IDEO, Genuine Startups join forces to invest in early-stage startups in Japan

L to R: Kenichi Nonomura (Director of IDEO Tokyo), Tom Kelley (Partner of IDEO)
Makoto Takano (Genuine Startups), Kengo Ito (Genuine Startups) – Photo taken at IDEO Tokyo

See the original story in Japanese.

Palo Alto-based IDEO, one of the world’s most influential design firms, and Tokyo-based startup-focused VC firm Genuine Startups, announced today they will jointly launch a new venture capital called D4V. Based in Tokyo, the new firm’s founding partners are Tom Kelley (Partner of IDEO), Kenichi Nonomura (Director of IDEO Tokyo) as well as Makoto Takano, Kengo Ito and Mamoru Taniya from Genuine Startups while executive advisors are Nobuyuki Idei (former president of Sony) and Hollywood actor and angel investor Masi Oka, best known as the breakout star of TV show Heroes.

d4v_logoRegarding the investment ratio, IDEO Tokyo holds 40% in the new firm while Genuine Startups has the remainder. With investments in more than 50 startups through the first fund, Genuine Startups has looked to form its own second fund since last year but it will be substantially merged into the D4V fund being formed. While the size of the fund is not fixed yet, Takano told us that they aim to raise up to around 5 billion yen (approximately $50 million) by next March with an eye to possible future funding from investors in the US.

The new fund is derived from “Design for Ventures”; for investees, IDEO will provide expertise about design thinking and venture design. Genuine Startups is mainly responsible for deal-sourcing and also offering networking opportunities and business management know-how. However, the two companies claim that they neither intend to pour design elements into startups nor focus on investing in design-oriented startups. According to Takano, they will choose which companies to invest in based on a mission-oriented concept which is “let ‘non-growing’ companies go out of the market and help new companies enter the global business arena.”

L to R: Makoto Takano (Genuine Startups), Tom Kelley (Partner of IDEO), Mamoru Taniya (Genuine Startups)
Photo taken at IDEO Palo Alto – Image credit: D4V

IDEO partner Tom Kelley, also best known as his bestselling book Creativity Confidence, made a comment in the press briefing:

Steve Jobs met up with Steve Wozniak, and then they founded Apple. Prior to Apple, Wozniak was previously working at Hewlett Packard but he was digged up by Jobs. In Japan, I think many people like Wozniak are living and working in obscurity. I want to dig them up and nourish them.

As IDEO’s startup collaboration effort, Kelley shared some examples including PillPack, a startup making it easy for patients on multiple medications to take the right pills at the right time, born out of a program called Startup In Residence where entrepreneurs can work side by side with IDEO employees. While D4V is neither an accelerator nor an incubator, in the future invested startups can expect to receive hands-on support leveraging both tangible and intangible assets that IDEO possess.

The fund will be mainly focused on investing in early-stage startups from Japan. However, it can also help them expand globally and get follow-on funding from investors outside Japan by leveraging the vast global network of the fund’s four founding partners and two executive advisors.

Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy