See the original story in Japanese.
This is part of our ‘Tokyo Office Tour’ series (RSS), a modest attempt to better understand how folks in the local startup scene are working every day.
On July 1st, Global Business Hub Tokyo (GBHT) officially opened in Otemachi, the city’s financial district near Tokyo station. Thus, a new startup hub has additionally appeared in the area filled with various co-working spaces or event spaces such as Egg Japan, FINOLAB and 3×3 Lab Future. 500 Startups Japan, a 500 Startup’s micro-fund for the Japanese market, bases itself at this GBHT, and will likely frequently hold events like an “office hours” with entrepreneurs or a meet-up utilizing the public space, a bragging right for GBHT.
In the first $30 million-sized fund launched by 500 Startups Japan last September, Mixi, Mizuho Bank, Mistletoe and angel investor Kotaro Chiba participated as LP (limited partner), and recently it was revealed that Egg Japan and Mitsubishi Estate (which is also part of GBHT’s management matrix) had joined the LP. Although 500 Startups Japan is a fund originated in Silicon Valley, it is also a ‘made-in-Japan startup fund’ in whicn most of the LPs are composed of Japanese companies or investors.
Since the fund’s launch last fall, 500 Startups Japan unveiled that it had invested in meeting space-sharing service Spacee, followed by Pocket Menu which runs an O2O (online-to-offline) service for restaurants named Pocket Concierge (series A round), a virtual reality content developer Dverse (seed round) and Sora, which runs MagicPrice that emanated from Tech Lab Paak 3rd batch (seed round).
- Japan’s Pocket Concierge starts accepting pre-payments for restaurant reservations
- Japan’s Pocket Concierge fills cancelled restaurant reservations with eager customers
According to partners James Riney and Yohei Sawayama of 500 Startups Japan, two strategies upon investment are pointed out as factors for differentiating 500 Startups Japan, other than financials and its mentor network.
One is the “time machine” business. Like Spacee or Pocket Menu cases in their portfolio, some kind of business synergy are sought with startups in the same profession which already exists in US 500 Startups’ portfolio. Or, another case can be considered where US startups aiming to expand into Japan cooperate / combine / purchase Japanese startups in advance in the Japanese market. It is based on the idea of ‘buying time.’ Looking at 500 Startups as a whole, plural startups in the portfolio are able to associate and provide one worldwide services quickly, resulting in higher valuation.
The other corresponds to Dverse. Even if startups focusing on edge (specialized) technologies have the potential for global development, it is not unusual that they are not good at marketing. To support such tech-focused startups to enable global marketing by leveraging a network of journalists around the world is one of 500 Startups’ mission.
When The Bridge started up its English version under the name of SD, I mentioned that Western investors who do not speak Japanese see the Japanese startup community as a black box. Riney and Sawayama noted that 500 Startups Japan has close ties to Silicon Valley which wants to make its ability to act becoming a guide for global investors as one of the company’s strength in order to make them more interesting to the Japanese startups and to call in further investment activities.
Upon locating its genuine base, 500 Startups Japan is currently recruiting a Marketing & Community Manager for management of events including office hours, meet-ups or for deepening engagement with startups, as well as an Executive Assistant or intern. Do check them out if interested.
Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy