Japanese startup acquisitions: An interactive timeline


As I mentioned in a recent article about Yahoo Japan’s acquisition of Dreampass, the startup eco-system is gradually taking shape here in Japan. Incubators play a big role in the eco-system and off the top of my head I can think of maybe ten incubators. Many provide a Y-combinator model three month program with five to ten startups in each class. Most acquisitions have happened in the past year or two, so it is still far too soon to predict the fate of such startups. However, we have witnessed some encouraging exits in the last couple of years, so we thought we’d present an overview. Note that it’s not comprehensive, but it is a good general overview. Check out our interactive timeline of acquisitions above (feel free to share with the embed code below), or read on for more details below!

Cirius Technologies (August 2010)

Yahoo Japan (TYO:4689) acquired geo-location enabled mobile advertisement technology company Cirius Technologies for an undisclosed sum. At the time of, it was rumored to be an acqui-hire for Yahoo so that it could obtain patents for the ad-technology in hopes of optimize its local mobile advertisement products.

Atlantis (January 2011)

Gaming giant GREE picked up ad-exchange platform Atlantis with an eye to winning an advantage over its competitors. Just a month after the acquisition, Gree began it’s own independent ad program. The acquisition price was rumored to be somewhere around two billion yen.

Nobot (July 2011)

Tokyo-based smartphone ad optimization and exchange platform Nobot was acquired by KDDI’s advertising unit Mediba for 1.5 billion yen (about $19.2 million). With this acquisition, KDDI became one of the largest local ad platforms, pitting it directly against Google’s AdMob.

Naked Technology (September 2011)

Mixi, one of the biggest and oldest social networks in Japan, acquired Naked Technology, a smartphone development company known for its talented engineers in hopes of enhancing its smartphone app development. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Conit (November 2011)

A few months later Mixi also picked up Conit, a startup that was founded in 2008 and focused on smartphone app development. It operated an in-app purchase platform for iOS and Android called Samurai Purchase.

Mars Ltd. (November 2011)

Gree acquired Tokyo-base startup Mars Ltd, a company known for its signature pet game ‘Megu.’

Pikkle (April 2012)

Online game and smartphone development studio KLab acquired social games Pikkle company for 175 million yen. This was an acqui-hire for the development team, also bringing in CEO David Collier, the current CTO at KLab America.

Decopic (September 2012)

Community Factory, the company behind this successful photo sharing app for girls, was acquired by Yahoo Japan for an estimated one billion yen. The six year-old startup (at the time) was the very first startup to be funded by a Mixi venture fund. Owning 40% of the total stocks, Mixi for the first time recorded a sizable chunk of income amounting to about 310.2 million yen(about $3,246,000).

Social Lunch (December 2012)

Social game company Donuts acquired lunch partner matching app Social Lunch for an undisclosed sum. Having operated for just a year and four months at the time of buyout, the app had 60,000 users. Social Lunch was a graduate of the KDDI Innovation Fund and the three members of the team joined Donuts to continue the operation of Social Lunch.

Kamado (December 2012)

Kamado was another Mixi acquisition. The company’s well-known CEO Yuichi Kawasaki was the former vice president of Japanese bookmarking site Hatena. Kamado runs a few web services including a social item exchanging website Livlis and a fashion photo curation site called Clipie.

Enter Crews (January 2013)

Mobile entertainment platform Mobcast went public in June of 2012 with over 2.7 million users (as of October 2012). It acquired online game development company Enter Crews (with 300,000 users in Japan) for roughly 600 million yen. Enter Crews was founded in September of 2009 and has opened offices in Korea and Indonesia as well. It’s a logical move by Mobcast who is eager to accelerate its expansion to other parts of Asia.

Dreampass (March 2013)

The most recent acquisition was made by Yahoo Japan for on-demand cinema service Dreampass, for an undisclosed amount. You can read more about the deal here.

This is not a complete list of startup exit stories from Japan, but you can get an idea that the money is moving around mobile ads and social gaming. Although the competition for talent (especially developers) is not as intense as Silicon Valley, social gaming companies are facing a talent acquisition war. I’m sure that these examples will only encourage and motivate creative young Japanese with their minds set on changing the world.

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