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

Synspective nabs $100M in 17 months since founding, targets 6 mini-sats launch by 2022

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based aerospace startup Synspective announced today that it has secured 8.67 billion yen (about $80 million US) in a series A round. This follows their previous round securing 300 million yen (about $2.8 million US) from uTokyo Innovation Platform (uTokyoIPC), Jafco and among other investors back in December. Alongside with their past funding from Abies Ventures, a deeptech-focused fund led by Japanese renowned entrepreneur/investor Taizo Son, the latest round brought the startup’s funding to 10.9 billion yen (about $100 million US). Japanese space business consultancy CSP Japan reported this is the fastest record in terms of securing such a large amount funds in such a short period since the launch of a company. Investors participating in this round are as follows (Jafco, uTokyoIPC, and Abies Ventures have participated in the previous round). The latest round is led by aSTART, which launched $46 space tech fund earlier this year and has participated in series C and D rounds for Astroscale, a Japanses startup known for its space-debris removal technology. aSTART Shimizu Corporation (TSE:1803, Japanese major construction company) Jafco (TSE:8595, investment company) uTokyo Innovation Platform (uTokyoIPC) Keio Innovation Initiative (KII, investment arm of Keio University) Abies…

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Synspective’s founders and investors participating in this round
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based aerospace startup Synspective announced today that it has secured 8.67 billion yen (about $80 million US) in a series A round. This follows their previous round securing 300 million yen (about $2.8 million US) from uTokyo Innovation Platform (uTokyoIPC), Jafco and among other investors back in December.

Alongside with their past funding from Abies Ventures, a deeptech-focused fund led by Japanese renowned entrepreneur/investor Taizo Son, the latest round brought the startup’s funding to 10.9 billion yen (about $100 million US). Japanese space business consultancy CSP Japan reported this is the fastest record in terms of securing such a large amount funds in such a short period since the launch of a company.

Investors participating in this round are as follows (Jafco, uTokyoIPC, and Abies Ventures have participated in the previous round). The latest round is led by aSTART, which launched $46 space tech fund earlier this year and has participated in series C and D rounds for Astroscale, a Japanses startup known for its space-debris removal technology.

  • aSTART
  • Shimizu Corporation (TSE:1803, Japanese major construction company)
  • Jafco (TSE:8595, investment company)
  • uTokyo Innovation Platform (uTokyoIPC)
  • Keio Innovation Initiative (KII, investment arm of Keio University)
  • Abies Ventures
  • Innovations and Future Creation (investment arm of Tokyo Institute of Technology)
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking
  • Fuyo General Lease (TSE:8424)
  • Mori Trust (real estate developer owning many commercial buildings in Japanese major cities)
  • SBI Investment (SBI AI & Blockchain)
  • Mizuho Capital
synspective-series-a-round-motoyuki-arai
Synspective CEO Motoyuki Arai
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Synspective was founded in February of 2018 by CEO Motoyuki Arai and co-founder/managing director Seiko Shirasaka (Shirasaka is a professor at System Design and Management, Keio University). Arai was previously working for an American accounting firm while attending the University of Tokyo where he obtained a PhD for Technology Management for Innovation. Subsequently, he was involved in assisting Saudi Arabia to implement renewable energy systems as well as working with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry to help Japanese companies expand into this region.

Synspective is building a constellation system for earth observation mini-satellites employing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and integrates SAR data with a variety of ground truth data. Using machine learning and other engineering techniques, the startup extracts meaning and context from the data to provide solutions to meet clients’ problems.

Developing a SAR mini-satellite requires a high degree of difficulty in engineering while SAR data processing does special expertise. The company has enables these challenges by placing research teams and data scientists in both departments of satellite development and satellite image analysis, alongside with assistance from mini-satellite developers engineers participating in ImPACT, a disruptive technologies development initiative by the Japanese Cabinet Office.

Synspective thinks their use case include developing mining resources, monitoring infrastructure construction and fraud in developing countries, and preventing disaster damage. The company announced in April that it has agreed to Arianespace regarding the launch of the former’s mini-satellite StriX-α.

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Comparison of conventional earth observation satellites and Synspective’s StriX.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

At the press briefing today, CEO Arai revealed that the company plans to launch one satellite by 2020, six satellites by 2022, and then 25 satellites later on. He said six satellites in operation enables on-demand earth observation at least one time a day for 99 cities with an over-one million population in Asia while 25 satellites in operation can cover 292 cities in the same population scale worldwide. They claim that the latest funding secures the cost for up to the launch of six satellites by 2022 and solution development.

In this space, we have seen active Japanese startups including SAR satellite developer iQPS and satellite image analyzer Sigma-SAR.

See also:

Cool Japan Fund invests $10M in LA-based wine club startup to promote sake in US

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See the original story in Japanese. Previously known as Club W, Los Angeles-based Winc has been offering wine subscription service for American individuals. Cool Japan Fund, Japan’s state-backed fund for the promotion of the export of Japanese cultural products and services to the global market, and the LA startup held a press conference in Tokyo today where the former has invested $10 million US in the latter. For Winc, this follows their series B round (raising $17.5 million) closed back in November of 2017 and brought their total amount of funding to about $42.6 million. As an investment from outside the US for the company, this follows a previous funding from Shining Capital in China, but is the first one aiming at cross-border strategic partnership. Along with the funding, Cool Japan Fund will closely work with Winc through the following particular efforts: 1) Helps Winc collaborate with Japanese breweries to create new Japanese sake products for the US market, 2) Better reach to target US consumers through recommending Japanese sake to Winc members, 3) Educating people with the new experience of Japanese sake using a tasting room to launch soon in Los Angeles, 4) Shares Japanese sake-related topics through social…

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L to R: Brian Smith (Co-founder & President, Winc), Geoffrey McFarlane (CEO, Winc), Yuji Kato (Managing Director / COO & CIO, Cool Japan Fund
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

See the original story in Japanese.

Previously known as Club W, Los Angeles-based Winc has been offering wine subscription service for American individuals. Cool Japan Fund, Japan’s state-backed fund for the promotion of the export of Japanese cultural products and services to the global market, and the LA startup held a press conference in Tokyo today where the former has invested $10 million US in the latter.

For Winc, this follows their series B round (raising $17.5 million) closed back in November of 2017 and brought their total amount of funding to about $42.6 million. As an investment from outside the US for the company, this follows a previous funding from Shining Capital in China, but is the first one aiming at cross-border strategic partnership.

Along with the funding, Cool Japan Fund will closely work with Winc through the following particular efforts: 1) Helps Winc collaborate with Japanese breweries to create new Japanese sake products for the US market, 2) Better reach to target US consumers through recommending Japanese sake to Winc members, 3) Educating people with the new experience of Japanese sake using a tasting room to launch soon in Los Angeles, 4) Shares Japanese sake-related topics through social network channels.

Since its launch back in 2012, Winc has acquired 80,000 individual users, primarily in millennials, and is also serving 2,500 retail stores including Whole Foods Market as well as 1,800 restaurants across the US. By eliminating middleman in the supply chain, they made it possible to sell a bottle of wine for a retail price of $13 to $20 US.

winc-top3-portfolio
Winc’s three best-selling products were showcased to the press. Summer Water, pictured in the extreme right, was developed based on feedback from buyers through direct selling and has now become the best seller at the Whole Foods Market stores in their rosé wine category.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Generally speaking, when you buy a Japanese sake product outside Japan, it tends to be more expensive than wine or other alcoholic beverages because of import tax and shipping cost. But Winc intends to tackle this challenge by making several efforts such as procuring from local breweries and bottling after importing from Japan so that they can keep the same price range with wines even for their sake products. “Winc members — they are typically millennials and always seeking new types of drinks — are relevant to adopting the new experience that Japanese sake may give”, said Winc CEO Geoffrey McFarlane.

Brian Smith, co-founder and President of Winc, told us that they will start with offering a trial kit, or an assortment of small bottles of several different type of Japanese sake, to encourage their members to get interested in the new experience. With regard to the effort to co-develop Japanese sake products, it seems that Winc is already in discussions with Japanese sake makers and breweries by assistance of Cool Japan Fund. Yuji Kato, COO & CIO of the fund, declined to disclose their specific names.

Aiming to cultivate the sales channels of Japanese sake products in China (Mainland, Hong Kong and Macau) , Cool Japan Fund recently invested about 2.2 billion yen ($20.3 million) in Trio, the stock holding company of high-end wine wholesaler EMW (East Meets West). In this particular sector, our readers may recall that Japanese sake brewing startup Wakaze secured a series A round to expand into the European market.

Startup DB integrated with Crunchbase to help Japanese startups gain global exposure

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based ‘For Startups‘ (previously known as Net Jinzai Bank), the Japanese company offering an executive and talent search service for startups in Japan, announced today that it has integrated the Startup DB platform with US-based Crunchbase. Japanese startup profiles on the Startup DB platform will be migrated into Crunchbase, and vice versa. Originally launched as Cotobe back in April of 2016, Startup DB was then aligned the service model with market needs and rebranded as the current name back in May of 2018. The platform now boasts a database of over 10,000 startups, and recently launched a new function showing startup profiles in English which can be considered as part of their prepartion for the integration with Crunchbase. There is also a possibility that data linkage will be started one by one from now on, and the details such as the range and timing to be linked are unknown at present. Also on CrunchBase, information about startups created by third parties other than CrunchBase (mainly non-Western ones) may be posted, but these may be reflected in STARTUP DB via CrunchBase. In addition, CrunchBase includes some inaccurate information due to its wiki-like nature, but it…

startupdb_screenshot
Startup DB
Image credit: For Startups

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based ‘For Startups‘ (previously known as Net Jinzai Bank), the Japanese company offering an executive and talent search service for startups in Japan, announced today that it has integrated the Startup DB platform with US-based Crunchbase. Japanese startup profiles on the Startup DB platform will be migrated into Crunchbase, and vice versa.

Originally launched as Cotobe back in April of 2016, Startup DB was then aligned the service model with market needs and rebranded as the current name back in May of 2018. The platform now boasts a database of over 10,000 startups, and recently launched a new function showing startup profiles in English which can be considered as part of their prepartion for the integration with Crunchbase.

startupdb-team
The Startup DB team
Image credit: For Startups

There is also a possibility that data linkage will be started one by one from now on, and the details such as the range and timing to be linked are unknown at present. Also on CrunchBase, information about startups created by third parties other than CrunchBase (mainly non-Western ones) may be posted, but these may be reflected in STARTUP DB via CrunchBase. In addition, CrunchBase includes some inaccurate information due to its wiki-like nature, but it may be necessary to screen this information to some extent.

Since the data integration is starting from now, no details about how often and how much of the data will be integrated each other are known yet. Curnchbase has also listed profiles of startups from third-party data providers (mostly regarding startups from the US and European markets), and these data may be also incorporated into StartuDB. In addition, Crunchbase sometimes contain inaccurate information due to its wiki-like nature, and it may be necessary for Startup DB to screen data before importing.

Crunchbase is always monitoring articles from tech- and startup-focused media outlets. When a new article covering a startup comes up, they manually add a link to it and funding update in the startup’s profile if necessary. It is expected that the US company will keep data update in the similar way regarding the integration with Startup DB. By no means, it’s good to hear that funding updates on Japanese startups will be more easily accessible to Western investors. Eventually, I hope this effort may contribute to getting foreign investors and businesses more interested in working with Japanese startups.

crunchbase-the-bridge-syndication
An example of The Bridge’s article linked to a startup’s profile on Crunchbase.
Image credit: Crunchbase / The Bridge

Digital Base Capital launches proptech fund, raising from Japanese real estate gurus

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See the original story in Japanese. Digital Base Capital, Japan’s first VC firm focused on the PropTech (property technology) vertical, announced it launch on Friday. The firm was founded by Shun Sakurai who established a startup community called PropTech Japan and has been acting as the Secretary General of FinTech Association of Japan. With this announcement, he’s leaving his make-a-living-job at the think tank of NTT Data to more focus on managing the VC firm and the proptech startup community. The new firm also launches a proptech-fosucsed fund valued up to 1 billion yen (about $9.4 million US), raises funds from Yoshimo Ito, the founder of Japan’s proptech leading startup Itanji, as well as Heiwa Real Estate (TSE:8803) which is well known for owning the Tokyo Stock Exchange Building and offering properties in the Tokyo Financial District for FinTech statups under the brand of FinGate. More institutional and individual investors are expected to join but their names have not yet been disclosed. PropTech is a coined word made of ‘property’ and ‘technology’, but Sakurai does not think PropTech is a fully convertible word of Property Technology. In his point of view, even RegTech startups aiming to tackle regulatory pain points…

digital-base-capital-shun-sakurai
Shun Sakurai, Founder of Digital Base Capital
Image credit: PropTech Japan

See the original story in Japanese.

Digital Base Capital, Japan’s first VC firm focused on the PropTech (property technology) vertical, announced it launch on Friday. The firm was founded by Shun Sakurai who established a startup community called PropTech Japan and has been acting as the Secretary General of FinTech Association of Japan. With this announcement, he’s leaving his make-a-living-job at the think tank of NTT Data to more focus on managing the VC firm and the proptech startup community.

The new firm also launches a proptech-fosucsed fund valued up to 1 billion yen (about $9.4 million US), raises funds from Yoshimo Ito, the founder of Japan’s proptech leading startup Itanji, as well as Heiwa Real Estate (TSE:8803) which is well known for owning the Tokyo Stock Exchange Building and offering properties in the Tokyo Financial District for FinTech statups under the brand of FinGate. More institutional and individual investors are expected to join but their names have not yet been disclosed.

PropTech is a coined word made of ‘property’ and ‘technology’, but Sakurai does not think PropTech is a fully convertible word of Property Technology. In his point of view, even RegTech startups aiming to tackle regulatory pain points and some Fintech startups should be included in this category. From his experience that he has long been engaged in supporing FinTech startups, Sakurai pointed out an interesting characteristic seen in this sector.

In the FinTech sector, it’s common that trends from Europe and US usually arrives in Japan 5 to 7 years later.On the contrary, Since PropTech has been just popped up anywhere on the planet, there’s little gap beween inside and outside of Japan.

In other words, PropTech startups outside Japan are experiencing the same challenge as Japanese startups, so it may be an emerging sector where Japanese startups can find business opportunities in the global market as well. According to Sakurai, there are about 200 FinTech startups in Japan while the number of PropTech startups is less than 100 now. In view of how the FinTech startup sector have been growing in the past few years, it is highly possible that more and more PropTech startups will be emerging soon.

See also:

proptech-japan-future-proptech-2019-london
PropTech Japan exhibits a booth at Future PropTech 2019 in London.
Image credit: PropTech Japan

The structure of reflow of funds in the PropTech sector has been gradually formed in Japan; GA Technologies acquired Itandi after five years from the former’s launch, and Itandi poured their money into the fund this time. For your information, GA Technologies also formed an open innovation inititative called GA X-Tech Base at WeWork Iceberg in Harajuku last year. He says that WeWork- and Airbnb-like flexible environment concept which instantly makes you free from location constraint will come to the residential sector pretty soon.

He added:

The status quo of the PropTech sector is definitely different from when FinTech emerged in some points: WeWork’s presence and Softbank Vision Fund’s massive investment.

See also:

PropTech Japan has formed a community of about 850 people from startups or large enterprises. The community plans to hood a conference on oroptech in commemoration of the launch of Digital Base Capital and its fund where about 20 up-and-coming startups deliver their pitch while one-third to half of of them are expected be invited from outside Japan. For more details, check out their websites or social media accounts.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Japan startup offering airport/hotel luggage delivery secures series A round

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Airporter, the Japanese startup offering the same-day travel luggage delivery service to/from selected airports in Japan under the same name, announced on Monday that it has secured a series A round. Details of financial terms have not been disclosed, but the funding amount is expected to reach several tens of million yen (hundreds of thousands of US dollars). Participating investors in this round were Base Partners, Monex Ventures, and Mizuho Capital. For the startup, this follows their seed round back in March of last year securing seed round funding from Base Partners and Beenos. The startup will use the funds to form more tie-ups with hotels, improve user interface, and strengthen logistics systems. Launched as a beta version back in December of 2016, Airporter offers the same-day travel luggage delivery service between selected hotels and airports in Japan so that visitors can enjoy their time without carrying their luggage from their landing at their destination airport until their hotel check-in or the one from their hotel check-out until the take-off at the airport. “So we can help visitors make the most of their time pockets for sightseeing”, said the startup’s founder and CEO…

airporter-team
The Airporter team line up before the Tokyo Station. CEO Kunio Izumitani stands in the center.
Image credit: Airporter

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Airporter, the Japanese startup offering the same-day travel luggage delivery service to/from selected airports in Japan under the same name, announced on Monday that it has secured a series A round. Details of financial terms have not been disclosed, but the funding amount is expected to reach several tens of million yen (hundreds of thousands of US dollars).

Participating investors in this round were Base Partners, Monex Ventures, and Mizuho Capital. For the startup, this follows their seed round back in March of last year securing seed round funding from Base Partners and Beenos. The startup will use the funds to form more tie-ups with hotels, improve user interface, and strengthen logistics systems.

Launched as a beta version back in December of 2016, Airporter offers the same-day travel luggage delivery service between selected hotels and airports in Japan so that visitors can enjoy their time without carrying their luggage from their landing at their destination airport until their hotel check-in or the one from their hotel check-out until the take-off at the airport. “So we can help visitors make the most of their time pockets for sightseeing”, said the startup’s founder and CEO Kunio Izumitani.

When Izumitani was previously running almost 10 vacation rental rooms, he recommended guests to use coin lockers if he was requested to keep their language after check-out until leaving for the airport. However, coin lockers that can hold a large suitcase are available only in limited locations, usually located only near public transit stations, which caused some guests to complain about such an inconvenience to him. With this incident, he came up with the idea that he can carry their luggage directly to the airport on behalf of these guests. Airporter has partnered with luggage storage at airports in Japan so that visitors can drop-off (for arriving visitors to ask for delivery to their hotel) or pick-up (for departing visitors who asked for delivery at the hotel) their luggage there.

airporter-users
Visitors using the Airporter service
Image credit: Airporter

Currently operating the service in Tokyo and Osaka, the company has partnered with hotels owning 40,000 guest rooms in Tokyo alone, which accounts for the entire accommodation capacity in the Japanese capital city and is now their major channel for customer inflow. This strategy has been successful, and the company now sees 20% growth on a MoM basis in volume of luggage handled. Their profit margin is heavily dependent on the loading ratio of a delivery vehicle. Currently, the demand of delivering luggage from hotels to airports is much higher than vice versa, so the company’s challenge from now is to increase demand for the latter.

Izumya told The Bridge:

We haven’t yet started with international promotion appealing the demand of delivery luggage from airports to hotels in Japan. We first expect to dominate the demand from hotels to airports.

In addition, we were told that Airporter has prospects for securing other demands to increase the loading ratio from airports to hotels. In the future, the startup also expects to expand its business into the direct airport delivery dealing with what visitors buy at shops on their final day before leaving Japan so that they can hop around to enjoy the last-minute shopping without carrying heavy items.

Seoul, Hong Kong, and some other cities offer “city check-ins” where visitors can check-in their luggage in downtown before going to the airport. However, such a service is not available in many cities around the world, including Tokyo and Osaka, which forces visitors to carry heavy items between their airport and hotel. In the meantime, I have recently seen similar luggage services many times from the traveler’s point of view, such as AIRPORTELs in Bangkok, DUBZ in Dubai (recently acquired by major ground handler Dnata), Airportr in London, AtYourGate in major US cities, and LuggAgent in Hong Kong. It’s interesting that many of these services are run not by existing shipping firms but by emerging startups.

Izumitani shared his insights about the possible reasons:

  • Existing shipping companies have built their network in a hub-and-spoke manner, which is less optimized for the same-day hotel/airport luggage delivery.
  • For hotel/airport luggage deliverers, they merely face the situation that recipient is absent, which can ultimately decrease the need of re-delivery and cost for it.

Meanwhile, it’s also an urgent issue for startups like them to create barriers to potential competitors by increasing partnerships for customer acquisition. In Japan, Japanese startup Ecbo, offering on-demand luggage storage service at retailers and hotspots in major Japanese cities, has announced a new service called Ecbo Delivery, allowing visitors to drop-off their luggage at a major public transit terminal and ask for delivery to their hotel.

Japan’s Wovn announces Dropbox-like online storage for document translation

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Tokyo-based Wovn Technologies, the Japanese startup offering a multilingual support platform for websites and other digital resources, announced today that they will launch a new service called Wovn Workbox at their business conference held in Tokyo today. Similar to Dropbox, Box, and other cloud-based storage services, Wovn Workbox allows you to share documents but also translate them into other languages automatically so that your colleagues can understand your document written in their unfamiliar language. When an original file is revised, that change will be made to its translation result immediately. Planned to be launched in August, the cloud service can support several file formats: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Text files (PDF file support follows later). The software for synchronizing files in a user’s local storage with the cloud will be available on Mac OS X 10.10 and its later as well as Windows 10 and its later. Pricing details have not been published yet but it appears to be charged on a monthly subscription basis. Translation results will be reviewed by artificial intelligence and then checked by native speakers. Wovn expects the new service to be adopted by companies where multinational talents are using cloud services on a daily basis….

wovn-globalized
Globalized 2019
Image credit: Wovn Technologies

Tokyo-based Wovn Technologies, the Japanese startup offering a multilingual support platform for websites and other digital resources, announced today that they will launch a new service called Wovn Workbox at their business conference held in Tokyo today.

Similar to Dropbox, Box, and other cloud-based storage services, Wovn Workbox allows you to share documents but also translate them into other languages automatically so that your colleagues can understand your document written in their unfamiliar language. When an original file is revised, that change will be made to its translation result immediately.

Planned to be launched in August, the cloud service can support several file formats: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Text files (PDF file support follows later). The software for synchronizing files in a user’s local storage with the cloud will be available on Mac OS X 10.10 and its later as well as Windows 10 and its later. Pricing details have not been published yet but it appears to be charged on a monthly subscription basis. Translation results will be reviewed by artificial intelligence and then checked by native speakers.

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Image credit: Wovn Technologies

Wovn expects the new service to be adopted by companies where multinational talents are using cloud services on a daily basis. By allowing them to translate their documents and decks into many languages and keep results update, Wovn wants to eliminate language barriers among diverse employees. In Japan, the decline of workforce and the rise of international businesses may cause definitely increasing the number of immigrant workers in offices. With the new service, Wovn wants to help internationalization efforts of companies in their internal operations as well as their marketing activities to potential customers.

Wovn has partnered with SBI Group and integrated with the latter’s electronic approval workflow system so that SBI employees can communicate each other regardless of which language they speak. Wovn is also expected to integrate their platform with third-party’s various cloud-based services in addition to Workbox-like online storage services. 

Japan’s Wakaze secures $1.4M series A funding to launch sake brewery in Paris

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See the original story in Japanese. Japanese sake brewing startup Wakaze announced today that it has secured 150 million yen (about $1.4 million US) in a series A round. Participating investors are Spiral Ventures、Nissay Capital, Nakashimato (the family office of Japanese mayonnaise maker Kewpie’s founder family) as well as four angel investors: Yo Nagami (CFO, Raksul), Takashi Mitachi (Senior Advisor, Boston Consulting Group), Takashi Nagao (Pro Commit Partners Law Office), and an unnamed person. The latest round is the first funding opportunity from investors for Wakaze since the company has been running on a bootstrap mode to date. They will use the funds to set up a brewery in the Greater Paris Area to develop original Japanese sake brands, aiming to sell them to France and other European countries as well as the Japanese market. They also succeeded in raising funds in the recent crowdfunding campaign on Makuake, especially for garnering fan support for the European expansion. Wakaze was founded by CEO Takuma Inagawa who was previously granted by the French government as a scholarship student to study at École Centrale Paris followed by working at Boston Consulting Group as a management strategy consultant. In contrast with typical breweries developing…

wakaze-team
The Wakaze team members come in a body in front of their restaurant / brewery in Tokyo.
Image credit: Wakaze

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese sake brewing startup Wakaze announced today that it has secured 150 million yen (about $1.4 million US) in a series A round. Participating investors are Spiral Ventures、Nissay Capital, Nakashimato (the family office of Japanese mayonnaise maker Kewpie’s founder family) as well as four angel investors: Yo Nagami (CFO, Raksul), Takashi Mitachi (Senior Advisor, Boston Consulting Group), Takashi Nagao (Pro Commit Partners Law Office), and an unnamed person.

The latest round is the first funding opportunity from investors for Wakaze since the company has been running on a bootstrap mode to date. They will use the funds to set up a brewery in the Greater Paris Area to develop original Japanese sake brands, aiming to sell them to France and other European countries as well as the Japanese market. They also succeeded in raising funds in the recent crowdfunding campaign on Makuake, especially for garnering fan support for the European expansion.

Wakaze was founded by CEO Takuma Inagawa who was previously granted by the French government as a scholarship student to study at École Centrale Paris followed by working at Boston Consulting Group as a management strategy consultant. In contrast with typical breweries developing a new brand in a year at best, the Tokyo startup can do it on a weekly basis through a Lean Startup attitude for product development. The production on a certain scale is usually made in their brewery in Yamagata, three hours north of Tokyo by bullet train, while new product development efforts are mainly conducted in a small brewery in central Tokyo which is attached to their casual restaurant.

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Wakaze’s Japanese sake line-up
Image credit: Wakaze

Wakaze’s Japanese sake line-up
Image credit: Wakaze

Inspired by the trend of craft beers, the company aims to set off the waves of craft products or the direct-to-consumer model in the Japanese sake industry. Expanding into the European market where demand for Japanese sake is increasing, they plan to brew affordable but high-quality products to serve them to local consumers. Shoma Imai will be appointed as the sake brewer chief for the Paris brewery which is expected to start operations this summer. Born and raised as a son of the family of a sake brewing factory, Imai graduated from the agricultural school of the University of Tokyo and then worked for Oisix, the Japanese food distribution company that directly delivers foods from farms to home kitchens.

According to Inagawa, in Europe, wine consumption is declining while new categories of liquor, especially the market of Japanese sake, are expanding. Nowadays it’s less uncommon for Japanese sake being served not only at Japanese-style restaurants but also at general ones. However the issue here is pricing. Since many of Japanese sake products are imported from Japan, a glass of them at the restaurant usually costs more than 10 euros due to customs duties. If it can be served for around 5 euros as much as offering a glass of wine at bistros, it would accelerate helping people adopt more Japanese sake. Wakaze wants to make it possible by local production and direct distribution models.

It is also interesting that Nakajimato has participated in this round. In addition to owning a wine factory in France through their local subsidiary, the company has been dealing with many restaurants there, which is expected to greatly contribute to Wakaze’s effort cultivating sales channels in the world’s culinary capital.

One Visa, helping Japanese firms manage visas for foreign employees, raises $4.2M

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based One Visa, the Japanese startup that helps companies streamline visa management for their foreign employees, announced today that it has secured about 450 million yen (about $4.2 million US) in the latest round. Participating investors are Zenhoren (Japanese rental guarantee obligation company), Seven Bank (a bank by Seven-Eleven convenience store chain), Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank, Canal Ventures (investment arm of Japanese system integration company Nihon Unisys), CyberAgent, and Anri. The figures include loans from Japanese Finance Corporation. Prior to this round, One Visa has secured secured 36 million yen (about $324,000 US) from Primal Capital and Skyland Ventures back in June of 2017 followed by 50 million funding from Anri back in November of 2017. That latest funding brings their funding sum to about 540 million yen. The company says they will use the funds at this time to accelerate advertising and hiring people to strengthen sales and marketing efforts. Regarding business partnership with the companies participating in the round, One Visa will explore collaboration potential with Zenhoren through the latter’s rental guarantee business while establishing the scheme allowing foreigners to create their banking account in partnership with Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank by means of…

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One Visa Co-founder and CEO Alberto Okamura
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based One Visa, the Japanese startup that helps companies streamline visa management for their foreign employees, announced today that it has secured about 450 million yen (about $4.2 million US) in the latest round. Participating investors are Zenhoren (Japanese rental guarantee obligation company), Seven Bank (a bank by Seven-Eleven convenience store chain), Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank, Canal Ventures (investment arm of Japanese system integration company Nihon Unisys), CyberAgent, and Anri. The figures include loans from Japanese Finance Corporation.

Prior to this round, One Visa has secured secured 36 million yen (about $324,000 US) from Primal Capital and Skyland Ventures back in June of 2017 followed by 50 million funding from Anri back in November of 2017. That latest funding brings their funding sum to about 540 million yen. The company says they will use the funds at this time to accelerate advertising and hiring people to strengthen sales and marketing efforts.

Regarding business partnership with the companies participating in the round, One Visa will explore collaboration potential with Zenhoren through the latter’s rental guarantee business while establishing the scheme allowing foreigners to create their banking account in partnership with Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank by means of doing so with Seven Bank since December. Gifu Prefecture where Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank is headquartered is also known for having many foreign residents working for automobile factories located in the area.

One Visa was initially launched as a service helping companies streamline visa acquisition and management for their immigrant employees. With the expansion of its service lineup to include education (One Visa Education), employment referral (One Visa Work), One Visa (visa acquisition and management), and One Visa Connect (living support), it will become possible to provide extensive support for foreign workers, from working to living or other every aspect of their whole lives.

Okamura himself has worked for the Tokyo Immigration Bureau in Shinagawa, Tokyo and had a hand in issuing visas for some 30,000 foreigners. More than 400 companies have introduced it since the beta launch in June 2017. The company graduated from the 4th batch of Recruit’s Tech Lab Paak accelerator, and came in 4th place at IVS 2017 Spring Kobe’s LaunchPad.

Japan’s Base Food, nutrition complete food startup, raises $3.7M for US expansion

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Tokyo-based Base Food, developing nutritionally complete food products capable of becoming staple foods named Base Pasta and Base Bread, announced on Monday that it has secured 400 million yen (about $3.7 million US) in a series A round. Participating investors in this round are Rakuten Ventures, XTech Ventures, Global Brain, and several unnamed angel investors. This follows their previous seed round funding from Global Brain back in November of 2017. With this funding, the startup expects to expand their business globally in partnership with Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten, the parent of Rakuten Ventures. We were told that this effort targets the US market in particular, where two-thirds of their adults and one-third of children overweight or obese and are trying to be more conscious about nutrition and health management. Base Food is the food-tech startup founded in April of 2016 by Shun Hashimoto, formerly engaged in the autonomous driving business at DeNA and other activities. The company targets those who do not know which nutrients to take, as a complete nutritious food allowing intake of 31 kinds of nutrients just in a single meal. It does not only have functional immediacy, but also provides satisfaction with its delicious taste and…

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Image credit: Base Food

Tokyo-based Base Food, developing nutritionally complete food products capable of becoming staple foods named Base Pasta and Base Bread, announced on Monday that it has secured 400 million yen (about $3.7 million US) in a series A round. Participating investors in this round are Rakuten Ventures, XTech Ventures, Global Brain, and several unnamed angel investors. This follows their previous seed round funding from Global Brain back in November of 2017.

With this funding, the startup expects to expand their business globally in partnership with Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten, the parent of Rakuten Ventures. We were told that this effort targets the US market in particular, where two-thirds of their adults and one-third of children overweight or obese and are trying to be more conscious about nutrition and health management.

Base Food is the food-tech startup founded in April of 2016 by Shun Hashimoto, formerly engaged in the autonomous driving business at DeNA and other activities. The company targets those who do not know which nutrients to take, as a complete nutritious food allowing intake of 31 kinds of nutrients just in a single meal. It does not only have functional immediacy, but also provides satisfaction with its delicious taste and can become a staple food.

Japanese business card-based CRM startup Sansan files for IPO

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Tokyo-based Sansan, the company that operates the business card-based CRM (customer relationship management) solutions, announced today that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on June 19. Nomura Securities will lead the underwriting. Since its launch back in 2007, the company has been developing and offering two key products: Sansan and Eight. The Sansan platform is designed for enterprises or medium-businesses, provides a combined solution for business card scanning, data entry, and contact management, so that you can easily share the profiles of your clients with your colleagues. It serves 5,700 clients as of Q3 2019 in May. Meanwhile, the Eight platform is more optimized for individual use where our contacts will be automatically imported and connected by linking your Eight account with your social media presences like Facebook. It boasts 2.35 million users as of Q3 2019 in May. According to the consolidated statement as of May of 2018, they posted a revenue of 7.32 billion yen (about $66.8 million) with an ordinary loss of 3.08 billion yen ($28.1 million) and a net loss of 3.09 billion yen ($28.2 million). Led by Sansan CEO and…

sansan_featuredimage
Sansan

Tokyo-based Sansan, the company that operates the business card-based CRM (customer relationship management) solutions, announced today that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on June 19. Nomura Securities will lead the underwriting.

Since its launch back in 2007, the company has been developing and offering two key products: Sansan and Eight.

chikaterada_portrait
Sansan CEO Chika Terada

The Sansan platform is designed for enterprises or medium-businesses, provides a combined solution for business card scanning, data entry, and contact management, so that you can easily share the profiles of your clients with your colleagues. It serves 5,700 clients as of Q3 2019 in May.

Meanwhile, the Eight platform is more optimized for individual use where our contacts will be automatically imported and connected by linking your Eight account with your social media presences like Facebook. It boasts 2.35 million users as of Q3 2019 in May.

According to the consolidated statement as of May of 2018, they posted a revenue of 7.32 billion yen (about $66.8 million) with an ordinary loss of 3.08 billion yen ($28.1 million) and a net loss of 3.09 billion yen ($28.2 million).

Led by Sansan CEO and co-founder Chika Terada, its major share holders include DCM Ventures (6.90%), INCJ (5.91%), SMBC (5.81%), Sansan’s employee stock ownership (4.99%), GS Growth Investment (4.42%), A-Fund (4.35%), Sansan Director and co-founder Kei Tomioka (3.57%), Nissay Capital (3.06%), and EEI Cleantech Limited Partnership by Environmental Energy Investment (2.34%).

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