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Japan’s WAmazing secures $8.5M series B from railway operators to serve foreign visitors

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based WAmazing, the Japanese startup offering free SIM cards and tourism services to foreign visitors to Japan, announced today that it has secured 930 million yen (about $8.5 million US) in a series B round funding. This round was led by Tokyo-based private railway operator Tokyu Corporation (TSE:9005) with participation from JR West Innovations (corporate venture capital of the Japanese railway company covering western part of Japan), JR East Startup (the one covering eastern part of Japan), Yamaguchi Capital, Pola Orbis Holdings (TSE:4927), Nihon Unisys’ investment arm Canal Ventures as well as several unnamed angel investors. For WAmazing, this follows their previous $9.2 million funding back in September of 2017 (it’s supposed to be a series A round, and the amount includes loans from financial institutions). WAmazing distributes free SIM cards to foreigners visiting Japan and provides tourism information via a mobile app. Foreign tourists register their personal information on the WAmazing website before embarking on their trip and then can pick up the SIM card upon arrival at 20 international airports in Japan (covering 90% of overseas tourist inflow routes). WAmazing directs tourists to activity providers and in doing so takes a 10%-15%…

wamazing-at-kaohsiung-travel-exhibition
WAmazing exhibits a booth at International Travel Fair in Kaohsiung, Taiwan last week, in partnership with Tokyu Corporation’s resort hotel promotion.
Image credit: WAmazing

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based WAmazing, the Japanese startup offering free SIM cards and tourism services to foreign visitors to Japan, announced today that it has secured 930 million yen (about $8.5 million US) in a series B round funding. This round was led by Tokyo-based private railway operator Tokyu Corporation (TSE:9005) with participation from JR West Innovations (corporate venture capital of the Japanese railway company covering western part of Japan), JR East Startup (the one covering eastern part of Japan), Yamaguchi Capital, Pola Orbis Holdings (TSE:4927), Nihon Unisys’ investment arm Canal Ventures as well as several unnamed angel investors. For WAmazing, this follows their previous $9.2 million funding back in September of 2017 (it’s supposed to be a series A round, and the amount includes loans from financial institutions).

WAmazing distributes free SIM cards to foreigners visiting Japan and provides tourism information via a mobile app. Foreign tourists register their personal information on the WAmazing website before embarking on their trip and then can pick up the SIM card upon arrival at 20 international airports in Japan (covering 90% of overseas tourist inflow routes). WAmazing directs tourists to activity providers and in doing so takes a 10%-15% sales commission.

In two years and more since the service launched the app has been installed 240,000 times, mainly in Taiwan and Hong Kong Users are also expanding in China and Southeast Asia. The startup has made excellent results at many startup showcase events, such as winning B Dash Camp 2017 Spring in Fukuoka, the Tokyu Prize (equivalent of First Prize) at Tokyu Corporation’s 3rd accelerator batch Demo Day, Morning Pitch’s 2019 year-beginning edition, and JR East’s 1st accelerator batch Demo Day.

In contrast with their series A round backed by VC firms mainly, business companies including railway operators participate in the series B round at this time. Since these companies are strengthening their inbound and regional revitalization businesses all across Japan, WAmazing recognizes they can share the same marketing strategy and aim to work collaboratively.

How Japan’s most international Startup Summer School was created

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This is a guest post by Sushi Suzuki, Founder and Lead Organizer of Kyoto Startup Summer School. Sushi is a specially appointed associate professor at the Kyoto Institute of Technology and KYOTO Design Lab where he teaches Design Thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship. He is responsible for ME310/SUGAR, a nine-month innovation program that originated in Stanford University and expanded globally. Previously, Sushi co-founded Paris Est d.school while teaching design innovation at École des Ponts ParisTech and was the Executive Director of the ME310 program at Stanford University. he also set up an innovation team for Panasonic Europe, was one of the co-founding members of i-kimono.com, a Japanese start-up company that handles antique kimono and accessories online. Sushi was born in Kyoto, Japan but spent over fifteen years in the US and over five in Europe and has traveled to over sixty countries. He holds a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and B.A. in Studio Arts from Rice University. Kyoto Startup Summer School is a two-week entrepreneurship program hosted by the KYOTO Design Lab (D-Lab) at the Kyoto Institute of Technology. The program, conducted entirely in English, brings together over sixty participants, workshop facilitators,…

sushi-suzuki
Sushi Suzuki

This is a guest post by Sushi Suzuki, Founder and Lead Organizer of Kyoto Startup Summer School.

Sushi is a specially appointed associate professor at the Kyoto Institute of Technology and KYOTO Design Lab where he teaches Design Thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship. He is responsible for ME310/SUGAR, a nine-month innovation program that originated in Stanford University and expanded globally.

Previously, Sushi co-founded Paris Est d.school while teaching design innovation at École des Ponts ParisTech and was the Executive Director of the ME310 program at Stanford University. he also set up an innovation team for Panasonic Europe, was one of the co-founding members of i-kimono.com, a Japanese start-up company that handles antique kimono and accessories online.

Sushi was born in Kyoto, Japan but spent over fifteen years in the US and over five in Europe and has traveled to over sixty countries. He holds a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and B.A. in Studio Arts from Rice University.


Kyoto Startup Summer School is a two-week entrepreneurship program hosted by the KYOTO Design Lab (D-Lab) at the Kyoto Institute of Technology. The program, conducted entirely in English, brings together over sixty participants, workshop facilitators, and lecturers from around the world.

Why a Startup Summer School?

kyoto-startup-summer-school_featuredimage
A scene from Kyoto Startup Summer School
Image credit: Sushi Suzuki

Back in 2014, I was moonlighting with a German startup company called Yocondo that was working on creating a semantic product search engine to be used as a personal shopping assistant. The team was four brilliant engineers and me, a concept developer with mechanical engineering and Design Thinking backgrounds. Bootstrapping, we worked hard to develop proprietary technology and a product that would be useful to people. While the product was rapidly improving, we didn’t quite reach the explosive uptick in usage or meetings with investors for funding. After the unemployment pay for some of the team members ran out, the team disbanded. Another funny-named company in the startup graveyard.

Through this experience, I got to attend both Web Summit in Dublin and Slush in Helsinki, both world class startup events. Trying to network with investors and get attention from the media, we quickly realized that there was so much we didn’t know about the startup world. Engineers and designers have this mistaken belief that “if you build something good, users will come.” While we did read books and articles on startups, it didn’t quite sink in with us. I realized that being good at making things doesn’t necessarily make you a good entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship and startups are buzzing around the world now, and more and more young people want to start companies. However, there is so much more one needs to learn than what is available in most universities. Going to engineering, design, business school will only give you a piece of the whole puzzle. This is why Kyoto Startup Summer School (KS3) was created, to give a comprehensive overview of entrepreneurship.

How is Kyoto Startup Summer School structured?

kyoto-startup-summer-school-1
Participants discussing during the workshop
Image credit: Sushi Suzuki

There are a lot of entrepreneurship programs and courses out there modeled after the Lean Launchpad model. Participants get together on day 1 with their ideas and form teams. After successive user interviews, mentoring sessions, and pitches over several weeks to months, the teams ultimately deliver a startup idea with a strong product-market fit. KS3 purposefully avoids this model and focuses more on a variety of content that entrepreneurs should know before founding. These are organized in modules of different lengths, taught by active entrepreneurs, professionals, and academics in the field.

At the core of KS3 are two multi-day workshops of Design Thinking and Lean Startup. The Design Thinking module focuses on the mindset of innovation, of being collaborative, user-centered, and experimental through rapid prototyping. For the last two years, we’ve been fortunate to have Anja Nabergoj, lecturer at the Stanford d.school teach this workshop. The Lean Startup module is about developing your idea to make sure you achieve good product-market fit through micro-experiments. Too many entrepreneurs keep making the wrong product with a misguided notion of what the customer wants, and both Design Thinking and Lean Startup help prevent this.

After the two big workshops, there are many smaller lecture and workshop modules. These modules could include sessions on investors-entrepreneur relations by the head of 500 Startups Japan, crowdfunding by the head of design and technology at Kickstarter, or “how to work with accelerators” by the managing director of Plug and Play Center Japan. One popular session from 2018 was focusing on corporate culture at startups by a researcher who did his Ph.D. on this topic. I teach a session on startup pitches utilizing my experience as the pitch coach for Slush Tokyo.

Meetup session with local entrepreneurs
Image credit: Sushi Suzuki

The smaller workshops focus on introductions to more skill-based topics such as mechatronics prototyping with Arduino, introduction to software development or CAD, and storytelling for marketing. The goal of these modules isn’t to make the participants into experts in any single field but to provide foundational knowledge into many different fields that is important for creating startups. By getting a strong introduction, the participants will know what they have to learn in order to be successful when they take that leap into entrepreneurship.

In addition, throughout the two weeks, there are more fun events such as meetups with local entrepreneurs, visits to startups in the region, and morning yoga and meditation sessions. KS3 finishes with 54 hours of Startup Weekend where participants can flex their muscles and apply everything they’ve learnt. This session is co-organized with the SW Kyoto community and brings in local members as well.

Who comes to Kyoto Startup Summer School?

KS3 started in 2016 as a two-day beta test with four lecturers and a dozen participants. Most of the participants were local as we only advertised the program a month in advance. In 2017, we expanded the program to two weeks and spread the word to all corners of the world. I remember thinking: “will people really come to Japan for a two-week program on entrepreneurship?” Sure enough, we had 199 applicants from 51 countries that year from which we selected 35 people, and people really did come from around the world. 2018 was just as popular. Some participants came from Brazil, Chile, and Egypt, places very far from Japan. We even had a candidate from Iraq but he was not able to get a visa.

On the other hand, we don’t get nearly as many applications from Japanese students. Originally, we thought the applicant pool may be 40-50% Japanese, but in the last two years, it’s been about 3-5%. We knew the language barrier will scare off a lot of people, but we’re starting to realize that there isn’t much of a summer school culture in Japan. Getting more Japanese participants is definitely a challenge for the future.

Countries where everyone involved in KS3 have come from
Image credit: Sushi Suzuki

In 2018, we also opened up the first week of the program to corporate participants. The two core workshops on Design Thinking and Lean Startup are actually applicable for companies and employees trying to develop new products, services, and businesses. We had several companies send their employees to be trained in these methodologies and we hope to expand this in the future.

One of the greatest satisfactions we’ve gained from running KS3 has been the community we’ve been able to form every year. Every year we create a Facebook group with all the participants and we see that many of them continue to interact after the summer school. Many people come from countries where the startup movement is still in its infancy and connecting with like-minded passionate people around the world is empowering. We’ve also been getting a lot of great feedback, both positive and constructive. We’re continuing to improve every aspect of KS3 and looking forward to those who will join us this year!

 

Japan Embassy in Bangkok, CP Group help Japan startups digitalize Thai conglomerates

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This article was rearranged by our editorial from the original by Momoko Furukawa, Assistant to Executive/PR at TalentEx. TalentEX is a Bangkok-based startup offering a media outlet and an online platform for recruitment and human resources. All the photos in this article were taken by Tomohiro Ueno, Corporate Planning at TalentEx. See our past coverage to learn more about TalentEx. See the original story in Japanese. The Japanese Embassy in Thailand together with the CP Group (Charoen Pokphand Group), operating 7/11 convenience stores in Thailand and also owning local mobile telco giant True, held a Demo Day and matchmaking event called Rock Thailand in March, aiming to help Japanese startups and Thai conglomerates to work together. The event is part of the Open Innovation Columbus (OIC) initiative, which promotes strategic alliances between Japanese startups and Thai conglomerates. With regards to OIC-related events, this follows the DX Summit held by the Japanese Embassy in Thailand last October. The majority of Thai conglomerates do not reap the benefits of a digital economy. In Japan, large companies are moving to start digital transformation (DX) by collaborating with startups (it’s so called ‘open innovation’), while in Thailand, due to the nature of the verticals…

This article was rearranged by our editorial from the original by Momoko Furukawa, Assistant to Executive/PR at TalentEx. TalentEX is a Bangkok-based startup offering a media outlet and an online platform for recruitment and human resources.

All the photos in this article were taken by Tomohiro Ueno, Corporate Planning at TalentEx.

See our past coverage to learn more about TalentEx.


See the original story in Japanese.

The Japanese Embassy in Thailand together with the CP Group (Charoen Pokphand Group), operating 7/11 convenience stores in Thailand and also owning local mobile telco giant True, held a Demo Day and matchmaking event called Rock Thailand in March, aiming to help Japanese startups and Thai conglomerates to work together. The event is part of the Open Innovation Columbus (OIC) initiative, which promotes strategic alliances between Japanese startups and Thai conglomerates. With regards to OIC-related events, this follows the DX Summit held by the Japanese Embassy in Thailand last October.

The majority of Thai conglomerates do not reap the benefits of a digital economy. In Japan, large companies are moving to start digital transformation (DX) by collaborating with startups (it’s so called ‘open innovation’), while in Thailand, due to the nature of the verticals that local startups specialize in, DX through open innovation will likely still take time.

In response to this, OIC selected a team of 10 Japanese startups that lead verticals likely to be useful for DX (AI, robotics, IoT, logistics), and that are particularly interested in advancing into Southeast Asia, including Thailand, and invited them to Bangkok. This is an attempt at targeting cross-border open innovation and focuses on using the power of Japanese startups to foster DX for Thai conglomerates.

Representatives from the 10 Japanese startups pitched in front of top executives from major corporations such as CP Group’s CEO Suphachai Chearavanont, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT), major retailer TCC known for its beer brewing brand Chang, Kasikornbank, the Thai royal family-backded SCG (Siam Cement Group), and the big name in hospital management BDMS (Bangkok Dusit Medical Service). Individual consultations between representatives were also made with the goal of establishing cooperative relationships starting with a PoC (proof of concept).

A committee made up of 10 venture capitalists and media personnel from Japan who have deep knowledge of the startup scenes in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, selected the startups to participate in this first edition of the event.

The following is an introduction of the participating startups. They are introduced in the order that they pitched. The collaboration specifics were not disclosed except between the Thai conglomerates and startups, so we introduce only the comments from participating startups.

PKSHA Technology

Yugo Takino, VP of Product, PKSHA TEchnology

PKSHA Technology (TSE: 3993) develops algorithm solutions focused on natural language processing, image recognition, machine learning and deep learning technologies. The company also develops function-specific algorithm modules and provides services to use them as core functions/ sub-functions for various software/hardware. Founded by engineers and researchers who conduct algorithm research, approximately 70% of PKSHA’s engineers who have completed doctoral programs make up their team along with a collection of qualified personnel with academic expertise. PKSHA said that their resources could be used to provide services adapted to each industry such as weather and equipment maintenance.

ABEJA

Naoki Tonogi, Managing Director, ABEJA Singapore

ABEJA provides all kinds of solutions for a variety of industries using its core technology, the AI platform “ABEJA Platform”. The company uses deep learning to automatically extract feature values from accumulated big data without human intervention.

Naoki Tonogi, Managing Director of ABEJA Singapore, cited three of ABEJA’s strengths.

  1. ABEJA can provide services for all industrial fields.
  2. The company has developed services internationally, and has already achieved results, especially in Southeast Asia.
  3. In addition to providing solutions with AI, the company produces its own products.

Tonogi shared the following comments regarding the company’s participation in Rock Thailand.

We were able to talk with major conglomerates including CP Group. Companies that we had already talked to said they’d like to work together, and we were able to propose approaches using AI tailored to each task such as smart factories, smart cities, smart stores to the others. Because of the back-up from the Japanese government, it seems possible to create a cooperative system for innovation with the conglomerates in Thailand, rather than receiving a simple project order from them.¥

It’s been about two years since I came to Singapore and Thailand, but over the past year or so the interest of corporate management in AI has greatly increased, and we were able to put together a number of projects with them. Based on the idea central to our company ‘implementing a fruitful world’, we would like to implement a rich society in Thailand for all the people involved in AI.

See also our past articles of ABEJA.

LPixel

Yuki Shimahara, CEO & Founder, LPixel

Spun off from the University of Tokyo, LPixel has a strength in image analysis for life science. The company is developing software and optimizing AI technology for image analysis in life science such as medicine, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture. They continue to research and develop medical image diagnosis support using AI in cooperation with the National Cancer Center Japan and a number of other medical institutions. They have expanded into Cambridge, US to provide global services.

See also:

Skydisc

Yoshihiko Suenaga, Head of Overseas Strategy Division, Skydisc

Skydisc develops IoT sensor devices and services that allows users to analyze the data collected using AI. It has most often been introduced in the manufacturing industry, and contributes to creating smart factories by diagnosing abnormalities in machines, increasing yield rates, and improving the accuracy of inspections.

See also:

Umitron

Masahiko Yamada, Co-founder and Managing Director, Umitron

Umitron is working on solutions for food and environmental issues by using technology for aquaculture. The company has offices in Singapore and Japan and it provides services using IoT, satellite remote sensing, and machine learning. Umitron Cell, a smart feeder recently announced by the company, allows users to feed cultured fish on schedule and monitor their appearance autonomously or remotely.

Masahiro Yamada, Co-founder and Managing Director of Umitron, shared shared the following impressions regarding participation in Rock Thailand.

I’ve participated in many matching events, but I’ve never been to an event that left me so satisfied. Top class executives from the country’s top conglomerates gathered together, the interviews were set up, and I was able to meet the people I wanted to meet, so it was really great.

I was able to talk with nearly all the conglomerates (that participated), and my first order of business is to begin discussions regarding their on-site issues. As far as business partners in Thailand, I expect there is a good chance for collaboration.

See also:

SmartDrive

Retsu Kitagawa, CEO, SmartDrive

Telematic startup SmartDrive provides services to collect travel data from cars and other mobility devices and then visualize and analyze it. Their services include SmartDrive Fleet (real-time vehicle management for corporations), SmartDrive Cars (flat-rate connected cars for personal use), SmartDrive Families (monitoring of the elderly), and Public Service (mapping of dangerous areas and traffic sharing). The company has also focused on developing sensors, including drive recorders, and creating its own route for data acquisition.

See also:

Smart Shopping

Ryosuke Shimohara, VP of B2B Business, Smart Shopping

Smart Shopping is a price comparison site for daily goods and food and serves over 400,000 users. In October of last year, the company launched a new product called SmartMat, an IoT device equipped with weight sensors that enables automatic recurring orders and inventory replenishment for consumables. It is primarily desgined for corporations tand automates the task of always keeping the necessary amount of items that may be easy to forget to order. With Smart Shopping, the pre-consumption weight of the product is stored in the company’s product database and based on regular weight checks asks the user to authorize purchases when the remaining weight is low.

Ryosuke Shimohara, VP of B2B Business, Smart Shopping, shared the following comments about participating in Rock Thailand.

For WHA, a big name in Thai industrial parks and rental warehouses, we were able to propose added value for logistics facilities, solutions for their factory customers, and supply chain optimization using Smartmats. For the CP Group, Singha (beer brand), and Siam Makro (Thailand’s answer to Costco), we were able to propose the introduction of an automatic recurring ordering solution for retail stores using SmartMats. We hope this will lead to the acquisition of large customers when developing business in Thailand, and lead to partnerships in Southeast Asia, including Thailand.

Ground

Takatsugu Kobayashi, Chief Data Officer and Head of Global Innovation, Ground

Ground provides logistics solutions with “Intelligent Logistics” as its company slogan. Starting with picking operations in warehouses, the company has built a platform combining robots and AI software to optimize logistics.

Problems that companies often encounter include too many options for consumers, consumers becoming easily bored, and the inability to detect consumer behavior in advance (such as cancellations). Ground uses machine learning based on a customer database that can identify consumers’ behavior. Then, based on demand forecasts, it predicts the number of products to be made and the number of sales, and aims to improve the efficiency of all logistics operations.

Takatsugu Kobayashi, Chief Data Officer and Head of Global Innovation, Ground shared his impressions of participating in Rock Thailand.

We talked with several conglomerates, but we are especially considering whether we can provide solutions to the CP Group, Kasikornbank, and WHA. We believe that we can accelerate the development of our company’s AI logistics software ‘DyAS’ and aim for early market-in to Thailand.

For startups that offer both hardware and software like ours, both the speed and scale axes are required–more so than regular startups. In terms of business expansion, if you don’t take the three big steps PoV (Proof of Value) > PoC (Proof of Concept) > PoB (Proof of Business), it is very difficult. In that sense, business development in mature markets tends to be expensive for explanation and introduction costs, and startups with weak capital capabilities are likely to struggle.

However, after talking with the representatives from the conglomerates, such concerns have been lowered. I felt like in the current age we cannot compete overseas (especially with Amazon and Alibaba) if we don’t market-in early (in Thailand) and support reverse innovation in Japan.

Souco

Kunehito Nakahara, Founder and CEO, Souco

Souco is a logistics sharing platform that has built an online database of warehouses and matches companies that want to lend warehouses with those that would like to rent them. The company simplified the procedures necessary to complete before using the space and made it easy to begin using warehouses with a “small lot” for a “short period” in 3 days minimum from the application date. Since the service launch, user growth has been steady and registered users have reached more than 300 companies.

See also:

Hacobu

Masaru Sakata, COO, Hacobu

Hacobu offers a shared logistics platform called Movo. Thanks to the cloud and hardware such as the IoT devices managing moving vehicles, the company solves problems like vehicle dispatch (as an integrated logistics management solution, solves the problem of the difficulty of finding trucks to dispatch), operation management (solves the problem of not knowing location information of the trucks), and berth management (solves the problem of using trucks efficiently because of waiting time).

From left: Polapatr Suvarnazorn (SVP, Thai Beverage), Takatsugu Kobayashi (Ground Chief Data Officer and Head of Global Innovation, Ground), Naoki Tonogi (Managing Director, Abeja Singapore)

Following their pitches, there was a networking opportunity where talks about collaborations between Thai conglomerates and Japanese startups were lively. Thai executives also had positive comments to share about joining Rock Thailand.

Pichairat Jiranunrat, Director of Robotics AI & Intelligent Solution at PTT, says:

Thailand has long established good relationships with Japan and Japanese companies, and I think of Japan as a “good friend”. Based on this trust, perhaps we can create something even more new?

I felt that it’s important to incorporate technology (like that introduced today) into our company.

Yojiro Koshi (center), CEO of TalentEX, also also participated in the networking party.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Doreming Asia now allows employees in Vietnam to get paid before payday

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See the original story in Japanese. Japanese financial inclusion startup Doreming Asia has developed a payroll system enabling calculation of the salary amount real-time before the closing date of companies, allowing workers to get paid before their payday. Last week the company launched the service in Vietnam through ViViet, the digital wallet app by the country’s leading retail bank Lien Viet Post Bank. Leveraging its propretary real-time payroll system, the firm gives Vietnamese workers an easy access to pro-rata payments or their monthly paycheck. Although it is the poor who really require financial services for a stable life and security, not enough such services are provided in emerging countries. If low-income people with poor credit ratings can receive loans, the service plans will be limited to ones with annual interests of 100%, 300% or even 1,600% due to the high probability of these becoming irrecoverable. By allowing workers get paid before their payday, Doreming Asia wants to prevent their unnecessary debt and to help them manage a better family budget. Doreming Asia signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Lien Viet Post Bank and Mitsui Knowledge Industry for a PoC (proof of concept) study in Vietnam, which was conducted from…

ViViet
Image credit: Doreming Asia

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese financial inclusion startup Doreming Asia has developed a payroll system enabling calculation of the salary amount real-time before the closing date of companies, allowing workers to get paid before their payday. Last week the company launched the service in Vietnam through ViViet, the digital wallet app by the country’s leading retail bank Lien Viet Post Bank. Leveraging its propretary real-time payroll system, the firm gives Vietnamese workers an easy access to pro-rata payments or their monthly paycheck.

Although it is the poor who really require financial services for a stable life and security, not enough such services are provided in emerging countries. If low-income people with poor credit ratings can receive loans, the service plans will be limited to ones with annual interests of 100%, 300% or even 1,600% due to the high probability of these becoming irrecoverable. By allowing workers get paid before their payday, Doreming Asia wants to prevent their unnecessary debt and to help them manage a better family budget.

Doreming Asia signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Lien Viet Post Bank and Mitsui Knowledge Industry for a PoC (proof of concept) study in Vietnam, which was conducted from September to December back in 2017. Subsequently, these three parties signed an agreement to roll out the total service in May of last year.

Vietnam is celebrating Lunar New Year’s Day called Tết today, having set the weeks from January 29 to February 12 the annual holiday season for the New Year celebration. The company could successfully launch the service before Vietnamese people may have unforeseen expenses or enjoy shopping sprees especially in the season.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda

Japan Airlines launches $70M fund for business collaboration with startups

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See the orignal story in Japanese. Japan Airlines (JAL) announced on Thursday that it is forming a new fund focused on investing in startups in Japan and the rest of the world, called Japan Airlines Innovation Fund. Aiming to provide value propositions to various life scenes of consumers, JAL wants to create new businesses by offering comprehensive air mobility services as well as new means of transport and their user experiences through the fund. In this scheme, Silicon Valley-based Translink Capital provides deal sourcing, investment execution, and hands-on support for investees. JAL has supported startup conferences by offering complimentary miles to entrepreneurs flying aboard leveraging the airliner’s mileage program. Aiming to collaborate with 100 startups, the company launched a innovation lab facility near their their headquarters in Tokyo last May. In view of JAL’s involvement in the startup community, they have invested in iSpace, the startup behind the Hakuto team which took part in the Google-sponsored Lunar Xprize race, by participating in their series A funding round back in late 2017. In addition, JAL introduced Comuoon hearing assistance device to their customer counter on a trial basis back in 2015. Comuoon won the Morning Pitch yearend edition in 2017. Looking…

Image credit: 123RF

See the orignal story in Japanese.

Japan Airlines (JAL) announced on Thursday that it is forming a new fund focused on investing in startups in Japan and the rest of the world, called Japan Airlines Innovation Fund. Aiming to provide value propositions to various life scenes of consumers, JAL wants to create new businesses by offering comprehensive air mobility services as well as new means of transport and their user experiences through the fund. In this scheme, Silicon Valley-based Translink Capital provides deal sourcing, investment execution, and hands-on support for investees.

JAL has supported startup conferences by offering complimentary miles to entrepreneurs flying aboard leveraging the airliner’s mileage program. Aiming to collaborate with 100 startups, the company launched a innovation lab facility near their their headquarters in Tokyo last May.

In view of JAL’s involvement in the startup community, they have invested in iSpace, the startup behind the Hakuto team which took part in the Google-sponsored Lunar Xprize race, by participating in their series A funding round back in late 2017. In addition, JAL introduced Comuoon hearing assistance device to their customer counter on a trial basis back in 2015. Comuoon won the Morning Pitch yearend edition in 2017.

Looking at how the Japanese aviation industry working with startups, All Nippon Airways (ANA) has launched their own crowdfunding site as well as hosting a global avatar development competition in addition to sponsoring startup conferences. They have participated in the series C round of space debris removal startup Astroscale, and recently announced the participation in α Trackers (Alpha Trackers), the research consortium led by Japanese VC Global Brain for corporate venture capitals.

From a global point of view, Lufthansa Innovation Hub, Lufthansa Cargo, and Star Alliance have respectively partnered with Plug and Play to explore collaboration with startups.

Japanese crowdsourced translation startup Gengo acquired by Lionbridge

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based crowdsourced translation startup Gengo announced on Thursday that it has been acquired by Lionbridge Technologies. Financial terms on the deal have not been disclosed. Gengo was founded back in 2009 by Robert Laing and Matthew Romaine. Laing served the company as CEO in their early days while the position was handed over to Romaine in 2015. They have raised more than $26 million from Atomico, Intel Capital, 500 Startups and other investors. Since its launch back in 1996, Lionbridge has been globally offering translation and localization services, now in 27 countries. They were listed on NASDAQ back in 1997 but then delisted when they were acquired by private equity firm H.I.G. Capital for $360 million. The acquisition at this time is the first for Lionbridge following H.I.G. Capital’s purchase of them in May 2017. Lionbridge says Romaine and the rest of the Gengo team will join Lionbridge post transaction and assume key leadership roles in the company. It appears that Lionbridge will send someone to the board of Gengo’s directors. In 2018, Gengo launched GengoAI, a learning data platform for natural data processing-focused AI development, which has been fully leveraged by their existing…

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based crowdsourced translation startup Gengo announced on Thursday that it has been acquired by Lionbridge Technologies. Financial terms on the deal have not been disclosed.

Gengo was founded back in 2009 by Robert Laing and Matthew Romaine. Laing served the company as CEO in their early days while the position was handed over to Romaine in 2015. They have raised more than $26 million from Atomico, Intel Capital, 500 Startups and other investors.

Since its launch back in 1996, Lionbridge has been globally offering translation and localization services, now in 27 countries. They were listed on NASDAQ back in 1997 but then delisted when they were acquired by private equity firm H.I.G. Capital for $360 million. The acquisition at this time is the first for Lionbridge following H.I.G. Capital’s purchase of them in May 2017.

Lionbridge says Romaine and the rest of the Gengo team will join Lionbridge post transaction and assume key leadership roles in the company. It appears that Lionbridge will send someone to the board of Gengo’s directors.

In 2018, Gengo launched GengoAI, a learning data platform for natural data processing-focused AI development, which has been fully leveraged by their existing translation services. The platform is expected to strengthen Lionbridge’s position in the machine learning and content relevance markets.

Tokyo-based Conyac, another Japanese translation startup launched around the same time with Gengo, was acquired for $14 million by Japanese translation service giant Rosetta back in August of 2018. Our readers may also recall that Korean translation tech startup Flitto has raised funding from Colopl Next for market expansion into the Japanese market.

See also:

via PR TIMES
via Lionbridge Technologies

American Express buys Japanese restaurant reservation startup Pocket Concierge

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Pocket Concierge, the Japanese startup offering an online restaurant reservation platform under the same name, has been fully acquired by American Express (Amex). Financial terms regarding the deal has not been disclosed. The platform was founded in March of 2013 by Kei Tokado who was has experience in the restaurant business, including time as a restaurant chef (the company’s name was Pocket Menu at the time). Based on the quality of menu and service as well as concept and their chef’s thought, more than 800 restaurants have been carefully selected according to the platform’s proprietary standards. With the acquisition by Amex, Pocket Concierge will be more focused on providing their card holders with access to Japanese premium restaurants. However, even after the acquisition, the platform is expected to continue offering their existing services to anyone regardless of whether or not he/she is an Amex member. It’s not clear about how much money the company has fundraised to date. Their investors partcipating in past rounds include Adways, Allied Architects, 500 Startup Japan, Monex Ventures, iMercury Capital, Line, Nippon Venture Capital, Fuji Startup Ventures, and Isetan Mitsukoshi Innovations. See also: Japan’s Pocket Concierge starts accepting…

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Pocket Concierge, the Japanese startup offering an online restaurant reservation platform under the same name, has been fully acquired by American Express (Amex). Financial terms regarding the deal has not been disclosed.

The platform was founded in March of 2013 by Kei Tokado who was has experience in the restaurant business, including time as a restaurant chef (the company’s name was Pocket Menu at the time). Based on the quality of menu and service as well as concept and their chef’s thought, more than 800 restaurants have been carefully selected according to the platform’s proprietary standards.

With the acquisition by Amex, Pocket Concierge will be more focused on providing their card holders with access to Japanese premium restaurants. However, even after the acquisition, the platform is expected to continue offering their existing services to anyone regardless of whether or not he/she is an Amex member.

It’s not clear about how much money the company has fundraised to date. Their investors partcipating in past rounds include Adways, Allied Architects, 500 Startup Japan, Monex Ventures, iMercury Capital, Line, Nippon Venture Capital, Fuji Startup Ventures, and Isetan Mitsukoshi Innovations.

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Translated by Masaru Ikeda

Japanese deep learning startup Abeja raises series C extension round from Google

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Abeja, the company offering solutions for retail stores to improve customer path or traffic based on image analysis and machine learning technologies, announced on Tuesday that it has secured funding from Google in a series C extension round. The company says this brings their total equity funding to date to over 6 billion yen (approximately US$53 million US). The company hasn’t disclosed financial terms on the latest round from Google but it can be estimated worth 1 billion yen or 10 million US based on their past funding records. Abeja has provided their AI-powered analytics suite Abeja Platform to more than 150 companies while over 520 stores at more than 100 companies have adopted Abeja Insight for Retail, their retail industry store analysis solution. See also: Science fiction becomes reality? Abeja unveils futuristic ad at Tokyo’s busiest station Founded in September of 2012, followed by graduation from the 1st batch of the Orange Fab Asia acceleration program, Abeja has raised an undisclosed sum in an angel and a seed round. Subsequently, the company has raised six figures in US dollars from Salesforce in a series A round back in 2014, followed by securing…

Abeja CEO/CTO Yosuke Okada explains about Abeja Platform Partner Ecosystem
(Photographed at Docomo Innovation Village in November of 2016)
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Abeja, the company offering solutions for retail stores to improve customer path or traffic based on image analysis and machine learning technologies, announced on Tuesday that it has secured funding from Google in a series C extension round. The company says this brings their total equity funding to date to over 6 billion yen (approximately US$53 million US). The company hasn’t disclosed financial terms on the latest round from Google but it can be estimated worth 1 billion yen or 10 million US based on their past funding records.

Abeja has provided their AI-powered analytics suite Abeja Platform to more than 150 companies while over 520 stores at more than 100 companies have adopted Abeja Insight for Retail, their retail industry store analysis solution.

See also:

Founded in September of 2012, followed by graduation from the 1st batch of the Orange Fab Asia acceleration program, Abeja has raised an undisclosed sum in an angel and a seed round. Subsequently, the company has raised six figures in US dollars from Salesforce in a series A round back in 2014, followed by securing 700 million yen (about $7 million at the exchange rate then) in a series B round from INCJ, Archetype, Inspire-PNB Partners back in 2016 as well as securing 4.25 billion yen ($38.4 million at the exchange rate then) in a series C round from 9 investors including VC firms and business companies back in June this year.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japanese medical diagnostic imaging startup LPixel raises $27 million

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based LPixel, the Japanese startup behind AI-powered medical image diagnostic support technologies, recently announced that it has raised about 3 billion yen (about $27 million US) in October. Participating investors include Olympus, Fujifilm and Cyberdyne. The company will use this funding to strengthen development of proprietary technologies to support a medical diagnostic imaging system called EIRL, in addition to marketing efforts and team structure enhancement. Spun off from the University of Tokyo, LPixel has been developing image analysis technologies specifically focused on the life science space. In partnership with the University of Tokyo, National Cancer Center Japan and other medical institutions, the company has been focused on medical diagnostic imaging R&D. They are reportedly in talks with the companies participating in this round for potential business partnerships. via PR TIMES Translated by Masaru Ikeda Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Image credit: LPixel

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based LPixel, the Japanese startup behind AI-powered medical image diagnostic support technologies, recently announced that it has raised about 3 billion yen (about $27 million US) in October. Participating investors include Olympus, Fujifilm and Cyberdyne. The company will use this funding to strengthen development of proprietary technologies to support a medical diagnostic imaging system called EIRL, in addition to marketing efforts and team structure enhancement.

Spun off from the University of Tokyo, LPixel has been developing image analysis technologies specifically focused on the life science space. In partnership with the University of Tokyo, National Cancer Center Japan and other medical institutions, the company has been focused on medical diagnostic imaging R&D. They are reportedly in talks with the companies participating in this round for potential business partnerships.

via PR TIMES

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

How Japanese startups can help digital transformation efforts of Thai enterprises

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This guest post is authored by Hiroko Mamoto, Public Retalations at Bangkok-based recruiting platform startup TalentEx. Some of our coverage about TalentEx can be found here and there. See the originl story in Jaapnese. In partnership with Omise and Abeja – two outstanding and rapidly-growing startups in Southeast Asia led by Japanese entrepreneurs, the Japanese embassy in Thailand recently hosted a conference called Digital Transformation Summit (DX Summit for short) at the headquarters of Thai top property developer Ananda Development. The conference is a part of “Open Innovation Columbus (OIC)” through which the Japanese government and Thai conglomerates encourage strategic alliances between innovative Japanese startups and the Thai conglomerates. Approximately 50 representatives from 30 Thai conglomerates participated in the first summit, along with 30 representatives from 30 major companies from Japan. In addition to government officials and media from both countries, Global Brain CEO Yasuhiko Yurimoto and KK Fund General Partner Koichi Saito also participated. See also: Columbus charts course (Bangkok Post) Thailand, Japan join hands to develop local startups (Bangkok Post) เอกอัครราชทูตญี่ปุ่นประจำประเทศไทยสนับสนุน Start-up ญี่ปุ่น ลงทุนในไทย (Royal Thai Government) OIC was launched with the goal of developing successful Japanese startups around the world and to meet the demand for state-of-the-art…

Hiroko Mamoto

This guest post is authored by Hiroko Mamoto, Public Retalations at Bangkok-based recruiting platform startup TalentEx.

Some of our coverage about TalentEx can be found here and there.

The participants of the DX Summit. Japan’s Ambassador to Thailand Shiro Sadoshima stands in the center.
Image credit: Hiroko Mamoto

See the originl story in Jaapnese.

In partnership with Omise and Abeja – two outstanding and rapidly-growing startups in Southeast Asia led by Japanese entrepreneurs, the Japanese embassy in Thailand recently hosted a conference called Digital Transformation Summit (DX Summit for short) at the headquarters of Thai top property developer Ananda Development. The conference is a part of “Open Innovation Columbus (OIC)” through which the Japanese government and Thai conglomerates encourage strategic alliances between innovative Japanese startups and the Thai conglomerates.

Approximately 50 representatives from 30 Thai conglomerates participated in the first summit, along with 30 representatives from 30 major companies from Japan. In addition to government officials and media from both countries, Global Brain CEO Yasuhiko Yurimoto and KK Fund General Partner Koichi Saito also participated.

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OIC was launched with the goal of developing successful Japanese startups around the world and to meet the demand for state-of-the-art technology from the conglomerates lead by ASEAN. The Japanese government serves as mediator between the concerned parties, providing enriching support content such as matching and follow-ups, funds for expanding business in Thailand, and mentoring with Japanese entrepreneurs on the ground in Thailand.

Naoki Tonogi, CEO of Abeja Singapore
Image credit: Hiroko Mamoto

The theme of this year’s DX Summit was AI (artificial intelligence) and blockchain, and one aim was to have designated knowledgeable persons assist the representatives from Thai conglomerates in gaining a deeper understanding of digital technology. Abeja Singapore Representative Naoki Tonogi and Omise Holdings CEO Jun Hasegawa served as speakers during the seminar.

Tonogi spoke passionately about technology up to present day that did not yet have AI, and how AI is innovative by answering the straightforward question, “What is AI?” He also introduced practical examples of AI provided by Abeja, and based on those, he discussed the future of AI technology and market considerations.

Jun Hasegawa, CE of Omise Holdings
Image credit: Hiroko Mamoto

Hasegawa in turn used an explanation of products offered by Omise to showcase concrete examples of how blockchain can be used. His explanation included a basic outline, as well as the characteristics and merits of blockchain technology, and participants gains further understanding through question and answer time.

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Japan’s Ambassador to Thailand, Shiro Sadoshima, imparted these words following the DX Summit.

I anticipate positive results through the cooperation of the decidedly flexible Thai companies and the technology and speed of Japanese startups.

Omise’s Hasegawa, who also serves as Chairman of the Japan-ASEAN Innovation Support Network (JAIS) [1] , related the following.

Just through breaching language barriers/ culture barriers/ market barriers, the methods of doing business can be improved. This is why, even as an entrepreneur myself who can understand the pain of doing business abroad, I’d like to continue to support events such as this which provide a space to connect with local companies.

Prior to the OIC, Sadoshima meets with Thai Prime Minister Kobsak Pootrakool to discuss cooperative relations

Prior to the OIC, Japanese Ambassador Sadoshima meets with Thai Prime Minister Kobsak Pootrakool to discuss cooperative relations.
Image credit: Office of the Prime Minister, Thailand

Representatives from the Thai conglomerates also shared their positive impressions of the seminar.

Thanapong Na Ranong, First Senior Vice President of Kasikornbank / Managing Director of Kasikornbank’s investment arm Beacon Venture Capital, says,

I am very excited about this event and any future efforts. As the cultures of Japan and Thailand are very close, I expect good outcomes. After listening to today’s seminar, I’d like to try out the technologies with robots first.

Lena Ng, Chief Investment Officer at Amata Corporation, says,

We are developing a smart city in an industrial area, and there are many Japanese companies in the industrial area managed by our company. We believe we can use AI and blockchain technology to develop smart business in our industrial area, and this is why we’d like to incorporate it.

OIC plans to hold pitch events and arrange matching opportunities for Thai conglomerates and Japanese startups within the year.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda


  1. There are separate organizations for each country under JAIS: JTIS (Japan-Thailand), JMIS (Japan-Malaysia), JVIS (Japan-Vietnam), JIIS (Japan-Indonesia), JPIS (Japan-Philippines), JSIS (Japan-Singapore). For more information on the initiations of the first organization, JTIS, please see here.