Japanese IoT startup Vinclu raises $168,000 for communication robot development

L to R: ABBALab CEO Osamu Ogasahara, Vinclu CEO Minori Takechi, Primal Capital General Partner Hiroshi Sasaki

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based IoT (Internet of Things) startup Vinclu announced today that it has fundraised 20 million yen (about $168,000) from new investment fund Primal Capital. Using the funds, the company plans to enter the new field of digital communication robot development. According to Vinclu CEO Minori Takechi, the new field is part of the up-and-coming IoT solutions, and means interface and big data related services in categories such as smart houses and robotics.

Vinclu was launched back in February 2014, followed by securing a seed funding round from IoT-focused incubation initiative ABBALab in April. They are currently based out of DMM.make Akiba, a hardware lab in the Japanese startup hub of Akihabara.

The company has developed an appcessory product called Ayatori, which plugs into a smartphone earphone jack to enable users to enjoy communicating with others by changing illumination patterns using the mobile app.

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Writing this article is a challenge because we have few details on their plans as they are in stealth mode, but I will do my best by leveraging the power of the imagination.

Vinclu CEO Minori Takechi raised the name of Magic Leap as a hint, which raised $542 million in series B round last October from Google, KPCB, Andreesen Horowitz, and other prominent investors, being told that their valuation has exceeded $1 billion.

Apparently, what the Vinclu team is trying to do is a space close to augmented reality or holograms. But if they develop it, what will that mean? We can find another hint in what Takechi developed at a hackathon event last year.

At a hackathon sponsored by TBS (a Tokyo-based private broadcaster), I developed a smart remote controller that allows users to control their TV via speech recognition. My product won the top prize.

The product was a stuffed toy-shaped device called Tereboo (see video below) – but let’s think about a product enabling these similar features using augmented reality or hologram technologies.

The smart-home market can be roughly divided into two categories; single-purpose products like Nest and platform-based solutions like SmartThings. The latter can control various home appliances and acquire information on users’ daily lives, generating a huge opportunity in the big data business. That’s where Softbank is targeting with their robotics business around Pepper.

If a hologram-based solution that the Vinclu team will develop is a new interface to control home appliances, that future will definitely be enjoyable. Toggles or button switches will be changed to a human-friendly operational system.

But these ideas are just my imagination. In view of business cases in the global market, big opportunities in the IoT business exist in an accumulation of data and logs that we have been able to collect. It is no wonder that Vinclu’s Takechi and Hiroshi Sasaki, General Partner of Primal Capital, are keeping their eyes on such a lofty future.

On a related note, Incubate Fund, where Primal Capital’s Sasaki previously worked, has formed a large investment fund focused on IoT.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by Kurt Hanson and “Tex” Pomeroy