarded worldwide, it takes a long time to create a smash-hit due to the shortage of manga artists and their candidates.

Taking their advantage of the lower cost for finding artists and the ability to output interesting stories, Taskey will focus on developing more fictions and other intellectual properties that can be transformed into a variety of entertainment formats.

Japanese entrepreneur to launch meal replacement shakes for pre- and diabetes in US

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I think we should introduce Hiroshi Takatoh as an angel investor. He introduced Japan’s first ad fraud detection service at his own startup Momentum back in 2014, and then sold it in 2017 to Syn. Holdings (now known as Supership Holdings), a subsidiary of Japanese telco KDDI (TSE: 9433). Since then, as far as we know, he has invested in startups that contribute to improving people’s social lives, such as Triple W Japan, Legal Technology, and Holoash. Earlier this year Takatoh took became back to a serial entrepreneur by founding a new startup called to develop foods for for diabetes. It may be unusual for anyone to switch from ad to health food industry, but it seems that his feelings for his wife, who he lost to cancer, are behind his decision. Although it depends on the type of cancer and the location of the onset, there is a lot of scientific evidence that cancer cannot be completely cured by surgical treatment alone, and that it is largely due to diet. Consuming well-balanced nutritious food on a daily basis can lead to prevention, but today’s busy people do not have much time to shop and some of them may not…

Image credit: Teatis

I think we should introduce Hiroshi Takatoh as an angel investor. He introduced Japan’s first ad fraud detection service at his own startup Momentum back in 2014, and then sold it in 2017 to Syn. Holdings (now known as Supership Holdings), a subsidiary of Japanese telco KDDI (TSE: 9433). Since then, as far as we know, he has invested in startups that contribute to improving people’s social lives, such as Triple W Japan, Legal Technology, and Holoash.

Earlier this year Takatoh took became back to a serial entrepreneur by founding a new startup called to develop foods for for diabetes. It may be unusual for anyone to switch from ad to health food industry, but it seems that his feelings for his wife, who he lost to cancer, are behind his decision. Although it depends on the type of cancer and the location of the onset, there is a lot of scientific evidence that cancer cannot be completely cured by surgical treatment alone, and that it is largely due to diet. Consuming well-balanced nutritious food on a daily basis can lead to prevention, but today’s busy people do not have much time to shop and some of them may not have the cooking skills.

Hiroshi Takatoh

This is why Takatoh created meal replacements, or complete nutritious meals that can replace our usual meals. Focusing on diabetes, one of the most common lifestyle-related diseases among people today, he plans to start selling meal replacements, which contain a lot of superfood ingredients such as seaweed polyphenols, in August in the US, where about 120 million people are said to have pre- and diabetes. When dissolved in water, it can be drunk as a smoothie or latte with a focus to help curb blood sugar spikes. Many people in the US have been so far using the protein sheets to manage morning blood sugar spikes.

Dr. Yoshiro Kubota (Director Kikkoman General Hospital, preventive medicine expert Dr. Mitsuo Numata (Umikaze Clinic in Yamaguchi), and Dr. Roman Kalista (CEO, New York-based nutrition-focused AI developer RxDiet) have helped develop the Teatis meal replacement. Ahead of the official launch, about 4,000 pre-registered users have tried the Teatis product, and many of them have given positive feedback that they felt they were able to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

Before the official launch in the US, Teatis revealed that it had raised about 40 million yen ($360,000 US) in funding from several angel investors. The names disclosed include Takuya Noguchi (CEO of Japanese D2C healthcare startup), Tatsuro Shimada (former CTO, mobile Q&A app developer cConnehito), and Yuichi Uchida (Mercari). The company plans to conduct a product market fit first, and then expect to raise funds from a variety of investors around the world to expand to India, China, Japan, and other countries if the market response is good.

Japanese pre-order site Makuake to launch global edition by fall

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Tokyo-based Makuake (TSE:4479), the Japanese listed company behind a pre-order platform under the same name, announced earlier this week that it will launch the platform’s global edition some time this coming summer or fall, aiming to help project owners better reach to and raise funds from the global audience. Limited to Japan-made products, projects to be funded through the new interface will exclude electric appliances that have been used before, radio communication devices, B2B-only products, cosmetics, medical or nursing supplies, and foodstuffs. The full amount funded (excluding the platform’s commission) will be paid to the project owner even if it doesn’t reach the initial target. Makuake plans to provide a wide range of support to the project owners using the global edition, including setting up an English introduction and customer support in English, also offering support for international delivery and logistics as well as payment functions. Moving forward, the company hopes to support more languages to help project owners reach more people in more countries. Makuake has an in-house team dedicated to assisting project owners abroad and advising them on promotion and marketing tactics in the local market. They recently partnered with Indiegogo to help their project owners expand beyond…

Image credit: Makuake

Tokyo-based Makuake (TSE:4479), the Japanese listed company behind a pre-order platform under the same name, announced earlier this week that it will launch the platform’s global edition some time this coming summer or fall, aiming to help project owners better reach to and raise funds from the global audience.

Limited to Japan-made products, projects to be funded through the new interface will exclude electric appliances that have been used before, radio communication devices, B2B-only products, cosmetics, medical or nursing supplies, and foodstuffs. The full amount funded (excluding the platform’s commission) will be paid to the project owner even if it doesn’t reach the initial target.

Makuake plans to provide a wide range of support to the project owners using the global edition, including setting up an English introduction and customer support in English, also offering support for international delivery and logistics as well as payment functions. Moving forward, the company hopes to support more languages to help project owners reach more people in more countries.

Makuake has an in-house team dedicated to assisting project owners abroad and advising them on promotion and marketing tactics in the local market. They recently partnered with Indiegogo to help their project owners expand beyond their home turf mutually. Our readers may recall the Japanese platform recently a local subsidiary and an office in Seoul, Korea.

Japanese robotics startup Telexistence closes series A round with $40M+

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Tokyo-based Telexistence, the Japanese startup developing remote-controlled robots, announced today that it has secured about 2.2 billion yen (about $20 million US) in a series A2 round. Participating investors include Airbus Ventures, KDDI Open Innovation Fund (KOIF), Deepcore, UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), and several unnamed investors, in addition to Monoful, a digital transformation-focused subsidiary of global logistics giant GLP. This follows a previous round (estimated to be series A1) in December of 2018 when some of the investors participating in the latest round such as KOIF, UTokyo IPC, Deepcore, and Monoful also participated. With the Series A1 (previous round) and A2 (the latest round) rounds combined, the company has secured about 4.5 billion yen (over $40 million US) in a series A round. Telexistence has been developing tele-controlled robots using a variety of technologies including tele-presence, robotics, communications, virtual reality (VR), haptics, and artificial intelligence (AI). They plan to use the funds to expand its product development team as well as accelerating product development and implementation to the expanding customer base in the retail and logistics sectors. The company has partnered with Monoful to develop the Augmented Workforce Platform (AWP) for logistics facility operations. AWP allows operators to control…

The Model-T robot
Image credit: Telexistence

Tokyo-based Telexistence, the Japanese startup developing remote-controlled robots, announced today that it has secured about 2.2 billion yen (about $20 million US) in a series A2 round. Participating investors include Airbus Ventures, KDDI Open Innovation Fund (KOIF), Deepcore, UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), and several unnamed investors, in addition to Monoful, a digital transformation-focused subsidiary of global logistics giant GLP.

This follows a previous round (estimated to be series A1) in December of 2018 when some of the investors participating in the latest round such as KOIF, UTokyo IPC, Deepcore, and Monoful also participated. With the Series A1 (previous round) and A2 (the latest round) rounds combined, the company has secured about 4.5 billion yen (over $40 million US) in a series A round.

Telexistence has been developing tele-controlled robots using a variety of technologies including tele-presence, robotics, communications, virtual reality (VR), haptics, and artificial intelligence (AI). They plan to use the funds to expand its product development team as well as accelerating product development and implementation to the expanding customer base in the retail and logistics sectors.

The company has partnered with Monoful to develop the Augmented Workforce Platform (AWP) for logistics facility operations. AWP allows operators to control robots installed in warehouses via the Internet and participate in tasks such as loading and unloading pallets while operators are working from home.

The company also announced that it has tied up with Japanese office furniture giant Okamura Corporation (TSE:7984) for joint research and development of fixture products optimized for carrying and displaying by robots.

Wakaze, bringing Japanese sake from Paris brewery, nabs $3M for Europe, US expansion

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See the original story in Japanese. Japanese sake brewing startup Wakaze announced on Wednesday that it has secured 330 million yen (about $3 million US) in a series A round. Participating investors in this round are Jafco Group (TSE:8595), Nissay Capital, Makuake (TSE:4479), and Makoto Capital. This follows a pre-series A round in June 2019 (which we reported as a series A round at the time). For Makuake, one of Japan’s leading crowdfunding platform, this follows their second investment followed by their previous investment in Tokyo-based chocolate direct-to-consumer startup Bace earlier this year. Wakaze aims to bring the wave of craft sake and D2C to the world of sake. Prior to founding the company back in 2016, CEO Takuma Inagawa studied at the École Centrale Paris as a French government scholarship student and then worked as a business strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. In addition to developing new sake brewing recipes in Tokyo and Japan’s eastern prefecture of Yamagata, the company established a sake brewery called Kura Grand Paris in Suburban Paris back in November of 2019 to offer locally brewed Japanese sake for the French market. Since its launch in France back in February of 2020, the…

Wakaze sake bottles
Image credit: Wakaze

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese sake brewing startup Wakaze announced on Wednesday that it has secured 330 million yen (about $3 million US) in a series A round. Participating investors in this round are Jafco Group (TSE:8595), Nissay Capital, Makuake (TSE:4479), and Makoto Capital. This follows a pre-series A round in June 2019 (which we reported as a series A round at the time). For Makuake, one of Japan’s leading crowdfunding platform, this follows their second investment followed by their previous investment in Tokyo-based chocolate direct-to-consumer startup Bace earlier this year.

Wakaze aims to bring the wave of craft sake and D2C to the world of sake. Prior to founding the company back in 2016, CEO Takuma Inagawa studied at the École Centrale Paris as a French government scholarship student and then worked as a business strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. In addition to developing new sake brewing recipes in Tokyo and Japan’s eastern prefecture of Yamagata, the company established a sake brewery called Kura Grand Paris in Suburban Paris back in November of 2019 to offer locally brewed Japanese sake for the French market.

Wakaze CEO Takuma Inagawa
Image credit: Wakaze

Since its launch in France back in February of 2020, the sake brand had been distributed to 50 restaurants in the country but demand suddenly plummeted to almost zero due to the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, sales got back to growing steadily as they could rebrand their products to fit the demand for the direct-to-consumer model rather than offering through restaurants. The company has recently partnered with Nicolas, one of the largest wine store chain with 500 locations in France and 7 countries. The funding is expected to contribute to expanding production capacity to meet the increasing demand.

In an interview with Bridge, Inagawa told us how much French people loves the locally brewed Japanese sake brand,

In view of its local production for local consumption, Wakaze has succeeded to attract eco-conscious consumers at Nicolas. To meet the demand, we’ll increase our production capacity to about three times by fall. Our marketing strategy is working well, which grabs first-time customers with a variety of popular products and increases repeat customers with rare ones.

Sake brewing at Kura Grand Paris
Image credit: Wakaze

Going forward, Wakaze hopes to expand its sales and marketing area beyond France to the UK and Germany, as well as to the US where the company hopes to target early adopters and the Asian population on the West Coast. The company also plans to use the funds to strengthen hiring its human resources in both France and Japan, including sake brewers, marketers, customer support representatives, and business managers.

Among the investors in the latest round, Makoto Capital is focused on investing in startups and entrepreneurs from Japan’s northerneastern region of Tohoku. Headquartered there, Wakaze met Makoto Capital at the Sendai for Startups (SFS) startup event, which led to the latest funding. Makuake (then known as CyberAgent Crowdfunding) participated in SFS in 2017, and it is believed that Wakaze’s encounter with Makuake’s CEO Ryotaro Nakayama led to the subsequent launch of the crowdfunding campaign and the latest investment.