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Why the next tech revolution will be about impact

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This is a guest post by Trista Bridges. Its Japanese translation is available on Bridge’s Japanese edition. Trista is a strategy and sustainable business expert, who’s passionate about changing business for good. Strongly believing that sustainable business = smart business, she co-founded Read the Air to shift mindsets, business strategies, and ways of working towards business models that put sustainability at the core. She’s worked across various sectors including in digital media, healthcare, consumer products, and financial services. Trista is co-author of the recently released “Leading Sustainably: The path to sustainable business and how the SDGs changed everything“ By now, you are undoubtedly aware of how sustainability has emerged as the zeitgeist of the moment – ESG investments have grown leaps and bounds in Japan and elsewhere, while the SDGs have been embraced by governments, businesses and individuals alike. Although there is no shortage of “greenwashing” at the moment, it’s undeniable that there’s a fundamental change afoot in respect to our vision of society. There’s widespread awareness that our world has some pretty audacious problems to address – from social equality to climate change and everything in between. The urgency of addressing these issues has increased, but the verdict is…

Trista Bridges
©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

This is a guest post by Trista Bridges. Its Japanese translation is available on Bridge’s Japanese edition.

Trista is a strategy and sustainable business expert, who’s passionate about changing business for good. Strongly believing that sustainable business = smart business, she co-founded Read the Air to shift mindsets, business strategies, and ways of working towards business models that put sustainability at the core.

She’s worked across various sectors including in digital media, healthcare, consumer products, and financial services. Trista is co-author of the recently released “Leading Sustainably: The path to sustainable business and how the SDGs changed everything


By now, you are undoubtedly aware of how sustainability has emerged as the zeitgeist of the moment – ESG investments have grown leaps and bounds in Japan and elsewhere, while the SDGs have been embraced by governments, businesses and individuals alike. Although there is no shortage of “greenwashing” at the moment, it’s undeniable that there’s a fundamental change afoot in respect to our vision of society. There’s widespread awareness that our world has some pretty audacious problems to address – from social equality to climate change and everything in between. The urgency of addressing these issues has increased, but the verdict is still out on how to best fix these problems and whose responsibility it is to do so.

Businesses are being asked to do more

In the past, we instinctively turned to the state to fix problems such as these. But we now know that government won’t be able to tackle these challenges on its own. We have transitioned to a multi-stakeholder world, one in which various entities are being compelled to take on a greater role in addressing global challenges. And there are few stakeholders who are being expected to step up more at the moment than business. Companies of all sizes are being asked to embrace a more sustainable business model, namely one that minimizes its negative “impact” on the environment and society and maximizes its positive ones. For example, moves such as Japan’s recent 2050 net zero pledge mean than businesses of all sizes will need to take steps to reduce their carbon emissions. We’ve already seen Apple’s promise to achieve 100% carbon neutrality across its entire supply chain by 2030. Others will need to take similarly bold steps.

This growing importance of impact is a sign that we are in the early stages of recalibrating how we define business value. While financial strength will always be important, there is a growing belief that companies that don’t pay attention to their environment and societal impact, as well as their own governance, are, in fact, putting their success at risk.

Image credit: 401(K) 2012 via Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

The impact revolution coming to tech

Until recently, this has largely been a publicly listed company phenomenon, with tech startup ecosystems generally being left outside of this debate. But now, it’s coming to tech with full force. While the ESG spotlight was first shown on Big Tech, startups, VCs and other ecosystem players are starting to be scrutinized on sustainability factors as never before. But what do innovators and their investors need to be most aware of? Here are some thoughts on how this trend is changing the game for the two core players of the tech ecosystem – VCs and startups:

VCs

Adoption of sustainability-oriented principles and practices has been spotty, to say the least, across venture capital. While private equity firms have made strides integrating ESG in recent years and, in some cases, even developing specific impact investment funds (see TPG’s Rise Fund), venture capital funds have been slow to come on-board. European VCs have perhaps seen the best progress to date, with funds like Idinvest/Eurazeo, Atomico, and Balderton being early movers on ESG or making sustainability commitments. More recently, the US venture capital space has seen an uptick in thematic funds around topics such as climate and diversity. Finally, stalwart funds like Sequoia have announced that they are actively investing in sustainability, especially in climate tech. Yet, it’s clear that this is only the beginning and that the VC community still has a ways to go. Nevertheless, there are three key reasons that we should see an acceleration in this area in the coming years:

  1. Risk mitigation: With an increasingly challenging regulatory environment for finance and tech alike, a growing conscious consumer movement, and shifting norms around what constitutes “good business,” it’s an increasingly risky proposition to invest in startups without considering how they’re approaching these issues. Using ESG criteria (at a minimum) to screen investment opportunities gives investors a tangible way to help de-risk their portfolios.
  2. Limited partner (LP) interests: While these entities are still looking for market leading returns from funds, sustainability is also quickly moving up their agendas. In some instances, it’s their stakeholders (shareholders, customers, contributors) who are demanding it. In others, such as family offices, individuals want to reflect their values in how they invest. In the future, it may be difficult for VCs to raise funds from reputable LPs if they don’t integrate ESG principles and practices in their fund operations and investment activities.
  3. Opportunities: Earlier tech waves addressed many first-level problems, such as connectivity, efficiency, and information discovery; the next wave will tackle much more fundamental societal and environmental challenges. Future value is going to be driven by innovations that solve these complex issues.
Image credit: nosita via Pixabay

Startups

When an entrepreneur is trying to build a company with limited resources, generally, the last thing they’re thinking about is the impact their product will have on the environment or society. Understandably, their focus tends to be more towards business fundamentals, such as product-market fit or customer acquisition. However, startups are not building their businesses in a bubble. Many of the societal and environmental dynamics mentioned in this article will impact startups’ success going forward. While there are many more support systems now to help startups scale (funding, training, etc.), the environment they are operating in is, in many ways, more complex and competitive than the one faced by their peers merely a decade ago. And this has been even further complicated by the pandemic. What can startups do to prepare and succeed in this new paradigm?

  1. Anticipate risks and prepare accordingly: Startups today are innovating in areas that their predecessors shunned for fear of overregulation or sheer complexity. While this is commendable, it also presents them with new risks. Taking an approach early on which considers societal and environmental impact will help them avoid potential problems down the road. For example, are entrepreneurs innovating with AI considering potential problems around biases or possible nefarious use of the services they develop? What actions can they take to avoid these potential challenges? Or, are food delivery services thinking about fair labor practices or the environmental impact of mounds of plastic packaging waste? Getting ahead of these issues early on can help avoid potential problems, regulatory, reputational, or otherwise, down the road.
  2. Respond to investors’ shifting priorities: Naturally, as VCs increasingly embrace sustainability, they are going to look to startups that do the same or are willing to do so. As VCs make commitments, they need to demonstrate to their LPs and other stakeholders that their fund and portfolio companies are moving in lock step. It goes without saying that this is a big ask of many startups. To make this work, VCs will need to support startups differently and, often, more proactively than they have in the past.
  3. Lean in to sustainable innovation: Encouragingly, there are endless opportunities for startups in areas like climate tech, food tech, sustainable fashion, fintech, and healthcare. Startups that build products and services that can do things like efficiently and inexpensively capture and store carbon, significantly reduce inequalities in healthcare access, or shore up the resilience of our food systems, will be the next generation of winners. And with burgeoning success stories like Northvolt, Impossible Foods, and Japan’s own Euglena, there’s evidence that this is already coming to pass. Working today on opportunities that drive positive impact will pay dividends tomorrow.

Japanese car subscription startup Nyle secures up to $50M via equity and loans

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Nyle, the company behind a car subscription service called Carmo, announced on Monday that it has secured about 3.7 billion yen (about $35.7 million) in the latest funding round. Participating investors are Dimension (investment arm of Dream Incubator), JIC Venture Growth Investments (JIC-VGI), Environmental Energy Investment, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, SBI Group, Nippon Venture Capital, Gree Ventures, Digital Advertising Consortium, and unnamed individual investors. The company also announced that it has signed loan agreements with several financial institutions for a total of up to 1.3 billion yen (about $12.5 million). Prior to this round, the company raised about 1.5 billion yen from several investors including Sparks Group (TSE:8739), SBI Group, and Aoki Group back in April of 2019. The latest round raied the company’s cum of funding (without loans) to date up to 5.57 billion yen (about $53.7 million) Carmo is completely offered online and allows users to use a new car for as little as the 10,000 yen-range (starting at $96 approx.) per month. It has received 45,000 applications from users for three years since its launch back in January of 2018. Using the funds, Nile plans to strengthen its marketing activities,…

Image credit: Nyle

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Nyle, the company behind a car subscription service called Carmo, announced on Monday that it has secured about 3.7 billion yen (about $35.7 million) in the latest funding round.

Participating investors are Dimension (investment arm of Dream Incubator), JIC Venture Growth Investments (JIC-VGI), Environmental Energy Investment, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, SBI Group, Nippon Venture Capital, Gree Ventures, Digital Advertising Consortium, and unnamed individual investors. The company also announced that it has signed loan agreements with several financial institutions for a total of up to 1.3 billion yen (about $12.5 million).

Prior to this round, the company raised about 1.5 billion yen from several investors including Sparks Group (TSE:8739), SBI Group, and Aoki Group back in April of 2019. The latest round raied the company’s cum of funding (without loans) to date up to 5.57 billion yen (about $53.7 million)

Carmo is completely offered online and allows users to use a new car for as little as the 10,000 yen-range (starting at $96 approx.) per month. It has received 45,000 applications from users for three years since its launch back in January of 2018.

Using the funds, Nile plans to strengthen its marketing activities, strengthen alliances with auto repair shops, auto dealers, and gas stations while considering merge and acquire companies with potential synergies.

via PR Times

Japanese male skincare brand Bulk Homme raises over $14M to accelerate global expansion

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Tokyo-based Bulk Homme, the Japanese online subscription startup behind male skincare brand under the same name, announced today it has secured 1.5 billion yen (about $14.1 million US) in the latest round. Participating investors are Nissay Capital, local department store chain Marui Group (TSE:8252), Dimension (investment arm of Japanese consulting firm Dreram Incubator), and Kiraboshi Capital. The amount raised includes debt financing from the Japan Finance Corporation and other financial institutions. This round follows 500 million yen in December 2018 and 300 million yen in November 2017. Nissay Capital and Marui Group participated in past funding rounds respectively. Bulk Homme said it will use the funds to further strengthen its domestic marketing efforts, strengthen its CRM department and promote global expansion. The company already has operations in Taiwan, China, South Korea, the UK and France, planning to expand into Southeast Asia, Europe and the US markets. Bulk Homme started its business as part of the company’s founder’s father’s company back in 2012. Launched in 2013, the skincare brand offers a variety of products at their online store as well as retailers and hair salons all across Japan. The business was then incorporated in May of 2017.

Image credit: Bulk Homme

Tokyo-based Bulk Homme, the Japanese online subscription startup behind male skincare brand under the same name, announced today it has secured 1.5 billion yen (about $14.1 million US) in the latest round. Participating investors are Nissay Capital, local department store chain Marui Group (TSE:8252), Dimension (investment arm of Japanese consulting firm Dreram Incubator), and Kiraboshi Capital. The amount raised includes debt financing from the Japan Finance Corporation and other financial institutions.

This round follows 500 million yen in December 2018 and 300 million yen in November 2017. Nissay Capital and Marui Group participated in past funding rounds respectively.

Bulk Homme said it will use the funds to further strengthen its domestic marketing efforts, strengthen its CRM department and promote global expansion. The company already has operations in Taiwan, China, South Korea, the UK and France, planning to expand into Southeast Asia, Europe and the US markets.

Bulk Homme started its business as part of the company’s founder’s father’s company back in 2012. Launched in 2013, the skincare brand offers a variety of products at their online store as well as retailers and hair salons all across Japan. The business was then incorporated in May of 2017.

Digital Base Capital sets up local PropTech startup community in Taiwan

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Tokyo-based Digital Base Capital, a PropTech-focused investment firm in Japan, announced today that it has set up PropTech Taiwan, a local PropTech startup community. Since the VC firm has been operating a local community in Japan, the announcement suggests that it expands the activity into Taiwan. The community is headed by Kensuke Ko, Taiwan-based analyst working for the VC firm. Ko decided to launch the community because of the lack of a hub community in Taiwan while many PropTech startups are emerging there. To celebrate the launch, the community is holding an online meetup event on September 25th having the executives of Taiwanese PropTech startups such as Ark Intelligence, BigFun, LIOVE, and HousePro as panel speakers.

The PropTech Taiwan team. From left: Kensuke Ko (Analyst, Digital Base Capital), Jimmy Chen (CEO, HousePro), Tracy Sedinkinas (Doctor Researcher, National Taiwan University), Bennson Tsai (CEO, LIOVE)

Tokyo-based Digital Base Capital, a PropTech-focused investment firm in Japan, announced today that it has set up PropTech Taiwan, a local PropTech startup community. Since the VC firm has been operating a local community in Japan, the announcement suggests that it expands the activity into Taiwan. The community is headed by Kensuke Ko, Taiwan-based analyst working for the VC firm.

Ko decided to launch the community because of the lack of a hub community in Taiwan while many PropTech startups are emerging there. To celebrate the launch, the community is holding an online meetup event on September 25th having the executives of Taiwanese PropTech startups such as Ark Intelligence, BigFun, LIOVE, and HousePro as panel speakers.

Japan’s X-ray image sensing startup ANSeeN secures over $10M in series B round

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ANSeeN is a startup spun out of Shizuoka University and has been developing x-ray image sensors and color cameras. The company announced on Monday that it has secured 1.08 billion yen (about $10.1 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors in this round are Cyberdyne (TSE: 7779) and its subsidiary CEJ Capital, Environmental Energy Investment, Drone Fund, Shinkin Capital inn addition to Shizuoka Capital. The amount raised includes debt financing from the Shoko Chukin Bank and Hamamatsu Iwata Shinkin Bank, as well as a grant from the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). This follows the startup’s series A round in November 2018 when they secured about 300 million yen (about $2.8 million US). Shizuoka Capital and Shinkin Capital participated in the previous series A round as well. ANSeeN’s X-ray camera has a higher resolution than conventional ones, which makes it easier to identify the shape of the content in a an inspection object. The company aims to develop a system that can be used for automated and unattended baggage inspection in conjunction with artificial intelligence. The company claims that this system can make it possible to visualize cast metal parts, such as automobiles and trains,…

Image credit: ANSeeN

ANSeeN is a startup spun out of Shizuoka University and has been developing x-ray image sensors and color cameras. The company announced on Monday that it has secured 1.08 billion yen (about $10.1 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors in this round are Cyberdyne (TSE: 7779) and its subsidiary CEJ Capital, Environmental Energy Investment, Drone Fund, Shinkin Capital inn addition to Shizuoka Capital.

The amount raised includes debt financing from the Shoko Chukin Bank and Hamamatsu Iwata Shinkin Bank, as well as a grant from the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). This follows the startup’s series A round in November 2018 when they secured about 300 million yen (about $2.8 million US). Shizuoka Capital and Shinkin Capital participated in the previous series A round as well.

ANSeeN’s X-ray camera has a higher resolution than conventional ones, which makes it easier to identify the shape of the content in a an inspection object. The company aims to develop a system that can be used for automated and unattended baggage inspection in conjunction with artificial intelligence. The company claims that this system can make it possible to visualize cast metal parts, such as automobiles and trains, which have been difficult to visualize in the past.

AnSeeN will use the funds to install a facility to mass-produce X-ray image sensors and X-ray color cameras, aiming to establish a mass-production system by the end of 2021 to use them for non-destructive testing and dental inspection equipment. The company partnered with Cyberdyne to promote the application and commercialization of the camera in the cybernics industry.

AnSeeN was selected for the second phase of Tokyo-based railway company JR East’s incubation/acceleration program in November 2018 and then won the top prize for the team eligible for the program’s incubation course at the Demo Day event.

Japan’s “flying car” developer SkyDrive secures $37M series B, unveils piloted demo flight

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Tokyo-based SkyDrive, the Japanese drone startup spun off from the Cartivator volunteer group consisting of aircraft, drone and automotive engineers, announced on Friday that it has secured 3.9 billion yen (about $36.8 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors in this round are: Development Bank of Japan Itochu (TSE:8001) Itochu Technology Ventures Eneos Innovation Partners Obayashi Corporation (TSE:1802) Energy & Environment Investment Strive NEC (TSE:6701) Veriserve Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing For SkyDrive, this follows their series A round back in September of 2019. Among the investors participating in the latest round, Itochu Technology Ventures, Energy & Environment Investment, and Strive participated in the previous round. Since its seed round back in November of 2018, the company has raised a total of 5.7 billion yen (about 53.8 million US) to date. SkyDrive’s so-called “flying car” is an electrically-powered, vertical take-off and landing pilotless aircraft. As a new trend in the mobility industry, the drone is expected to be used for taxi service in cities, means for transportation in remote islands and mountainous areas, emergency transport in the event of a diaster. Compared to conventional air crafts, the drone is cost-effective, makes lower noise but requires a smaller space…

Tokyo-based SkyDrive, the Japanese drone startup spun off from the Cartivator volunteer group consisting of aircraft, drone and automotive engineers, announced on Friday that it has secured 3.9 billion yen (about $36.8 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors in this round are:

  • Development Bank of Japan
  • Itochu (TSE:8001)
  • Itochu Technology Ventures
  • Eneos Innovation Partners
  • Obayashi Corporation (TSE:1802)
  • Energy & Environment Investment
  • Strive
  • NEC (TSE:6701)
  • Veriserve
  • Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing

For SkyDrive, this follows their series A round back in September of 2019. Among the investors participating in the latest round, Itochu Technology Ventures, Energy & Environment Investment, and Strive participated in the previous round. Since its seed round back in November of 2018, the company has raised a total of 5.7 billion yen (about 53.8 million US) to date.

SkyDrive’s so-called “flying car” is an electrically-powered, vertical take-off and landing pilotless aircraft. As a new trend in the mobility industry, the drone is expected to be used for taxi service in cities, means for transportation in remote islands and mountainous areas, emergency transport in the event of a diaster. Compared to conventional air crafts, the drone is cost-effective, makes lower noise but requires a smaller space for take-off and landing.

Along with the announcement of the funding, SkyDrive has also announced that it has successfully conducted a four-minute public manned flight test at a test field in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, using its newly developed manned SD-03 aircraft. The company plans to continue to develop even safer and more secure technology by conducting further flight tests under a wider range of conditions based on the results.

SkyDrive hopes to have the SD-03 approved for flight by the end of this year and turn the prototype into a commercial model by 2023. The company is also developing another concept model, the SD-XX, which is said to be capable of flying at a maximum altitude of 500 meters, 100 kilometers per hour, and a range of 19 kilometers.

Japan’s Monstar Lab raises $40M to focus on developing take-away apps for US restaurants

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Tokyo-headquartered Monstar Lab, the Japanese company sourcing app developments around the world, announced today that it has raised a total of 4.2 billion yen (about $40 million US) in the latest round. Participating investors are Japan Post Capital, Dentsu Digital Fund, Saudi Arabia’s Alpha Al Imteyaz, Serverworks (TSE:4434), FFG Venture Business Partners, Shimane Central Shinkin Bank and Skylight Consulting. The secured amount includes debt financing from financial institutions. Shimane Central Shinkin Bank also participated in the previous round back in November of 2017. The company said it will use the funds to further expand its digital consulting business globally as well as enhance marketing and product development to increase the value it provides to its clients. This follows the previous round securing approximately 2.4 billion yen back in February of last year. This round’s stage is unspecified but it seems the seventh funding round as far as we know in our effort of reporting. In April of last year, Monstar Lab acquired New York-based digital product and mobile app developer Fuzz Productions which is best known for having developed ordering systems for Shake Shack and other restaurants. In August of 2017, Monstar Lab acquired Danish software company Nodes, which is…

Image credit: Monstar Lab

Tokyo-headquartered Monstar Lab, the Japanese company sourcing app developments around the world, announced today that it has raised a total of 4.2 billion yen (about $40 million US) in the latest round. Participating investors are Japan Post Capital, Dentsu Digital Fund, Saudi Arabia’s Alpha Al Imteyaz, Serverworks (TSE:4434), FFG Venture Business Partners, Shimane Central Shinkin Bank and Skylight Consulting. The secured amount includes debt financing from financial institutions. Shimane Central Shinkin Bank also participated in the previous round back in November of 2017.

The company said it will use the funds to further expand its digital consulting business globally as well as enhance marketing and product development to increase the value it provides to its clients.

This follows the previous round securing approximately 2.4 billion yen back in February of last year. This round’s stage is unspecified but it seems the seventh funding round as far as we know in our effort of reporting.

In April of last year, Monstar Lab acquired New York-based digital product and mobile app developer Fuzz Productions which is best known for having developed ordering systems for Shake Shack and other restaurants. In August of 2017, Monstar Lab acquired Danish software company Nodes, which is known for developing a number of food delivery apps like Careem Now in the Middle East region. According to Nikkei, the company has been focusing on ordering systems for restaurants in North America, but due to the growing demand for take-away apps because of COVID-19, the company plans to establish a development base in Latin America, where engineering labor costs are cheaper, to make offensive sales efforts in the North American market.

Monstar Lab currently operates in 26 cities in 15 countries around the world, including Europe, the US and Asia. The company with its subsidiaries have about 1,200 employees.

via PR Times

Japanese smart lock Akerun secures $33M to realize keyless society

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Photosynth, the Japanese startup developing and offering smart lock Akerun as well as cloud-based room-entry access control system, unveiled the Akerun Access Intelligence, an access authentication platform to realize a keyless society, as well as a new service called the Akerun visitor management system. The company also plans to conduct a Proof of Concept trial with Japanese leading real estate developer Mitsui Fudosan (TSE:8801). Meanwhile, the company announced that it has secured funding in the latest round led by The Norinchukin Bank with participation from NTT Docomo Ventures, 31Ventures, Line Ventures, Toppan Printing, BSP Group, Scrum Ventures, Joyo Sangyo Kenkyujo, Globis Capital Partners, and others. In this round, The company obtained 3.5 billion yen (about $33 million) in equity funding as well as loans from Shinsei Bank, Japan Finance Corporation, Mizuho Bank, Joyo Bank, and others. This brought the company’s funding sum up to 5 billion yen (about $47.3 million). Along with this, Tatsuya Otsubo of The Norinchukin Bank is appointed as an ouside director for Photosynth. The company will use the funds to promote research and development of the authentication platform as well as strengthening customer support and sales. The Akerun service…

The Akerun Visitor Management system installed at Mitsui Fudosan’s office entrance
Image credit: Photosynth

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Photosynth, the Japanese startup developing and offering smart lock Akerun as well as cloud-based room-entry access control system, unveiled the Akerun Access Intelligence, an access authentication platform to realize a keyless society, as well as a new service called the Akerun visitor management system.

The company also plans to conduct a Proof of Concept trial with Japanese leading real estate developer Mitsui Fudosan (TSE:8801).

Meanwhile, the company announced that it has secured funding in the latest round led by The Norinchukin Bank with participation from NTT Docomo Ventures, 31Ventures, Line Ventures, Toppan Printing, BSP Group, Scrum Ventures, Joyo Sangyo Kenkyujo, Globis Capital Partners, and others.

In this round, The company obtained 3.5 billion yen (about $33 million) in equity funding as well as loans from Shinsei Bank, Japan Finance Corporation, Mizuho Bank, Joyo Bank, and others. This brought the company’s funding sum up to 5 billion yen (about $47.3 million).

Along with this, Tatsuya Otsubo of The Norinchukin Bank is appointed as an ouside director for Photosynth. The company will use the funds to promote research and development of the authentication platform as well as strengthening customer support and sales.

The Akerun service improves convenience and security of keyless entry leveraging a cloud-based connected smart lock system. The Akerun room-entry access control system for business has been installed to 4,500 companies to date.

Akerun Access Intelligence is a new concept to put all the keys used in our daily lives into the cloud. In this scheme, users can associate their unique identity used in real life, such as NFC transit card, smartphone, employee ID and entrance pass with their digital entity such as e-mail address and phone number, and then register all them in to the cloud. This allows users to gain access to various spaces such as their office, building and home with just a single ID.

Image credit: Photosynth

In addition, the company announced the Akerun Visitor Management System, a cloud-based management platform to develop this concept in concrete terms. Large office buildings had often set up security gates and reception areas for access restrictions where visitors are usually asked to present their ID as well as fill in their name and the name of the company they are visiting in the form. However, this procedure was time-consuming for visitors, the forms collected by the receptionist needed to be re-input to manage digitally, and visual check of ID is not so much reliable.

To solve these problems, Photosynth developed the Akerun Visitor Management System, which can be installed into existing security gates so that guests can get entry approval using their NFC transit card. Combined with the Akerun room-entry access control system, the Visitor Management system allows not only visitors but also employees gain access to the locations that every user ID / key set approves. Photosynth will conduct a proof-of-concept trial using these systems with Mitsui Fudosan at the latter’s new office in Nihombashi, Tokyo. Mitsui Fudosan has been using the Akerun for some time now, which led to this collaboration.

via PR TIMES

Translated by Masaru Ikeda

Mantra’s AI-powered translation engine wants to help Japanese manga expand global fan base

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This is the abridged version of our original article in Japanese. Tokyo-based Mantra, the Japanese startup developing machine learning-based translation technology for manga, announced on Tuesday that it has officially launched its cloud-based translation platform called Mantra Engine. The platform is specifically designed for translating manga content. It allows comic productions and distributors to release manga titles in foreign languages by helping them manage almost all work processes for manga translation through a single web-based interface. Combining with corrections and proofreading by professional translators, the platform makes it possible for users to produce foreign language versions in about half the time for the traditional workflow. It supports English and Chinese at the moment, but more languages will be added in due course. In aim to help the global expansion of the Japanese manga industry and reducing their economic loss due to piracy, the platform is intended to provide three functions to streamline producing foreign language versions: character recognition (reading Japanese characters in speech bubbles), machine translation, and replacing text in speech bubbles by script typesetting in a targeted language. As electronic versions of manga become more widely available, the platform’s ability to publish a new episode in a foreign language…

Screenshot of Mantra Engine ©️Kuchitaka Mitsuki
Image credit: Mantra

This is the abridged version of our original article in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Mantra, the Japanese startup developing machine learning-based translation technology for manga, announced on Tuesday that it has officially launched its cloud-based translation platform called Mantra Engine.

The platform is specifically designed for translating manga content. It allows comic productions and distributors to release manga titles in foreign languages by helping them manage almost all work processes for manga translation through a single web-based interface.

Combining with corrections and proofreading by professional translators, the platform makes it possible for users to produce foreign language versions in about half the time for the traditional workflow. It supports English and Chinese at the moment, but more languages will be added in due course.

In aim to help the global expansion of the Japanese manga industry and reducing their economic loss due to piracy, the platform is intended to provide three functions to streamline producing foreign language versions: character recognition (reading Japanese characters in speech bubbles), machine translation, and replacing text in speech bubbles by script typesetting in a targeted language.

As electronic versions of manga become more widely available, the platform’s ability to publish a new episode in a foreign language even on a weekly basis is a powerful tool for the industry which is looking to increase sales through global licensing and multilingual distribution. As is common among tech companies, especially for AI firms, the more scope of automated processing expands, the greater value they can provide.

In terms of machine translation, the company added the “glossary of terminology management” function in the official version unveiled today, which is to tackle the biggest issue they found during the trial phase according to CEO Shonosuke Ishiwatari.

In manga, many proper nouns unique to a title or an artist are often used. Using Google Translate, if you find mistakes in translation for a proper noun, it may take a lot of work to correct them all. Registering each new one into the glossary as it appears is a simple idea but very effective.

Mantra raised 80 million yen (about $760,000) from Japanese AI-focused VC Deepcore, DMM Ventures, Legend Ventures, and other unnamed angel investors back in June.

Japan’s Umitron launches satellite ocean data map service for aquaculture farmers

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Singapore- and Tokyo-based aquatech startup Umitron announced on Tuesday that it has launched a web-based ocean satellite data service called Umitron Pulse. Leveraging satellite remote sensing technology, high resolution marine data for various areas of the world can be checked on a daily basis, enabling aquaculture businesses to manage growth and risk more efficiently. The service offers oceanographic data such as seawater temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll concentration and wave height, and can be zoomed in and out on the screen. In addition to offering real-time oceanographic data, the system can predict changes in the marine environment over the next 48 hours. More types of marine environment data, hourly updates of various types of data, and the function to compare and analyze past marine environment data will be added. A mobile app will be available soon. Umitron secured 1.22 billion yen ($11.5 million US) from several investors back in 2018 followed by a $2 million funding from the innovation lab of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) lat year in an aim to help the local economy near Lake Titicaca in Peru improve their salmon trout farming productivity using the startup’s AI-powered remote sensing device Umitron Cell. Last year, the startup…

Umitron Pulse
Image credit: Umitron

Singapore- and Tokyo-based aquatech startup Umitron announced on Tuesday that it has launched a web-based ocean satellite data service called Umitron Pulse. Leveraging satellite remote sensing technology, high resolution marine data for various areas of the world can be checked on a daily basis, enabling aquaculture businesses to manage growth and risk more efficiently.

The service offers oceanographic data such as seawater temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll concentration and wave height, and can be zoomed in and out on the screen. In addition to offering real-time oceanographic data, the system can predict changes in the marine environment over the next 48 hours. More types of marine environment data, hourly updates of various types of data, and the function to compare and analyze past marine environment data will be added. A mobile app will be available soon.

Umitron secured 1.22 billion yen ($11.5 million US) from several investors back in 2018 followed by a $2 million funding from the innovation lab of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) lat year in an aim to help the local economy near Lake Titicaca in Peru improve their salmon trout farming productivity using the startup’s AI-powered remote sensing device Umitron Cell.

Last year, the startup partnered with Thailand’s CP Foods, the world’s largest shrimp farming operator, to launch a proof-of-concept on advancing shrimp farming. Earlier this year, they successfully crowdfunded a project supportiing branded fish farming in Ehime Prefecture in the western part of Japan.

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