Japanese crowdfunding site Readyfor raises $4.7M to help firms run social impact project

Back row, from left: Ayako Yamamoto (GCP), Kaoru Sugano, Fumiaki Koizumi, Yasuharu Ishikawa, Yutaka Matsuo, Kentaro Watanabe (Mistletoe)
Front row, from left: Minoru Imano (GCP), Uryo Motoda (Readyfor), Haruka Mera (Readyfor), Naoki Hiura (Readyfor), Atsuo Kusahara (Readyfor)
Image credit: Readyfor

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Readyfor, the Japanese startup behind a crowdfunding site of the same name, has announced that it has raised 530 million yen (around $4.7M US) from Globis Capital Partners (GCP), Mistletoe, Yasuharu Ishikawa (President and CEO of Stripe International), and Fumiaki Koizumi (President and COO of Mercari).

Together with this fundraising, the company appointed lawyer Atsuo Kusahara, who joined Readyfor back in July, as Chief Legal Officer (CLO), GCP’s Minoru Imano as an Outside Director, and Ishikawa, Koizumi, Mistletoe’s Taizo Son, and University of Tokyo Assistant Professor Yutaka Matsuo as Advisors. Furthermore, with the goal of strengthening Readyfor’s brand, the company appointed Dentsu’s Executive Creative Director/Creative Technologist Kaoru Sugano as Creative Advisor.

The crowdfunding site began services in March of 2011, when Haruka Mera started it as one of University of Tokyo-spinoff startup Ohma’s businesses. In July of 2014 Mera became the CEO and took over the site from Ohma, establishing Readyfor as its own new business. The company is perceived as a prominent figure in the startup world, but this is the first time it has raised funds through equity financing. Readyfor has grown its business to the current secure state because it has stuck to its vision of providing funds for projects that were not funded with existed methods.

Mera says,

When we started business in 2011, no one knew about crowdfunding. It wasn’t like we could just advertise and immediately see growth. Of course, there were ways to get funding at the beginning stages of a business, but it may have resulted in the business changing its form (to pursue profit). I’ve been devoted to verifying models and then growing them.

Image credit: Readyfor

The company passed five terms without raising funds, and is continuing business as usual in the black thanks to soaring sales. The funds raised at this time was probably due to ripe opportunites. Readyfor has major plans planned for these funds, 3 plans specifically.

One is the development of SaaS (Software as a Service) for fan relation management. Often raising funds through crowdfunding sees a lot of activity at the time the project launches, so this plan would be an attempt at supplying the project owner with continuous financing. The company is looking to form a community where money can be gathered into projects for self-actualization by creating a means to connect project owners and backers.

The second plan is to strengthen the local partnership program. Readyfor, which offers government crowdfunding services that can be used as donations in hometowns under tax payment system, hopes to increase cooperation with local companies and promote the use of crowdfunding throughout Japan. In rural areas, as the demand for fostering social infrastructure and community becomes more pronounced, there is also a move to reduce local tax refund and returns. Readyfor appears to be trying to supplement this in a new way driven by the private sector.

The third and final plan is to expand the support system for companies that provide the means to meet SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Readyfor has collaborated with the Asahi Group, J-COM, Panasonic, etc. and has developed the “Matching Gift Program,” which provides money to social projects together with CSR (corporate social resposibility) support from businesses. In recent years, requests from companies that are required to contribute to SDGs are increasing, so Readyfor will launch the “Social Impact Division” in response.

Readyfor currently has around 80 employees, but as the company establishes business models and puts the foundations for growth in place, it will concentrate on securing personnel who can sympathize with its vision for expanding business.

The Readyfor Team
Image credit: Readyfor

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda