IMJ Investment Partners gets rebranded to Spiral Ventures as independent VC firm

Yuji Horiguchi (CEO and Managing Partner of Spiral Ventures Pte Ltd / Spiral Ventures Asia Ltd, right) and Tomokazu Okuno (General Partner of Spiral Ventures Japan LLP, left)

See the original story in Japanese.

IMJ Investment Partners (IMJ-IP), a Japanese startup-focused vc firm based in Singapore and Tokyo, last week announced that it changed the company name to Spiral Ventures. To be more precise, it becomes a group under the umbrella of the Singapore-based corporation Spiral Ventures Pte Ltd (IMJ-IP, the former name), consisting of Spiral Ventures Asia Ltd (newly organized) focusing on investment activities in Japan India / Southeast Asia and Spiral Ventures Japan LLP (IMJ-IP Japan, the former name) focusing on Japan / East Asia.

Yuji Horiguchi, the former Managing Partner of IMJ-IP, is appointed to CEO of Spiral Ventures Pte Ltd / Spiral Ventures Asia Ltd. Tomokazu Okuno, the former Managing Partner of IMJ-IP Japan, is appointed to General Partner of Spiral Ventures Japan LLP as well.

Capital relationship of Spiral Ventures group

Along with that, the firm revealed that it succeeded in MBO (management buyout). Horiguchi and other shareholders purchased the majority of the shares from the major shareholder Culture Convenience Club (CCC). Spiral Ventures Japan LLP is organized by joint capital investment of Spiral Ventures Pte Ltd and Okuno.

IMJ-IP originated in the company which Horiguchi founded in 2012 while being engaged in foreign investment works at IMJ. It was a purely independent VC (venture capital) having many LPs (limited partners), not a CVC (corporate venture capital) under IMJ as its name appears to indicate. In this situation, Accenture acquired a major stake in IMJ from CCC last April. Although there had been no direct capital ties between IMJ and IMJ-IP originally, IMJ-IP no longer need to call itself IMJ anymore.

One of the purposes for renaming itself this time is seemingly to clearly appeal to the current / potential LPs and the investment targets that it is a pure VC with high-level independence.

Under the new system, a new fund is about to be established. According to Horiguchi, Spiral Ventures Asia has been setting up a fund for Southeast Asia and India named Spiral Asia Global Fund, especially focusing on growth-stage startups in Southeast Asia (targeted early-stages under the old system) and early-stage startups in India.

Spiral Ventures is recognized for digging up promising startups in the Southeast Asia region from a long time ago. As an outstanding example, the portfolio startups highly recommended by Spiral Ventures, namely McClinica, PawnHero and Docquity, won the startup conference held in Osaka — HackOsaka — for three years in a row.

Horiguchi said:

Currently, the firm has one staffer in Jakarta and four in Singapore. In India, the firm utilizes the partnership with New Delhi-based Technology 9 Labs supporting the growth hack for startups. The investment target of Asia Global Fund covers a wide range of countries / regions, including seven ASEAN countries, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

On the other hand, Spiral Ventures Japan continues the operation of IMJ-IP Japan Fund as in the past with a new name, Spiral Ventures Japan Fund. It has gathered more than 5 billion yen (about $45 million) for the 6 billion yen (about $54 million)-scale fundraising, and Okuno said that he aims to settle it down to a 70 billion yen (about $63 million)-scale fund. LPs of Japan Fund include Japanese major enterprises and the Japanese Organization for Small and Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation.

Okuno explains the view of Japan Fund:

As the integration with real business or the innovation of conventional business has been become a hot topic in Japan recently (rather than simple mobile techs), our investment target covers a lot of X-Tech startups. Since we had once assisted the open innovation of CCC or Tokyu (Tokyo-based private railway company), I think we have an advantage as to collaboration support between such real techs and startups.

However, that does not mean we will focus especially on open innovation. This is just a fund, so that we can deal with it if LPs have such needs.

Although the investment target of Japan Fund includes Korea and China, it is still limited to within Japan at this time due to the limitation in terms of human resources. Spiral Ventures Japan plans to increase the number of its staffers to seven, and Masao Hirano, who experienced the representative of McKinsey or Carlyle in Japan, joins the firm as Senior Advisor and Takashi Chiba, who is a Okuno’s junior since working at Deutsche Bank, also joins the firm as Principal.

Spiral Ventures Asia had invested in 39 startups while Spiral Ventures Japan had done so in 10 startups thus far, including the investment as IMJ-IP. With the establishment of the new fund and the improvement of business speed, we will likely see the name of Spiral Ventures more frequently in the news concerning fundraising.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy