THE BRIDGE

The Bridge

The Bridge

The Bridge accepts guest contributions from individuals with special insights into technology or the startup space.

http://www.thebridge.jp

Articles

Venture Capital: why AUM is the wrong metric

SHARE:

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. There’s an old dig that venture capitalists like to make about private equity professionals: private equity folks boast about the size of their ego in AUM, whereas VCs know that what really matters is their IRR. Now let’s define these three-letter words. First, I’m using the word ego as a euphemism here to be gender agnostic (albeit in reality it’s usually only men who tend to make this brag). AUM means assets under management (i.e. the total amount of money in the funds managed by the general partner team). IRR means internal rate of return (i.e. the cash returns distributed to a fund’s investors, annualized). Asset managers care about AUM because it directly translates into guaranteed revenue. Closed-end investment funds…

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.

Image credit: Pixnio

There’s an old dig that venture capitalists like to make about private equity professionals: private equity folks boast about the size of their ego in AUM, whereas VCs know that what really matters is their IRR.

Now let’s define these three-letter words. First, I’m using the word ego as a euphemism here to be gender agnostic (albeit in reality it’s usually only men who tend to make this brag). AUM means assets under management (i.e. the total amount of money in the funds managed by the general partner team). IRR means internal rate of return (i.e. the cash returns distributed to a fund’s investors, annualized).

Asset managers care about AUM because it directly translates into guaranteed revenue. Closed-end investment funds typically follow a “2 and 20 model,” meaning annual management fees of 2% and a share of 20% of the capital gains generated by the fund (aka carried interest). The annual management fees are a direct function of AUM, i.e. 2% of total AUM each year. They are contractually established for the life of the fund, usually 10 years. The carried interest is a direct function of fund performance, i.e. 20% of the capital gains generated by the fund.

Accordingly, a large AUM directly translates into a significant guaranteed revenue stream for the entire life of the fund. A fund manager with $1 billion in AUM is probably receiving around $20 million per year in recurring revenue. A micro VC fund of say $10 million is receiving only $200k per year in recurring revenue via its management fees. 

Risk of misalignment

Since management fees are meant to cover the operations of the fund, excessively high management fees can translate into high salaries for the managing partners, luxurious offices, and lavish parties. Even if the fund’s financial performance is lackluster, a guaranteed annual revenue stream in the double-digit millions for several years makes for a fairly comfortable lifestyle. Do you see where a potential misalignment can emerge?

In contrast, a small VC fund can afford no such excesses. The managers of a small VC fund cannot become wealthy on management fees alone. They must perform. Only by generating significant capital gains on the funds they manage will they be able to generate wealth for themselves via the carried interest mechanism. IRR represents each fund’s financial performance.

For LP investors in private equity or VC funds who care about financial return, IRR is the metric that reflects their financial return, not AUM. So I submit that when a fund manager brags about their AUM, the appropriate rebuttal would be to ask their IRR.

Full disclosure: I too used to be guilty of the AUM flex. As a former GP in a fund that managed nearly $1 billion in AUM, I would often open my introduction at conferences by citing this figure. But over time, I learned that IRR represents my true KPI as a fund manager. IRR is the indicator of how well or how poorly I perform my job. It is not a mathematical anomaly that my best-performing funds have been those with smaller fund sizes, hence lower AUM.

In many ways actually, a propensity to chatter more about AUM than IRR is an indication of the stage of an ecosystem. When the venture market in a given region is still nascent, track records are limited, so the nearest metric people can look for is assets under management. However, once a fund manager has progressed beyond their first vintage, the more the relevant question to ask is, “So what is your IRR?”

Japan’s space debris remover Astroscale secures $109M, brings valuation to $295M

SHARE:

Tokyo-based Astroscale Holdings, the Japanese startup offering space debris removal services, has secured approximately 12.4 billion yen (about $109 million) in a Series F round, which brought the startup’s valuation to 33.4 billion yen (about $295 million). This follows their series E round back in October of last year. Investors participating in the latest round are: DNCA Invest Beyound Global Leaders Environmental Energy Investment Siniphian AXA Life Insurance Innovation Engine OPS Seraphim Space Investment Trust Solaris ESG Master Fund Chiba Dojo Nomura Sparks Investment Prelude Structured Alternatives Master Fund Yamauchi-No.10 Family Office (the family office of Nindendo’s founder) Y’s Investment According to the company, the funding will enable the company’s global growth, including the development of technology for safe and cost-effective on-orbit services and the expansion of its own facilities for mass production in Japan, the UK and the US. Since its Series E round back in October of last year, the company’s workforce has grown by more than 60 percent, reaching about 250 employees globally. The company successfully launched and put into orbit the ELSA-d space debris removal satellite in March, and this month, followed by introducing its docking plate this month, which is designed to be pre-loaded onto…

ELSA-d
Image credit: Astroscale Holdings

Tokyo-based Astroscale Holdings, the Japanese startup offering space debris removal services, has secured approximately 12.4 billion yen (about $109 million) in a Series F round, which brought the startup’s valuation to 33.4 billion yen (about $295 million). This follows their series E round back in October of last year.

Investors participating in the latest round are:

  • DNCA Invest Beyound Global Leaders
  • Environmental Energy Investment
  • Siniphian
  • AXA Life Insurance
  • Innovation Engine
  • OPS
  • Seraphim Space Investment Trust
  • Solaris ESG Master Fund
  • Chiba Dojo
  • Nomura Sparks Investment
  • Prelude Structured Alternatives Master Fund
  • Yamauchi-No.10 Family Office (the family office of Nindendo’s founder)
  • Y’s Investment

According to the company, the funding will enable the company’s global growth, including the development of technology for safe and cost-effective on-orbit services and the expansion of its own facilities for mass production in Japan, the UK and the US.

Since its Series E round back in October of last year, the company’s workforce has grown by more than 60 percent, reaching about 250 employees globally.

The company successfully launched and put into orbit the ELSA-d space debris removal satellite in March, and this month, followed by introducing its docking plate this month, which is designed to be pre-loaded onto low-Earth orbit satellites, one of the main possible sources of space debris.

Blogging as a recruiting tool

SHARE:

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. During a return visit to France last month, I caught up with a successful French entrepreneur (whom I wish I would have backed on his first venture, but that’s another story). Anyway, he opened the conversation with flattery, claiming that I had inspired him. So of course I’m growing suspicious at this point, either expecting a punch line or reconsidering my assessment of his sound judgment. But he wasn’t joking. Rather, he stated that a blog post I wrote several years ago inspired him to adopt a habit which has now given his company a competitive advantage in recruiting talent. Specifically, he was referring to something that I had written way back in 2013: The importance of blogging for entrepreneurs….

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.

Image credit: Pxfuel

During a return visit to France last month, I caught up with a successful French entrepreneur (whom I wish I would have backed on his first venture, but that’s another story). Anyway, he opened the conversation with flattery, claiming that I had inspired him. So of course I’m growing suspicious at this point, either expecting a punch line or reconsidering my assessment of his sound judgment. But he wasn’t joking. Rather, he stated that a blog post I wrote several years ago inspired him to adopt a habit which has now given his company a competitive advantage in recruiting talent.

Specifically, he was referring to something that I had written way back in 2013: The importance of blogging for entrepreneurs.

As I posited back then, regular blogging is about far more than shameless self-promotion; it’s about communication of thoughts, transparency in opinions, and beta-testing ideas with the sounding board of your readers. Regular blogging exercises the muscles of intuition and creativity. It facilitates achieving clarity in your mind’s eye, and it establishes you as a thought leader in your domain.

The fifth benefit I had cited in particular has proven especially relevant to this French entrepreneur I caught up with. Consistent blogging over the years is paying dividends to him now as his most effective recruiting tool.

The market for hiring talent, especially software developers, is insanely competitive right now across Europe, he told me. Startups are finding themselves outbid for developers by deep-pocketed incumbent companies, or increasingly, by other startups who have recently closed on massive fundraising rounds.

By having established his voice over the years through blogging, this guy inadvertently compiled a loyal following of readers who subscribe to the narrative of his ambition. Now, when he posts a job opening, he benefits from a ready-made audience. Better yet, candidates from this audience often prove to fit well culturally, because they’ve already been indoctrinated into his company’s vision over the years.

Blogging is playing a long game. The fruits of it do not appear immediately, causing many people to abandon it prematurely. Yet this entrepreneur is now reaping the rewards of his long-term investment. Given today’s war for talent, by accelerating the recruiting process and attracting individuals who are already on board with his project, the returns are astronomical.

Granted, the world has changed in the 8 years since I originally wrote that piece on the powers of blogging. There are other ways to evangelize and build a following as an entrepreneur. Podcasting, for example.

Creating something that does not rely on the approval of others can offer limitless upside. Naval Ravikant refers to this concept as permissionless leverage.

I like this articulation and will adopt it too.

Why I tend to prefer equity rounds over notes

SHARE:

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. All but two of my last 10 investments have taken the form of straight equity. Furthermore, all of the deals in which Shizen Capital was lead investor over the past two years have also been for equity rounds. In this post I will lay out the reasons that I prefer equity rounds to convertible notes or SAFE notes in early stage venture investments. For simplicity here, I will use the generic term note to encompass any type of non-equity instrument that is convertible into a startup’s equity in the future based on certain conditions. This includes therefore classic convertible notes as well as SAFE and JKISS notes. [Note: there are some key distinctions in the implementation; notably, SAFE and JKISS…

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.

Modified from a Pixabay image

All but two of my last 10 investments have taken the form of straight equity. Furthermore, all of the deals in which Shizen Capital was lead investor over the past two years have also been for equity rounds. In this post I will lay out the reasons that I prefer equity rounds to convertible notes or SAFE notes in early stage venture investments.

For simplicity here, I will use the generic term note to encompass any type of non-equity instrument that is convertible into a startup’s equity in the future based on certain conditions. This includes therefore classic convertible notes as well as SAFE and JKISS notes. [Note: there are some key distinctions in the implementation; notably, SAFE and JKISS notes generally behave more like warrants than debt, in that they typically do not carry an interest rate nor a maturity date).

My preference for investing with equity rather than a note center on two of the guiding principles we hold dear at Shizen Capital when partnering with founders: alignment and transparency.

First, let’s revisit why notes can seem more alluring than a priced equity round

  1. they are less costly and more expedient to implement from a legal perspective
  2. they sidestep a difficult negotiation over valuation
  3. they can surmount a conflict of interest for investors during an internal round
  4. they grant investors additional optionality and seniority in the financing of the company

Now let’s discuss these characteristics one by one:

True, a note agreement is simply a contract between two parties: the investor (as note-holder) and the startup. At a future point, the note converts into equity or is reimbursed, based on conditions defined in the agreement.

Since no equity is being issued at the time of a note financing, corporate formalities and legal filings are unnecessary. There is no need to update the articles of association, draft a shareholders agreement, or make any formal filings. The investor could even dispense with hiring a lawyer entirely for such a transaction, thus saving fees (the founders could do so as well, though I personally recommend founders seek at least some minimum level of legal counsel). However, once the future hoped-for equity round materializes, all of these aforementioned legal formalities will become necessary.

SAFE notes can be fast but only if the investor moves fast

In theory, transactions with notes (again, including SAFE’s and JKISS’s here) are faster to implement then equity rounds. In theory. If handled deftly, a straightforward equity investment should take a few weeks to implement. A note, in contrast, can be implemented within a few days (especially a SAFE or JKISS, which are based on a standard template). However, I find it cringe-worthy all too often to hear founders lament to me about how their fundraising efforts via a note are dragging out for weeks or months. I admittedly have not performed a scientific analysis on this, but anecdotally my observations are that weeks or months of note discussions are not uncommon in many regions outside of Silicon Valley.

Postponing uncomfortable conversations

Sidestepping a difficult negotiation on valuation can also be an appealing feature of financing via a note, which does not place a price on the equity of the company at the time of the transaction. If a founder and investor cannot agree on valuation at the time of the fundraising, a note postpones this uncomfortable conversation on price.

The distinction between convertible notes and SAFE notes becomes relevant here. While a convertible note often eliminates any reference to valuation, a SAFE note by its very construction usually contains a valuation cap. This valuation cap does not represent the valuation of the company at the time, but it does require some negotiated consensus between the parties, and it also lays the groundwork for future signaling to the market.

Transparency

Furthermore, this is where the principle of transparency comes in. Postponing the uncomfortable valuation conversation is simply kicking the can down the road. Eventually this conversation has to take place, and the stakes will likely be much higher in the future than today. Moreover, numerous other unexpected consequences can arise from this approach. Because I’ve seen this play out across a vast number of companies over the years, often to the detriment of founders, I feel that in the spirit of transparency I have an obligation to alert founders to what I’ve witnessed. [Note: I’ve raised the alarm in detail on this issue here. And here is the Japanese version of the same piece]

Internal rounds

For most professional VC funds, internal rounds can raise compliance issues if not done properly. For avoidance of doubt, by internal round I mean a future financing round of a startup where no significant external parties invest in the company. A VC fund refinancing one of its existing portfolio companies without an external market participant would be required to justify the subsequent valuation if the new round is priced in equity, reflecting an inherent conflict of interest. Employing a convertible note (often structured as a convertible bridge loan in these instances) can surmount this issue

Risk of misalignment

Lastly, financing via a note naturally grants the investor an additional degree of optionality and potentially even seniority in the fundraising.

Let’s start with the notion of seniority (more flagrant in convertible notes than in SAFE or JKISS notes). From an investor’s perspective, sitting senior to all the shareholders in a company offers the best of both worlds: if things go well, convert and reap the upside; if things don’t go well, redeem for your money back plus interest, even if it throws the company into financial distress. Accordingly, the terms of a convertible note document matter. Founders need to review the fine print before entering into one.

The notion of optionality is a bit more nuanced. As a VC, I welcome optionality; in fact I actively seek it out for sound portfolio management. However, I want the founders into whom I invest to fully understand the implications of it in the case of notes. Let’s illustrate with a simple example: the VC invests 50 million yen in a seed round via a SAFE note that contains a 20% discount and a 400 million yen valuation cap. When it’s time for the Series A, the respective interests of the investor and founder diverge due to a slight misalignment. The founder’s proximate incentive is to boost the valuation of the series A higher, and preferably high enough to neutralize the discount, i.e. above 500M¥. In contrast, the investor’s incentive favors a lower valuation, because the lower the valuation of the Series A, the greater the number of shares into which the investor’s note will convert. Had the seed round been raised as a priced equity round rather than via a note, both founder and investor would be aligned in the dilution they would face from the future Series A.

I am not ideologically opposed to investing notes. Here at Shizen Capital we approach every prospective investment as a long-term relationship. Accordingly, we believe that the better we can align incentives and act with transparency with the founders we back, the healthier and more fruitful our collective partnership will be.

Japan curated news app SmartNews secures $230M in series F at $2B valuation

SHARE:

SmartNews announced on Wednesday that it has raised US$230 million in a Series F round. This brings the company’s total amount raised to date to over US$400 million, and its valuation up to US$2 billion, the highest for a single news app, securing its “double unicorn” status. This follows the close of their previous series E round announced 22 months ago. Participating investors in this round include Princeville Capital and Woodline Partners from the US, JIC Venture Growth Investments, Green Co-Invest Investment, and Yamauchi No.10 Family Office (by Nintendo founder’s family) from Japan in addition to existing investors like ACA Investments and SMBC Venture Capital. According to AppAnnie’s monthly average usage of mobile apps for iOS and Android in the U.S., SmartNews ranked first with 4.7 hours, followed by FlipBoard (4.5 hours) in the second as well as Google News (2.9 hours) and Apple News (0.8 hours). Futhermore, the number of monthly active users has doubled since 2019 (as of 2019, the total number of users in the US and Japan was 20 million). SmartNews plans to use the additional funding to double its headcount in the U.S. (currently 500 staffers globally) and add engineers and leaders, especially in Silicon…

SmartNews announced on Wednesday that it has raised US$230 million in a Series F round. This brings the company’s total amount raised to date to over US$400 million, and its valuation up to US$2 billion, the highest for a single news app, securing its “double unicorn” status. This follows the close of their previous series E round announced 22 months ago.

Participating investors in this round include Princeville Capital and Woodline Partners from the US, JIC Venture Growth Investments, Green Co-Invest Investment, and Yamauchi No.10 Family Office (by Nintendo founder’s family) from Japan in addition to existing investors like ACA Investments and SMBC Venture Capital.

According to AppAnnie’s monthly average usage of mobile apps for iOS and Android in the U.S., SmartNews ranked first with 4.7 hours, followed by FlipBoard (4.5 hours) in the second as well as Google News (2.9 hours) and Apple News (0.8 hours). Futhermore, the number of monthly active users has doubled since 2019 (as of 2019, the total number of users in the US and Japan was 20 million).

SmartNews plans to use the additional funding to double its headcount in the U.S. (currently 500 staffers globally) and add engineers and leaders, especially in Silicon Valley, New York, and San Francisco. The company will also expand its dashboard on the COVID-19 vaccine and its “News From All Sides” feature which gives users easy access to a wide range of political views.

See also:

Teatis closes seed round with $700K, offering meal replacement for diabetic Americans

SHARE:

Launched by Japanese serial entrepreneur Hiroshi Takatoh, Teatis offers meal replacement / superfood powders for diabetic consumers mainly in the US. The company announced on Friday that it has secured $700,000 in a seed round. Participating in the round are Genesia Ventures, Ryo Ishizuka (co-founder of Japanese C2C company Mercari), Takuya Noguchi (founder of Japanese men’s skincare D2C brand Bulk Homme), and seven unnamed angel investors. This round follows the company’s angel round announced in June and brings their total funding amount up to over $1 million. Noguchi participated in the previous round. Focusing on diabetes, one of the most common lifestyle-related diseases among people today, Teatis started offering meal replacements, which contain a lot of superfood ingredients such as seaweed polyphenols, in the US, where about 120 million people are said to have pre- and diabetes. When dissolved in water, it can be drunk as a smoothie or latte with a focus to help curb blood sugar spike, contains no chemicals nor sweeteners but seaweed extract which has been proven to inhibit the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract and help maintain normal blood sugar levels. Prior to the official launch, Takatoh revealed Teatis already had about 4,000…

Image credit: Teatis

Launched by Japanese serial entrepreneur Hiroshi Takatoh, Teatis offers meal replacement / superfood powders for diabetic consumers mainly in the US. The company announced on Friday that it has secured $700,000 in a seed round. Participating in the round are Genesia Ventures, Ryo Ishizuka (co-founder of Japanese C2C company Mercari), Takuya Noguchi (founder of Japanese men’s skincare D2C brand Bulk Homme), and seven unnamed angel investors. This round follows the company’s angel round announced in June and brings their total funding amount up to over $1 million. Noguchi participated in the previous round.

Focusing on diabetes, one of the most common lifestyle-related diseases among people today, Teatis started offering meal replacements, which contain a lot of superfood ingredients such as seaweed polyphenols, in the US, where about 120 million people are said to have pre- and diabetes. When dissolved in water, it can be drunk as a smoothie or latte with a focus to help curb blood sugar spike, contains no chemicals nor sweeteners but seaweed extract which has been proven to inhibit the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract and help maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Prior to the official launch, Takatoh revealed Teatis already had about 4,000 pre-registered users in June. Asked these users a try, the company received a lot of feedback that they felt it helped control elevated blood sugar levels. In September, they plan to launch a platform called Teatis RD on Demand, aiming to give users nutrition advice by registered dietitians.

via PR Newswire

Japan biotech firm Spiber nabs $310M to offer protein polymers to apparel brand

SHARE:

Spiber has been developing plant-based artificial protein fiber material called Brewed Protein. The Japanese startup announced on Wednesday that it has secured 24.4 billion yen (about $218 million) in funding from investors including Carlyle, Fidelity International, Baillie Gifford, and the Japanese Government-backed Cool Japan Fund plus 10 billion yen (about $91 million) utilizing a value securitization structure. The structure was arranged by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities with participation from unnamed initial lender(s) and investor(s). For the startup, this follows their $240 million funding announced in January which was arranged by the same securities company with participation from The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ as the initial lender and a credit investor. Spiber was founded in 2007 as a spin-off from the Institute for Advanced Biosciences at Keio University in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. Since its incorporating, the company has to date secured an estimated total amount of over 70 billion yen (about $6.4 million) in past rounds, and is reportedly valued at 133 billion yen ($1.2 billion). Initially focused on spider silk which is said to be the strongest material on earth, the company had been developing a man-made synthetic fiber material called Qmonos. However, although the protein fibroin in…

Brewed Protein
Image credit: Spiber

Spiber has been developing plant-based artificial protein fiber material called Brewed Protein. The Japanese startup announced on Wednesday that it has secured 24.4 billion yen (about $218 million) in funding from investors including Carlyle, Fidelity International, Baillie Gifford, and the Japanese Government-backed Cool Japan Fund plus 10 billion yen (about $91 million) utilizing a value securitization structure.

The structure was arranged by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities with participation from unnamed initial lender(s) and investor(s). For the startup, this follows their $240 million funding announced in January which was arranged by the same securities company with participation from The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ as the initial lender and a credit investor.

Spiber was founded in 2007 as a spin-off from the Institute for Advanced Biosciences at Keio University in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. Since its incorporating, the company has to date secured an estimated total amount of over 70 billion yen (about $6.4 million) in past rounds, and is reportedly valued at 133 billion yen ($1.2 billion).

Initially focused on spider silk which is said to be the strongest material on earth, the company had been developing a man-made synthetic fiber material called Qmonos. However, although the protein fibroin in spider silk is strong, it causes super shrinkage when wet, making it difficult to maintain the dimensional stability of products made from the material. Subsequently the startup succeeded to develop a protein fiber with high dimensional stability by removing the amino acid sequence features causing shrinkage from the fibroin gene, and rebranded Qmonos into Brewed Protein.

The new material is produced by microbial fermentation from plant-based sugars such as glucose and sucrose, which does not require any petroleum-derived material at all. It attracts huge attention because of many use cases: a microplastic-free and non-animal-derived material in the apparel industry, contributing to weight reduction in the logistics industry, a next-generation core material for artificial hair in the medical industry.

The biotech firm is currently working on a joint project with an undisclosed global apparel brand using Brewed Protein. In order to meet the brand’s demand, the firm is planning to launch its first mass-production plant in Rayong, Thailand by the end of this year, followed promptly by another plant in the U.S.

via PR Times

Japanese robotics startup Telexistence closes series A round with $40M+

SHARE:

Tokyo-based Telexistence, the Japanese startup developing remote-controlled robots, announced today that it has secured about 2.2 billion yen (about $20 million US) in a series A2 round. Participating investors include Airbus Ventures, KDDI Open Innovation Fund (KOIF), Deepcore, UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), and several unnamed investors, in addition to Monoful, a digital transformation-focused subsidiary of global logistics giant GLP. This follows a previous round (estimated to be series A1) in December of 2018 when some of the investors participating in the latest round such as KOIF, UTokyo IPC, Deepcore, and Monoful also participated. With the Series A1 (previous round) and A2 (the latest round) rounds combined, the company has secured about 4.5 billion yen (over $40 million US) in a series A round. Telexistence has been developing tele-controlled robots using a variety of technologies including tele-presence, robotics, communications, virtual reality (VR), haptics, and artificial intelligence (AI). They plan to use the funds to expand its product development team as well as accelerating product development and implementation to the expanding customer base in the retail and logistics sectors. The company has partnered with Monoful to develop the Augmented Workforce Platform (AWP) for logistics facility operations. AWP allows operators to control…

The Model-T robot
Image credit: Telexistence

Tokyo-based Telexistence, the Japanese startup developing remote-controlled robots, announced today that it has secured about 2.2 billion yen (about $20 million US) in a series A2 round. Participating investors include Airbus Ventures, KDDI Open Innovation Fund (KOIF), Deepcore, UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), and several unnamed investors, in addition to Monoful, a digital transformation-focused subsidiary of global logistics giant GLP.

This follows a previous round (estimated to be series A1) in December of 2018 when some of the investors participating in the latest round such as KOIF, UTokyo IPC, Deepcore, and Monoful also participated. With the Series A1 (previous round) and A2 (the latest round) rounds combined, the company has secured about 4.5 billion yen (over $40 million US) in a series A round.

Telexistence has been developing tele-controlled robots using a variety of technologies including tele-presence, robotics, communications, virtual reality (VR), haptics, and artificial intelligence (AI). They plan to use the funds to expand its product development team as well as accelerating product development and implementation to the expanding customer base in the retail and logistics sectors.

The company has partnered with Monoful to develop the Augmented Workforce Platform (AWP) for logistics facility operations. AWP allows operators to control robots installed in warehouses via the Internet and participate in tasks such as loading and unloading pallets while operators are working from home.

The company also announced that it has tied up with Japanese office furniture giant Okamura Corporation (TSE:7984) for joint research and development of fixture products optimized for carrying and displaying by robots.

Japan crowdfunding site Makuake sets up shop in Korea, targets $13M+ in deals by mid-2022

SHARE:

Japanese crowdfunding platform Makuake (TSE:4479) announced on Thursday that it has set up a subsidiary and an office in Korea as the first one outside its home turf. They expect to help Korean companies expand into the Japanese market by encouraging the latter to launch campaigns on the platform. They appointed their global team manager MiRyeong Kim as the head of a local subsidiary in Korea. Prior to Makuake, Kim finished her master’s degree in economics at Kyoto University and then participated in establishing an overseas subsidiary of CyberZ. She won the Newcomer Award at CyberAgent (TSE:4751), the former parent company of the crowdfunding platform. She contributed to founding the global team at Makuake, having been focused on curating overseas projects from Taiwan, Korea, and China. In 2017, Makuake partnered with the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) to help curate applicants for crowdfunding campaigns from Korea. Subsequently, the company partnered with Korean counterpart Wadiz to send campaign hosts to each other in 2018. It has helped about 600 projects from Korea including Bluetooth-compatible speaker table Mellow (securing about $219,000 through two campaigns) and laser rangefinder VH-80 (over $91,000). Makuake targets over $13 million in transacting crowdfunding campaigns from Korea by…

MiRyeong Kim, Head of Makuake Korea
Image credit: Makuake

Japanese crowdfunding platform Makuake (TSE:4479) announced on Thursday that it has set up a subsidiary and an office in Korea as the first one outside its home turf. They expect to help Korean companies expand into the Japanese market by encouraging the latter to launch campaigns on the platform. They appointed their global team manager MiRyeong Kim as the head of a local subsidiary in Korea.

Prior to Makuake, Kim finished her master’s degree in economics at Kyoto University and then participated in establishing an overseas subsidiary of CyberZ. She won the Newcomer Award at CyberAgent (TSE:4751), the former parent company of the crowdfunding platform. She contributed to founding the global team at Makuake, having been focused on curating overseas projects from Taiwan, Korea, and China.

In 2017, Makuake partnered with the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) to help curate applicants for crowdfunding campaigns from Korea. Subsequently, the company partnered with Korean counterpart Wadiz to send campaign hosts to each other in 2018. It has helped about 600 projects from Korea including Bluetooth-compatible speaker table Mellow (securing about $219,000 through two campaigns) and laser rangefinder VH-80 (over $91,000).

Makuake targets over $13 million in transacting crowdfunding campaigns from Korea by June next year. Earlier this year, the company partnered with US-based crowdfunding giant Indiegogo to help Japanese startups expand into the US and global markets.

Japanese public blockchain developer Stake Technologies secures $10M

SHARE:

See the original story in Japanese. Stake Technologies, the leading developer of Made-in-Japan public blockchains such as Plasm Network and Shiden Network, announced today that it has secured 1.1 billion yen (about $10 million US) from Fenbushi Capital, Gumi Crypto, East Ventures, and other notable investors. Since its founding in 2019, the company has been conducting consistent research and development of public blockchains, having de and developing Japan’s first public blockchains, Plasm Network and Shiden Network. Japan lags far behind Europe, the U.S. and China in public blockchain, a technology that will be the foundation for the next generation of industry. However, the company has the potential to break through that status quo. The investors in this round include some of the global leading crypto and blockchain VCs from the US, China, and Europe, as well as several leading Japanese VCs and angels. From Japan, East Ventures, Gumi Crypto, Hotlink founder Yuki Uchiyama, Keio University economics professor Toyotaka Sakai, and former Sony chairman and CEO Nobuyuki Idei participated. The funds raised will be used for accelerating product development, hiring new talents as well as expending public blockchain ecosystem.

See the original story in Japanese.

Stake Technologies, the leading developer of Made-in-Japan public blockchains such as Plasm Network and Shiden Network, announced today that it has secured 1.1 billion yen (about $10 million US) from Fenbushi Capital, Gumi Crypto, East Ventures, and other notable investors.

Since its founding in 2019, the company has been conducting consistent research and development of public blockchains, having de and developing Japan’s first public blockchains, Plasm Network and Shiden Network. Japan lags far behind Europe, the U.S. and China in public blockchain, a technology that will be the foundation for the next generation of industry. However, the company has the potential to break through that status quo.

The investors in this round include some of the global leading crypto and blockchain VCs from the US, China, and Europe, as well as several leading Japanese VCs and angels. From Japan, East Ventures, Gumi Crypto, Hotlink founder Yuki Uchiyama, Keio University economics professor Toyotaka Sakai, and former Sony chairman and CEO Nobuyuki Idei participated.

The funds raised will be used for accelerating product development, hiring new talents as well as expending public blockchain ecosystem.