Activ8 raises $5.4M from Gumi, Makers Fund; expands ‘Virtual YouTuber’ business

From left: Activ8 CEO Takeshi Osaka, Masashi Nakano
Image credit: Activ8

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Activ8 (pronounced ‘activate’), the Japanese startup behind the Upd8 (pronounced ‘update’) ‘Virtual YouTuber’ supporting project, announced on Tuesday that it has raised 600 million yen (about $5.4M US) in funding from Hong Kong-based Makers Fund and Tokyo-based gaming company Gumi (TSE:3903).

Details regarding the payment date and investment ratio were not disclosed. Activ8 graduated from the 3rd batch of Tokyo XR Startups and this is the third time it has raised outside funds. The company has also previously received funds from a fund managed by Gumi, and the current capital stands at 695 million yen (about $6.3M US). The company employs 40 people.

Since is launch back in September of 2016, Activ8 has been supporting original “virtual talents” in the expanding field of “Virtual YouTubers”. Kizuna AI, an AI-powered virtual YouTuber backed by the company, is ranked most popular on User Local’s ranking survey based on the number of fans and total number of views.

Image credit: Activ8

Additionally, at the end of May this year the company released the Upd8 virtual support platform. It provides support projects for virtual talent job matching and original goods sales after passing an examination conducted by the company. They have 25 registered talents and 26 registered YouTube channels. In Japan this type of project is preceded by the MCN (Multi-Channel Network) developed by UUUM, and can be regarded as a derivation.

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According to Activ8’s CEO Takeshi Osaka one idea for future expansion includes developing an IP (intellectual property) licensing business. For example, Marvel has produced not only individual titles but has also combined them to form episodes under the main title of Avengers.

Osaka remarked that one strength of virtual talent lies in, “Being able to come in contact with it more frequently, rather than, say, seeing a movie once a year”. Moreover, compared to the period when global access was nearly half what it is now, he noted the borderless feature of this market.

Future plans include increasing the main virtual talent to about 20 by the end of next year, and for Upd8, which is open for general use, the company has a goal of about 1,000 members for the platform as a whole.

Image credit: Activ8

Even though everything is virtual, it is still a support platform for gathering talent that will have a strong influence, and since anonymity is high we thought to confirm the level of safety such as the countermeasure to prevent it from being possibly exploited by antisocial forces. Activ8 would like to protect and cherish the world of virtual talent, and unless publicly announced by the talent themselves, the company will not release identities.

Osaka says,

“In terms of judging, we are focusing on diversity. We value the culture of this market.”

With regards to registered talent, the company takes measures to make direct contact with the talent and confirm the safety. When a behavior concern arises the corresponding virtual talent takes direct responsibility and as a platform it will take action according to the code of conduct.

The funds raised this time around will go to strengthening human resources in order to accelerate the company’s virtual talent entertainment activities.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda