Japan virtual YouTuber management agency raises $6.6 million to expand globally


See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Cover, the startup offering management production services of VTubers (short for “virtual YouTubers”), announced on Thursday that it has raised 700 million yen (about $6.6 million US) in the latest round. The series of the round has not been specified yet.

The funding comes from Hakuhodo DY Ventures, i-nest capital, Chiba Dojo, Dimension, SMBC Venture Capital, angel investors in addition to existing investors including Strive (previously known as GREE Ventures). The amount also includes loans from Mizuho Bank.

For the startup, this follows their seed round funding back in August of 2017 (approx. 30 million yen from Mizuho Capital, TLM, and angel investors) and their series A round back in June of 2018 (approx. 200 million yen from GREE Ventures, OLM Ventures, and Mizuho Capital). The latest rounds brought their total funding sum up to about 1 billion yen (about $940 million).

The company runs a VTuber agency business called Hololive Production which allows entertainers to perform a fictitious character using VR-based 3D avatars. In the agency, nearly 50 VTubers in Japan and overseas are attrarcting a total of more than 15 million fans through these performers’ livestreaming channels on YouTube and China’s Bilibili.

In recent years, the company has been helping the VTubers expand their activities beyond streaming channels. Vtuber Tokino Sora successfully debuted with a Japanese major label last year while another Vtubers, such as Hoshimachi Suisei, Shirakami Fubuki, and Houshou Marine, started their radio shows earlier this year.

The company says it will use the funds to strengthen VTuber management business in Japan and overseas, promote virtual live performances, and develop other Extended Reality-based services. The company has already started offering VTuber management production services in China and Indonesia as well as rolling out auditions in several English-speaking countries.

Founded back in 2016 by Motoaki Tanigo who previously ran the restaurant curation app 30min. (pronounced ‘sun zero minute’), the company was graduated from notable startup accelerators like Incubate Camp 8th, TECH LAB PAAK’s 7th batch, and Tokyo VR Startups’ 2nd batch.