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 founder-led employee benefit platform Venteny files for IPO in Indonesia

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Jakarta, Indonesia-based VENTENY Fortuna International announced on Thursday that its application to list on the Indonesia Stock Exchange has been approved. The company will be the first Japanese founder-led startup to be listed in the Southeast Asia region. It secured seed round funding back in February of 2017 followed by series A round funding from SV-FINTECH Fund managed by Voyage Group (now known as Carta Holdings, TSE:3688) and SV Frontier in December of 2017. It subsequently became an equity-method affiliate of Carta Holdings. In Southeast Asian countries, the lack of educational endowment insurance and health insurance systems means that many employees do not have the means to pay for their family’s higher education, medical care, or other needs. On the other hand, there are no financial services available for individuals to easily obtain loans, and corporate employees often tend to change jobs based simply on the amount of money they are paid, not on job content or job satisfaction. Financial inclusion, which aims to solve these money pains, is a bustling business area where fintech startups in the region are jostling for ideas. Venteny was founded in April of 2015 by Japanese entrepreneur Junichiro Waide, with headquarters in Singapore. Initially,…

Venteny founder and CEO Junichiro Waide

Jakarta, Indonesia-based VENTENY Fortuna International announced on Thursday that its application to list on the Indonesia Stock Exchange has been approved. The company will be the first Japanese founder-led startup to be listed in the Southeast Asia region. It secured seed round funding back in February of 2017 followed by series A round funding from SV-FINTECH Fund managed by Voyage Group (now known as Carta Holdings, TSE:3688) and SV Frontier in December of 2017. It subsequently became an equity-method affiliate of Carta Holdings.

In Southeast Asian countries, the lack of educational endowment insurance and health insurance systems means that many employees do not have the means to pay for their family’s higher education, medical care, or other needs. On the other hand, there are no financial services available for individuals to easily obtain loans, and corporate employees often tend to change jobs based simply on the amount of money they are paid, not on job content or job satisfaction. Financial inclusion, which aims to solve these money pains, is a bustling business area where fintech startups in the region are jostling for ideas.

Venteny was founded in April of 2015 by Japanese entrepreneur Junichiro Waide, with headquarters in Singapore. Initially, the company launched a corporate benefits outsourcing service business in the Philippines, which had grown to include more than 200 companies thanks to successful partnerships with major local banks and other organizations in the country. User companies allow their employees to receive benefits and discounts at city facilities and stores, as well as short-term loans in advance of their payday. Needless to say, this is an effective way for companies to motivate their employees to keep working as long as possible.

Venteny’s Super App
Image credit: Venteny

Just when all was going well, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic hit them. With all companies forced to either shut down or slow down thei business, Waide decided to close his Philippine operations out of sheer desperation, as he saw no growth potential. He rebuilt Venteny’s business from scratch in Indonesia and expanded the business by serving local companies. The company was eventually permitted to go public, approximately as early as three and a half years after taking the helm in the new market (the headquarters was officially moved to Indonesia in January of 2021).

This service was made possible by allowing Venteny’s client companies to provide loans to their employees as long as the company’s creditworthiness could be verified. In Indonesia, the company has launched an unsecured low-interest loan service not only for individuals, but also for small and micro businesses. Having four offices in Indonesia, the company plans to increase it to 15 next year as well as reactivating in the Philippines and expansion into Thailand and Vietnam.

Added at 6pm J.S.T., Nov.24.:

According to the prospectus, Venteny plans to sell 939 million shares, or a 15% stake, through the IPO at a price of Rp350-450 per share (about $0.022-0.029 US), with a target maximum raise of Rp423 billion ($27 million US). The company’s market cap, based on these values, is assumed to be Rp2.8 trillion rupiah (approximately $180 million US).

Revised at 6pm J.S.T., Nov. 25.:

Led by Carta Holdings (TSE:3688, 24.77%), the company’s main shareholders include CEO Waide (24.51%), Ocean Capital (13.06%), SBI Holdings (TSE:8473, 11.62%), KK Fund (10.37%), Relo Club (8.83%), SV-FINTECH (2.91%), Karya Bersama Bangsa (1.22%), Makoto Takano (0.39%), and Mamoru Taniya (0.39%).

Video translation, subtitling platform Auris secures $1.3M to add synthesized voice-over function

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Singapore-based AI Communis, the startup behind the platform integrating speech recognition and natural language processing technologies, announced on Monday that it has raised $1.3 million US in a seed round. Participating investors include UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), DG Incubation, The Seed in addition to several unnamed angel investors. This follows their extended angel round back in April when The Seed previously invested in the company. The latest round brought their funding sum up to $2.1 million US. AI Communis was founded in April of 2020 by Nobuhiko Suzuki, who has been dealing with the business of translating, adding subtitles, and editing video clips. These multilingulization processes, especially needed for global marketing, had been handled manually for a long time, but the significantly improved accuracy of automation tools such as Amazon Transcribe, DeepL, Google Translate has recently made it possible to be mostly automated. The company launched a web app called Auris last year, which allows users to handle a series of tasks such as translation, subtitling, and video editing in a cloud environment. It currently supports 16 languages spoken across the Asian region, and has 87,000 users from 110 countries as of this month. Leveraging the app, the company…

Auris
Image credit AI Communis

Singapore-based AI Communis, the startup behind the platform integrating speech recognition and natural language processing technologies, announced on Monday that it has raised $1.3 million US in a seed round. Participating investors include UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), DG Incubation, The Seed in addition to several unnamed angel investors. This follows their extended angel round back in April when The Seed previously invested in the company. The latest round brought their funding sum up to $2.1 million US.

AI Communis was founded in April of 2020 by Nobuhiko Suzuki, who has been dealing with the business of translating, adding subtitles, and editing video clips. These multilingulization processes, especially needed for global marketing, had been handled manually for a long time, but the significantly improved accuracy of automation tools such as Amazon Transcribe, DeepL, Google Translate has recently made it possible to be mostly automated.

The company launched a web app called Auris last year, which allows users to handle a series of tasks such as translation, subtitling, and video editing in a cloud environment. It currently supports 16 languages spoken across the Asian region, and has 87,000 users from 110 countries as of this month. Leveraging the app, the company launched a new business where crowdsourced gig workers help influencers and company marketers turn their video clips into any of these different languages.

With the academic guidance from speech synthesis researcher Dr. Shinnosuke Takamichi, the company started a new development this summer to add an interpreted voice-over function to the platform. Dr. Takamichi is Assistant Professor at Saruwatari & Koayama lab., Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, University of Tokyo. If the implemntation comes true, this will enable interpreted voice dubbing as well as translation subtitling, which is expected to further expand its applications. It is unclear whether the phonemes of the dubbed synthetic voice will be based on on the original speaker’s audio.

AI Communis will use the funds to improve transcription and video editing functions for YouTubers and marketing video creators in aim to offer an easy localization experience when transmitting content in their non-native languages. The company aims to implement the voice-over function by next spring. Going forward, the company plans to expand its business in the markets having many heavy Auris users among Japan and Southeast Asian countries.

Postalk allows remote team ideation using sticky notes, launches global edition

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Fukuoka-based Postalk, the Japanese startup behind a card-based chat tool under the same name, launched the tool’s global edition supporting the English language on Thursday. The new edition was unveiled at the pitch competition at B Dash Camp 2022 Fall, one of Japan’s renowned semi-annual startup conference taking place in Fukuoka. This follows the launch of its original Japanese edition last year. Postalk was founded in May of 2018 by Yohei Kawano, co-founder of Technical Rockstars, as well as his former colleague developer Kiyohiko Hirama. Technical Rockstars was acquired by TSE-listed cloud service provider Uhuru and then shut down the Milkcocoa service in 2016. See also: Japan’s noBackend development platform Milkcocoa now eases IoT and M2M integration Japanese startup aims to eliminate database management drudgery for developers The platform was born out of their experience at Technical Rockstars where their team members were forced to work apart each other between Fukuoka and Tokyo. Although web apps such as Google Hangout and Google Docs existed at the time, they have many challenges in creating a team work environment in a distance. The platform allows sharing issues and to-dos within the team in a way like sticky notes being put on the…

Image credit: Postalk

Fukuoka-based Postalk, the Japanese startup behind a card-based chat tool under the same name, launched the tool’s global edition supporting the English language on Thursday. The new edition was unveiled at the pitch competition at B Dash Camp 2022 Fall, one of Japan’s renowned semi-annual startup conference taking place in Fukuoka. This follows the launch of its original Japanese edition last year.

Postalk was founded in May of 2018 by Yohei Kawano, co-founder of Technical Rockstars, as well as his former colleague developer Kiyohiko Hirama. Technical Rockstars was acquired by TSE-listed cloud service provider Uhuru and then shut down the Milkcocoa service in 2016.

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The platform was born out of their experience at Technical Rockstars where their team members were forced to work apart each other between Fukuoka and Tokyo. Although web apps such as Google Hangout and Google Docs existed at the time, they have many challenges in creating a team work environment in a distance. The platform allows sharing issues and to-dos within the team in a way like sticky notes being put on the whiteboard.

Various SaaS platforms have been created as remote work has become the norm. After his former company’s exit, Kawano, a tech geek himself, had the opportunity to staff a startup community in Fukuoka where he became acutely aware that the startup community is not necessarily composed solely of tech geeks.

Postalk CEO & Co-founder Yohei Kawano

Kawano says,

When you’re in Tokyo’s Shibuya, it’s commonplace to be able to use Zoom, Slack, and maybe even GitHub. But after coming back to Fukuoka, I found out that it’s quite different. It’s not good to have only people who like geeky things, and it’s hard to work with non-geeks if you only use existing tools. I realized that the tools need to be more open.

According to Kawano, there are many SaaS tools out there that are designed for tech geeks, such as drawing tools and Kanban-style task management tools, which are still difficult for less tech-savvy people to understand. The Postalk platform allows users to simply paste and arrange cards, and if there is a URL, the OGP image can be also displayed. It is used by universities and other organizations for gathering opinions and communicating plans during events.

Postalk reproduces an interesting pay-as-you-go model in which fees are determined by the size of the whiteboard shared. The company is still considering several issues to be addressed in order to have the plaform actively adopted by companies. In the future, they are considering developing a mobile app, linking it with Zoom and Slack, and adding a function that would allow voice input of in-person meetings and comm calls.

The Fukuoka company secured 22.5 million yen (about $210,000 in the exchange rate at the time) in a pre-seed round last year from two local Fukuoka VC firms – Dorgan Beta and FGN ABBALab

Japan’s Base Food, offering complete nutritional foods, files for IPO

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Tokyo-based Base Food, developing and selling nutritionally complete food products, announced on Wednesday that its IPO application to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange had been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Growth Market on November 15 with plans to offer 2,723,100 shares for public subscription and to sell 961,000 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 3,684,200 shares. The underwriting will be led by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities while Base Food’s ticker code will be 2936. Based on the company’s estimated issue price is 950 yen (about $6.5) per share, its market cap is approximately 48.3 billion yen (about $329 million). Its share price range will be released on October 28 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on October 31 and pricing on November 4. The final public offering price will be determined on November 7. According to its consolidated statement as of February of 2022, the company posted revenue of 5.55 billion yen ($37.8 million) with an ordinary loss of 461 million yen ($3.1 million). Base Food is the food-tech startup founded in April of 2016 by Shun Hashimoto, formerly engaged in the autonomous driving business at DeNA. The company develops and sells Base…

Image credit: Base Food

Tokyo-based Base Food, developing and selling nutritionally complete food products, announced on Wednesday that its IPO application to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange had been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Growth Market on November 15 with plans to offer 2,723,100 shares for public subscription and to sell 961,000 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 3,684,200 shares. The underwriting will be led by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities while Base Food’s ticker code will be 2936.

Based on the company’s estimated issue price is 950 yen (about $6.5) per share, its market cap is approximately 48.3 billion yen (about $329 million). Its share price range will be released on October 28 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on October 31 and pricing on November 4. The final public offering price will be determined on November 7. According to its consolidated statement as of February of 2022, the company posted revenue of 5.55 billion yen ($37.8 million) with an ordinary loss of 461 million yen ($3.1 million).

Base Food is the food-tech startup founded in April of 2016 by Shun Hashimoto, formerly engaged in the autonomous driving business at DeNA. The company develops and sells Base Bread, Base Pasta, and Base Cookies through its e-commerce site as well as other e-commerce sites and wholesale to retailers. In February, they had over 100,000 users receiving products every four weeks on a subscription basis.

Led by CEO Hashimoto (34.27%), the company’s major shareholders include Global Brain (23.31% through two funds), Rakuten Capital (8.13%), XTech Ventures (4.07%), angel investor Yutaka Kaneko (3.51%), employee Takafumi Shimada, director Ryuta Saito, and director Yosuke Yamamoto (2.32% for each), and The Fund (2.05%).

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Taiwan’s startup backer partners with Japan’s bookstore chain, crowdfunding site

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Taiwan-based iiiNNO, one of the island’s largest startup backers, Japan’s Culture Convenience Club (CCC), known for its Tsutaya bookstore chain brand, and CCC’s crowdfunding business Green Funding, announced on Friday that they have reached reached an agreement to support Taiwanese manufacturing startups for the latter’s Japanese market expansion. The ceremony was held at the Tsutaya Songshan store in Taipei to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) among the three companies. Based on the agreement, CCC is expected to provide marketing support for Taiwanese startups’ products both online and offline through the company’s bookstores and crowdfunding site in Japan. CCC has been deeply involved in supporting startups, including running its own accelerator program and the commissioned operation of the Startup Cafe co-working spaces in Japanese cities. It has also opened seven bookstores in Taiwan since its first overseas expansion back in 2017. Earlier this year, the crowdfunding launched a campaign of iTemp, a smart mug and smart bowl from Taiwan, as its first project in the initiative. iiiNNO has been running a startup accelerator program with Taiwan Tsutaya. Having collaborated each other in supporting startups across borders, local governments of both Taipei and Fukuoka cities support this initiative as well. Their…

Image credit: iiiNNO

Taiwan-based iiiNNO, one of the island’s largest startup backers, Japan’s Culture Convenience Club (CCC), known for its Tsutaya bookstore chain brand, and CCC’s crowdfunding business Green Funding, announced on Friday that they have reached reached an agreement to support Taiwanese manufacturing startups for the latter’s Japanese market expansion. The ceremony was held at the Tsutaya Songshan store in Taipei to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) among the three companies. Based on the agreement, CCC is expected to provide marketing support for Taiwanese startups’ products both online and offline through the company’s bookstores and crowdfunding site in Japan.

CCC has been deeply involved in supporting startups, including running its own accelerator program and the commissioned operation of the Startup Cafe co-working spaces in Japanese cities. It has also opened seven bookstores in Taiwan since its first overseas expansion back in 2017. Earlier this year, the crowdfunding launched a campaign of iTemp, a smart mug and smart bowl from Taiwan, as its first project in the initiative. iiiNNO has been running a startup accelerator program with Taiwan Tsutaya.

From left: Junichi Anazawa (COO/CHRO, One More), Chong-Jie Lin (Commissioner, Department of Economic Development, Taipei City Government), Chia-Lei Chao (Co-founder & CFO, iiiNNO) , and Kazuma Otsuka (Senior Manager, Business Planning Department, Taiwan Tsutaya).
Image credit: Department of Economic Development, Taipei City Government

Having collaborated each other in supporting startups across borders, local governments of both Taipei and Fukuoka cities support this initiative as well. Their mayors, Taipei’s Wen-je Ko and Fukuoka’s Soichiro Takashima, contributed video messages to the signing ceremony.

Ko says,

The purpose of the MOU is to establish a funding and access platform between Taipei and Fukuoka, to help Taipei startups connect to online funding and online and offline access in Japan, in addition to introducing Japanese startups to incubation centers in Taipei. We are very pleased with the results of this project.

Takashima says,

Within the framework of cooperation between Fukuoka and Taipei, the new venture energy on both sides will definitely become stronger and more international. With both sides joining hands in the belief of welcoming new international ventures, this framework will facilitate the energy between two cities.

The signing ceremony was attended by Kazuma Otsuka (Senior Manager, Business Planning Department, Taiwan Tsutaya), Junichi Anazawa (Director, COO/CHRO, One More), Chia-Lei Chao (Co-founder & CFO, iiiNNO), and Chong-Jie Lin (Commissioner, Department of Economic Development, Taipei City Government). Also invited were Tetsuaki Miura (Director, Global Startup Planning and Coordination Department, Fukuoka City Government), Mark Pearson (New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei), and Stephane Khoubesserian (Canadian Trade Office in Taipei).

Kenya’s BNPL startup for motorcycle taxi riders secures $623K from Japanese companies

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Unchorlight Kenya Limited (UKL) is offering a BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) service called Zaribee, exclusively for “boda boda” motorcycle taxi riders in the Eastern African country. The company announced on Friday that it has secured 90 million yen (about $623,000 US) from Honda Trading and Skylight Consulting. Honda Trading is a trading company under one of Japan’s major automobile/motorcycle manufacturers while Skylight Consulting is a consulting firm affiliated with Tokyo-based IT outsourcing giant Transcosmos. UKL is a local subsidiary in Kenya of a joint venture established in 2021 by Skylight Consulting and Africa-focused seed-stage VC Uncovered Fund. In Africa, financial services are underdeveloped, making it hard for people to obtain unsecured loans. Cab drivers are particularly unrewarded despite their harsh working environment. UKL provides a Rent-to-Own motorcycle sales service to self-employed motorcycle taxi riders. The service lets several riders form a group, which encourages them to repay on a community-trust basis leveraging the visibility of credit. The rider can own their motorcycle after completing installment payments for 18 months. Since its launched back in September of 2021, UKL has sold motorcycles to more than 250 in the first nine months. The company also sells insurance to riders, introduces mobility…

Image credit: Unchorlight Kenya Limited

Unchorlight Kenya Limited (UKL) is offering a BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) service called Zaribee, exclusively for “boda boda” motorcycle taxi riders in the Eastern African country. The company announced on Friday that it has secured 90 million yen (about $623,000 US) from Honda Trading and Skylight Consulting. Honda Trading is a trading company under one of Japan’s major automobile/motorcycle manufacturers while Skylight Consulting is a consulting firm affiliated with Tokyo-based IT outsourcing giant Transcosmos.

UKL is a local subsidiary in Kenya of a joint venture established in 2021 by Skylight Consulting and Africa-focused seed-stage VC Uncovered Fund.

In Africa, financial services are underdeveloped, making it hard for people to obtain unsecured loans. Cab drivers are particularly unrewarded despite their harsh working environment. UKL provides a Rent-to-Own motorcycle sales service to self-employed motorcycle taxi riders. The service lets several riders form a group, which encourages them to repay on a community-trust basis leveraging the visibility of credit. The rider can own their motorcycle after completing installment payments for 18 months.

Since its launched back in September of 2021, UKL has sold motorcycles to more than 250 in the first nine months. The company also sells insurance to riders, introduces mobility service jobs including motorbike taxi as well as conducts educational activities on safe driving.

In this particular niche, Kenya-based Japanese startup Hakki Africa is offering a credit scoring-based finance for used cars for cab drivers, which announces 220 million yen ($1.9 million US in the exchange rate at the time) in a series A round funding back in March. Another startup Moove, offering automobile financing for self-employed workers in sub-Saharan Africa, secured $105 million US in a series A2 round from multiple investors including Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Innovation Partners in the same month.

TakeMe raises $2M to help restaurants get ready for tourist surge as Japan reopening borders

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based TakeMe, the startup offering marketing and payments solutions for diners and restaurants in Japan, announced today that it has secured 260 million yen (about $2 million) from Taiwan-based New Economy Ventures and unnamed angel investors in the latest round back in March. As far as we can learn from publicly available information, this follows their $9.2 million funding in July of 2018, which appears to be a series A round. New Economy Ventures has so far invested in Taiwanese crypto infrastructure platform Cybavo (acquired by US Fintech unicorn Circle in 2022), Internet of Energy service provider NextDrive as well as Taiwanese startup XREX offering SaaS (software as a service) and PaaS (platform as a service) for crypto businesses. The firm is focused on supporting regional expansion of startups in East Asia. Previously known as Japan Foodie, TakeMe was founded in December of 2015 by Dong Lu, a Chinese serial entrepreneur from Beijing. After attending a university in Tokyo, he worked at Goldman Sachs and then earned an MBA degree from Stanford University. Subsequently, following working at a consulting firm and a VC, he founded two startups and then sold them out. TakeMe has…

Image credit: TakeMe

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based TakeMe, the startup offering marketing and payments solutions for diners and restaurants in Japan, announced today that it has secured 260 million yen (about $2 million) from Taiwan-based New Economy Ventures and unnamed angel investors in the latest round back in March. As far as we can learn from publicly available information, this follows their $9.2 million funding in July of 2018, which appears to be a series A round.

New Economy Ventures has so far invested in Taiwanese crypto infrastructure platform Cybavo (acquired by US Fintech unicorn Circle in 2022), Internet of Energy service provider NextDrive as well as Taiwanese startup XREX offering SaaS (software as a service) and PaaS (platform as a service) for crypto businesses. The firm is focused on supporting regional expansion of startups in East Asia.

Previously known as Japan Foodie, TakeMe was founded in December of 2015 by Dong Lu, a Chinese serial entrepreneur from Beijing. After attending a university in Tokyo, he worked at Goldman Sachs and then earned an MBA degree from Stanford University. Subsequently, following working at a consulting firm and a VC, he founded two startups and then sold them out. TakeMe has been so far backed by multiple renowned angel investors: Ikuo Nishioka, Xiao-Hang Yuan, Koutaro Chiba, Naoki Shimada, Yusuke Tanaka, and Legend Partners (Tomohito Ebine’s fund).

TakeMe was also hit hard by the pandemic. For more than three and a half years, TakeMe has been focused on offering digital transformation (DX) solutions for F&B businesses. The initiative includes offering Shopify-like solutions so that restaurants can easily build a take-out and delivery ordering site as well as developing API integrations with online travel agencies (OTAs) and restaurant booking services.

The TakeMe order plaform is adopted by over 50 restaurant chain brands in Japan.
Image credit: TakeMe

In addition to providing restaurants with most of the payment methods used by Japanese consumers and inbound travelers, TakeMe also acts as an intermediary between OTAs and restaurant reservation services, guiding customers to the most suitable restaurants they desire. The platform has been integrated with OTAs like Alibaba’s Fliggy, Hong Kong-based Klook as well as the TableCheck restaurant customer management system.

In July, TakeMe was integrated with the Camel order aggregation platform, which enables restaurants to manage orders from various food delivery services such as UberEats, menu, Wolt, and Demae-can. The integration means that the TakeMe platfom alone allows restaurants to manage bookings from sending local consumers and inbound visitors to accepting orders from food delivery services. Some restaurants are now using the platform for managing even in-store orders.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced last week that his country would lift up the COVID-19-related travel ban on October 19th, exempting foreign visitors to Japan from visa requirements. With the recent weaker Yen trend, the tourism and restaurant industries have high expectations for the revival of inbound visitors’ demand. TakeMe plans to use the funds to enhance its TakeMe Order management system and to accelerate developing functions for inbound visitors.

ChatBook, developing chatbot and marketing automation tool, acquired by Monex Group

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We just learned that Japanese startup ChatBook, providing the automated marketing solution under the same name utilizing chatbot, has been acquired by Japan’s leading FinTech conglomerate Monex Group(TSE:8698). Monex acquired all stakes in ChatBook for an undisclosed sum. Chatbook’s most recent funding was a pre-series A round in December of 2019 (securing 100 million yen, about $920,000 in the exchange rate at the time) where Monex Ventures, the VC arm of Monex Group, participated in the investment. Japanese startup database Initial reported ChatBook was valued at 712 million yen (about $6.6 million) at the time. Chatbook was co-founded in September of 2016 (named Hect as its start) by Maiko Kojima who formerly worked for Prime Again (now known as Prime) as CFO/COO. The firm has been chosen for various accelerator programs so far; the first batch of the Code Public program in 2016, Accelerate course of FbStart which is a developer support program by Facebook in 2017 and the first batch of AI Accelerator organized by the major job information provider Dip (TSE:2379). ChatBook uses chatbots compatible with social media like Facebook, Line, and Instagram to lure potential customers and link them to sales activities in conjunction with customer relation…

Image credit: Monex Goup, ChatBook

We just learned that Japanese startup ChatBook, providing the automated marketing solution under the same name utilizing chatbot, has been acquired by Japan’s leading FinTech conglomerate Monex Group(TSE:8698). Monex acquired all stakes in ChatBook for an undisclosed sum.

Chatbook’s most recent funding was a pre-series A round in December of 2019 (securing 100 million yen, about $920,000 in the exchange rate at the time) where Monex Ventures, the VC arm of Monex Group, participated in the investment. Japanese startup database Initial reported ChatBook was valued at 712 million yen (about $6.6 million) at the time.

Chatbook was co-founded in September of 2016 (named Hect as its start) by Maiko Kojima who formerly worked for Prime Again (now known as Prime) as CFO/COO. The firm has been chosen for various accelerator programs so far; the first batch of the Code Public program in 2016, Accelerate course of FbStart which is a developer support program by Facebook in 2017 and the first batch of AI Accelerator organized by the major job information provider Dip (TSE:2379).

Image credit: ChatBook

ChatBook uses chatbots compatible with social media like Facebook, Line, and Instagram to lure potential customers and link them to sales activities in conjunction with customer relation management tools. While there are several marketing solutions using chatbots in Japan, Chatbook has a high affinity with sales activities for long-legged and rigid business solutions for enterprises.

In this sector, some of our readers may recall that Japanese startup Zeals, developing and offering the Fanp chatbot-based solution for e-commerce retailers, had planned to list on the TSE Mothers market but subsequently decided postpone it due to negative factors such as changes in US monetary policy, IPO market trends, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The company recently announced that it has secured 5 billion yen (about $38 million) in May.

Through this acquisition, Monex will invest its management resources in Chatbook, while promoting further business expansion by providing multifaceted support such as sales channel expansion and funding, and will return Chatbook’s human resources, mainly engineers, and the knowledge and know-how gained through business expansion to the Monex. The company will also aim to enhance the digital marketing capabilities of the Monex Group companies by returning to the Monex Group the human resources of Chatbook, mainly engineers, as well as the knowledge and expertise gained through business expansion.

Through this acquisition, Monex expects to invest its management resources in Chatbook while promoting further business expansion by providing support for cultivating sales channels and funding. In addition, the acquisition will also enable the FinTech group to enhance the digital marketing capabilities of each of its subsidiaries by incorporating ChatBook’s human resources, mainly engineers, as well as the knowledge and expertise.

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Japan’s Caster, offering WFH jobs for freelance workers, expanding into Germany, UAE

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Japanese WFH (work-from-home) jobs offering startup Caster, headquartered in the country’s western prefecture of Miyzaki, announced on Friday that it will be expanding into Germany and United Arab Emirates (UAE). The company plans to set up a local office in Berlin and Dubai within this year. Since its launched back in September of 2014, the company offers online assistance service in the categories like secretarial, human resources, accounting, translation, and other corporate tasks for startups and enterprises. The company had 1,500 remote staffers registered as of June while more than 3,000 companies have used the service so far. The company said that it has chosen Germany as its first step for global expansion because the country’s social environment and workforce are similar to those in Japan, which helps the company take advantage of their experience and schemes. With offices in Germany and the UAE, Caster plans to accelerate its expansion effort into the entire European region. The company has already begun recruiting local employees in Berlin and the rest of Germany on the the Japan-Germany Industrial Association website. In February, Caster announced that it has secured 1.3 billion yen (about $11.5 million US in the exchange rate at the time)…

Image credit: Caster

Japanese WFH (work-from-home) jobs offering startup Caster, headquartered in the country’s western prefecture of Miyzaki, announced on Friday that it will be expanding into Germany and United Arab Emirates (UAE). The company plans to set up a local office in Berlin and Dubai within this year.

Since its launched back in September of 2014, the company offers online assistance service in the categories like secretarial, human resources, accounting, translation, and other corporate tasks for startups and enterprises. The company had 1,500 remote staffers registered as of June while more than 3,000 companies have used the service so far.

The company said that it has chosen Germany as its first step for global expansion because the country’s social environment and workforce are similar to those in Japan, which helps the company take advantage of their experience and schemes. With offices in Germany and the UAE, Caster plans to accelerate its expansion effort into the entire European region. The company has already begun recruiting local employees in Berlin and the rest of Germany on the the Japan-Germany Industrial Association website.

In February, Caster announced that it has secured 1.3 billion yen (about $11.5 million US in the exchange rate at the time) in a Series D round, which brought their funding sum up to around 3 billion yen (about $21.5 million US in the exchange rate at the time) on an estimation basis. The Initial startup database estimates the company is valued over 12.3 billion yen (about $89 million US).

Japan’s free insurance startup Warrantee to commence trading on NASDAQ

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We reported earlier this year that Osaka-headquartered Warrantee, the Japanese startup offering free insurance services in the US and Singapore, has publicly filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for its initial public offering (IPO) on NASDAQ. We recently learned the application has been approved by SEC. According to the regulator’s database EDGAR, the company has received SEC’s Notice of Effectiveness dated June 30. The company’s stock will be traded under its ticker code WRNT while it’s uncertain when the trading begins. Based on past cases, the trading will start within half to one month after the approval. We confirmed that Bloomberg has already set up a page showing Warrantee’s quotes. Meanwhile, Warrantee has posted a document titled Public Notice of Board of Directors’ Resolution on Issuance of Shares for Subscription on their website, which details the subscription and payment for the underlying shares and the shares subject of the Over-Allotment Option. Founded back in October of 2013 by CEO Yusuke Shono, Warrantee started its business with helping consumers turn product warranties into digital followed by foraying into the on-demand insurance market in 2017 in collaboration with insurance companies. Subsequently the company started offering free or low-cost on-demand…

Yusuke Shono
Image credit: Warrantee

We reported earlier this year that Osaka-headquartered Warrantee, the Japanese startup offering free insurance services in the US and Singapore, has publicly filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for its initial public offering (IPO) on NASDAQ. We recently learned the application has been approved by SEC.

According to the regulator’s database EDGAR, the company has received SEC’s Notice of Effectiveness dated June 30. The company’s stock will be traded under its ticker code WRNT while it’s uncertain when the trading begins. Based on past cases, the trading will start within half to one month after the approval. We confirmed that Bloomberg has already set up a page showing Warrantee’s quotes.

Meanwhile, Warrantee has posted a document titled Public Notice of Board of Directors’ Resolution on Issuance of Shares for Subscription on their website, which details the subscription and payment for the underlying shares and the shares subject of the Over-Allotment Option.

Founded back in October of 2013 by CEO Yusuke Shono, Warrantee started its business with helping consumers turn product warranties into digital followed by foraying into the on-demand insurance market in 2017 in collaboration with insurance companies.

Subsequently the company started offering free or low-cost on-demand insurance services in the US and Singapore where state-run affordable and universal health insurance systems are less common unlike Japan.

We have contacted Warrantee for further details but haven’t yet received any response as of this writing. This is a developing story and may be updated in the future.