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Tokyo-based Ground, the Japanese startup developing artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics solutions specifically focused on offering intelligent logistics, announced on Friday that it has secured up to 1.71 billion yen (about $16.2 million US) in the latest round. This round was led by Japanese state-owned investment company INCJ with participation from Sony (Sony Innovation Fund), Saphire Capital, JA Mitsui Leasing, IMM Investment (Korea), and IMM INvestment Group Japan. Of these, INCJ has agreed to invest up to 1 billion yen (about $9.5 million US) in the logistics startup.
Ground was founded in April of 2015 by Hiratomo Miyata who previously led the respective logistics arms of Japanese e-commerce giants Askul and Rakuten. The startup has formed a capital and business tie-up with Japanese office furniture maker Okamura (TSE:7944) in addition to Frameworx, the logistics-focused subsidiary of Japanese largest homebuilder Daiwa House Industry (TSE:1925). The funding at this time follows 1 billion yen (about $9.5 million US) funding from Daiwa House Industry back in June of 2017.
The company has developed a platform that combines robots and AI software to optimize logistics operations including picking in warehouse. Leveraging a customer database to help understand consumer behavior, the platform adopts machine learning to allow users to predict how many products should be manufactured and will be sold, thereby improving the overall efficiency of their logistics operations. The platform is unique in terms of offering all at once: both hardware-powered (robotics) and software-driven (AI) approaches.
Ground participated in Rock Thailand, the cross-market open innovation initiative co-hosted by the Japanese Embassy to Thailand and Thailand’s major conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) earlier this year, where the startup suggested the possibility of overseas business expansion. They will use the funds to strengthen hiring talents for business expansion as well as research and development of new technologies in the logistics sector.