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 Brazil Venture Capital announces first close of $9M second fund

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In 2020, startup investment in Brazil reached US$3.5 billion, up 30% from the previous year, while the number of unicorns in 2020 increased by 3 to 14. Meanwhile, that in Japan reached US$4.32 billion, and the number of unicorns increased by Spider alone to 7 during the same period. This indicates that Brazil has produced unicorns at about twice the rate of Japan so far and last year despite having experienced one of the worst pandemic situation in the world. Mitsuru Nakayama, founder and CEO of Brazil Venture Capital (BVC) has been forced to stay inside Japan due to the pandemic but been busy to remotely support startups which are typically located on the other sdide of the planet. Thanks to the efforts of newly joined partners and associates in Brazil and Peru, the firm’s investment activities are keeping going well. BVC announced its second fund with a targeted final size of 1 billion yen in December, and has reached its first close and disclosed the names of their investors and two invested startups. Most of the fund’s investors are angels in Japan as follows (except for those who don’t want to be named): Shintaro Okuno — Managing Partner and…

BVC’s Mitsuru Nakayama
Image credit: BVC

In 2020, startup investment in Brazil reached US$3.5 billion, up 30% from the previous year, while the number of unicorns in 2020 increased by 3 to 14. Meanwhile, that in Japan reached US$4.32 billion, and the number of unicorns increased by Spider alone to 7 during the same period. This indicates that Brazil has produced unicorns at about twice the rate of Japan so far and last year despite having experienced one of the worst pandemic situation in the world.

Mitsuru Nakayama, founder and CEO of Brazil Venture Capital (BVC) has been forced to stay inside Japan due to the pandemic but been busy to remotely support startups which are typically located on the other sdide of the planet. Thanks to the efforts of newly joined partners and associates in Brazil and Peru, the firm’s investment activities are keeping going well. BVC announced its second fund with a targeted final size of 1 billion yen in December, and has reached its first close and disclosed the names of their investors and two invested startups.

Most of the fund’s investors are angels in Japan as follows (except for those who don’t want to be named):

  • Shintaro Okuno — Managing Partner and Head of Tokyo, Bain & Company
  • Haruo Amano — Executive Vice President, Hennge
  • Soki Ohmae — Co-Founder and Representative Partner, Drone Fund
  • Ken Soga — President, SGcapital
  • Shota Kawaminami — Executive Officer, HENNGE
  • Tatsuya Matsuoka — President, Japan Medical Support Institute
  • Nobuaki Takahashi — Founder, Phil Company / PHALs

Second Fund’s portfolio 1: Digital Restaurants sees a spree.

Image credit: Digital Restaurants

In late April, Europe-based Taster announced it has secured 27 million euros. The startup wants to call themselves a digital restaurant brand rather than a ghost restaurant or a cloud kitchen operator because they dare not just providing cooking resources behind third-party brands but trying to build new brands themselves. The sales in Paris of Europe’s leading food delivery operator Deliveroo recently showed a consolidation of Taster brands was ranked in third place following McDonald’s and Burger King.

Pedro Neira Ferrand, a four-time serial entrepreneur from Peru, launched Digital Restaurants. Approved to join renowned entrepreneur support networks like Endeavor and Founders Network, he had been running a Latin America-focused dating app called MiMediaManzana (already shut down) prior to the current startup.

Digital Restaurants has partnered with MCK Hospitality, an operator behind the Japanese-Peruvian restaurant chain Osaka being operated in major Latin American cities, and is now operating several digital restaurant brands like Lucky’s Crispy Chicken, Poke for the People and Black Burger. Currently, the company is only serving Peru but it may be easier for them to expand into other markets in South America where MCK has been running their operations.

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Second Fund’s portfolio 2: Mono is an Colombian answer to neobank.

Image credit: Mono

In our previous interview with Nakayama, he said that many local people are experiencing fewer access to financial services in Latin America while financial infrastructure is in place. If any startup can use the infrastructure to provide innovative services which are too cumbersome for conventional banksto provide, it could be a huge market out there. One example is ContaSimples, an investee from BVC’s first fund. The Brazilian startup currently serves 13,000 customers, planning to triple it by the end of the year. In late last year, they secured a US$2.5 million funding led by Brazil’s FinTech-focused VC firm Quartz.

We can guess that Mono is a Colombian answer to ContaSimples. It’s seeing a high growth by issuing credit cards to entrepreneurs and sole proprietors with no credit history but high demand for card payments in their business. All four of Mono’s founders have previously worked at fintech startups, including the two who has been selected in a Y Combinator-qualified startup (tpaga, selected for the YC S17 batch).

A growing number of startups from the fintech industry are joining the unicorn club in Latin America, including local neobanks like Brazil’s Nubank and Argentina’s Uala we well as payments startups like Uruguay’s dLocal and Mexico’s Clip. What is more, many of these unicorns have common in terms of having got SoftBank Vision Fund as an investor. SoftBank tends to invest in the middle or later stage, it is interesting to note that BVC is able to reach out to potential unicorns in the early stage.


BVC has also informally agreed with four Brazilian startups to invest in them from its second fund shortly. The first fund, launched in August 2016, has invested in 12 companies so far, and Nakayama told us that they would see some exits from that portfolio pretty soon. The first fund’s portfolio includes bxblue (automated payroll loans), ContaSimples, ARPAC (drone technology for efficient pesticide spraying).

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Dentsu launches second $91M startup-focused fund

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Dentsu Group (TSE:4324) has recently launched Dentsu Ventures Fund II, the second fund worth 10 billion yen (about $91 million) by its corporate venture capital arm Dentsu Ventures. Combining with the Fund I launched back in April of 2015, they now have 20 billion yen (about $184 million) cash for startup investments. According to the arm’s Managing Partner Kotaro Sasamoto, the second fund will be focused on investing in both Japanese and foreign startups with exploring potential synergy while the first fund was more focused on investing in mid- and later-stage foreign startups planning to enter the Japanese market. From its first fund, Dentsu Ventures had invested in about 40 startups, mainly in the US, and been targeting mid- and later-stage startups in the bioscience and healthcare industries which are less likely to work with Dentsu’s primary business. Their remarkable investees from the first fund include Nextbit (the developer of the Robin cloud-optimized smartphone, acquired by Razer), Cheddar (a video news service for millennials, acquired by Altice USA), and Twist Bioscience (DNA synthesis startup, IPOed). Sasamoto says, From our first fund, more than 30 out of 40 invested startups are from the overseas, with an eye on potential synergy with…

The Dentsu Ventures team
Image credit: Dentsu Ventures

Dentsu Group (TSE:4324) has recently launched Dentsu Ventures Fund II, the second fund worth 10 billion yen (about $91 million) by its corporate venture capital arm Dentsu Ventures. Combining with the Fund I launched back in April of 2015, they now have 20 billion yen (about $184 million) cash for startup investments. According to the arm’s Managing Partner Kotaro Sasamoto, the second fund will be focused on investing in both Japanese and foreign startups with exploring potential synergy while the first fund was more focused on investing in mid- and later-stage foreign startups planning to enter the Japanese market.

From its first fund, Dentsu Ventures had invested in about 40 startups, mainly in the US, and been targeting mid- and later-stage startups in the bioscience and healthcare industries which are less likely to work with Dentsu’s primary business. Their remarkable investees from the first fund include Nextbit (the developer of the Robin cloud-optimized smartphone, acquired by Razer), Cheddar (a video news service for millennials, acquired by Altice USA), and Twist Bioscience (DNA synthesis startup, IPOed).

Sasamoto says,

From our first fund, more than 30 out of 40 invested startups are from the overseas, with an eye on potential synergy with Dentsu’s future business domain in 5 to 10 years from now. We had invested in very few Japanese startups such as Alp (developing the Scalebase platform helping subscription businesses maximize revenue) and Kakehashi (SaaS for pharmacists).

From the second fund, we would like to more work with Japanese startups in collaboration with Dentsu Innovation Initiative (DII), especially focused on investing in the areas a little bit closer to our core business such as MarTech, SalesTech, retail, commerce, media, and community. We expect to co-create new business with them.

Dentsu Ventures’ portfolio
Image credit: Dentsu Ventures

DII is Dentsu’s R&D arm with the mission of “creating the future businesses that only Dentsu can create”, promoting investment in and business development with promising global startups and technology companies with an aim to create the business infrastructure for the future. It has recently been offering internships with business development in mind. Dentsu Ventures intends to strengthen its investment efforts with an eye to have startups co-create not only with the Dentsu Group and its affiliated companies but also with their clients.

Compared to the first fund, the COVID-19 pandemic has apparently influenced to changing the policy of the second fund because it is no longer possible for investors to hop around foreign destinations for sourcing startups and their due diligence. On the other hand, six years have been passed since the launch of Dentsu Ventures, they are getting better recognized in the startup landscape, which may be partly due to the fact that it is now more likely to be able to lead or co-lead investment deals in the seed stage, both in Japan and overseas.

UTokyo-backed fund sizes up to $220M+, works with other univs to help more startups

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UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), a VC firm backed by the University of Tokyo, has agreed with the University of Tsukuba, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, and Tokyo Institute of Technology to operate together the firm-led entrepreneurship support program called 1st Round. This means four national universities in the Tokyo metropolitan area join forces in sourcing more budding startup teams to help nurture and fund. The 1st Round program was originally launched in 2017 and then rebranded as the current name in 2019. Inspired by Stanford University-backed StartX, the program helps graduates, faculty members, and students who are looking to start their own businesses, as well as university-related seed startups that have not yet raised funds, with up to 10 million yen (about $100,000 US) in funding and hands-on support for six months. Selected startups will receive a variety of resource support for PoC (proof of concept), collaboration, and commercialization from the program’s partners. Fuyo General Lease, JR East Japan Startup, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, PCA, Mitsui Fudosan, Nippon Life Insurance, Toyota Motor, Yamato Holdings, and Yaskawa Electric are joining the latest batch, the fifth of its kind, as partners. The program has turned out 34 startups to…

The UTokyo IPC team
Image credit: UTokyo IPC

UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), a VC firm backed by the University of Tokyo, has agreed with the University of Tsukuba, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, and Tokyo Institute of Technology to operate together the firm-led entrepreneurship support program called 1st Round. This means four national universities in the Tokyo metropolitan area join forces in sourcing more budding startup teams to help nurture and fund.

The 1st Round program was originally launched in 2017 and then rebranded as the current name in 2019. Inspired by Stanford University-backed StartX, the program helps graduates, faculty members, and students who are looking to start their own businesses, as well as university-related seed startups that have not yet raised funds, with up to 10 million yen (about $100,000 US) in funding and hands-on support for six months.

Selected startups will receive a variety of resource support for PoC (proof of concept), collaboration, and commercialization from the program’s partners. Fuyo General Lease, JR East Japan Startup, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, PCA, Mitsui Fudosan, Nippon Life Insurance, Toyota Motor, Yamato Holdings, and Yaskawa Electric are joining the latest batch, the fifth of its kind, as partners.

The program has turned out 34 startups to date. Among the alumni, our readers may recall interesting startups which have secured funds from UTokyo IPC, such as HarvestX (from the 3rd round, developing automated pollination and harvesting of strawberries), ARAV (from the 3rd round), developing remote control and autonomous drive of construction machinery), as well as Sonus (from the 4th round, developing the power-saving multi-hop wireless network technology). 90% of the teams graduated from the program have successfully secured VC funding.

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UTokyo IPC revealed that it has significantly enlarge the size of the firm’s AOI Fund (named after Accelerating Open Innovation) which was introduced announced last May. Worth 2.75 billion yen (about $25 million) at the time, it has now grown up to 24 billion yen (about $219 million). In addition to conventional investors like Mitsubishi UFJ Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, SBI Group, Daikin Industries, Development Bank of Japan Group, Hakuhodo, Fuyo General Lease, and Mitsubishi Estate have newly invested in the fund as limited partners.

The disclosed six startups which have secured investments from the AOI fund are:

  • Fimecs …… research and development of novel drugs based on proteolysis induction (carve-out from Takeda Pharmaceutical)
  • Onedot …… operating the Chinese childcare media Babily and helping Japanese e-commerce companies make digital strategies and marketing efforts for the Chinese market (carve-out from Unicharm and BCG Digital Ventures)
  • Bird Initiative …… Offering consulting services for solving company issues through digital transformation as well as prototyping services for expanding R&D functions (joint venture with NEC and others)
  • UrbanX Technologies …… building a real-time Digital Twin for road inspections and urban infrastructure management
  • HarvestX …… developing automated pollination and harvesting of strawberries
  • ARAV …… developing remote control and autonomous drive of construction machinery

UTokyo IPC plans to more actively invest in startups from these universities. As the fund has become larger, it is now able to handle ticket sizes ranging from a seed investment worth tens of millions of yen to a large-scale one worth more than 2 billion yen, according to the firm.

Infinity Ventures, e.ventures, rebranded to Headline

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Three VC firms from around the globe – Asia-focused Infinity Ventures, US- and Europe-focused e.ventures, and Brazil-based Redpoint e.ventures – announced its integrated rebranding to Headline, aiming to increase their global recognition. Their offices are located in Beijing, Taipei, Tokyo, San Francisco, Berlin, Paris, and Sao Paulo. Over 10 years, the three VC firms have jointly worked together and invested in startups like Groupon Japan, Farfetch’s Japan business as well as China’s largest QR code aggregator, Yeahka (IPOed in Hong Kong in 2019). In a statement, Akio Tanaka, the founding partner of Infinity Ventures and the partner of Headline, said, The world is becoming more connected, ideas from one part of the world to another travel much, much faster today. There is no such thing as purely regional deals anymore. Every regional deal in the future will have an international angle. For VCs to find winners early, and opportunities that scale, you need international intelligence. That’s what we have had so far working with Redpoint and e.ventures, and that’s what we’re betting on further with Headline. During IVS 2021 Spring in March, a spin-off startup conference from Infinity Ventures, a video clip shown in the last moment suggested that Infinity…

Three VC firms from around the globe – Asia-focused Infinity Ventures, US- and Europe-focused e.ventures, and Brazil-based Redpoint e.ventures – announced its integrated rebranding to Headline, aiming to increase their global recognition. Their offices are located in Beijing, Taipei, Tokyo, San Francisco, Berlin, Paris, and Sao Paulo.

Over 10 years, the three VC firms have jointly worked together and invested in startups like Groupon Japan, Farfetch’s Japan business as well as China’s largest QR code aggregator, Yeahka (IPOed in Hong Kong in 2019).

In a statement, Akio Tanaka, the founding partner of Infinity Ventures and the partner of Headline, said,

The world is becoming more connected, ideas from one part of the world to another travel much, much faster today. There is no such thing as purely regional deals anymore.

Every regional deal in the future will have an international angle. For VCs to find winners early, and opportunities that scale, you need international intelligence. That’s what we have had so far working with Redpoint and e.ventures, and that’s what we’re betting on further with Headline.

During IVS 2021 Spring in March, a spin-off startup conference from Infinity Ventures, a video clip shown in the last moment suggested that Infinity Ventures would be rebranded soon. Infinity Ventures has managed US$300 million and has invested in over 100 startups, resulting in nine IPOs to date.

According to Headline’s website, Akihiko Okamoto, who has served as the executive officer in charge of R&D at Recruit Holdings as well as the executive vice president and head of strategic investment at MUFG Innovation Partners, has been appointed as a partner of Headline. Prior to it, he was appointed as the co-head of WEIN Financial Group in November.

Studist nabs $17M from Pavilion Capital and others to boost Asia expansion

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Studist, the Japanese startup behind the TeachMe Biz visual workflow management platform and the Hansoku Cloud sales promotion PDCA management platform, announced today that it has secured 1.85 billion yen (about $17.1 million US) in the latest round. In addition to existing investors such as DNX Ventures, Nippon Venture Capital, and Salesforce Ventures, participating investors in this round are 31 Ventures-Global Brain Growth I (jointly run by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), Pavilion Capital (a private equity fund by Singaporean Government-backed Temasek Holdings), and Hakuhodo DY Ventures. For Studist, this round follows their series C round back in April of 2019. The company has not disclosed the round stage but this is its fifth round securing funds from external investors. It brought the total sum of funding up to about $29.6 million US. According to the Initial startup database, the company’s post series C round (previous round) valuation is estimated about $63.4 million US. TeachMe Biz is widely used in the manufacturing, retail, and restaurant industries. The platform has served more than 318,000 accounts and saved over 520,000 SOPs (standard operation procedures) as of March of this year. In November of last year,…

Studist CEO Satoshi Suzuki
Image credit: Studist

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Studist, the Japanese startup behind the TeachMe Biz visual workflow management platform and the Hansoku Cloud sales promotion PDCA management platform, announced today that it has secured 1.85 billion yen (about $17.1 million US) in the latest round.

In addition to existing investors such as DNX Ventures, Nippon Venture Capital, and Salesforce Ventures, participating investors in this round are 31 Ventures-Global Brain Growth I (jointly run by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), Pavilion Capital (a private equity fund by Singaporean Government-backed Temasek Holdings), and Hakuhodo DY Ventures.

For Studist, this round follows their series C round back in April of 2019. The company has not disclosed the round stage but this is its fifth round securing funds from external investors. It brought the total sum of funding up to about $29.6 million US. According to the Initial startup database, the company’s post series C round (previous round) valuation is estimated about $63.4 million US.

TeachMe Biz is widely used in the manufacturing, retail, and restaurant industries. The platform has served more than 318,000 accounts and saved over 520,000 SOPs (standard operation procedures) as of March of this year.

In November of last year, the company launched Hansoku Cloud as a new product line. The platform enables chain retailers, such as small supermarkets and drugstores, to put all instructions from their headquarters to stores in a place. It can reduce the burden on store clerks and encourages them to display new products as the instructions are given in an easy-to-understand manner that does not rely on text alone.

Studist has been focused on the SaaS business, but will strengthen its consulting service for better introducing TeachMe Biz, which has been offered on a testing basis to a total of 12 big companies since August last year. Generally speaking, consulting business is often labor-intensive, but the Studist’s one may rather help bring more users to the SaaS platform.

With Mitsui Fudosan, one of the new investors, Studist intends to introduce the TeachMe Biz platform to Mitsui’s subsidiaries and tenants in their office buildings and shopping malls to help them improve their productivity.

Meanwhile, Studist has been expanding into Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand where about 70 companies are using the TeachMe Biz platform. Having Pavilion Capital onboard, Studist may be more likely to reach potential customers in Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Vietnam.

Based on the Hansoku Cloud platform, Studist plans to launch a new service for brands this summer. Details have not been disclosed but it may be something allowing brands to introduce their new products directly to retailers and use the storefront as a marketing tool. Hakuhodo, another investor in the round, has a creative department with strong ties with these brands.

Japan’s Warrantee rolling out complimentary health insurance in US, Singapore

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We first covered Warrantee seven years ago when the company’s founder Yusuke Shono was selected as a finalist at HackOsaka 2014, an annual startup conference hosted by Osaka City. His rare experience that every single home appliance he bought when he started living alone was broken triggered him to launch his first business Warrantee aiming to convert all warranties into digital. It may be often hard for us to find a warranty form when we specifically need it. He created the service because he thought it would be convenient to manage such warranties electronically, but at first he had no idea about how to get companies to pay for it or how to grow the user base. They wondered if they could provide something like, “If you register your warranty on the platform, we’ll give you another year of warranty for free.” That was the beginning of their new insurance concept. In late 2014, Warrantee received investment from Japanese cooking-recipe sharing site Cookpad (TSE:2193) and started exploring business synergy with them. This made Shono keenly aware of the strength of a complimentary service, and he says, “It’s amazing that (Cookpad) can attract so many users even though it’s free,”. This…

Image credit: Warrantee

We first covered Warrantee seven years ago when the company’s founder Yusuke Shono was selected as a finalist at HackOsaka 2014, an annual startup conference hosted by Osaka City. His rare experience that every single home appliance he bought when he started living alone was broken triggered him to launch his first business Warrantee aiming to convert all warranties into digital.

It may be often hard for us to find a warranty form when we specifically need it. He created the service because he thought it would be convenient to manage such warranties electronically, but at first he had no idea about how to get companies to pay for it or how to grow the user base. They wondered if they could provide something like, “If you register your warranty on the platform, we’ll give you another year of warranty for free.” That was the beginning of their new insurance concept.

In late 2014, Warrantee received investment from Japanese cooking-recipe sharing site Cookpad (TSE:2193) and started exploring business synergy with them. This made Shono keenly aware of the strength of a complimentary service, and he says, “It’s amazing that (Cookpad) can attract so many users even though it’s free,”. This may be another reason why Warrantee is focused on developing a complimentary service.

Shono said,

Insurance for home appliances could be provided for free (as a way for sponsoring appliance manufacturers in return to obtain detailed user profiles) because it’s inexpensive, but not for automobiles because of high price. But if, for example, we divide a year by 365 days and ask a companies to pay 200 yen a day for each user, it could work.

Warrantee announced the launch of its first InsureTech business in 2017. Warrantee CEO Yusuke Shono (left), Tokio Marine Nichido Managing Executive Officer Yusuke Otsuka (right)
Image credit: Warrantee

In 2017, Warrantee, which had been touting themselves a warranty managing startup, suddenly started talking about insurance. Through its experience launching insurance business, Shono says his company could learn about Japan’s Insurance Business Act and how to coordinate with government agencies. Warrantee’s “Free Insurance” is a way of making on-demand insurance premium-free.

He explained,

One example is our partnership between Japanese air-conditioner giant Daikin and property franchisor Century 21 Japan. Daikin wanted to connect with property owners (such as landlords) who owned a large number of air conditioners in their properties. However, since air conditioners are typically sold through retailers or housing equipment companies, Daikin had no profile of these air conditioner owners as end users.

By having Daikin sponsor our product, Warrantee provided property owners with an additional warranty for their air conditioners free of charge. In return, Daikin could obtain the real estate owner’s profiles. It was a win-win situation for both Daikin and the property owners.

Despite its start with insurance for home appliances, Shono’s company can provide the service even for clinics which typically own expensive medical equipments. In view of how pharmaceutical firms and medical equipment manufacturers approaching medical institutions, we may imagine their sales representatives making on-site visits and phone calls but this is inefficient because medical professionals are often very busy. If Warrantee can provide give the firms sales channels in return for sponsoring Free Insurance for clinics, medical professionals would be willing to find the time slot for meet-up.

He continued,

Many manufacturers are pivoting their business model from product selling to subscription-based. For example, before a product becomes obsolete or broken, they can send customers a new model at no extra cost after 10 years of their first purchase. I believe that our Free Insurance is a great match for this trend.

The Free Insurance concept can be applied not only to “products” but also to “humans”. For example, it may give osteoporosis patients calcium supplements for free, or may allow people to sign up for complimentary health promotion services based on the result of their medical checkup. Some people may be reluctant to give out their profile but many may be willing to receive these rewards if the benefits outweigh the negatives.

He added,

Japan has a universal health insurance system that allows all its nationals to receive advanced medical care at lower cost. But US and Singapore don’t, so doctor bills there vary from hospital to hospital, making it easy for us to launch the Free Insurance in these markets. In the US, not only health insurance but also car insurance is expensive. We decided to open a branch office in Singapore because it is a good place to start something new.

Warrantee’s core members are located in Tokyo and Osaka, but we finally learned why Shono has repeatedly visited Singapore despite the inconvenience of being quarantined for two weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Free Insurance business seems to be doing quite well although the amount of sales is unknown, and the firm is aiming for an IPO in the US through an SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) in the near future, sources say.

In February, Evo Acquisition was incorporated as an SPAC to help get Japanese companies listed in the US. There will be more and more Japanese startups like Warrantee seeking a way out of the global market and aiming for a US IPO.

Japan’s Allm secures $50.5M+ to promote COVID-19 solutions and telemedicine in Asia

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See the original story in Japanese. Japanese MedTech Startup Allm has secured 5.6 billion yen (over $50.5 million) from investors including Mitsui & Co (TSE:8031) and SOMPO Holdings (TSE:8630), Nikkei reported on Sunday. This round is considered to be a series A extension round while Japanese startup database Initial reports the company’s post-valuation has reached about 32 billion yen (about $300 million). According to a statement issued by Allm at 11am on Monday, participating investors are: SOMPO Holdings, Mitsui, Eisai (TSE:4523), Royal Philips (AMS:PHIA), NID (TSE:2349), Cyberdyne (TSE:7779), Financial Agency, Mixi (TSE:2121), Capital Medica, Vector (TSE:6058), SBI Investment, Bonds Investment Group, Mizuho Capital, Asia Africa Investment and Consulting Royal Philips participated in Allm’s previous series A round as well. Allm was founded in 2001 by Teppei Sakano as SkillUp Japan. After selling its video distribution platform business, the company entered the medical ICT business in 2015 and rebranded its name into the current state. Since then, the company has rolled out medical device programs in more than a few countries around the world. Their portfolio products include Join (communication app for medical professionals), Enroll (patient recruitment solution), JoinTriage (triage app for emergency transport), Team (comprehensive regional care system promotion solution),…

The “Join” app
Image credit: Allm

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese MedTech Startup Allm has secured 5.6 billion yen (over $50.5 million) from investors including Mitsui & Co (TSE:8031) and SOMPO Holdings (TSE:8630), Nikkei reported on Sunday. This round is considered to be a series A extension round while Japanese startup database Initial reports the company’s post-valuation has reached about 32 billion yen (about $300 million).

According to a statement issued by Allm at 11am on Monday, participating investors are:

SOMPO Holdings, Mitsui, Eisai (TSE:4523), Royal Philips (AMS:PHIA), NID (TSE:2349), Cyberdyne (TSE:7779), Financial Agency, Mixi (TSE:2121), Capital Medica, Vector (TSE:6058), SBI Investment, Bonds Investment Group, Mizuho Capital, Asia Africa Investment and Consulting

Royal Philips participated in Allm’s previous series A round as well.

Allm was founded in 2001 by Teppei Sakano as SkillUp Japan. After selling its video distribution platform business, the company entered the medical ICT business in 2015 and rebranded its name into the current state. Since then, the company has rolled out medical device programs in more than a few countries around the world. Their portfolio products include Join (communication app for medical professionals), Enroll (patient recruitment solution), JoinTriage (triage app for emergency transport), Team (comprehensive regional care system promotion solution), and MySOS (life-saving and health app).

Allm will use the funds to focus on research and development of solutions that can contribute to developing countermeasures against COVID-19, not only in Japan but also overseas. The company will team up with Mitsui to help their operating medical institutions in Southeast Asia share information between core hospitals and smaller clinics. It will also develop telemedicine business connecting hospitals in Japan with local doctors in Southeast Asia to support the latter’s medical treatment. It will work with Sompo Holdings to consider creating a system utilizing Allm’s data for insurance and health promotion of nursing home users.

Amid buy-now-pay-later boom, Paidy becomes unicorn after raising $120M in series D

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Paidy, the Japanese startup behind cardless online payments and “Buy Now, Pay Later” service, has raised US$120 million in a Series D round, according to Nikkei’s report on Tuesday. It says the amount is one of the largest ever raised by an unlisted startup in Japan. Participating investors include Wellington Management, two funds owned by prominent investor George Soros, and Tybourne Capital Management (Hong Kong). Goldman Sachs, Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, and other financial institutions has set up debt facilities of up to $182.4 million. Prior to this, the company secured $55 million in a Series C round in July 2018, followed by its extension round securing $83 million in November of 2019 and an undisclosed sum in April of 2020. The latest round brought the sum raised up to date to about $337 million while the total amount of debt facilities has reached $248 million. According to sources, their valuation is estimated about $1.32 billion, which means they have join the unicorn club. Paidy was founded in 2008 by Russell Cummer, whose previous work experience includes Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. It started with a P2P finance or social lending service called Aqush…

Entrance of Paidy Headquarters in Tokyo
Image credit: Paidy

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Paidy, the Japanese startup behind cardless online payments and “Buy Now, Pay Later” service, has raised US$120 million in a Series D round, according to Nikkei’s report on Tuesday. It says the amount is one of the largest ever raised by an unlisted startup in Japan. Participating investors include Wellington Management, two funds owned by prominent investor George Soros, and Tybourne Capital Management (Hong Kong). Goldman Sachs, Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, and other financial institutions has set up debt facilities of up to $182.4 million.

Prior to this, the company secured $55 million in a Series C round in July 2018, followed by its extension round securing $83 million in November of 2019 and an undisclosed sum in April of 2020. The latest round brought the sum raised up to date to about $337 million while the total amount of debt facilities has reached $248 million. According to sources, their valuation is estimated about $1.32 billion, which means they have join the unicorn club.

Russell Cummer pitching at RISE 2018 in Hong Kong on July 12
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Paidy was founded in 2008 by Russell Cummer, whose previous work experience includes Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. It started with a P2P finance or social lending service called Aqush followed by the launch of Paidy back in 2014. Subsequently the management of Paidy shifted from ExCo to the operating company Paidy. They became an equity method affiliate of Itochu after the series C round in July of 2018.

Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) is a global phenomenon. In addition to US and European platformers such as Klarna (Sweden), Affirm (US), and Afterpay (Australia), startups like Hoolah, Pace, and Atome are beginning to emerge in the Asian market. Since the concept has a high affinity with digital wallet services, so-called “super apps,” many of which usually originate from car-hailing or food delivery apps, may also catch up with this trend.

Nextblue unveils first fund with $28M target for Japanese and European startups

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Tokyo-based VC firm Nextblue announced on Thursday that its first fund targeting to raise up to 3 billion yen ($27.5 million), which was initially set up in April, has reached its first close with completing securing about half of the final target. Disclosed limited partners include Japanese department store chain Marui Group (TSE: 8252), Japanese system integrator Q’sfix, and Japanese social gifting and e-voucher rewards platform Giftee (TSE:4449). The fund’s investment areas are Future of Work, Future of Health, and Future of Lifestyle. It intends to invest in seed stage startups in Japan as well as those in the pre-series A stage in Europe which have completed the product market fit phase and is ready for expanding into the Japanese market. The fund was founded by Yuichi Kori, Kanako Inoue, and Vincent Tan. Followed by launching his own startup Otsumu, Kori has been running his own VC called Reality Accelerator. Both Inoue and Tan have worked at Boston Consulting Group and Tokyo-based VC firm D4V. Nextblue’s goal is to support Japanese startups as well as European startups which usually face similar social issues to the Japanese society in their home turf. For helping these European startups expand into Japan, the…

Nextblue’s partners: From left, Vincent Tan, Kanako Inoue, Yuichi Kori
Image credit: Nextblue

Tokyo-based VC firm Nextblue announced on Thursday that its first fund targeting to raise up to 3 billion yen ($27.5 million), which was initially set up in April, has reached its first close with completing securing about half of the final target. Disclosed limited partners include Japanese department store chain Marui Group (TSE: 8252), Japanese system integrator Q’sfix, and Japanese social gifting and e-voucher rewards platform Giftee (TSE:4449).

The fund’s investment areas are Future of Work, Future of Health, and Future of Lifestyle. It intends to invest in seed stage startups in Japan as well as those in the pre-series A stage in Europe which have completed the product market fit phase and is ready for expanding into the Japanese market.

The fund was founded by Yuichi Kori, Kanako Inoue, and Vincent Tan. Followed by launching his own startup Otsumu, Kori has been running his own VC called Reality Accelerator. Both Inoue and Tan have worked at Boston Consulting Group and Tokyo-based VC firm D4V. Nextblue’s goal is to support Japanese startups as well as European startups which usually face similar social issues to the Japanese society in their home turf. For helping these European startups expand into Japan, the fund expects to establish a joint venture with them and provide hands-on support with local partners.

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In an interview with Bridge, Inoue told us why her team picked up the two markets to invest in:

The investment market in Europe is still conservative, still giving early-stage and seed companies a limited access to risk money. We also chose the market because it is easier to secure a certain equity stake (compared to the US where valuations are extremely high).

Bring promising European startups to Japan and help them expand into the market is also our mission. We will pour a certain amount of money into them in return for receiving a certain portion of their equity, but we want to commit to them, create a joint venture, and make their business in Japan a success in partnership with our local partners.

Kori had been investing in startups through his own Reality Accelerator, and this activity will be apparently integrated into Nextblue. Kori and Inoue mainly invest in Japanese startups from Tokyo, while Tan is currently based in Berlin to watch the European startup landscape.

As of the announcement, the firm unveiled a portfolio of 14 investees from the first fund so far. Among them, two companies – AZOO and Early Music Company Japan – graduated from the fund’s accelerator program conducted in Tokyo last summer.

From Japan:

  • AZOO …… Provides Wasimil, an operation automation service for small and medium-sized hotels
  • Early Music Company Japan …… Provides Smart Accompanist, a platform for selling ”minus-one” sound tracks of classical music
  • Indigames …… Develops and provides casual games and high-quality game development engines
  • Kalkul …… Develops and provides Aura, a vertical AR (augmented reality) audio content platform
  • Matsuri Technologies …… Provides SaaS and platforms for short-term rental residences
  • SecureNavi …… Provides ISMS (Information Security Management System) automation tools
  • Precal …… Provides an automated prescription data-entry service for pharmacies

From Europe:

  • Ohne (UK) …… Provides organic sanitary product subscription service and PMS (premenstrual syndrome) relief products
  • Xapix (Germany) …… Provides a platform that automatically integrates data and organizes data suitable for AI use
  • FounderNest (Spain) …… Provides an AI-powered platform for matching startups and investors
  • BreakthroughX Health (Germany) …… Provides an app for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis
  • Lana Labs (Germany) …… Develops and provides AI-based process mining tools
  • Artivive (Austria) …… Provides AR art creation tools

Nextblue seems to be looking to bring Japanese startups to Europe too. The firm says it is happy to provide support to startups that already have overseas offices or branches.

Inoue added,

There are more and more funds for seed stage startups, but not many of them provide hands-on support yet. Kori has a background in engineering, and the three partners of us, including Vincent and I, are strong in helping teams in the phase creating from the scratch. We would like to actively support startups that can find our value there.

Japan’s Airfunding, UN’s IOM, shake hands to support entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone

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Tokyo-based Kiheitai, the parent company of the Airfunding cross-border donation-based crowdfunding platform, has partnered with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations affiliate. Through the partnership, the company aims to support the development of entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone leveraging the crowdfunding platform. Kiheitai was founded back in September of 2010. Incubate Fund’s general partners and co-founders Keisuke Wada and Yusuke Murata were initially involved in founding the startup, and then Ryosuke Abe, the current CEO, joined them later. In addition to Airfunding, the company has also launched Airtripp, a social networking app that allows users to connect with people around the world by posting photos. Many of our readers may recall that a crowdfunding platform in the US called GoFundMe is often used to celebrate somebody’s life events and provide support for people in difficulties such as accidents and illnesses. It is still fresh in my mind that GoFundMe launched a funding campaign to support the family of a Japanese woman who was killed in a hit-and-run accident in SOMA, San Francisco on New Year’s eve. Airfunding can be easily understood as a cross-border version of GoFundMe. In an interview with Bridge, Abe explains how the platform is…

Image credit: Kiheitai

Tokyo-based Kiheitai, the parent company of the Airfunding cross-border donation-based crowdfunding platform, has partnered with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations affiliate. Through the partnership, the company aims to support the development of entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone leveraging the crowdfunding platform.

Kiheitai was founded back in September of 2010. Incubate Fund’s general partners and co-founders Keisuke Wada and Yusuke Murata were initially involved in founding the startup, and then Ryosuke Abe, the current CEO, joined them later. In addition to Airfunding, the company has also launched Airtripp, a social networking app that allows users to connect with people around the world by posting photos.

Many of our readers may recall that a crowdfunding platform in the US called GoFundMe is often used to celebrate somebody’s life events and provide support for people in difficulties such as accidents and illnesses. It is still fresh in my mind that GoFundMe launched a funding campaign to support the family of a Japanese woman who was killed in a hit-and-run accident in SOMA, San Francisco on New Year’s eve. Airfunding can be easily understood as a cross-border version of GoFundMe.

In an interview with Bridge, Abe explains how the platform is being used.

Many projects are intended to donate to the people in ASEAN and Latin American countries. About 17,000 to 18,000 projects are created on the platform each month, many of which are funded by relatives, family members, classmates in their high school years, and acquaintances. There are many different types of support, such as medical assistance, disaster relief, and even support for soccer study abroad.

There are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) providing support in the countries concerned, but they often do not operate outside their country and the existence of these organizations and social problems are less known globally. It seems that Airfunding intends to help smooth the flow of funds across countries and bring social issues to the world’s attention by putting them on the platform.

Although Airfunding’s direct target is individuals, more than a few NGOs and non-profit organizations (NPOs) are contacting the platform. For Airfunding, this is the first time to support an organization rather than an individual.

Airfunding has so far supported more than 200,000 projects in over 200 countries by offering them about US$200 million in total. Kiheitai has secured equity funding from multiple VC firms including i-nest Capital.

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