Japan’s BitStar, matchmaking engine for YouTuber stars and brands, secures $2.7M

L to R: Kazuhiko Miyama (Partner of Global Brain), Yasuhiko Yurimoto (CEO of Global Brain), Taku Watanabe (CEO of Bizcast), Nao Harada (COO of Bizcast), and Yuta Yamashita (CTO of Bizcast)

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Bizcast, the Japanese startup behind a matchmaking platform for YouTuber marketing called BitStar, announced on Monday that it has fundraised 300 million yen (about $2.7 million) from Japanese investment firm Global Brain. This round succeeds their seed round where they fundraised an undisclosed amount from East Ventures backed in 2014 followed by their series A round where they have raised an estimated amount of several million dollars from Japanese gaming company Colopl (TSE:3668) back in August last year. This is a actual series B round, but the secured amount scale and the investment conditions apparently correspond to a series A round.

Due to this funding, Kazuhiko Miyama (Partner of Global Brain) is appointed to Outside Director of Bizcast. Since this round has not closed yet, Bizcast implied the possibility of additional funding within the round from other companies having a potential of business synergies with it.

Founded back in July 2014, Bizcast launched the BitStar platform that matches YouTubers with their client companies in September 2015. Currently, the platform has more than 1,500 YouTubers who do not belong to specific MCNs (multi-channel networks) and have more than 80 million followers in all.

In typical MCNs, about 20% of monthly ad incomes from YouTube is charged as the commission fee; however, Bitstar aims acquisition of major YouTubers by allowing registration for free and by offering business matters, as well as accompanying services such as tax returns procedures or exposure support. According to the company, over 1,000 video clips are served via the platform while the repeat ratio of their clients reaches 51%.

Bizcast has developed unique tools on its own to crawl audience reactions on social media regarding YouTubers registered to the platform. By analyzing which YouTuber will have the most powerful effect for each topic, Bizcast brings the best matchmaking to satisfy with both YoutTuber and client companies.

Finding next YouTube stars and overseas expansion

Originally started as a matching platform for YouTube marketing, BitStar wants to enhance the functions of producing high-quality video content and managing its own media channels in order to expand the area of activities of YouTubers, seeking to collaborate with entertainment business companies having lots of artists or performers. The company’s vision can be seen in, for example, the “WEGO YouTube” channel jointly provided by WEGO, a popular Japanese apparel brand among the younger generation, as well as a recent partnership with China’s up-and-coming news app Toutiao which is now entering into the Japanese market.

Taku Watanabe (CEO of Bizcast) told that it will also focus on accelerating the cycle of finding talents, raising personnel, and monetization:

I think it is a great advantage that we already have a close relationship with clients since we started as an advertisement platform. We know which kind of needs clients have and which type of talents to raise.

Coincidentally with this funding, Bizcast also announced that it has tied up with Japanese travel agency giant JTB. There is a background factor to this tying-up that BitStar was used in the promotion of one of JTB’s travel product series. By enforced marketing efforts using BitStar-suggested YouTubers, the staying time of JTB website increased four-fold and the daily page view increased seven-fold at most; therefore, JTB evaluates BitStar highly for driving a new traffic of young customers.

JTB, also being a LP (limited partner) of the Global Brain’s 6th fund in 20 billion yen ($180 million)-scale, aims to push on business collaborations in attracting foreign visitors and overseas promotion support for the Japanese companies in anticipation of 2020 Tokyo Olympics, for example, the cooperation with Fun Japan Communications, a JTB-affiliated digital marketing company specifically targeting the Asian market.

As seen in cooperation with Toutiao, Bizcast seemingly attempt to advance into the Chinese influencer market as well. There is a possibility that the firm will expand into Taiwan within this year, and may become a competitor of AdAsia Holdings, the leading player in this field. As an aside, AdAsia Holdings announced last week that it appointed a new vice president to enhance the entry into the Taiwanese market.

The following is one of JTB’s video clips that promote travels to Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, made by a BitStar-suggested YouTuber.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy