Japan’s influencer marketing startup BitStar secures $12M series C led by Global Brain

The BitStar and Global Brain teams
Image credit: Global Brain / BitStar

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based BitStar, develoing the BitStar influencer support platform and the E-DGE YouTuber production, announced on Monday that it has fundraised 1.3 billion yen (around $11.8M US) in a series C round.

This round was led by Global Brain with participation from ABC Dream Ventures (VC arm of Asahi Broadcasting), Colopl Next, Wright Flyer Live Entertainment (WFLE; a wholly owned subsidiary of Gree that offers a live VTuber app), Intage Open Innovation fund (jointly operated by Intage Holdings and SBI Investment), Makers Fund (a Hong Kong-based fund specialized in entertainment businesses), Asahi Shimbun, and Nagoya TV Ventures (corporate venture capital of Nagoya Broadcasting Network) also participating.

Among the investors from this round, Colopl Next was the sole investor for the series A round in August of 2016 (amount undisclosed, estimated at several hundred million yen), and Global Brain was the sole investor for the series B round in June of 2017 (300 million yen investment). From October of 2017 ABC Dream Ventures participated as an investor (investment amount and round not disclosed). Including funds procured in the seed round (amount not disclosed) from East Ventures in 2014, the cumulative procurement from external investors is probably around 2 billion yen (about $18M US).

Additionally, BitStar announced its partnership with WFLE, in which WFLE will support the 3D conversion, recording, and distribution of VTubers from 2D models produced by BitStar, with the two companies jointly producing multiple VTubers (Virtual YouTubers) in 2019. The investments from multiple broadcasters are reflective of BitStar CEO Taku Watanabe’s previous remarks on moving to produce products in collaboration with them. The company is also collaborating with Asahi Broadcasting and Asahi Shimbun for the creation of next-generation media under the latter two companies’ #ONE! new channel brand.

Makers Fund is a $180 million US fund established by Jay Chi, who led the McKinsey Video Game Project, and Michael Cheung, also hailing from McKinsey and the former Senior Director of Tencent Holdings. In May of this year, BitStar started a promotion for the Greater China and Southeast Asian markets through a business tie-up with Fun! Japan, but Makers Fund seems to further spur this movement.

BitStar (formerly known as Bizcast) was established in July 2014 and launched BitStar, a matching platform for companies looking to do promotions for and with YouTubers. It has more than 1,500 YouTubers who do not belong to a specific MCN (multi-channel network) and their total number of followers exceeds 80 million (as of September 2016). Recently, the company has started new business such as the Costar fan club service Costar, a quantitative analysis program to measure the effect of influencers called Influencer Power Ranking (IPR), and the VTubers business.

Translated Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda