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SpaceData develops AI that can create digital twin of entire planet, raises $10M+ in seed round

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Tokyo-based SpaceData, the Japanese startup developing artificial intelligence that can create a Digital Twin of the Earth from Satellite Data, announced on Wednesday that it has secured 1.42 billion yen (over $10 million US) in a seed round. Participating investors are Spiral Capital, Sparx Innovation for Future, KDDI Open Innovation Fund, GREE Ventures, The Creative Fund, Headline Asia, MZ Web3 Fund in addition to three angel investors: Jo Hirao (CEO of Zigexn), Hiroshi Tomishima (Co-founder of Mercari), and Yusaku Maezawa (Founder of Zozo). SpaceData was founded in January of 2017 by serial entrepreneur Katsuaki Sato, also known as the founder of Japanese tech company Metaps (TSE:6172) and running several startups. The company has developed AI-based technologies that can generates virtual worlds (digital twin) using satellite data and 3DCG technology. Using machine learning on geostationary images of the ground and terrain data from satellites, the platform can automatically detect, classify, and organize objects on the ground, and generate their 3D models with detailed texture using 3DCG technology. The company’s algorithm excels at automatically generating 3D models from a human perspective, which is something that conventional 3D globe tools (such as Google Earth) are not very good at. This makes it easier…

Image credit: SpaceData

Tokyo-based SpaceData, the Japanese startup developing artificial intelligence that can create a Digital Twin of the Earth from Satellite Data, announced on Wednesday that it has secured 1.42 billion yen (over $10 million US) in a seed round. Participating investors are Spiral Capital, Sparx Innovation for Future, KDDI Open Innovation Fund, GREE Ventures, The Creative Fund, Headline Asia, MZ Web3 Fund in addition to three angel investors: Jo Hirao (CEO of Zigexn), Hiroshi Tomishima (Co-founder of Mercari), and Yusaku Maezawa (Founder of Zozo).

SpaceData was founded in January of 2017 by serial entrepreneur Katsuaki Sato, also known as the founder of Japanese tech company Metaps (TSE:6172) and running several startups. The company has developed AI-based technologies that can generates virtual worlds (digital twin) using satellite data and 3DCG technology. Using machine learning on geostationary images of the ground and terrain data from satellites, the platform can automatically detect, classify, and organize objects on the ground, and generate their 3D models with detailed texture using 3DCG technology.

The company’s algorithm excels at automatically generating 3D models from a human perspective, which is something that conventional 3D globe tools (such as Google Earth) are not very good at. This makes it easier to be adopted into applications such as VR (virtual technology), games, and video production, where people move around in 3D space from a human perspective. The company claims that the generated digital twin data can meet the rapidly growing demand for metaverse in various industries, including entertainment, autonomous driving, urban development, disaster prevention, and defense.

via PR Times

Soundraw, AI music composer from Japan, secures $1.4M to boost global expansion effort

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Tokyo-based Soundraw, the Japanese startup behind an AI-powered music composing service under the same name, announced on Thursday that it has secured 180 million yen (about $1.4 million US) in the latest funding round. Participating investors are Ceres (TSE:3696), Mint, iSGS Investment Works, SMBC Venture Capital, and Deepcore. For the company, this follows their seed round (securing 65 million yen) in June of 2020 and pre-series A round (securing an undisclosed sum) in March of 2021. Deepcore has also participated in a previous round. Soundraw was founded in February of 2020 by serial entrepreneur Tago Kusunoki. During his university days, Kusunoki twice won the national championship in a university student dance competition. After graduating from Ritsumeikan University graduate school, he worked for a manufacturer and then launched his own company to pursue his dream of creating something by himself. Prior to Soundraw, Kusunoki has developed the SoundMoovz wearable musical instrument gadget based on his dance experience, which has shipped a total of 400,000 units to 17 countries to date. It is common to hear background music in all kinds of videos on YouTube and Facebook, not to mention on TV programs. Creators of these clips usually choose from stock music…

Founder Daigo Kusunoki sits in the center among the Soundraw team.
Image credit: Soundraw

Tokyo-based Soundraw, the Japanese startup behind an AI-powered music composing service under the same name, announced on Thursday that it has secured 180 million yen (about $1.4 million US) in the latest funding round. Participating investors are Ceres (TSE:3696), Mint, iSGS Investment Works, SMBC Venture Capital, and Deepcore. For the company, this follows their seed round (securing 65 million yen) in June of 2020 and pre-series A round (securing an undisclosed sum) in March of 2021. Deepcore has also participated in a previous round.

Soundraw was founded in February of 2020 by serial entrepreneur Tago Kusunoki. During his university days, Kusunoki twice won the national championship in a university student dance competition. After graduating from Ritsumeikan University graduate school, he worked for a manufacturer and then launched his own company to pursue his dream of creating something by himself. Prior to Soundraw, Kusunoki has developed the SoundMoovz wearable musical instrument gadget based on his dance experience, which has shipped a total of 400,000 units to 17 countries to date.

Image credit: Soundraw

It is common to hear background music in all kinds of videos on YouTube and Facebook, not to mention on TV programs. Creators of these clips usually choose from stock music services just as they choose photos and images from stock photo sites, but this poses a few problems. Unlike photos and images which can be searched for in a list, they have to listen to and check the music one by one to pick the best fit.

The AI composer can help with these needs, there are no copyright issues involved because each of the tunes created is completely original. This approach of creating a new song to match the clip, rather than searching for one in the past, is an interesting shift. Because of its non-verbal user experience making less language barriers, the platform has successfully attracted more users from the overseas. The automated entire process helps them keep gross margin high.

Although the company has conducted no marketing activities in the global market so far, users from the overseas accounts for 37% of the service’s paying user base, mainly from Europe and the United States. They will use the funds to renew their platform’s user interface and experience drastically and increase the variety of music tracks the platform can create. In addition, they have established a Los Angeles office with several local representatives to boost international market effort.

SOUNDRAW won the Pitch Arena competition at the B Dash Camp 2022 Summer startup conference in Sapporo last month.

via PR Times

Private equity in Japan: a perfect storm

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This guest post is authored by Mark Bivens. Mark is a Silicon Valley native and former entrepreneur, having started three companies before “turning to the dark side of VC.” He is a venture capitalist that travels between Paris and Tokyo (aka the RudeVC). He is the Managing Partner of Shizen Capital (formerly known as Tachi.ai Ventures) in Japan. You can read more on his blog at http://rude.vc or follow him @markbivens. The Japanese translation of this article is available here. I’m a VC guy not a PE guy, so when I start opining about private equity, readers should grant my words a tepid reception. Yet I am observing a phenomenon here on the ground in Japan that I thought might be relevant to share. Let’s start with recapping the current macroeconomic backdrop, a context upon which numerous experts — both armchair and real — have weighed in. Massive runaway inflation has taken root in most developed economies. At last print, CPI, a core measure of inflation in the U.S., ticked up to 8.6%. Governments and particularly central banks — whose core mandate is to keep inflation under control — have found themselves behind the curve. As a result, the U.S….

mark-bivens_portrait

This guest post is authored by Mark Bivens. Mark is a Silicon Valley native and former entrepreneur, having started three companies before “turning to the dark side of VC.”

He is a venture capitalist that travels between Paris and Tokyo (aka the RudeVC). He is the Managing Partner of Shizen Capital (formerly known as Tachi.ai Ventures) in Japan. You can read more on his blog at http://rude.vc or follow him @markbivens. The Japanese translation of this article is available here.


Hurricane Sandy hits Massachusetts.
A public domain image. Photo by Marilee Caliendo/FEMA via Picryl

I’m a VC guy not a PE guy, so when I start opining about private equity, readers should grant my words a tepid reception. Yet I am observing a phenomenon here on the ground in Japan that I thought might be relevant to share.

Let’s start with recapping the current macroeconomic backdrop, a context upon which numerous experts — both armchair and real — have weighed in. Massive runaway inflation has taken root in most developed economies. At last print, CPI, a core measure of inflation in the U.S., ticked up to 8.6%.

Governments and particularly central banks — whose core mandate is to keep inflation under control — have found themselves behind the curve. As a result, the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, followed not far behind by the European Central Bank and the Bank of England, have shifted to a steady diet of interest rate hikes and quantitative tightening, sending asset prices plummeting, with seemingly no asset class immune (equities, real estate, crypto assets, you name it).

The one glaring exception to all this within the G7 countries is Japan. In Japan, depending on how broad a basket you take, CPI inflation has risen to only 2.5%, and if stripping out food and energy from the calculation, inflation in Japan currently sits at a mere 0.3%, 20x lower than the comparable measure in the U.S.

Accordingly, the bank of Japan has maintained its policy of yield curve control, effectively capping yields on 10-year government bonds to 25 basis points. The impact of course of this stark disparity, i.e. with other countries hiking rates and tightening while Japan maintains low rates, has manifested itself in a drastic JPY devaluation to a 20-year low, as I’ve written about before

In light of the Yen’s tumble, there has been some speculation in the markets that the BOJ will relent on its yield curve control policy in order to bolster its currency. However, consensus here in Tokyo seems to be that as long as inflation in Japan does not get out of hand, it’s unlikely that the BOJ would do anything else but stay the course. Furthermore, BOJ governor Kuroda-san’s final mandate ends next spring. The likelihood of him implementing a radical policy shift in the final nine months of his mandate appears low.

So this brings me back to the topic of private equity. When executed successfully, private equity transactions can generate value creation in up to three different ways (VCs like to joke that there are only three, but I’ll resist the temptation here):

  1. Operational efficiencies
  2. Multiple expansion
  3. Leverage

Operational efficiencies can result from restructuring. Divestment of underperforming assets, unlocking cost savings, bolt-on acquisitions, realignment of management incentives, are among other expertise that PE firms can bring to a company once they take control.

Multiple expansion means positioning a company to justify higher EV/S and EV/EBITDA multiples (enterprise value/sales, enterprise value/EBITDA, respectively). Higher multiples can be attained via both internal actions such as enhanced strategic focus, improved corporate governance, and external factors such as investing in a sector which is growing or coming back into favor.

Leverage means using a significant portion of debt to acquire the target company in the PE buyout. A typical leveraged buyout of a company for say $100 million might entail $30 million of equity from the PE fund and $70 million of debt from lenders.

As you can imagine, combining two or all three above factors can exponentially enhance the financial return profile of the investment. Let’s say that the aforementioned $100 million company is valued at a multiple of 5x EBITDA, (EBITDA = 100m / 5 => 20m). The transaction is financed with 30m from the PE fund and 70m in outside debt. If the PE firm through operational efficiencies is able to increase EBITDA from 20m to 30m,  and in parallel is able to justify that the company thanks to its improved strategic focus and sectorial growth justifies an EV/EBITDA multiple of 7 rather than 5, the enterprise value of the company becomes $210 million. If the PE fund can find a buyer for the company at this price, it will generate a return on its invested capital of 4.67x ((210m – 70m debt)/30m). 

When viewing Japan through the lens of the above three factors for private equity value creation, the market here looks pretty attractive. 

Without naming names, it’s no secret that many incumbent corporations carry underperforming business lines on their books, and hence offer some opportunities ripe for restructuring, which in turn could unlock operational efficiencies. Additionally, Japan’s new ESG compliance requirements are forcing some companies to restructure and in certain cases even carve out business units.

Regarding the principle of multiple expansion, EV/EBITDA multiples are moving in quite the opposite direction worldwide, as rising rates depress asset prices. Yet I would submit that such forces of multiple compression run deeper in the U.S. and Europe right now than what we are witnessing in Japan.

However, thanks to its low interest rate environment, debt financing in Japan remains a relative bargain compared to the rest of the world. The opportunity to structure buyout transactions with inexpensive leverage is where Japan really shines on these vectors for private equity value creation.

Moreover, the perception in Japan of the business of private equity, even of foreign funds, has been gradually improving. In the eyes of foreign PE funds, the Japanese market represents a reliable beacon of security and rule of law.

Upon admittedly superficial analysis, it stands to reason that Japan should represent an appealing market for global PE funds in the current environment.

We’re already witnessing some evidence of movement. At the start of the latest annual shareholding meeting season, a record 77 companies faced proposals from stock owners, many of them foreign funds. In March, Sweden’s EQT acquired Bering Private Equity Asia, with stated expansion plans for Japan. The potential imminent $20 billion buyout of Toshiba would serve as a bellwether.

Whether these data points portend a broader trend remains to be seen, but if they do, this could result in increased competition for Japan’s domestic PE firms. (Unlike venture deals, in which VC firms often invest collaboratively as syndicates, private equity is more of a solo sport). An informal survey suggests to me that they are not alarmed.

Perhaps I’m straying too far out of my lane here, but because I enjoy these hypothetical thought experiments, here’s my unsolicited (and probably unwelcome) advice to Japan’s domestic PE firms: build relationships upstream, i.e. with venture capital funds in Japan.

The market here still remains quite opaque to foreigners at the venture stage, so you have an inherent competitive advantage by being on the ground. Granted, not all venture companies grow into private equity targets, but high-growth firms in some sectors often do, such as in enterprise SaaS, or alternatively can serve as complementary targets for PE build-up strategies. Building such relationships today will lay the groundwork for future dealflow before the competitive bidding process even begins.

One of best-loved newsletters among entrepreneurs to hold first Tokyo meetup on July 12

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This guest post is authored by Tomohiko Hayashi. He is Pricncipal Director at Accenture Song / Accenture Ventures. He leads business development and innovation from a customer experience perspective. He has won and judged many awards at industry events including SXSW and Cannes Lions. You all know about a16z media, right? Then, have you heard of Lenny’s Newsletter? In my opinion, it is a newsletter and global Slack community that gathers the best startup information available today. More than 150,000 people, mainly startup PMs, managers, engineers, designers, etc., are registered. Lenny Rachitsky, former product manager of Airbnb, who operates these programs. The off-line meetups of this community are being held in various countries around the world by community participants. In June 2022 alone, there are 24 locations worldwide. I’d like to make it happen in Tokyo too! So I raised my hand to be the host. The first meeting will be held at Accenture Innovation Hub in Azabujuban on Tuesday, July 12, from 7PM. Would be great if we can get the Tokyo global crowd together! The content of the event is to be a place for international startups and globally minded startups to meet and exchange ideas. Please apply…

Tomohiko Hayashi

This guest post is authored by Tomohiko Hayashi.

He is Pricncipal Director at Accenture Song / Accenture Ventures. He leads business development and innovation from a customer experience perspective.

He has won and judged many awards at industry events including SXSW and Cannes Lions.


Lenny’s Newsletter

You all know about a16z media, right? Then, have you heard of Lenny’s Newsletter? In my opinion, it is a newsletter and global Slack community that gathers the best startup information available today. More than 150,000 people, mainly startup PMs, managers, engineers, designers, etc., are registered.

Lenny Rachitsky

Lenny Rachitsky, former product manager of Airbnb, who operates these programs.

The off-line meetups of this community are being held in various countries around the world by community participants. In June 2022 alone, there are 24 locations worldwide.

I’d like to make it happen in Tokyo too! So I raised my hand to be the host.

The first meeting will be held at Accenture Innovation Hub in Azabujuban on Tuesday, July 12, from 7PM. Would be great if we can get the Tokyo global crowd together!

The content of the event is to be a place for international startups and globally minded startups to meet and exchange ideas. Please apply for the event by filling out the form above. There will be free drinks and snacks. You don’t have to be a newsletter reader.

Japanese space robot developer Gitai sets up shop in LA

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Tokyo-based Gitai, the Japanese telexistance robotics startup for the space industry, announced last week that it has opened an office in Los Angeles for R&D, manufacturing, and business development. The company will begin recruiting project managers as well as various types of engineers in earnest. They had been conducting all business activities in Tokyo until  now. As collaboration with US agencies and private companies like Nanoracks and NASA has increased, including the successful onboard demonstration of their robot to the International Space Station last year, the company has decided to facilitate US operations. Prior to launching Gitai in 2016 (under its previous name of MacroSpace), the company’s founder Sho Nakanose previously worked for IBM Japan followed by founding an IT services company in India and sold it to an Indian company. Some of our readers may recall that Yuto Nakanishi, a humanoid scientist/engineer and former CEO of Schaft (acquied by Google X), joined Gitai as COO (now CRO, Chief Robot Officer). Gitai secured $4.1 million US in a Series A round in July of 2019 followed by 1.8 billion yen (about $17 million US in the exchange rate at the time) in a Series B round in March of 2021.

Gitai US Office in Los Angeles
Image credit: Gitai

Tokyo-based Gitai, the Japanese telexistance robotics startup for the space industry, announced last week that it has opened an office in Los Angeles for R&D, manufacturing, and business development. The company will begin recruiting project managers as well as various types of engineers in earnest. They had been conducting all business activities in Tokyo until  now. As collaboration with US agencies and private companies like Nanoracks and NASA has increased, including the successful onboard demonstration of their robot to the International Space Station last year, the company has decided to facilitate US operations.

Prior to launching Gitai in 2016 (under its previous name of MacroSpace), the company’s founder Sho Nakanose previously worked for IBM Japan followed by founding an IT services company in India and sold it to an Indian company. Some of our readers may recall that Yuto Nakanishi, a humanoid scientist/engineer and former CEO of Schaft (acquied by Google X), joined Gitai as COO (now CRO, Chief Robot Officer). Gitai secured $4.1 million US in a Series A round in July of 2019 followed by 1.8 billion yen (about $17 million US in the exchange rate at the time) in a Series B round in March of 2021.

Japan’s AI-powered contract management startup LegalForce secures $100M+ in series D

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Tokyo-based LegalForce announced on Thursday that it has secured approximately 13.7 billion yen (over $101.6 million US) in a Series D round. The round is led by by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 with participation from Sequoia China, Goldman Sachs, WiL (World Innovaion Lab, Mizuho Capital, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, and others. WiL, Mizuho Capital, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital followed their previous investment. The latest round brought the startup’s funding sumup to approximately 17.9 billion yen (over $132.8 million US). LegalForce has been offering two SaaS tools: LegalForce and LegalForce Cabinet. LegalForce uses natural language processing and other technologies to offer functions such as reviewing contracts according the type of agreement, detecting clauses that may be omitted or risky in addition to prevent omissions and oversights. Sine its launch back in April of 2019, the service has been serving more than 2,000 companies and law firms. Regarding LegalForce Cabinet, when you upload contracts/documents into it, its artificial intelligence will automatically read titles, names of contracting parties, and contract expiration date to create a ledger of them. As of June, the service is used by over 450 companies.

The LegalForce team
Image credit: LegalForce

Tokyo-based LegalForce announced on Thursday that it has secured approximately 13.7 billion yen (over $101.6 million US) in a Series D round.

The round is led by by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 with participation from Sequoia China, Goldman Sachs, WiL (World Innovaion Lab, Mizuho Capital, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, and others. WiL, Mizuho Capital, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital followed their previous investment. The latest round brought the startup’s funding sumup to approximately 17.9 billion yen (over $132.8 million US).

LegalForce has been offering two SaaS tools: LegalForce and LegalForce Cabinet.

LegalForce uses natural language processing and other technologies to offer functions such as reviewing contracts according the type of agreement, detecting clauses that may be omitted or risky in addition to prevent omissions and oversights. Sine its launch back in April of 2019, the service has been serving more than 2,000 companies and law firms.

Regarding LegalForce Cabinet, when you upload contracts/documents into it, its artificial intelligence will automatically read titles, names of contracting parties, and contract expiration date to create a ledger of them. As of June, the service is used by over 450 companies.

Wassha raises $8.2M to diversify business beyond power supply in off-grid Africa

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Tokyo-based Wassha, building a retail platform by networking local kiosks in rural Africa, announced on Friday that it has raised $1.14 billion yen (about $8.2 million US) in a series C round. Dai-ichi Life Insurance, Daikin Industries (TSE: 6367), Mistletoe Japan, Yamaha Motor (TSE: 7272), and the University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners (UTEC) participated in this round. UTEC also participated in Wassha’s series A and series B rounds while Daikin Industries, Mistletoe Japan, and Yamaha Motor follow on their investments from the startup’s series B round. The latest round brought their funding sum up to date to approximately 3.5 billion yen (about $26 million yen). Wassha was founded in November of 2013 under its previous name of Digital Grid. The company first started its business with a prepaid solar power delivery service to off-grid areas. In this service, solar panels and rechargeable batteries are installed at affiliated kiosks in rural villages without electricity, and LED lanterns, radios, tablets and other household appliances are provided for rent free of charge. The kiosk rents these appliances to village residents who visit the kiosk and pay fees by mobile to return an empty battery and receive get a charged one on a…

Image credit: Wassha

Tokyo-based Wassha, building a retail platform by networking local kiosks in rural Africa, announced on Friday that it has raised $1.14 billion yen (about $8.2 million US) in a series C round. Dai-ichi Life Insurance, Daikin Industries (TSE: 6367), Mistletoe Japan, Yamaha Motor (TSE: 7272), and the University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners (UTEC) participated in this round.

UTEC also participated in Wassha’s series A and series B rounds while Daikin Industries, Mistletoe Japan, and Yamaha Motor follow on their investments from the startup’s series B round. The latest round brought their funding sum up to date to approximately 3.5 billion yen (about $26 million yen).

Wassha was founded in November of 2013 under its previous name of Digital Grid. The company first started its business with a prepaid solar power delivery service to off-grid areas. In this service, solar panels and rechargeable batteries are installed at affiliated kiosks in rural villages without electricity, and LED lanterns, radios, tablets and other household appliances are provided for rent free of charge. The kiosk rents these appliances to village residents who visit the kiosk and pay fees by mobile to return an empty battery and receive get a charged one on a daily basis. recharge their batteries and pay fee the residents by mobile payments.

Our readers may recall that three investors in the latest round – Daikin Industries, Mistletoe Japan, and Yamaha Motor – announced that each of them would collaboratively work with Wassha when they previously announced their participation in the series B round. With Daikin Industries, Wassha has jointly developed a subscription-based air conditioner rental business in developing countries through Baridi Baridi, a joint venture of the two companies; With Yamaha Motor, Wassha will jointly study a logistics business (a distribution network using motorcycles to connect kiosks); and with Mistletoe Japan, Wassha considers to leverage the kiosk network for the investor’s portoflio startups. Dai-ichi Life says this is a part of their impact investment activities.

First started its service in Tanzania, the company also has now its presence in Uganda and Mozambique, and plans to expand into the Democratic Republic of the Congo within the year. They have so far partnered with more than 5,100 local kiosks. LED lanterns, their flagship product, has been rented 100,000 times per day. Going forward, they plan to leverage their network of the kiosks to provide both social and business services in finance, logistics, and other various areas.

Aquatech startup Umitron secures $9.2M in pre-series B for Nordic, Chile expansion

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Singapore- and Tokyo-based aquatech startup Umitron announced on Tuesday that it has raised 1.22 billion yen (about $9.2 million US) in a pre-series B round from ENEOS Holdings (TSE: 5020), QB Capital, and Toyo Seikan Group Holdings (TSE: 5901). The amount includes debt from Shoko Chukin Bank and other financial institutions. The latest round follows their series A round (raising 1.22 billion yen or $9.2 million US) back in 2018, and brought the funding sum to date up to 2.44 billion yen ($18.4 million US). Since its launch back in April of 2016, Umitron has developed several solutions for aquaculture farming such as Umitron Remora (AI-powered software that can be installed in existing facilities at large-scale aquaculture farms), Umitron Eagle (AI-powered real-time analysis for shrimp farming) as well as Umitron Pulse (web-based ocean satellite data service). The company announced in February that it has partnered with Eneos Holdings, one of the investors participating in this round, to launch joint research on technology applications in blue carbon businesses. Upon this funding, in addition to strengthening the business foundation of its existing and new services and cooperation with the investors, Umitron intends to accelerate its global business expansion for salmon and shrimp…

Umitron Pulse
Image credit: Umitron

Singapore- and Tokyo-based aquatech startup Umitron announced on Tuesday that it has raised 1.22 billion yen (about $9.2 million US) in a pre-series B round from ENEOS Holdings (TSE: 5020), QB Capital, and Toyo Seikan Group Holdings (TSE: 5901). The amount includes debt from Shoko Chukin Bank and other financial institutions. The latest round follows their series A round (raising 1.22 billion yen or $9.2 million US) back in 2018, and brought the funding sum to date up to 2.44 billion yen ($18.4 million US).

Since its launch back in April of 2016, Umitron has developed several solutions for aquaculture farming such as Umitron Remora (AI-powered software that can be installed in existing facilities at large-scale aquaculture farms), Umitron Eagle (AI-powered real-time analysis for shrimp farming) as well as Umitron Pulse (web-based ocean satellite data service). The company announced in February that it has partnered with Eneos Holdings, one of the investors participating in this round, to launch joint research on technology applications in blue carbon businesses.

Upon this funding, in addition to strengthening the business foundation of its existing and new services and cooperation with the investors, Umitron intends to accelerate its global business expansion for salmon and shrimp farming industries. The company has teams in Singapore and Japan, and plans to set up more local subsidiaries and business development teams in the major salmon farming markets such as Nordic countries and Chile, as well as in Southeast Asia, a major shrimp farming market.

5 months after postponed IPO, AI-powered marketing bot developer Zeals secures $38M+

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Zeals is an equity-method affiliate of Freakout Holdings (TSE: 6094) and has developed AI-powered marketing bots for e-commerce companies and others. The company announced on Thursday that it has secured 5 billion yen (over $38 million US) in its latest round. Participating investors are the Japanese government-backed JIC Venture Growth Investments, Z Venture Capital, Japan Post Capital, and Salesforce Ventures. The sum includes debt financing from Mizuho nank and Mitsui UFJ Bank. Zeals was founded in April of 2014 with developing conversational robot software as its core business. In May of 2017, the company officially launched the Fanp chatbot management tool, but later pivoted to interactive advertising using chatbots. Prior to the latest round, they secured a seed round in January of 2015, a Series A round in May of 2017, a Series B round in January of 2018, an extended Series B round in April of 2019, and 1.8 billion yen in April of 2021. The latest round brought their funding sum up to date to over 7.65 billion yen (over $59 million US) including debt. Zeals’ solution allows users to purchase products while conversing with a chatbot, and has been introduced to approximately 400 companies with a total…

Image credit: Zeals

Zeals is an equity-method affiliate of Freakout Holdings (TSE: 6094) and has developed AI-powered marketing bots for e-commerce companies and others. The company announced on Thursday that it has secured 5 billion yen (over $38 million US) in its latest round. Participating investors are the Japanese government-backed JIC Venture Growth Investments, Z Venture Capital, Japan Post Capital, and Salesforce Ventures. The sum includes debt financing from Mizuho nank and Mitsui UFJ Bank.

Zeals was founded in April of 2014 with developing conversational robot software as its core business. In May of 2017, the company officially launched the Fanp chatbot management tool, but later pivoted to interactive advertising using chatbots. Prior to the latest round, they secured a seed round in January of 2015, a Series A round in May of 2017, a Series B round in January of 2018, an extended Series B round in April of 2019, and 1.8 billion yen in April of 2021. The latest round brought their funding sum up to date to over 7.65 billion yen (over $59 million US) including debt.

Zeals’ solution allows users to purchase products while conversing with a chatbot, and has been introduced to approximately 400 companies with a total of 4.3 million end users, which has contributed to analyzing 450 million conversation data sets (as of March of 2021). Leveraging the asset of these data sets, it enables user-oriented communication and supports clients’ marketing strategies.

Zeals’ IPO filing application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers was approved in November, however, the company soon postponed listing procedures due to deteriorating funding trends resulting from changes in U.S. monetary policy, IPO market trends, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The company said it would make a new decision on when to resume the procedures after assessing trends.

In his recent “Note” post, Masahiro Shimizu, founder and CEO of Zeals, revealed that the company’s team has tripled in size from before the COVID-19 pandemic to about 300 people, including about 100 engineers, 80% of whom are foreigners. The company plans to focus on product development, NLG (natural language generation) development, and global expansion, aiming to deliver chatbot-based commerce solutions to 100 million monthly active users by 2030.

See also:

Japan’s Rapyuta Robotics secures $51M in series C round

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Tokyo-, Bangalore-, and Zurich-based Rapyuta Robotics announced last week that it has raised 6.415 billion yen in the latest round, which Crunchbase says appears to be a series C round. This round was led by Goldman Sachs with participation from other unnamed investors. This follows their Series B round (raising JPY 700 million=$5.6 million through Series B1 + Series B2) that closed in July of 2020. The latest round brought their estimated funding sum up to date to 8.9 billion yen (about $70 million). Spun off from ETH Zurich, Rapyuta Robotics was founded in 2014 in Tokyo by CEO Gajan Mohanarajah who earned a master’s degree at Tokyo Institute of Technology followed by Ph.D at ETH Zurich. The company has developed Raputa.io, a cloud-based robotics platform for integrated operation and management of various robots from multiple manufacturers, as well as Raputa PA-AMR (pick assist-autonomous mobile robot) for logistics operations. The company plans to use the funds from the latest round to invest in marketing, partner training, and research and development to strengthen promoting the cloud platform and to accelerate the development of the picking robot solution. In conjunction with the funding, the company launched a promotional campaign which allows logistics…

Rapyuta PA-AMR
Image credit: Rapyuta Robotics

Tokyo-, Bangalore-, and Zurich-based Rapyuta Robotics announced last week that it has raised 6.415 billion yen in the latest round, which Crunchbase says appears to be a series C round. This round was led by Goldman Sachs with participation from other unnamed investors. This follows their Series B round (raising JPY 700 million=$5.6 million through Series B1 + Series B2) that closed in July of 2020. The latest round brought their estimated funding sum up to date to 8.9 billion yen (about $70 million).

Spun off from ETH Zurich, Rapyuta Robotics was founded in 2014 in Tokyo by CEO Gajan Mohanarajah who earned a master’s degree at Tokyo Institute of Technology followed by Ph.D at ETH Zurich. The company has developed Raputa.io, a cloud-based robotics platform for integrated operation and management of various robots from multiple manufacturers, as well as Raputa PA-AMR (pick assist-autonomous mobile robot) for logistics operations.

The company plans to use the funds from the latest round to invest in marketing, partner training, and research and development to strengthen promoting the cloud platform and to accelerate the development of the picking robot solution. In conjunction with the funding, the company launched a promotional campaign which allows logistics businesses, including small and medium-sized warehouses, to use the picking robot on a testing basis to check productivity improvement for low pricing.

via PR Times