New fund from Okinawa wants to help startups expand across Asia

Kenichiro Toyosato gave opening remarks at KozaRocks 2024.
Image credit: KozaRocks2024

Bridge learned that Kenichiro Toyosato, founder of startup hubs in Okinawa like Koza Startup Arcade and Startup Lab Lagoon, is launching a new fund for startups. The news came during his opening remarks at KozaRocks 2024, an annual startup conference and festival in Japan’s southernmost prefecture. on Saturday. Named as Shinryo Fund, it aims to raise 1 billion yen (approximately $6.7 million) eventually.

Shinryo means a bridge connecting ports and reflects Okinawa’s historical role as a trade hub between Japan and other Asian countries. Toyosato explained that the fund will invest in startups looking to expand from Okinawa to mainland Japan, from Japan to Asia via Okinawa, and from other Asian countries including Taiwan to Japan through Okinawa.

With an expected investment range of 20 to 50 million yen (about $124,000 to $310,000) per startup, the fund aims to become a cross-border initiative. Limited partners will include Yoichi Aso, CEO of Alpha Drive, along with several local companies.

Toyosato highlighted the need for a local independent fund in Okinawa, noting that such funds have been instrumental in developing thriving startup ecosystems in other regions, like Fukuoka. He emphasized the importance of creating a mechanism for successful startups to give back to the local community by such a local independent fund.

Image credit: KozaRocks2024

The fund will be managed by FourSeas, led by Toyosato, with support from Tomokazu Saito, a lawyer experienced in working for startups like Mercari. FourSeas is also involved in a government project to help financial institutions in Okinawa learn about startup investments.

Born in Okinawa City in 1988, Toyosato spent 15 years in China before founding Link and Visible (now FourSeas) in 2017. He has been actively involved in Okinawa’s startup ecosystem, including roles with Startup Lab Lagoon and the Okinawa Startup Ecosystem Consortium.

Okinawa’s startup scene is growing, with hubs in Naha (south of the island) and Koza (middle of the island), and also emerging activity in the north. The Koza-nearby Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) has produced outstanding startups like EF Polymer through its accelerator program. Recently, Alpha Drive, the company led by aforementioned Aso, opened Ryukyu Alpha Drive in the up north city of Nago, further expanding the island’s startup landscape.