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.

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Japanese video tech startup Paronym secures funding from Thai telecom giant

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Tokyo-based Paronym, the Japanese startup behind the TIG interactive video technology, announced on Monday that it has secured an undisclosed sum from Intouch Holdings (BKK:INTUCH), the parent company of Thailand’s largest telecom operator AIS (BKK:ADVANC). Paronym has been raising a series B round since last year, and has so far secured approximately 230 million yen (about $2.1 million) from Japan Post Capital and NTT Docomo Ventures. The company says it has closed the latest round with the funding from Intouch Holdings. This entire round brought the startup’s funding sum up to date to 690 million yen ($6.4 million). Founded back in 2016, Paronym has developed the TIG interactive video solution that allows viewers to obtain necessary information by tapping an item in a video clip. Use cases include e-commerce sites selling interiors and fashion outfits, recipe sites (linking to foods and ingredients in the recipe), and online travel guides (linking to travel destinations). The platform offers tracking editing tool that allows content owners to associate objects in a clip with link destinations in addition to heat map tool showing them which part of the clip their viewers are tapping. The company offers a different line-up for each of six different…

Paronym CEO Michio Kobayashi presented at Rock Thailand in Bangkok in December.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Tokyo-based Paronym, the Japanese startup behind the TIG interactive video technology, announced on Monday that it has secured an undisclosed sum from Intouch Holdings (BKK:INTUCH), the parent company of Thailand’s largest telecom operator AIS (BKK:ADVANC).

Paronym has been raising a series B round since last year, and has so far secured approximately 230 million yen (about $2.1 million) from Japan Post Capital and NTT Docomo Ventures. The company says it has closed the latest round with the funding from Intouch Holdings. This entire round brought the startup’s funding sum up to date to 690 million yen ($6.4 million).

Founded back in 2016, Paronym has developed the TIG interactive video solution that allows viewers to obtain necessary information by tapping an item in a video clip. Use cases include e-commerce sites selling interiors and fashion outfits, recipe sites (linking to foods and ingredients in the recipe), and online travel guides (linking to travel destinations). The platform offers tracking editing tool that allows content owners to associate objects in a clip with link destinations in addition to heat map tool showing them which part of the clip their viewers are tapping.

Kobayashi shareed the development timeline of his company’s video technology service.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

The company offers a different line-up for each of six different verticals including movies splitting off into multiple case scenarios, magazines, digital signage, commerce, learning and live (performance). Due to its high interactivity, they claim that the platform can help e-commerce sites gain their conversion rate twice that of Instagram, three times that of YouTube.

In December, Paronym was qualified and invited to present at the second batch of Rock Thailand, a joint project by the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok and Thailand’s largest conglomerate CP Group with an aim to encourage business partnerships between the two countries, where Paronym CEO Michio Kobayashi explained his company has been seeking business alliances, series B funding, and potential sales partners in Thailand. So the latest funding means his efforts have paid off. Palonym plans to hold a joint press briefing with Intouch Holdings, and detailed plans are expected to be revealed at that time.

Remonade launches global edition, helps employees work from home more easily

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Tokyo-based Queue has launched the English version of Remonade, a team management platform that visualizes the performance of employees working from home. This is the third product for the company, following blueprint finder Blue Assistant and global startup database Sunryse. More people not only in startups but also in enterprises started working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new problems managers may face include helping smooth communication between members working apart each other as well as motivating them to maintain loyalty to the company. The Remonade platform is focused on the gap that tools like Slack and Torello cannot fill in addition to eliminating the stress these employees may feel from being watched by colleagues all day long through Skype or other tools. Remonade provides three key features: Today – offering easy daily task management Progress Sharing and Stats – showing shows daily to-dos for each member Dashboard – helping managers collect and analyze duties, granularity, and achievement rates that each of their team members is responsible for as well as their mental changes. For overall task management, you can use existing management tools, Gantt charts, and WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). But the Remonade platform visualizes daily tasks…

Tokyo-based Queue has launched the English version of Remonade, a team management platform that visualizes the performance of employees working from home. This is the third product for the company, following blueprint finder Blue Assistant and global startup database Sunryse.

More people not only in startups but also in enterprises started working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new problems managers may face include helping smooth communication between members working apart each other as well as motivating them to maintain loyalty to the company. The Remonade platform is focused on the gap that tools like Slack and Torello cannot fill in addition to eliminating the stress these employees may feel from being watched by colleagues all day long through Skype or other tools.

Remonade provides three key features:

  • Today – offering easy daily task management
  • Progress Sharing and Stats – showing shows daily to-dos for each member
  • Dashboard – helping managers collect and analyze duties, granularity, and achievement rates that each of their team members is responsible for as well as their mental changes.

For overall task management, you can use existing management tools, Gantt charts, and WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). But the Remonade platform visualizes daily tasks and helps managers grab what each of their members is working on at a glance. That’s why managers will not need to ask each of their members individually: “what are you working on?” or “how much did you work today?”

Queue CEO Naoto Shibata explained.

We wanted to help users share their status quo with their managers and colleagues as non-verbal as possible. While the government is promoting the work style reform in Japan, managers need to have more tasks to help their members work from home, such as asking them to submit a daily report. We wanted to solve this kind of problem.

The platform also has the feature to share snapshots of participating employees every few minutes (the frequency can be set arbitrarily by the user) using their laptop’s built-in camera. You can make your picture into mosaics, or even you can replace it with just an emoji and an icon.

In the future, some ideas include capturing seating times from camera images to help managers analyze the work performance of their members as well as analyzing their facial expressions to get mental feedback of them, Shibata says.

The company came up with Remonade because many of its employees work from home now. The platform can be used in conjunction with a variety of other tools, and a video conferencing tool integration is expected coming soon.

Daiz, Japan’s answer to Impossible Foods, secures $6M series A round

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Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced today that it has secured about 650 million yen (about $6 million) in a series A round. Investors participating in this round are: A-FIVE: Agriculture, forestry and fisheries Fund corporation for Innovation, Value-chain and Expansion Japan (Japan’s state-backed fund) Mitsubishi UFJ Capital Okasan Capital Partners Nichirei Foods (One of major brands of pre-cooked frozen foods in Japan) Kajitsudo (former parent company and current major share holder of Daiz, supplying organically-grown salad greens and leafy vegetables) Details of Daiz’s fundraising so far are unclear, but this follows the company’s previous three funding announcements: 100 million yen from Nishi-Nippon City Bank and QB Capital in September of 2018, 100 million yen from Kagoshima Bank in December of 2018, and 50 million yen from Nichirei Foods in February this year. The latest round brought their total funding sum up to about $11.2 million. The company says it will use the funds to expand its production capacity for soybean-based plant meat raw material called Miracle Chip up to 3,000 tons per year in addition to strengthen R&D efforts to get the taste of plant meat much closer to the real one. The…

Image credit: Daiz

Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced today that it has secured about 650 million yen (about $6 million) in a series A round.

Investors participating in this round are:

  • A-FIVE: Agriculture, forestry and fisheries Fund corporation for Innovation, Value-chain and Expansion Japan (Japan’s state-backed fund)
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Capital
  • Okasan Capital Partners
  • Nichirei Foods (One of major brands of pre-cooked frozen foods in Japan)
  • Kajitsudo (former parent company and current major share holder of Daiz, supplying organically-grown salad greens and leafy vegetables)

Details of Daiz’s fundraising so far are unclear, but this follows the company’s previous three funding announcements: 100 million yen from Nishi-Nippon City Bank and QB Capital in September of 2018, 100 million yen from Kagoshima Bank in December of 2018, and 50 million yen from Nichirei Foods in February this year.

The latest round brought their total funding sum up to about $11.2 million. The company says it will use the funds to expand its production capacity for soybean-based plant meat raw material called Miracle Chip up to 3,000 tons per year in addition to strengthen R&D efforts to get the taste of plant meat much closer to the real one.

Miracle Chip, Daiz’s soybean-based material for meat substitutes
Image credit: Daiz

The company 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.

In this space, we’ve recently seen updates like Impossible Foods raising $500 million to launch the sales of plant-based meat at 1,700 Kroger Co stores across the US in addition to Canada’s Livekindly (previously known as FoodsUnited) raising $200 million to invest in plant-based chicken substitutes. In April, Singapore-based Growthwell raised $8 million while Beyond Meat started offering food items using meat substitutes at over 3,300 Starbucks stores all across Mainland China.

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One Visa, Wovn join forces to keep foreign workers updated with relief efforts over COVID-19

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Two Tokyo startups – One Visa and Wovn Technologies – announced today that they are joining forces to help foreign workers in Japan keep updated with relief efforts and support measures over COVID-19. The will translate and organize notices and advisories from the government and private sectors into English, Chinese, Korean, and “Easy Japanese” so that non-native Japanese speakers can learn the latest developments. Translated updates are expected to reach more than hundreds of thousand foreign workers in Japan through the partnership with Tokyo-based foreign workers-focused recruiting agency Global Power in addition to 150 member companies belonging to Japan Shopping Tourism Organizatioin (JSTO). According to Japan’s Immigration Services Agency, over 2.8 million foreign passport holders are residing in Japan as of June 2019. One Visa has developed an online visa applications management platform, allowing Japanese companies to submit visa applications for their employees and manage when their visas will become expired and must apply for a new one. Wovn has developed an SDK (software developer kit) that allows mobile developers to easily multilingulize their websites and apps.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #4814.

Two Tokyo startups – One Visa and Wovn Technologies – announced today that they are joining forces to help foreign workers in Japan keep updated with relief efforts and support measures over COVID-19. The will translate and organize notices and advisories from the government and private sectors into English, Chinese, Korean, and “Easy Japanese” so that non-native Japanese speakers can learn the latest developments.

Translated updates are expected to reach more than hundreds of thousand foreign workers in Japan through the partnership with Tokyo-based foreign workers-focused recruiting agency Global Power in addition to 150 member companies belonging to Japan Shopping Tourism Organizatioin (JSTO). According to Japan’s Immigration Services Agency, over 2.8 million foreign passport holders are residing in Japan as of June 2019.

One Visa has developed an online visa applications management platform, allowing Japanese companies to submit visa applications for their employees and manage when their visas will become expired and must apply for a new one. Wovn has developed an SDK (software developer kit) that allows mobile developers to easily multilingulize their websites and apps.

Japan’s Smartround raises from Peter Thiel-led fund to help startups manage equity

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Tokyo-based Smartround, a Japanese startup helping startups and investors manage their funding and investments respectively, announced today that it has secured 100 million yen (about $933,000) in a pre-series A round based on J-KISS, a simple term sheet framework for a convertible instrument for early startups to obtain initial financing. Participating investors in this round include FF APAC Scout, Justin Waldron, and Matias de Tezanos. FF APAC Scout is Peter Thiel-led Founders Fund’s APAC region-focused scout fund, which allows serial entrepreneurs / angel investors to back new entrepreneurs, similarly to Japan Angel Fund and Sequoia Capital’s scout fund in terms of the scheme. Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron is well known in Japan for having invested in language learning startup Lang-8 while Matias de Tezanos is a serial entrepreneur and has experienced seven exits as an investor. Since the company secured over $513,000 from more than 20 Japanese angel investors in a seed round back in March last year, the latest round suggests another massive backing from angel investors but is centered on the Inner Circle in Silicon Valley this time around. Jeff Lonsdale, who’s in charge of the investment at FF APAC Scout, said in a statement: Japan is one…

Image credit: Smartround

Tokyo-based Smartround, a Japanese startup helping startups and investors manage their funding and investments respectively, announced today that it has secured 100 million yen (about $933,000) in a pre-series A round based on J-KISS, a simple term sheet framework for a convertible instrument for early startups to obtain initial financing. Participating investors in this round include FF APAC Scout, Justin Waldron, and Matias de Tezanos.

FF APAC Scout is Peter Thiel-led Founders Fund’s APAC region-focused scout fund, which allows serial entrepreneurs / angel investors to back new entrepreneurs, similarly to Japan Angel Fund and Sequoia Capital’s scout fund in terms of the scheme. Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron is well known in Japan for having invested in language learning startup Lang-8 while Matias de Tezanos is a serial entrepreneur and has experienced seven exits as an investor.

Since the company secured over $513,000 from more than 20 Japanese angel investors in a seed round back in March last year, the latest round suggests another massive backing from angel investors but is centered on the Inner Circle in Silicon Valley this time around.

Jeff Lonsdale, who’s in charge of the investment at FF APAC Scout, said in a statement:

Japan is one of the largest economies in the world with some of the most productive and innovative workers. We should expect many more strong companies to emerge from this ecosystem and Smartround is well positioned to help create this future.

Some of our readers may recall that Lonsdale expressed his extraordinary expectations for the globalization of Japanese startups in the future at Tech in Asia Tokyo 2018.

Smartround is a cloud-based platform serving startups and their backer VCs. It offers entrepreneurs with comprehensive resources for managing their businesses such as capital policy, business management, company introduction, library, and other functions while it enables investors to track their portfolio performance online. The Smartround team appears to consider US startups like Carta and Pully as the benchmark in their growth strategy.

Smartround was founded back in May of 2018. Prior to Smartround, Masaru Sunny Sunagawa, the startup’s founder and CEO, previously worked at a trading company and a VC firm followed by launching Location Value which was later acquired by NTT Docomo back in 2014.

Regarding what the latest funds is used for, Sunagawa said in a statement:

In the midst of the ongoing turmoil caused by COVID-19, Japanese startups leading the next generation are forced to navigate a difficult path. […]

We are grateful to all of our investors who share our philosophy and ideals and are willing to back us under this circumstance, and we will continue to improve our services and expand our business globally. In particular, we would like to take advantage of this funding experience to evolve our service so that Japanese startups can raise funds from overseas investors.

Plimes secures $1.4M seed round, helps hospitals monitor swallowing ability of elderly patients

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See the original story in Japanese. Plimes, a healthcare startup spun-off from the University of Tsukuba in Japan, announced in late March that it has raised nearly $1.4 million US in a seed round from robotics venture Cyberdyne (TSE: 7779), a fellow University of Tsukuba native for the startup. Plimes is also allying with Cyberdyne to accelerate the development and market expansion of their product. In general, people’s swallowing ability decreases with age, which puts the elderly at risk of aspiration and in turn increases the chance of pneumonia and/or death. Physicians may choose to alter the diet of patients with the decreased ability to swallow by switching them from solid food to mashed pastes, or in some cases patients may require gastrostomy for direct nutrients. Gokuri, the startup’s product, is a medical support device designed to improve the quality of life (QoL) for such eldery people. The device routinely measures whether or not swallowing is normal from the sound picked up using a microphone attached to a user’s neck, and it aims to improve the efficiency of user rehabilitation. The ability to accuratly monitor swallowing increases the possibility that the user can regain the power to eat and enjoy…

Plimes founders – From left: CCO Atsushi Nitasaka, COO Tomoya Shimokakimoto, CEO Kenji Suzuki, CTO Dushyantha Jayatilake
Image credit: Plimes

See the original story in Japanese.

Plimes, a healthcare startup spun-off from the University of Tsukuba in Japan, announced in late March that it has raised nearly $1.4 million US in a seed round from robotics venture Cyberdyne (TSE: 7779), a fellow University of Tsukuba native for the startup. Plimes is also allying with Cyberdyne to accelerate the development and market expansion of their product.

In general, people’s swallowing ability decreases with age, which puts the elderly at risk of aspiration and in turn increases the chance of pneumonia and/or death. Physicians may choose to alter the diet of patients with the decreased ability to swallow by switching them from solid food to mashed pastes, or in some cases patients may require gastrostomy for direct nutrients.

Gokuri, the startup’s product, is a medical support device designed to improve the quality of life (QoL) for such eldery people. The device routinely measures whether or not swallowing is normal from the sound picked up using a microphone attached to a user’s neck, and it aims to improve the efficiency of user rehabilitation. The ability to accuratly monitor swallowing increases the possibility that the user can regain the power to eat and enjoy tasty solid foods.

The Gokuri swallowing monitoring device
Image credit: Plimes

This is seed funding for the Plimes team after 10 years since they started basic research at the University of Tsukuba and the University Hospital of Tsukuba back in 2010 (not yet incorporated at that time). Funding was made possible by Gokuri’s high level of accuracy, 97.3% or more, with regards to measuring normal and abnormal swallowing conditions, and the establishment of a business model using hospitals as sales channels. The current business model assumes that hospitals will adopt the solution to improve medical services for patients.

Plimes COO/Co-founder Atsushi Nitasaka says,

For example, hospitals don’t want to see any patient with a brain tumor is cured by surgery but goes on to die of aspiration pneumonia the first time he ate. […]

During the process of starting development and advancing the product market fit, we realized that there is a need for doctors to monitor the patients’ diet. However, doctors cannot be continuously looking after them. This is where our solution can help. Our business model supports hospitals with their goal of discharging patients quickly.

In collaboration with Kyotango City in Kyoto, Tarumizu City in Kagoshima, and Fukuoka Prefecture, and other local governments, the company has been conducting practical tests with elderly participants at local medical facilities. Plimes feels that Japanese startups are uniquely skilled at developing solutions for aging societies, and since aging is a social issue common to developed countries, they have started global business expansion. Plimes is currently conducting demo tests in the US, Germany, and Denmark.

The Gokuri swallowing monitoring device
Image credit: Plimes

In line with the latest funding, Plimes will begin recruitment of skilled team members for each speciality: testing for swallowing, monitoring studies, medical device development, business development, speech therapy, cloud application development, and AI technology. Cyberdene, one of the investors in thiis round, has its hands in health and medical related business, so we can expect to see emerging synergy. Plimes will receive widespread support from Cyberdyne for engineering, back office functions, and the development of sales channels.

Plimes was adopted into the Japan Science and Technology Agency’s startup business “JST Start” initiative back in 2015 followed by being incorporated in 2018. Additionally, the company has had excellent results at numerous startup events and initiatives, including receiving the IP Bridge Award at the Asian Entrepreneurship Award 2018 and winning the 2nd “Startup Accelerator Tsukuba” Demo Day.

Translated by Amanda Lynn
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Japan’s Cinnamon AI secures $12M in series C round, appoints chairman

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Updated on Thursday at 9:30am: Kaji’s title was adjusted following the company’s latest announcement that he was approved as a managing director of the executive board at their shareholders meeting. Japanese startup Cinnamon AI (previously known as Cinnamon), developing a document reading engine and a voice recognition solution leveraging their proprietary AI technologies, announced today that it has secured 1.3 billion yen (about $12 million US) from D4V and Pegasus Tech Ventures in a series C round. The amount includes loans from Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, Japan Fiance Corporation, and Shoko Chukin Bank. D4V, one of the investors participating in this round, has already invested in the startup via transfer of stocks from an unnamed existing investor in an angel round back in 2018. The latest round follows the startup’s series B round closed in January of 2019 with securing $13.7 million. At this opportunity, the company announced it has changed its corporate identity into Cinnamon AI (The registered corporate name remains unchanged). The company announced yesterday that it has appointed Yoshimitsu Kaji, the former Chief Marketing Innovator (CMI) of Accenture Japan and Professor at Globis University’s Graduate School of Management, as the chairman and executive officer. The company claims that…

Image credit: Cinnamon AI

Updated on Thursday at 9:30am: Kaji’s title was adjusted following the company’s latest announcement that he was approved as a managing director of the executive board at their shareholders meeting.

Japanese startup Cinnamon AI (previously known as Cinnamon), developing a document reading engine and a voice recognition solution leveraging their proprietary AI technologies, announced today that it has secured 1.3 billion yen (about $12 million US) from D4V and Pegasus Tech Ventures in a series C round. The amount includes loans from Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, Japan Fiance Corporation, and Shoko Chukin Bank.

D4V, one of the investors participating in this round, has already invested in the startup via transfer of stocks from an unnamed existing investor in an angel round back in 2018. The latest round follows the startup’s series B round closed in January of 2019 with securing $13.7 million.

At this opportunity, the company announced it has changed its corporate identity into Cinnamon AI (The registered corporate name remains unchanged).

Cinnamon AI’s newly-appointed chairman Yoshimitsu Kaji

The company announced yesterday that it has appointed Yoshimitsu Kaji, the former Chief Marketing Innovator (CMI) of Accenture Japan and Professor at Globis University’s Graduate School of Management, as the chairman and executive officer. The company claims that this is a part of the company’s effort to enhance corporate governance.

Flax Scanner, the RPA (robotics process automation) class 2 solution using the company’s own document reading engine Cinnamon AI, is widely used for handling documents such as contracts, resumes, sales progress reports, medical charts, handwritten application forms, real estate property information, receipts, etc. Rossa Voice, another flagship product from the company, is a voice dictation solution based on an automated word correction technology used for Flax Scanner.

The company uses the funds to hire highly-skilled human resources (especially those with high expertise in AI), solidify its organizational structure in Japan, Vietnam, and Taiwan, enhance its AI core technologies and user interfaces, and strengthen R&D investments in new areas such as speech recognition and natural language processing.

Seiko Epson launches $46.5M startup fund

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Abridged from our original post on the Japanese edition. Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain announced today that it has launched a new fund in partnership with Epson X (pronounced ‘cross’) Investment, EXI for short, the investment arm of Japanese electronics giant Seiko Epson (TSE:6724). EXI holds a 99% stake in the fund worth 5 billion yen ($46.5 million US). Epson Group unveiled a mid-range business plan towards their long-term corporate vision called Epson 25 last year, which addresses their open innovation strategy to leverage resources centered on the company’s flagship inkjet technology. The fund is a part of such efforts. In response to our question about what’s behind establishing the fund, Global Brain told us that Seiko Epson wants to push forward and accelerate their investment flows by separating business investment and corporate venture capital functions. Our readers may recall that Global Brain recently announced a new fund in partnership with Japanese logistics giant Yamato Holdings.

Seiko Epson’s Hino Office in Tokyo
CC BY-SA 3.0

Abridged from our original post on the Japanese edition.

Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain announced today that it has launched a new fund in partnership with Epson X (pronounced ‘cross’) Investment, EXI for short, the investment arm of Japanese electronics giant Seiko Epson (TSE:6724). EXI holds a 99% stake in the fund worth 5 billion yen ($46.5 million US).

Epson Group unveiled a mid-range business plan towards their long-term corporate vision called Epson 25 last year, which addresses their open innovation strategy to leverage resources centered on the company’s flagship inkjet technology. The fund is a part of such efforts.

Image credit: Seiko Epson

In response to our question about what’s behind establishing the fund, Global Brain told us that Seiko Epson wants to push forward and accelerate their investment flows by separating business investment and corporate venture capital functions.

Our readers may recall that Global Brain recently announced a new fund in partnership with Japanese logistics giant Yamato Holdings.

Japan logistics giant Yamato sets up $46.5M fund to work with startups

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Abridged from our original post on the Japanese edition. Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain announced on Tuesday that it has formed a new fund together with Japanese logistics giant Yamato Holdings (TSE:9064). The fund is named Kuroneko Innovation Fund and worth 5 billion yen, or $46.5 million US. With an aim to promote digital transformation in the logistics industry, the fund is focused on investing in Japanese and foreign startups with technologies and business models evolving logistics and supply chain management. The fund’s ticket size is from 50 million yen to hundreds of million yen (from $460,000 to several million US dollars) while investees can also leverage resources owned by Yamato Holdings and its group companies. Yamato Holdings has partnered with C2C (consumer-to-comsumer) marketplace app Mercari as well as Japanese e-commerce platform Base, giving their sellers better user experience by integrating with logistics solutions. Yamato Holdings published a grand design calling for business structure reform earlier this year, suggesting that the fund is a part of such efforts.

From left: Global Brain CEO Yasuhiko Yurimoto, Yamato Holdings President Yutaka Nagao
Image credit: Yamato Holdings

Abridged from our original post on the Japanese edition.

Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain announced on Tuesday that it has formed a new fund together with Japanese logistics giant Yamato Holdings (TSE:9064). The fund is named Kuroneko Innovation Fund and worth 5 billion yen, or $46.5 million US.

With an aim to promote digital transformation in the logistics industry, the fund is focused on investing in Japanese and foreign startups with technologies and business models evolving logistics and supply chain management.

The fund’s ticket size is from 50 million yen to hundreds of million yen (from $460,000 to several million US dollars) while investees can also leverage resources owned by Yamato Holdings and its group companies.

Yamato Holdings has partnered with C2C (consumer-to-comsumer) marketplace app Mercari as well as Japanese e-commerce platform Base, giving their sellers better user experience by integrating with logistics solutions.

Yamato Holdings published a grand design calling for business structure reform earlier this year, suggesting that the fund is a part of such efforts.

From Yamato’s grand design. (Click to enlarge.)
Image credit: Yamato Holdings

Asia-focused KK Fund helps Thai startups meet investors virtually in face of COVID-19 troubles

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Singapore-based KK Fund, the VC firm backed by many Japanese companies and focused on investing in seed stage internet and mobile startups across Southeast Asia, is launching their first Meet Your Match Thailand ​session with the aim to help match investors with Thailand-based startups in light of the uncertain situation due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. In order to support the startup ecosystem, KK Fund claims it has signed up with more than 20 investors to participate in this initiative to connect Thai startups with potential investors. Participating investors include Vertex Ventures, Sumitomo Corporation, PTT, Denso, Krungsri Finnovate, Colopl Next, CyberAgent Capital, Monk’s Hill Ventures, Insignia Ventures Partners, Beacon Venture Capital, Sequoia Capital, and other outstanding Thai and Japanese firms. In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, more than a few startup founders in the world are struggling with meeting up with potential founders because of urgent need of funding or further sustainable business development. As a reason why KK Fund decided to focus on helping Thai entrepreneurs rather than other startup ecosystem, the VC firm’s general partner Koichi Saito says he got inspired by the initiative which the Japanese trade and economy ministry recently rolled out in Bangkok….

Singapore-based KK Fund, the VC firm backed by many Japanese companies and focused on investing in seed stage internet and mobile startups across Southeast Asia, is launching their first Meet Your Match Thailand ​session with the aim to help match investors with Thailand-based startups in light of the uncertain situation due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In order to support the startup ecosystem, KK Fund claims it has signed up with more than 20 investors to participate in this initiative to connect Thai startups with potential investors. Participating investors include Vertex Ventures, Sumitomo Corporation, PTT, Denso, Krungsri Finnovate, Colopl Next, CyberAgent Capital, Monk’s Hill Ventures, Insignia Ventures Partners, Beacon Venture Capital, Sequoia Capital, and other outstanding Thai and Japanese firms.

In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, more than a few startup founders in the world are struggling with meeting up with potential founders because of urgent need of funding or further sustainable business development. As a reason why KK Fund decided to focus on helping Thai entrepreneurs rather than other startup ecosystem, the VC firm’s general partner Koichi Saito says he got inspired by the initiative which the Japanese trade and economy ministry recently rolled out in Bangkok. Saito has participated in several summits hosted by the ministry with an aim to connect the two countries in tech and startup field.

If you run a startup in Thailand and want to grab this opportunity, simply submit you application through the Google form link by April 10 so that you can get in touch with potential investors who may be interested in your business or idea. Upon successful matching, an online session over Zoom will be arranged by the investor with the startup.

In Japan, Moneyforward Synca, the Tokyo-based consultancy focused on helping startups raise investments or sell through an IPO or M&A deal, has launched a similar scheme with more than 20 local VC firms with an aim to prevent founders from stagnating fundraising.