THE BRIDGE

Masaru Ikeda

Masaru Ikeda

Masaru started his career as a programmer/engineer, and previously co-founded several system integration companies and consulting firms. He’s been traveling around Silicon Valley and Asia exploring the IT industry, and he also curates event updates for the Tokyo edition of Startup Digest.

Articles

Japan’s biotech firm Spiber secured $240M to build polymer production facility in US

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Spiber has been developing plant-based artificial protein fiber material called Brewed Protein. The Japanese startup announced on Wednesday that it has secured 25 billion yen (about $240 million) utilizing a value securitization structure. This funding round uses the company’s tangible and intangible assets as collateral to solicit funds from a wide range of investors, which allows them to get funds without making choices like debt financing or third-party allocation of shares which is likely to take time to negotiate with lenders or cause equity dilution. This round was arranged by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities with participation from The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ as the initial lender and a credit investor while the names of the other investors participating have not been disclosed. Spiber signed a collaboration agreement with US-based grain producing major Archer-Daniels Linseed Company (NYSE:ADM) in September. The funds will be used to build a mass production system for brewed protein in the US in addition to research and development of new materials scheduled to launch in several years. 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…

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 25 billion yen (about $240 million) utilizing a value securitization structure. This funding round uses the company’s tangible and intangible assets as collateral to solicit funds from a wide range of investors, which allows them to get funds without making choices like debt financing or third-party allocation of shares which is likely to take time to negotiate with lenders or cause equity dilution.

This round was arranged by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities with participation from The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ as the initial lender and a credit investor while the names of the other investors participating have not been disclosed. Spiber signed a collaboration agreement with US-based grain producing major Archer-Daniels Linseed Company (NYSE:ADM) in September. The funds will be used to build a mass production system for brewed protein in the US in addition to research and development of new materials scheduled to launch in several years.

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 amount of over 35 billion yen (about $340 million). In April of 2019, the company secured 5 billion yen ($48.4 million) in syndicated loans from The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Yamagata Bank, Shonai Bank, and Tsuruoka Shinkin Bank to develop a huge world-class plant for protein fermentation and purification operations in eastern Thailand (Rayong Province). The company is reportedly valued at over 111.5 yen ($1.08 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.

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Japan’s QD Laser, developer of retinal scanning displays, files for IPO

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Japanese startup QD Laser, the developer of retinal scanning displays called the Retissa series, announced on Monday that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on February 5 of 2021 with plans to offer 9,451,800 shares for public subscription and to sell 2,033,900 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 4,107,600 shares. The underwriting will be led by SMBC Nikko securities while QD Laser’s ticker code will be 6613. Based on the estimated issue price of 275 yen (about $2.65), the company will be valued at 9.51 billion yen (about $91.7 million). Its share price range will be released on January 20 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on January 21 and pricing on January 27. According to the consolidated statement as of March 2020, they posted revenue of 756.63 million yen ($7.3 million) with an ordinary loss of 1.23 billion yen ($11.8 million). QD Laser was established in 2006 as a spin-off from Fujitsu Laboratories where QD Laser’s founder and CEO Mitsuru Sugawara was previously quantum dot lasers. Using the company’s technology, images can be directly delivered onto the device wearer’s retina from a laser…

Retissa Display II
Image credit: QD Laser

Japanese startup QD Laser, the developer of retinal scanning displays called the Retissa series, announced on Monday that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on February 5 of 2021 with plans to offer 9,451,800 shares for public subscription and to sell 2,033,900 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 4,107,600 shares. The underwriting will be led by SMBC Nikko securities while QD Laser’s ticker code will be 6613.

Based on the estimated issue price of 275 yen (about $2.65), the company will be valued at 9.51 billion yen (about $91.7 million). Its share price range will be released on January 20 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on January 21 and pricing on January 27. According to the consolidated statement as of March 2020, they posted revenue of 756.63 million yen ($7.3 million) with an ordinary loss of 1.23 billion yen ($11.8 million).

QD Laser was established in 2006 as a spin-off from Fujitsu Laboratories where QD Laser’s founder and CEO Mitsuru Sugawara was previously quantum dot lasers. Using the company’s technology, images can be directly delivered onto the device wearer’s retina from a laser projector built inside the frame, and has the potential to improve the quality of life (QoL) of the visually impaired who are not totally blind but are forced to live in a blurred world. It is also expected to be applied to augmented reality and smart glasses.

Led by Japanese computer manufacturing giant Fujitsu (26.64% through their three funds, TSE:6702), the company’s major shareholders include Tokyo Century (TSE:8439, 13.02%), Mitsui & Co. Global Investment (12.45%), Axa Life Insurance (6.80%), QD Laser’s Sugawara (5.17%), Beyond Next Ventures (2.67%), Daiichi Life Insurance, Realtech Fund (2.66%), DG Ventures (2.36%), and Nikko-SBI Innovation Fund (2.36%).

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Japanese leading beverage can maker invents connected sprayer for drone

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In order to confront an issue, you have to “monitor” it and then “take action” to solve it. People do this process unconsciously on a daily basis, but the technical hurdles may become higher when you try to do all this remotely or automate tasks with robots. Many of small drones have been limited their functions to monitoring because their limited payload for pursuing longer flight times with limited battery capacity and securing agility during flight makes it difficult to mount complex moving parts needed for action. Toyo Seikan Group Holdings (TSE:5901), one of the world’s largest beverage container manufacturers, announced this week that it has developed Sabot for Drone, a remotely-controllable spraying device which can be attached to a drone to spray liquids and chemicals at high pressure. Since the liquid or chemical is filled into the can using the company’s aerosol packaging technology, there is no need to install a pump or other complicated mechanism on the drone. The product has a variety of applications but the company introduces several use cases such as exterminating a beehive in high places using chemicals, marking on the ground and walls, and anti-corrosion and waterproofing treatment by spraying resin. Since the…

In order to confront an issue, you have to “monitor” it and then “take action” to solve it. People do this process unconsciously on a daily basis, but the technical hurdles may become higher when you try to do all this remotely or automate tasks with robots.

Many of small drones have been limited their functions to monitoring because their limited payload for pursuing longer flight times with limited battery capacity and securing agility during flight makes it difficult to mount complex moving parts needed for action.

Toyo Seikan Group Holdings (TSE:5901), one of the world’s largest beverage container manufacturers, announced this week that it has developed Sabot for Drone, a remotely-controllable spraying device which can be attached to a drone to spray liquids and chemicals at high pressure. Since the liquid or chemical is filled into the can using the company’s aerosol packaging technology, there is no need to install a pump or other complicated mechanism on the drone.

The product has a variety of applications but the company introduces several use cases such as exterminating a beehive in high places using chemicals, marking on the ground and walls, and anti-corrosion and waterproofing treatment by spraying resin. Since the capacity of the sprayer is limited, it is not suitable for spraying pesticides over a wide area or for fire-fighting work, but it will save a lot of labor and shorten the time required for work that conventionally required blocking traffic and arranging an elevation work vehicle.

The product’s first model supports an SDK (software developer kit) by Chinese drone giant DJI and is fully compatible with DJI Matrice 200 series V2. The Tokyo-headquartered company claims it has chosen DJI because of its standardization and familiarity among many industrial drone choices. They are discussing with major construction companies and power companies the potential use of the device for their maintenance work while preparing for joint development of the contents of the sprayer with major chemical and paint manufacturers.

Established in 1917, Toyo Seikan launched an initiative called the Open up! Project last year in aim to encourage innovation and new developments for the next century. As one of the outcomes from the initiative, the Sabot device is named after “skipping unnecessary work that humans do not need to do” and also an anagram of Tobas (flying) in Japanese.

In September, Toyo Seikan joined the Series A round of Shiok Meats, a Singapore-based foodtech startup creating cell-cultured shrimp meat, which was the first investment in startups. Toyo Seikan claims that they want to work with Shiok Meats to help delivering the cultured shrimp meat and other alternative crustacean foods to dinner tables in Asia, a region facing social issues such as food and protein crises, climate change, and marine pollution.

Japan’s Slideflow, turns your slides into website in seconds, launches on Product Hunt

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Bubble and Webflow are popular as low-code and no-code tools for building websites while WIX and Squarespace are thought better for creating simple pages. In Japan, we have recently seen that the developer of AI-powered website building assistant for engineers Front-End.Ai secured about $1 million US last week while landing page builder startup Peraichi announced in September that its 49% stake has been acquired by Japanese online printing and on-demand logistics startup Raksul (TSE:4384). And now, a new startup has emerged from Japan that aims to make it easier to build websites using the graphics tools we use every day such as Google Slides and PowerPoint (no mention of whether or not Keynote will be supported in the future, which is curious for me as a Macintosh user). Tokyo-based startup Yagocoro unveiled its latest product called Slideflow on Product Hunt on Saturday, which allows users to build websites using presentation slides from Google Slides and PowerPoint. The company is developing English and Japanese versions of the service in parallel, and expects to launch it in January next year. Yagocoro was launched in 2018 by Shinnosuke Ito and Masahiro Kawasaki, the founders of Laughtech (previously known as BitGather), who launched Japanese…

Image credit: Product Hunt

Bubble and Webflow are popular as low-code and no-code tools for building websites while WIX and Squarespace are thought better for creating simple pages. In Japan, we have recently seen that the developer of AI-powered website building assistant for engineers Front-End.Ai secured about $1 million US last week while landing page builder startup Peraichi announced in September that its 49% stake has been acquired by Japanese online printing and on-demand logistics startup Raksul (TSE:4384).

And now, a new startup has emerged from Japan that aims to make it easier to build websites using the graphics tools we use every day such as Google Slides and PowerPoint (no mention of whether or not Keynote will be supported in the future, which is curious for me as a Macintosh user).

Tokyo-based startup Yagocoro unveiled its latest product called Slideflow on Product Hunt on Saturday, which allows users to build websites using presentation slides from Google Slides and PowerPoint. The company is developing English and Japanese versions of the service in parallel, and expects to launch it in January next year.

Yagocoro was launched in 2018 by Shinnosuke Ito and Masahiro Kawasaki, the founders of Laughtech (previously known as BitGather), who launched Japanese ‘viral mills’ CuRAZY back in 2014. Laughtech was acquired by Japanese PR agency Vector (TSE:6058) in 2016, and CuRAZY continues to be operated by Smart Media which was merged the three web media operating companies acquired by Vector, including Laughtech. Subsequently, Ito and his team launched an offshore software development business in Vietnam, which triggered them to think about creating a service that can be used globally, and they started developing Slideflow.

Disclosure: Bridge is run by PR Times (TSE:3922), a subsidiary of Vector (TSE:6058).

Ito says,

It is easy to forget when we are immersed in the IT industry that there are still many people who feel that even WIX is difficult to use. Even business professionals working at globally-renowned consulting firms, who usually create business presentations with PowerPoint every day, come to me for an advice on how to build websites with WIX. I think there should be no big difference in the UX skill needed for both presentation slides and websites.

Image credit: Yagocoro

Given the fact that even WIX is still difficult for some people to use and it has no much variety in design templates (about only 600), Ito came up with an idea leveraging PowerPoint slides to create a website because the Microsoft tool is used by 500 million people globally which can help lowering the learning cost. Thanks to more than 320 billion slides available on the Internet, this approach may help them curate template designers more easily.

PowerPoint can also export slides in HTML format, but this is not enough functionality to create a website. Slideflow categorizes images and text in the slides by layer, and arranges them using HTML and CSS, however, this is not enough to support responsiveness, links, and forms, so they made it possible by integrating open source tool Webiny for the code generation process.

Ito continues:

Our target for the first year is to have 6,000 templates consisting of 10 pages each on average ready. We would like to differentiate our product from other tools like WIX in the number of templates while focusing on polishing user experience.

The platform’s detailed pricing structure has not yet been disclosed, but it appears to be based on a monthly subscription fee. Ito told us that their annual recurring revenue (ARR) after three years since the official launch is target around $10 million US. The company also plans to offer additional functions like website marketing, analytics, and e-commerce integration as well.

Yagocoro has secured a seed round of funding from B Dash Ventures, East Ventures, The SEED, and Advantage. Detailed financial terms have not been disclosed.

Japanese energy switching startup Enechange files for IPO

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Enechange, the Japanese startup offering an electricity and gas switching platform for consumers under the same name, announced on Wednesday that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 23 with plans to offer 50,000 shares for public subscription and to sell 57,000 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 330,000 shares. The underwriting will be led by Mizuho securities while Enechange’s ticker code will be 4169. Based on the estimated issue price of 520 yen (about $5), the company will be valued at 2.99 billion yen (about 28.7 million). Its share price range will be released on December 3 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on December 7 and pricing on December 11. According to the consolidated statement as of December 2019, they posted revenue of 1.27 billion yen ($12.2 million) with an ordinary loss of 238 million yen ($2.3 million). Enechange was co-founded in April 2015 by serial entrepreneurs CEO Yohei Kiguchi COO Ippei Arita. The company offers a price comparison site for electricity, a phone service where customer representatives can assist consumers to choose the…

Image credit: Enechange

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Enechange, the Japanese startup offering an electricity and gas switching platform for consumers under the same name, announced on Wednesday that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 23 with plans to offer 50,000 shares for public subscription and to sell 57,000 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 330,000 shares. The underwriting will be led by Mizuho securities while Enechange’s ticker code will be 4169.

Based on the estimated issue price of 520 yen (about $5), the company will be valued at 2.99 billion yen (about 28.7 million). Its share price range will be released on December 3 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on December 7 and pricing on December 11. According to the consolidated statement as of December 2019, they posted revenue of 1.27 billion yen ($12.2 million) with an ordinary loss of 238 million yen ($2.3 million).

Enechange was co-founded in April 2015 by serial entrepreneurs CEO Yohei Kiguchi COO Ippei Arita. The company offers a price comparison site for electricity, a phone service where customer representatives can assist consumers to choose the best electricity provider, as well as offering energy providers with cloud-based platforms such as EMAP (digital marketing SaaS) and SMAP (smartmeter-powered SaaS).

Led by CEO Kiguchi (23.86%), the company’s major shareholders include COO Arita (10.08%), Yasuyuki Ueno (8.00%), B Dash Ventures (7.62%), Energy Station Company Limited (7.61%), Bonds Investment Group (4.57%), EPCO (TSE:2311, 3.81%), Daiwa Energy Infrastructure (3.43%) and Spiral Capital (3.05%).

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Japanese robo-advisory startup WealthNavi files for IPO valued at over $470M

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based WealthNavi, the company offering a technology-based asset management service under the same name, announced that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 22 with plans to offer 2.5 million shares for public subscription and to sell 1,559,400 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 13,094,300 shares. The underwriting will be led by SBI securities while WealthNavi’s ticker code will be 7342. Based on the estimated issue price of 1,100 yen (about $10.5), the company will be valued at 49.5 billion yen (about $474.5 million). Its share price range will be released on December 3 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on December 7 and pricing on December 11. According to the consolidated statement as of December 2019, they posted revenue of 1.55 billion yen ($14.8 million) with an ordinary loss of 2.06 billion yen ($19.7 million). WealthNavi was founded back in April of 2015 by CEO Kazuhisa Shibayama who previously worked at finance ministries of Japan and UK respectively after graduating from the University of Tokyo. After leaving the public sector, he joined McKinsey to risk and…

Image credit: WealthNavi

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based WealthNavi, the company offering a technology-based asset management service under the same name, announced that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 22 with plans to offer 2.5 million shares for public subscription and to sell 1,559,400 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 13,094,300 shares. The underwriting will be led by SBI securities while WealthNavi’s ticker code will be 7342.

Based on the estimated issue price of 1,100 yen (about $10.5), the company will be valued at 49.5 billion yen (about $474.5 million). Its share price range will be released on December 3 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on December 7 and pricing on December 11. According to the consolidated statement as of December 2019, they posted revenue of 1.55 billion yen ($14.8 million) with an ordinary loss of 2.06 billion yen ($19.7 million).

WealthNavi was founded back in April of 2015 by CEO Kazuhisa Shibayama who previously worked at finance ministries of Japan and UK respectively after graduating from the University of Tokyo. After leaving the public sector, he joined McKinsey to risk and asset management projects for institutional investors.

The robo-advisory service provides a fully-automated asset management platform so that users can enjoy long-term and diversified investments. The company has now acquired 340,000 accounts and managed assets worth over 310 billion yen ($3.0 billion). The company was ranked in 10 of the most valued private companies in Japan by Nikkei last year.

WealthNavi is well known for having raised funds from more than 20 VC firms. Led by CEO Shibayama (24.84%), the company’s major shareholders include SBI Holdings and SBI Investment (13.5%), GREE Ventures (9.18%, now known as Strive), Infinity Venture Partners (6.39%, now known as Infinity Ventures), and Global Brain (5.96%, Global Brain also joins co-investment with Sony Financial Ventures), DBJ Capital (2.80%), and UTokyo Innovation Platform (2.40%).

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Japanese e-commerce analytics startup Plaid files for IPO

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Tokyo-based Plaid, the Japanese startup offering a real-time data analysis of website visitors and mobile app users called Karte, announced that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 17 with plans to offer 1,522,000 shares for public subscription and to sell about 716,000 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 12,817,000 shares. The underwriting will be led by Mizuho securities while Plaid’s ticker code will be 4165. Based on the estimated issue price of 1,400 and a total number of 14,339,000 shares in the market including public subscription, the company will be valued at 51.7 billion yen (about $500 million). Its share price range will be released on November 30 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on December 1 and pricing on December 4. According to the consolidated statement as of September 2020, they posted revenue of 2.94 billion yen (about $28.3 million) with an ordinary profit of 678.7 million yen (about $6.5 million). The company was founded in October of 2011 by Kenta Kurahashi who previously worked at Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten. Having set e-commerce consulting and app development as their original business…

Plaid’s headquarters in Tokyo
Image credit: Plaid

Tokyo-based Plaid, the Japanese startup offering a real-time data analysis of website visitors and mobile app users called Karte, announced that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 17 with plans to offer 1,522,000 shares for public subscription and to sell about 716,000 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 12,817,000 shares. The underwriting will be led by Mizuho securities while Plaid’s ticker code will be 4165.

Based on the estimated issue price of 1,400 and a total number of 14,339,000 shares in the market including public subscription, the company will be valued at 51.7 billion yen (about $500 million). Its share price range will be released on November 30 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on December 1 and pricing on December 4. According to the consolidated statement as of September 2020, they posted revenue of 2.94 billion yen (about $28.3 million) with an ordinary profit of 678.7 million yen (about $6.5 million).

The company was founded in October of 2011 by Kenta Kurahashi who previously worked at Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten. Having set e-commerce consulting and app development as their original business focus at first, the company launched the Karte analytics platform back in March of 2015 which has now become a main cash cow. The platform allows companies to collect and analyze behavioral data of their visitors and loyal users by integrating into websites and mobile apps. Using these collected and analyzed resources, companies can conduct personalized marketing strategy in communicating with users via website, mobile app, e-mail, Line and other chat tools.

Their SaaS business has been steadily growing, with a three-year average annual growth rate of 70.3% in sales from September of 2017 to September of 2020. In addition to e-retailers in the fashion and health beauty industry (5.9%), the Karte has attracted many other service owners from finance, insurance, settlement, human resources services, real estate, and media portal websites, which resulted in acquiring 710 websites and 474 companies as their users in total as of September.

Led by founder and CEO Kurahashi (29.65%), the company’s major shareholders include CPO Naoki Shibayama (19.78%), Eight Roads Capital Advisors (15.89%), Femto Growth Capital (14.9% through two different funds), Google (3.60%), CTO Yuki Makino (1.52%), operating officer Hiroyuki Shimizu, Mitsui & Co. (1.26%), and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital (1.26%).

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Japan’s handmade item C2C startup Creema files for IPO

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Tokyo-based Creema, the Japanese startup behind C2C (consumer-to-consumer) marketplace for handmade items under the same name, announced that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on November 27 with plans to offer 113,000 shares for public subscription and to sell about 167,200 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 1,559,700 shares. The underwriting will be led by SBI securities while Creema’s ticker code will be 4017. Based on the estimated IPO price of 3,250 yen (about $31) a share, the company’s market valuation will be about 19.8 billion yen (about $189.1 million). Its share price range will be released on November 19 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on November 11 and pricing on November 18. According to the consolidated statement as of February 2020, they posted revenue of 1.49 billion yen (about $14.2 million) with an ordinary profit of 70.6 million yen (about $674,000). Creema was founded in 2009 by Kotaro Marubayashi, who worked as a manager for a subsidiary of Japanese Internet service company Septeni Holdings after engaging in the music industry when he was attending Keio University. The company launched the handmade item…

Creema Store in Sapporo
Image credit: Creema

Tokyo-based Creema, the Japanese startup behind C2C (consumer-to-consumer) marketplace for handmade items under the same name, announced that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved.

The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on November 27 with plans to offer 113,000 shares for public subscription and to sell about 167,200 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 1,559,700 shares. The underwriting will be led by SBI securities while Creema’s ticker code will be 4017.

Based on the estimated IPO price of 3,250 yen (about $31) a share, the company’s market valuation will be about 19.8 billion yen (about $189.1 million).

Its share price range will be released on November 19 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on November 11 and pricing on November 18. According to the consolidated statement as of February 2020, they posted revenue of 1.49 billion yen (about $14.2 million) with an ordinary profit of 70.6 million yen (about $674,000).

Creema was founded in 2009 by Kotaro Marubayashi, who worked as a manager for a subsidiary of Japanese Internet service company Septeni Holdings after engaging in the music industry when he was attending Keio University. The company launched the handmade item marketplace back in 2010.

It has over 200,000 professional and semi-professional creators selling over 10 million original craft items. In order to increase engagement with sellers and buyers, the company also hosts an annual large-scale showcase event and has flagship stores in several cities across Japan.

Led by founder and CEO Marubayashi (31.89%), the company’s major shareholders include Global Capital Partners (13.7% through two funds), KDDI (11.9% through two funds), Animarism Group (9.1%, Marubayashi’s asset management company), Global Brain (7.1%), and Yuki Ohashi (6.92%, Creema co-founder and managing director).

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Japan satellite startup Synspective launches ground deformation monitoring solution

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Synspective is building a constellation system for earth observation mini-satellites employing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and integrates SAR data with a variety of ground truth data. The Japanese startup launched today a new service called Land Displacement Monitoring, which enables millimeter-scale ground deformation monitoring over wide areas based on image analysis of SAR satellites. Traditionally, understanding the risk of land settlement and landslide risk over wide areas has required a lot of time and effort. The service can be used to reduce the cost and time involved in observing and managing the risk of ground deformation and can be used to manage risks associated with construction projects, airport maintenance and underground construction, the company said. Synspective has been conducting Proof-of-Concept (PoC) projects with several companies as well as the Singapore Land Authority. Based on the feedback from these early users, the service has been improved and its user-friendly web-based interface requires no installation of software and has now allowed even users who are less familiar with satellite data to intuitively understand the results of the analysis. Synspective was founded in February of 2018 by CEO Motoyuki Arai and co-founder/managing director Seiko Shirasaka (Shirasaka is a professor at System Design and…

Land Displacement Monitoring
Image credit: Synspective

Synspective is building a constellation system for earth observation mini-satellites employing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and integrates SAR data with a variety of ground truth data. The Japanese startup launched today a new service called Land Displacement Monitoring, which enables millimeter-scale ground deformation monitoring over wide areas based on image analysis of SAR satellites.

Traditionally, understanding the risk of land settlement and landslide risk over wide areas has required a lot of time and effort. The service can be used to reduce the cost and time involved in observing and managing the risk of ground deformation and can be used to manage risks associated with construction projects, airport maintenance and underground construction, the company said.

Synspective has been conducting Proof-of-Concept (PoC) projects with several companies as well as the Singapore Land Authority. Based on the feedback from these early users, the service has been improved and its user-friendly web-based interface requires no installation of software and has now allowed even users who are less familiar with satellite data to intuitively understand the results of the analysis.

Synspective was founded in February of 2018 by CEO Motoyuki Arai and co-founder/managing director Seiko Shirasaka (Shirasaka is a professor at System Design and Management, Keio University). The company announced about $80 million funding in a series A round last year, which let them make the fastest record in terms of securing such a large amount funds in such a short period since the launch of a company according to a report by Japanese space business consultancy CSP Japan.

Synspective signed agreements with Arianespace in April of 2019 and with RocketLab in April this year for the launch of its StriX-alpha SAR satellites, which is scheduled to be launched by the end of this year. The company plans to build a constellation of these satellites to offer high-frequency and stable monitoring service leveraging it.

Synspective plans to launch one small SAR satellite by 2020, six satellites by 2022, and 25 satellites after that. So far, the company has secured funds enough for six satellites in operation, which will enable on-demand earth observation at least one time a day for 99 cities with an over-one million population in Asia.

Japan’s powered prosthetic leg developer BionicM secures $5M in series A funding

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Tokyo-based BionicM, the Japanese startup developing powered prosthetic legs, announced today that it has secured 550 million yen (about $5 million US) in a Series A round. Participating investors are The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC), Utokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyoIPC), and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). UTEC’s investment follows the startup’s seed round last year. UTokyoIPC financially backed BionicM by selecting for the third batch of the former’s entrepreneur support program in 2018. BionicM is developing a powered prosthetic leg that solves the challenges of traditional non-powered passive prostheses. Since the pre-foundation research stage, it has received high recognition from the public, such as winning the SXSW Interactive Innovation Award and the James Dyson Award in Japan. BionicM will represent Japan to participate in the Advanced Technology and Engineering Challenge (A-TEC), the global startup competition to be held later this month in Shenzhen by Leaguer Group, a Chinese startup support company. Founded by Xiaojun Sun who himself had to have his right leg amputated at the age of 9 due to osteosarcoma, BionicM began research and development in 2015 at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Information Science and Technology. Of the 10 million potential users…

Image credit: BionicM

Tokyo-based BionicM, the Japanese startup developing powered prosthetic legs, announced today that it has secured 550 million yen (about $5 million US) in a Series A round. Participating investors are The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC), Utokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyoIPC), and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). UTEC’s investment follows the startup’s seed round last year. UTokyoIPC financially backed BionicM by selecting for the third batch of the former’s entrepreneur support program in 2018.

BionicM is developing a powered prosthetic leg that solves the challenges of traditional non-powered passive prostheses. Since the pre-foundation research stage, it has received high recognition from the public, such as winning the SXSW Interactive Innovation Award and the James Dyson Award in Japan. BionicM will represent Japan to participate in the Advanced Technology and Engineering Challenge (A-TEC), the global startup competition to be held later this month in Shenzhen by Leaguer Group, a Chinese startup support company.

Founded by Xiaojun Sun who himself had to have his right leg amputated at the age of 9 due to osteosarcoma, BionicM began research and development in 2015 at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Information Science and Technology. Of the 10 million potential users of prosthetic legs worldwide, only about 40% actually have access to them because they are expensive or have limited functionality. The company established a corporate entity in 2018 to commercialize the product in order to bring a high-performance prosthetic leg to all those who need it at a low price.

According to BionicM, more than 99% of the global prosthetic leg market deals with passive type, and has not benefited from the technological advancements that have taken place in recent years with the proliferation of robotic technology. Passive leg prostheses not only place a heavy physical burden on the user, but also place a mental burden on the user, as they are unable to walk naturally or take turns walking up and down stairs in both legs, making them uncomfortable to watch. Powered prostheses have the potential to solve this problem.

BionicM is preparing for the mass production of powered prosthetic legs with a view to commercial launch in 2021, and the financing at this time is intended to strengthen the company’s structure to achieve this goal. The company hopes to establish a B2B2C business model where powered leg modules are offered to artificial limb factories to be built into sockets for lower-limb amputees.

BionicM hopes to have its powered leg certified as a complete prosthetic component from the government by next year. Once certified, the company would generally be eligible for the government’s subsidies under the Services and Supports for Persons with Disabilities Act, but powered prosthetic legs are high-end and expensive and may not be eligible for subsidies at the time of user purchase. The company is also looking to collaborate with other companies to introduce installment payments and leasing.

Sun says,

It is difficult to get subsidies for expensive prosthetic legs. BionicM will not only innovate in technology, but will also look to partner with other companies to provide services such as rentals and leases in a new way.

BionicM established a subsidiary in China in June where four employees have begun sales development. Due to the large population in China, the Chinese prosthetic market is larger than that of Japan. From a sales standpoint, there is a good chance that the company’s post-start-up growth will be greater in China than in Japan, Sun said.

In conjunction with the funding, BionicM also announced that Tao Cheng, founder and CEO of Japanese online ad startup popIn, has joined the company’s board of directors. Sun and Cheng are both from China and have similar backgrounds in that they were spun off from the University of Tokyo and were initially backed by UTEC. Looking up to Cheng as a predecessor who has completed an exit in Japan (popIn was acquired by Baidu in 2015), Sun said Cheng’s experience in running a software company will be of a great help of BionicM as a hardware company.

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