Japanese startup gets six angel investors onboard to bring VR tech to fashion industry

Psychic VR Lab’s management and investors – L to R: Tadasu Nakamura (managing director), Masahiro Yamaguchi (CEO), Nobuhiko Watanabe (evangelist), Akira Takashima (advisor)

See the original story in Japanese.

Psychic VR Lab, based in Tokyo, announced on Monday that it has secured an undisclosed sum of funding in an angel round. The angel investors participating in this round include Tadasu Nakamura, Nobuhiko Watanabe (professor, Graduate School of Project Design), Akira Takashima (consultant, eBook Initiative Japan) and Tetsufumi Takimoto (angel investor / visiting associate professor, Kyoto University). In total six angel investors participated in this round, with two investors’ names withheld from publication. In conjunction with this, it was revealed that Nakamura has been appointed to Psychic VR Lab’s Board of Directors and Watanabe will join the company as the enlightener of all things VR (virtual reality).

Psychic VR Lab was founded in April of 2007 by Masahiro Yamaguchi who previously served Japanese data security product vendor ED Contrive (TSE:7853) as the president. Initially based in Tsukuba City, well known as a science and technology park area in Tokyo’s suburb,  as a VR research and development business under the name of Ozmiq. After participating in the 4th batch of Recruit Holdings’ startup incubator Tech Lab Paak, the team recognized that VR is becoming the main business objective and to that end the company’s name changed to Psychic VR Lab ushering in a new era.

Currently Psychic VR Lab, in an effort to describe the essence of various fashion brands to consumers online, as well as showcase the charm of their original products, is developing Styly as a VR-based shopping platform devoted to fashion. More than 30 fashion brands and outlets are expected to test out the platform soon, including Shinjuku branch of Isetan (a leading Japanese department store), which deployed an online shopping service using Styly from August 24 and is set to continue it through the middle of September.

Each of the angel investors who participated in this angel round come from particularly distinguished backgrounds.

Newly appointed Psychic VR Lab director Nakamura, after working for Nomura Securities, established a 30 billion yen (approx. 300 million US dollars) fund for internet business companies as the president of Hikari Tsushin Capital. Most recently, he served as an executive officer for the office of Investor Relations with leading Japanese textile producer Takihiyo (TSE:9982).

For Nakamura, the use of VR as a means to increase sales is a given; but, in regards to the dilemma of brands wishing to open a physical store and facing the setback of paying rent, Nakamura believes the resolution will come with time. Rather, he brings forth a dilemma that he has carried with him from his Takihiyo days: how to explain the fine details of fashion to people who know nothing. “I thought this is all there is,” emphasized Nakamura on his reason for investing and entering into a management position with Psychic VR Lab.

Psychic VR Lab’s new VR savior Nobuhiko Watanabe previously served as an Executive Officer and the chief of Open Innovation Institute at Information Services International-Dentsu (TSE:4812). Currently, Watanabe is the CEO of Japan Next Generation, which is the main force behind “one+nation” a regional music co-creation project. Around 7 or 8 years ago, when Second Life (which can be labeled the predecessor of current VR) was in its prime, Watanabe led Japan in using Second Life for events and in business settings.

Watanabe asserts that VR in its attempt to replicate the real world, could fall into the same trap as Second Life, eventually losing to the real world itself. At Psychic VR Lab Watanabe’s aim is thus to design an entire atmosphere and show a sense of what cannot be seen in real life using media and UI capable of meeting such a demand. By changing the representation of the products and how the creators of fashion create, the way in which consumers consume fashion may also change. In this way, he believes VR is sure to make an impact on society.

CEO Yamaguchi introduced Styly at the 4th batch demo day of the Tech Lab Paak incubation program.

Psychic VR Lab’s investor and advisor Akira Takashima is the co-founder of e-book platform giant eBook Initiative Japan and currently also serves as an advisor. The company was listed on the TSE Mothers Market in 2011, and in 2013 was reassigned to the first section of the exchange. While the e-Book market is currently booming, during the 2000’s Takashima is credited with etching out a new market from the ground up.

According to Takashima, there is a limit to the two dimensional commerce of the internet now. He gives the example that if you go into a bookstore in the city and see the books stacked on lined neatly on the bookshelves, you are compelled to buy many. In the current world of e-commerce, this sort of phenomena is unlikely to occur. By using VR to recreate the feeling of being in a store, new business opportunities arise, and it is expected that web creators will take the opportunity to produce something altogether new.

Tetsufumi Takimoto

Tetsufumi Takimoto, who will also support Psychic VR Lab as an investor and advisor, was responsible for the management reorganization of McKinsey deemed taxi giant, Nihon Kotsu. Takimoto is currently serving as Visiting Associate Professor of Kyoto University in the department of Industry-Government-Academia Innovation Management Science Research Division. With expansive connections in across industries, he will be supporting Psychic VR Lab’s business cooperation with large enterprises, as well as small and medium sized operations.

Psychic VR Lab has, from its Ozmiq days, arranged numerous businesses and events using VR, but intends to focus the current funding on management resources for the development of the Styly fashion commerce platform. The company has developed a 3D scanner that specializes in apparel in addition to a shopbuilder app that facilitates the construction of 3D shops; and they plan to hold an event where general users can try out the platform in the near future. They are currently searching for VR engineers, server-side engineers, and front-end engineers to join their team. Interested readers please feel free to contact them.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda