Japan’s Uzabase to announce $4.5M funding to boost curated news business

R to L: Yusuke Umeda (Uzabase Co-CEO), Norihiko Sasaki (Managing Director & NewsPicks Editor-in-Chief)

See the original story in Japanese.

Japan’s Nikkei reported this morning that Tokyo-based Uzabase, the startup behind curated news app NewsPicks and company/industry database service Speeda, will announce on September 1st that it has fundraised 470 million yen (or about $4.5 million) in a round led by Itochu Techology Ventures.

Other participating investors in this round are YJ Capital, Kodansha (publishing company), Globis Capital Partners, SMBC Venture Capital, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Shinsei Bank, GMO Venture Partners, and Monex Ventures (investment arm of Monex Securities).

Uzabase has started providing content from Kodansha’s Gendai Business e-magazine on the NewsPicks app. Upon this investment, Uzabase will add Courier Japon, Kodansha’s monthly magazine focused on global issues, to NewsPicks’ content lineup.

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NewsPicks was launched in September 2013 and is available on desktop as well as for iOS and Android. Uzabase has differentiated NewsPicks from other similar apps by curating news topics by notable economics news outlets. While the company has not disclosed the app’s download count, users have been actively using the app and some news topics have received comment numbers in the three-digit range.

Uzabase started a paying subscription service on a trial basis in February, where users can read articles from eight newspapers and magazines including Dow Jones Business News for a flat-rate monthly fee of 1,500 yen ($15).

To strengthen the publishing of original content, Uzabase recently appointed former Toyo Keizai Online editor-in-chief Norihiko Sasaki as the editor-in-chief of the NewsPicks service, which shows that they use a different strategy versus other curated news apps that use machine-based curation technology such as Gunosy or SmartNews.