Japan’s Liquid secures funding round to advance biometric payment solutions



See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Liquid, a Japanese startup developing payment solutions leveraging a unique biometric authentication technology, announced on 25 December that it has fundraised from Itochu (TSE:8001), Information Services International-Dentsu (ISID, TSE: 4812), Credit Saison (TSE:8253), and The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC). Financial details of the investment have not been disclosed.

Prior to the latest funding, Liquid received government grants of about 42 million yen ($350,000) in 2014 and about 50 million yen ($416,000) in 2015 based on the qualification to the I-Challenge innovation initiative program by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, followed by receiving an undisclosed sum of investment from UTEC. In addition, the company disclosed that their shareholders include Japan’s major telco conglomerate NTT Group and Internet service giant Digital Garage (TSE:4819) while they have not disclosed when these companies joined as shareholders.

Liquid was born out of the third incubation batch by Docomo Ventures. The company has developed a biometric payment system called Liquid Pay, which uses fingerprints to authenticate users. Traditionally, the fingerprint authentication used the 1:1 verification method that took time to identify the input fingerprint from a large number of registered fingerprint patterns. But this company has employed a 1:N identification method using deep learning algorithms. With this method, it only takes a few seconds to identify the input fingerprint. Once users are enrolled in this system, they can purchase with their fingerprints, allowing them to go out without cash or credit cards. By registering the fingerprints from two fingers, the risk of misidentifying the fingerprint is reduced to 1 in one hundred million.

This system is used at Huis Ten Bosch, a theme park in Nagasaki, Japan, where visitors can pay at restaurants and make purchases at souvenir shops without having to bring their wallet, giving them a sense of freedom. It has also been implemented at a hotel in Sri Lanka where hotel guests enroll their biometric information at check-in. After that, they can then unlock the key and make purchases at partnered stores using just their fingerprints. Based on the Liquid Pay technology, the company rolled out a trial of a community currency system in Hokkaido in association with ISID, aiming to offer foreign visitors a more convenient payment option at travel destinations.

Based on the partnership with new shareholders on this funding, Liquid plans to focus on developing services for an increasing number of inbound visitors to Japan toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, expanding to the medical and public sectors, as well as regional service expansion to the Southeast Asian market. Having a dazzling selection of companies with expertise in global expansion, system development, finance, and payments infrastructure as shareholders, the partnership will give a boost to an expanding Liquid Pay and other applications based on the company’s biometric authentication technology.

Liquid won the Sony Select award at Docomo Venture’s 3rd batch Demo Day, followed by winning the Microsoft award at Innovation Weekend Grand Finale 2015 earlier this month.

Edited by Kurt Hanson

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