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Japanese public blockchain developer Stake Technologies secures $10M

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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.

Parallel, Japan’s answer to Discord, secures $11M series B for global expansion

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Tokyo-based Parallel, the Japanese startup behind a voice chat app under the same name, announced today that it has secured 1.2 billion yen (about $11 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors are Jafco Group (TSE:8595), KDDI Open Innovation Fund, Anri, W ventures, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital. The startup will use the funds to strengthen engineering and marketing teams. Founded in July of 2017 as its previous name of React, Parallel has secured a pre-series A and series A round without disclosing detailed terms to date. They launched the Parallel app back in August of 2019 which is so to speak the mobile-optimized version of Discord and targets mobile game users. It boasts a cumulative total of one million registered users and over 400 million minutes of total monthly talk time. When it comes to a voice chat app for gamers, many of our readers may recall Discord but their users had been forced to use a web browser that were not guaranteed to work properly until it launched an official mobile app about half a year ago. In addition, Discord has some problems such as difficulty in understanding the status of other users as well as inability…

Image credit: Parallel

Tokyo-based Parallel, the Japanese startup behind a voice chat app under the same name, announced today that it has secured 1.2 billion yen (about $11 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors are Jafco Group (TSE:8595), KDDI Open Innovation Fund, Anri, W ventures, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital. The startup will use the funds to strengthen engineering and marketing teams.

Founded in July of 2017 as its previous name of React, Parallel has secured a pre-series A and series A round without disclosing detailed terms to date. They launched the Parallel app back in August of 2019 which is so to speak the mobile-optimized version of Discord and targets mobile game users. It boasts a cumulative total of one million registered users and over 400 million minutes of total monthly talk time.

Image credit: Parallel

When it comes to a voice chat app for gamers, many of our readers may recall Discord but their users had been forced to use a web browser that were not guaranteed to work properly until it launched an official mobile app about half a year ago. In addition, Discord has some problems such as difficulty in understanding the status of other users as well as inability to hear the game sound when talking with someone.

Parallel’s users have been mainly Generation Z and gamers, but the company plans to create a hangout space where users can enjoy content while sharing time with friends, family, and loved ones in everyday situations such as movies, live performances, listening to music, and shopping. In addition to the development of new functions, the company will also work on strategic alliances with entertainment companies and full-scale overseas expansion.

Secai Marche nabs $1.4M to extend food supply chain connecting farmers with F&B in Asia

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Tokyo- / Kuala Lumpur-based Secai Marche, the Japanese startup behind a shared food supply chain for the Southeast Asian market under the same name, announced on Tuesday that it has secured 150 million yen (about $1.4 million US) from Beyond Next Ventures and Rakuten Ventures. The company plans to use the funds to strengthen its fresh food fulfillment service, hire new talents, and enhance its marketing effort. Since its launch back in July of 2018, the company has been offering a cold supply chain connecting farmers and food producers with F&B businesses in the Southeast Asian market, especially optimized for the delivery of low-volume and high-mix orders. Supply chains for fresh produce in the region is usually operated by the supplier side, which are optimized for bulk deliveries and therefore difficult to use it for small restaurants which typically ask for small orders or niche needs. The company wants to solve the problem by building a shared supply chain allowing several different food suppliers to use for delivery. The company says more than 100 farmers and food producers in Japan and ASEAN as well as more than 300 restaurants and hotels are using the 20-month-old platform. In view of optimized…

The Secai Marche team
Image credit: Secai Marche

Tokyo- / Kuala Lumpur-based Secai Marche, the Japanese startup behind a shared food supply chain for the Southeast Asian market under the same name, announced on Tuesday that it has secured 150 million yen (about $1.4 million US) from Beyond Next Ventures and Rakuten Ventures. The company plans to use the funds to strengthen its fresh food fulfillment service, hire new talents, and enhance its marketing effort.

Since its launch back in July of 2018, the company has been offering a cold supply chain connecting farmers and food producers with F&B businesses in the Southeast Asian market, especially optimized for the delivery of low-volume and high-mix orders.

Supply chains for fresh produce in the region is usually operated by the supplier side, which are optimized for bulk deliveries and therefore difficult to use it for small restaurants which typically ask for small orders or niche needs. The company wants to solve the problem by building a shared supply chain allowing several different food suppliers to use for delivery.

The company says more than 100 farmers and food producers in Japan and ASEAN as well as more than 300 restaurants and hotels are using the 20-month-old platform.

In view of optimized fresh food supply chain startups in the region, Thailand’s Freshket raised US$3 million in a Series A round last year, Y Combinator Alumni Eden Farm from Indonesia won a pre-Series A round in March this year, and Singapore-based Glife raised US$1.18 million in a seed round in 2019.

via PR Times

UTokyo-related VC firm UTEC raises $275M fifth fund, launches acceleration program

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The University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners (UTEC) announced on Monday that it has launched its fifth fund. The firm made the first close of the fund which is eventually expected to secure up to 30 billion yen (about $275 million US). The fund’s investors have not been disclosed but Nikkei says the majority of them are institutional investors including sovereign wealth funds from Southeast Asia. The fund’s ticket size is up to 2.5 billion yen ($22.9 million US) per investment and company. Since its launch back in 2004, UTEC has been running five funds worth 85 billion yen ($780 million US) in the total commitment amount. It has invested in more than 110 companies, 13 of which have IPO-ed and 12 of which have been acquired by other companies. The total market cap of the IPO-ed 13 companies reached 1.5 trillion yen ($13.7 billion US) as of December 2020. The fund can invest in startups at various stages while we may recall recent funding from the fund such as Startbahn (blockchain-based certificate issuing for art) and Kuzen (no-code interactive AI platform). UTEC also announced that it has launched the UTEC Founders Program (UFP), an open-ended support program for startups…

The University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners (UTEC) announced on Monday that it has launched its fifth fund. The firm made the first close of the fund which is eventually expected to secure up to 30 billion yen (about $275 million US). The fund’s investors have not been disclosed but Nikkei says the majority of them are institutional investors including sovereign wealth funds from Southeast Asia. The fund’s ticket size is up to 2.5 billion yen ($22.9 million US) per investment and company.

Since its launch back in 2004, UTEC has been running five funds worth 85 billion yen ($780 million US) in the total commitment amount. It has invested in more than 110 companies, 13 of which have IPO-ed and 12 of which have been acquired by other companies. The total market cap of the IPO-ed 13 companies reached 1.5 trillion yen ($13.7 billion US) as of December 2020. The fund can invest in startups at various stages while we may recall recent funding from the fund such as Startbahn (blockchain-based certificate issuing for art) and Kuzen (no-code interactive AI platform).

UTEC also announced that it has launched the UTEC Founders Program (UFP), an open-ended support program for startups in the science and technology fields. The program consists of two tracks: the Equity Track, which provides up to 100 million yen in equity investment, and the Grant Track, which provides up to 5 million yen in grant. Equity Track applications are accepted at all times while Grant Track ones will be accepted from June 15 to July 31.

Japan’s Axelspace nabs $24M series C, all set to put 10 nanosats into orbits

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Axelspace Holdings, the parent company of nano-satellite developer Axelspace, announced on Friday that it has secured approximately 2.58 billion yen (about $23.6 million US) in a Series C round. Participating invesotors are Sparx Innovation for Future, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Investment, JP Investment, 31 Ventures-Global Brain Growth I LLC (jointly operated by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), Kyocera, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital. For the satellite startup, this follows their Series A round in September 2015 and Series B round in December 2018. The 31 Ventures-Global Brain-Growth I fund participated in the series B round as well. The latest round brought the company’s total funding sum to date up to more than 7 billion yen (about $64 million US). Axelspace was spun off from the University of Tokyo and incorporated as a company in 2008. The company has been developing small and inexpensive satellites weighing some 60 kilograms, and launched satellites outsourced from Japanese weather company Weathernews (TSE:4825). Leveraging these low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites, Axelspace plans to collect weather and terrain data to sell to governmental organizations and private businesses. Launching a conventional satellite usually costs tens of millions of dollars, but the cost of a nano-satellites can be reduced to less…

The Axelspace management team. From left: CTO Naoki Miyashita, CSO Yoshihiro Ohta, CBO Yasunori Yamazaki, CEO Tomoya Nakamura, CPO Yusuke Nakanishi, and CFO / CHORO Hiroki Aomoto
Image credit: Axelspace

Axelspace Holdings, the parent company of nano-satellite developer Axelspace, announced on Friday that it has secured approximately 2.58 billion yen (about $23.6 million US) in a Series C round. Participating invesotors are Sparx Innovation for Future, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Investment, JP Investment, 31 Ventures-Global Brain Growth I LLC (jointly operated by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), Kyocera, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital.

For the satellite startup, this follows their Series A round in September 2015 and Series B round in December 2018. The 31 Ventures-Global Brain-Growth I fund participated in the series B round as well. The latest round brought the company’s total funding sum to date up to more than 7 billion yen (about $64 million US).

Axelspace was spun off from the University of Tokyo and incorporated as a company in 2008. The company has been developing small and inexpensive satellites weighing some 60 kilograms, and launched satellites outsourced from Japanese weather company Weathernews (TSE:4825). Leveraging these low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites, Axelspace plans to collect weather and terrain data to sell to governmental organizations and private businesses. Launching a conventional satellite usually costs tens of millions of dollars, but the cost of a nano-satellites can be reduced to less than $10 million, making it possible to build a constellation system for earth observation with multiple nano-satellites.

In 2015 the company announced AxelGlobe, the earth observation infrastructure which will provide imagery of more than half of the planet’s dry land once every single day. The infrastructure is composed of several nano-satellites, five of which have already been launched, and the goal is to have ten in the future. Since the latest round has paved the way for the initial target of 10 satellites, the company established the AxelGlobe Business Unit to promote the widespread use of satellite data and implement it into many aspects of our society.

Japan’s Hacobu secures $8.7M to use big data for optimizing B2B logistics

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Tokyo-based Hacobu, a business-to-business logistics optimization startup, has announced that it has secured 940 million yen (about $8.7 million US) in its latest round of funding. Participating investors are JIC Venture Growth Investments (JIC VGI), NN Corporate Capital (Investment arm of Nomura Real Estate Holdings), Toyota Tsusho (TSE:8015), Logistics Innovation Fund (Spiral (TSE:8015), Logistics Innovation Fund (a sector-focused fund managed by Spiral Capital and ledby Seino Holdings as an anchor limited partner), SMBC Venture Capital, Daiwa House Group’s Daiwa Logitech, and Mitsui Fudosan (TSE:8801). For the startup, this round follows 160 million yen funding in November of 2016, 140 million yen funding in November of 2017, and 400 million yen funding in April of 2019. Among the investors participating in the latest round round, Daiwa Logitech and Mitsui Fudosan followed their previous investments made in September of 2017 and September of 2019 respectively. The latest rounding brought the company’s funding sum to date up to at least 1.64 billion yen ($15.2 million). Hacobu was founded in May 2016 by CEO Taro Sasaki who had been previously working as a consultant on a project for Morinaga Milk where he faced with the challenge of how to improve the logistics efficiency of…

Image credit: Hacobu

Tokyo-based Hacobu, a business-to-business logistics optimization startup, has announced that it has secured 940 million yen (about $8.7 million US) in its latest round of funding. Participating investors are JIC Venture Growth Investments (JIC VGI), NN Corporate Capital (Investment arm of Nomura Real Estate Holdings), Toyota Tsusho (TSE:8015), Logistics Innovation Fund (Spiral (TSE:8015), Logistics Innovation Fund (a sector-focused fund managed by Spiral Capital and ledby Seino Holdings as an anchor limited partner), SMBC Venture Capital, Daiwa House Group’s Daiwa Logitech, and Mitsui Fudosan (TSE:8801).

For the startup, this round follows 160 million yen funding in November of 2016, 140 million yen funding in November of 2017, and 400 million yen funding in April of 2019. Among the investors participating in the latest round round, Daiwa Logitech and Mitsui Fudosan followed their previous investments made in September of 2017 and September of 2019 respectively. The latest rounding brought the company’s funding sum to date up to at least 1.64 billion yen ($15.2 million).

Hacobu was founded in May 2016 by CEO Taro Sasaki who had been previously working as a consultant on a project for Morinaga Milk where he faced with the challenge of how to improve the logistics efficiency of the milk company’s 10 logistics subsidiaries in Japan, which led to developing a shared logistics platform called Movo.

They offer the platform to more than 500 companies including manufacturers, retailers, and logistics providers all across Japan. Thanks to the cloud and hardware such as the IoT devices managing moving vehicles, the company solves problems like vehicle dispatch (as an integrated logistics management solution, solves the problem of the difficulty of finding trucks to dispatch), operation management (solves the problem of not knowing location information of the trucks), and berth management (solves the problem of using trucks efficiently because of waiting time).

The startup will use the funds to hire talents for the development and sales of the application, strengthen logistics big data analysis infrastructure, and launch and operate big data governance system. They expect to accelerate their progress toward solving social issues such as long working hours at logistics sites, carbon emissions, inventory disposal, and food waste through the optimization of logistics and supply chains.

Insurance giant Sompo buys 21.9% stake in Google-backed deep learning startup Abeja

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Tokyo-based Abeja announced that it has formed a capital and business alliance with Japanese insurance giant Sompo Holdings (TSE:8630). Sompo acquired 21.9% of the outstanding shares from Abeja’s five existing shareholders: INCJ, Salesforce.com, Mizuho Capital Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, and Itochu (TSE:8001). The startup became an affiliate of the insurance conglomerate. Founded in September of 2012, Abeja has provided their AI-powered analytics suite Abeja Platform companies while more than a few stores have adopted Abeja Insight for Retail, their retail industry store analysis solution. To date, the company has secured over 6 billion yen (about $55 million) from domestic VC firms in addition to global tech giants like Google and Nvidia. Meanwhile, Sompo invested US$500 million in Palantir Technologies (NYSE: PLTR), the data analytics startup well known to have been founded by Peter Thiel, in June 2020 prior to its listing so that the former is poised to adopt the latter’s data integration and analysis platform. Since last year, Abeja has been working with Sompo to develop predictive models and other joint businesses based on data analysis machine learning, especially in the areas of nursing care, healthcare, and domestic non-life insurance businesses. Sompo has been considering to develop “real data platform…

Abeja CEOYosuke Okada explains about Abeja Platform Partner Ecosystem
(Photographed at Docomo Innovation Village in November of 2016)
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Tokyo-based Abeja announced that it has formed a capital and business alliance with Japanese insurance giant Sompo Holdings (TSE:8630). Sompo acquired 21.9% of the outstanding shares from Abeja’s five existing shareholders: INCJ, Salesforce.com, Mizuho Capital Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, and Itochu (TSE:8001). The startup became an affiliate of the insurance conglomerate.

Founded in September of 2012, Abeja has provided their AI-powered analytics suite Abeja Platform companies while more than a few stores have adopted Abeja Insight for Retail, their retail industry store analysis solution. To date, the company has secured over 6 billion yen (about $55 million) from domestic VC firms in addition to global tech giants like Google and Nvidia. Meanwhile, Sompo invested US$500 million in Palantir Technologies (NYSE: PLTR), the data analytics startup well known to have been founded by Peter Thiel, in June 2020 prior to its listing so that the former is poised to adopt the latter’s data integration and analysis platform.

Since last year, Abeja has been working with Sompo to develop predictive models and other joint businesses based on data analysis machine learning, especially in the areas of nursing care, healthcare, and domestic non-life insurance businesses. Sompo has been considering to develop “real data platform for safety, security, and health” with Palantir, and joining Abeja in this initiative will accelerate the move toward launching the platform. Abeja will also help Sompo promote the use of AI and cultivate human resources optimized for digital businesses.

In an interview with Nikkei published on Friday, Abeja CEO Yosuke Okada revealed that even after becoming an affiliate of the conglomerate, Abeja will maintain independent management scheme and aim for an IPO.

Sompo has been active in offering and developing services for elderly care, also operating several subsidiaries focused on senior care facilities in Japan. In recent years, it has invested in IoT developers Novars and Moff for helping monitor the elderly and supporting their rehabilitation, smart security device company Secual, and Taiwan-based diabetes management platform Health2Sync. The insurance giant has launched digital strategy hubs called Sompo Digital Lab in Silicon Valley and Israel, and some of our readers may recall that last year it invested in Intuition Robotics, the Israeli startup developing robots to help the elderly relieve isolation and loneliness.

See our past articles featuring Abeja:

Daiz, Japan’s answer to Impossible Foods, secures $17M series B round

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Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced on Monday that it has secured about 1.85 billion yen (about $17.1 million) in a series B round. Participating investors are Ajinomoto (TSE:2802), Marubeni (TSE:8002), Nippon Steel Trading (TSE:9810), Kanematsu (TSE:8020), Kanematsu Foods, ENEOS Innovation Partners, Kichiri Holdings (TSE:3082), Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Capital, The Norinchukin Bank, Global Brain, Kemuri Ventures, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Golden Asia Fund Ventures (jointly run by Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute-backed investment arm and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital), QB Capital, Shinkin Capital, and Kirin Holdings (TSE:2503). Among these investors, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital follows the Series A investment in May 2020 while QB Capital follows the September 2018 round. The latest round brought Daiz’s funding sum to date up to 3.05 billion yen (about $28.2 million). The company will use the funds to expand its meat substitutes production, strengthen research and development, develop global business channels, and hire new employees. The company plans to expand its annual production capacity up to 4,000 tons from June this year. Following this round, Daiz will work with Ajinomoto and Nichirei Foods (Nichirei Foods joined the series A round) to develop products for household and commercial use using the startup’s…

Image credit: Daiz

Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced on Monday that it has secured about 1.85 billion yen (about $17.1 million) in a series B round.

Participating investors are Ajinomoto (TSE:2802), Marubeni (TSE:8002), Nippon Steel Trading (TSE:9810), Kanematsu (TSE:8020), Kanematsu Foods, ENEOS Innovation Partners, Kichiri Holdings (TSE:3082), Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Capital, The Norinchukin Bank, Global Brain, Kemuri Ventures, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Golden Asia Fund Ventures (jointly run by Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute-backed investment arm and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital), QB Capital, Shinkin Capital, and Kirin Holdings (TSE:2503).

Among these investors, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital follows the Series A investment in May 2020 while QB Capital follows the September 2018 round. The latest round brought Daiz’s funding sum to date up to 3.05 billion yen (about $28.2 million).

The company will use the funds to expand its meat substitutes production, strengthen research and development, develop global business channels, and hire new employees. The company plans to expand its annual production capacity up to 4,000 tons from June this year.

Following this round, Daiz will work with Ajinomoto and Nichirei Foods (Nichirei Foods joined the series A round) to develop products for household and commercial use using the startup’s flagship meat substitute Miracle Meat. Leveraging the network of trading companies like Marubeni, Nippon Steel Trading, and Kanematsu/Kanematsu Foods, the company expects to cultivate sales channels for the meat substitute in both overseas and domestic markets. Daiz and ENEOS Holdings (parent company of ENEOS Innovation Partners) aim to create a low-carbon society through the spread of the meat substitute, which has a smaller environmental impact than animal meat and plant-based substitutes from defatted soybeans.

DAIZ adopts the patented Ochiai method in germinating soybeans, which activates enzymes and increases the amount of free amino acid contained by imparting stress such as lower oxygen level and higher temperature at the right timing of germination. This eventually contributes to bringing out the flavor of the raw ingredients and reproducing the meat-like texture without adding any additives.

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