Tokyo-based incubator and investment firm Samurai Incubate announced today that it has started forming a new fund called Samurai Incubate Fund No. 5. Coinciding with this, the firm also announced that it has invested in two Israeli-based startups by Japanese entrepreneurs, Aniwo and an disclosed company. The investment in these two startups has been disbursed from Samurai Incubate’s No. 4 fund.
According to Samurai Incubate CEO Kentaro Sakakibara, they have raised about 500 million yen ($4.2 million) for the new fund, but aim to raise about 1 billion to 2 billion yen ($8.3 million to $16.7 million) by the time the funding is closed in June. The company plans to invest 4.5 million yen ($37,600) in every promising startup in Japan in the seed round as well as about 10 million yen ($83,400) in every pre-seed round startup in Israel.
Since 2014, Samurai Incubate has been organizing startup showcase events in many cities in Japan in partnership with Deloitte’s Tohmatsu Venture Support, called Zenkoku Startup Day or literally All-Japan Startup Day. The incubation company wants to invest in about 70 promising startups discovered through this initiative.
Samurai Incubate also plans to invest in Israeli startups. Details have not been disclosed because it’s still before the execution of investments, but their expected incubatees include many startups focused on technologies, which makes the Israeli startup scene unique, such as developers of a wearable air purifying device, a voice input/output control for Twitter and Facebook postings, and a footprint scanning-based customized shoe e-commerce service.
Samurai Incubate set up an incubation office in Tel Aviv in July, where they have been organizing meet-up events aiming to connect Japanese startups with Israeli entrepreneurs and investors. The company held a hackathon event in October in partnership with Toyota InfoTechnology Center, the R&D arm of Japan’s No. 1 automaker, where attendees developed exceptional services like one that allows drivers to avoid rainy areas by leveraging GPS and weather update systems, as well as one that makes it unnecessary for drivers to apply the brake until they reach their destination by predicting the timing of traffic signals and advising the best driving speed through the integration of intelligent transport systems.
According to Sakakibara, the Jewish communities in Israel and the US are well connected, so if something becomes popular in Israel, it will automatically be followed in the US. Mobile apps like Viber and Yo gained a global reputation this way. Sakakibara expects to produce more startups from Israel following their example.
I will visit Israel this year to report on their startup scene.