See the original story in Japanese.
Triple W Japan, developer of wearable bowel movement predictor DFree, recently announced that they have fundraised 400 million yen ($3.9 million) from 2020, iSGS Investment Works, Daiwa Corporate Investment, Mizuho Capital, SBI Investment and Revamp in a series A round, in addition to 100 million yen (about $980,000) in loans from Mizuho Bank and Japan Finance Corporation. 2020 is the investment arm in Japan of Taiwan-based hardware manufacturing giant Foxconn.
This funding round follows their previous undisclosed amount of funding from Nissay Capital and iStyle Capital (now known as iSGS Investment Works) back in April last year as well as up to 120 million yen (about $1 million at the exchange rate then) funding from the Japanese governmental business promotion agency NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization) and Osaka-based Hack Ventures.
Triple W Japan was launched back in February of 2015 (US operations started in June of 2014) by UC Berkeley graduate Atsushi Nakanishi. He had unexpected incontinence when moving to a new home in Berkeley, which triggered him to launch the business to solve humanity’s universal problem – excretion.
DFree uses ultrasonic waves to measures the size of excreta in the intestine; it then estimates when the sacrum will be stimulated and when the user will begin to feel the urge to go to toilet. A user will then have sufficient time to find a toilet and be relieved from the stress of bowel incontinence. Parkinson’s disease sufferers, the physically handicapped, or the elderly who have difficulty to go to toilet will no longer need to use diapers, thus helping people regain their dignity.
In a crowdfunding campaign for the DFree device last year, the company succeeded in raising over 12 million yen (more than $100,000). During the first batch of Heart Catch, the two-month mentoring program for startups to brush up products, they revealed that they were exploring better design and marketing strategies.
Based on the capital partnerships with the aforementioned investors, Triple W Japan expects to provide comprehensive support in the following areas respectively.
- 2020 – Engineering and business expansion to Asia through its parent company Foxconn
- iSGS – Expansion to health and beauty verticals through iStyle, the leading investor of the VC firm and the owner of Japan’s top beauty products portal @Cosme.
- SBI Investment – Expecting support in the healthcare, biomedical and ICT fields, the bailiwick of the VC firm’s investment manager Yukiko Kato who won the top in the Japanese version of Midas List issued by Forbes Japan last year.
- Revamp – Offering testing opportunities and building sales channels to nursing facilities
Upon funding this time, the company also announced addition of new people to the team. In June, Yuichiro Kuzuryu, who was previously working at iPad music keyboard developer Miselu, was named CTO while mechatronics authority Akihiro Kawata joined the team as Executive Engineer to facilitate product development and manufacturing of the DFree device.
According to Nakanishi, DFree is currently under clinical testing at four nursing facilities in Japan, expecting to increase up to 20 facilities by September. They are planning to move from a testing phase to launch phase this fall, followed by commencing a B2B2C (business-to-business-to-consumer) service through nursing homes next year.
Since excretion is becoming a common problem for aging societies in developed countries, the company has been garnering attention from outside Japan as well. Korea’s Seoul Broadcasting System features on its news site what had triggered founder Nakanishi to start developing the DFree device. Furthermore, they have been receiving inquiries from Australia, China, Taiwan, France and others. Because of tangible needs out there, their global expansion can be smoothly implemented as long as they can find relevant local partners in each respective country.
Triple W Japan consists of seven employees and three interns now. By hiring more engineers, the company wants to contribute to society by helping hardware engineers get out from big corporates into startups taking advantage of Japan’s strong manufacturing base.
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy