Japan’s Cluster secures $1.8M series A to put VR hangout concept into showbiz industry


See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Cluster, the Japanese startup behind the social VR (virtual reality) app under the same name supporting several thousand people-scale events in VR space, announced on Wednesday that it has secured 200 million yen (about $1.8 million) in a series A round. The participating investors in this round include Avex Ventures (the investment arm of Japanese showbiz giant Avex Holdings Group), United (TSE:2497), DeNA (TSE:2432) and Skyland Ventures, plus undisclosed individual investors.

This funding succeeds the one with the total of 50 million yen (about $450,000) from Skyland Ventures, East Ventures and unnamed individual investors in its angel round in April of last year.

Along with this, Cluster and Avex Holdings Group (TSE:7860) announced they have agreed to a business partnership.

With this money, Cluster is going to advance business collaborations with enterprises having popular contents, as well as improve its product including the multi-device support covering smartphone or mobile VR.

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Cluster had taken part in the Demo Day of Avex Enter-Tech Pitch 1st batch and made a pitch there. Unlike typical accelerator Demo Days, this event was held in the semi-closed style with only Avex staffers and invited guests such as people concerned in the startup ecosystem, in order to explore opportunities of the open innovation between Avex and startups. At the Demo Day, Cluster won the Masato Matsuura Award and the prize winning led the financial / business partnership this time.

Naoto Kato (CEO of Cluster, right) is awarded the prize from Masato Matsuura (CEO of Avex Holdings Group, left) at Avex Enter-Tech Pitch in April.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

The detail of this business partnership is not disclosed yet, but Kato’s pitch and the conversation with the judges at the Demo Day suggest that Avex had held various real events all around Japan featuring artists belonging to Avex and it is considered that Avex will look for a way to offer  these kinds of performances in VR with Cluster. In addition, an Avex-affiliated company Avex Pictures owns major animation titles such as Yuri on Ice or Osomatsu-san, the business tie-up leveraging VR is expected also in this field.

According to Cluster CEO Naoto Kato, a function enabling to sell tickets only to limited users to participate in closed-style VR events is already implemented to the Cluster app. Kato said the app matches Asian culture or animation voice actors well and he is expecting a lot from the partnership with Avex also as to this point.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy