THE BRIDGE

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Curama, Japan’s answer to Thumbtack, secures $36M from Nissay Capital, others

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Minma (derived from ‘Minna no Market’ meaning ‘the market for everyone’ in Japanese), the Japanese startup behind an online service that matches customers with local professionals, announced today that it has raised 4 billion yen (about $36 million US) in the latest round. This comes from Nissay Capital, Globis Capital Partners, Innovation Growth Ventures (managed by Sony and Daiwa Capital Holdings), and Zenrin Datacom (a subsidiary of Japan’s largest map publisher) in funding as well as Japan Finance Corporation in loans. The startup has been matching customers with local professionals since its launch back in 2011, currently lists over 200 types of services in categories like house cleaning, housekeeping, on-location photo shooting, home appliance installation, and renovation. As of December end, over 33,000 stores are live on the Curama marketplace where users can compare these providers by user reviews and pricing to make a choice and book it online. The company disclosed Nissay Capital, one of the investors participating in the latest round, has poured funds in both series A and B (in 2017) rounds. The sum of funding in past rounds are undisclosed but the company shows 909.48 million yen (about $8.3…

Yusuke Hamano, CEO of Minma
Image credit: Takeshi Hirano, Bridge

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Minma (derived from ‘Minna no Market’ meaning ‘the market for everyone’ in Japanese), the Japanese startup behind an online service that matches customers with local professionals, announced today that it has raised 4 billion yen (about $36 million US) in the latest round. This comes from Nissay Capital, Globis Capital Partners, Innovation Growth Ventures (managed by Sony and Daiwa Capital Holdings), and Zenrin Datacom (a subsidiary of Japan’s largest map publisher) in funding as well as Japan Finance Corporation in loans.

The startup has been matching customers with local professionals since its launch back in 2011, currently lists over 200 types of services in categories like house cleaning, housekeeping, on-location photo shooting, home appliance installation, and renovation. As of December end, over 33,000 stores are live on the Curama marketplace where users can compare these providers by user reviews and pricing to make a choice and book it online.

Curama
Image credit: Minma

The company disclosed Nissay Capital, one of the investors participating in the latest round, has poured funds in both series A and B (in 2017) rounds. The sum of funding in past rounds are undisclosed but the company shows 909.48 million yen (about $8.3 million US) as capital stock and legal capital surplus in their corporate website as of this writing.

Minma uses the funds to increase brand awareness, develop new products, invest in relevant startups, as well as hiring and educating talents globally. The company says they have completed investing in an unnamed startup developing a chat service. Partnering with this round’s investor Zenrin Datacom, Minma plans to create a new category on the marketplace, improve functionality and user experience for store owners, and bring themselves to a higher level of marketing sophistication.

In an interview with Bridge back in 2018, Minma CEO Yusuke Hamano said he could see no noticeable competitor at that time. Looking at each of verticals close to what the marketplace lists in categories, we can find several potential competitors in a broad sense, such as Reform Guide graduating from Asahi Shimbun Media Lab’s accelerator, photographer client matchmaking startup aMi, P2P sharing economy startup Anytimes, memento disposer/pest-control firm matchmaking platform Ocomari, and recently-IPO’d Jimoty. US-based unicorn Thumbtack raised $120 million in a series H round last year.

Japan’s TimeTree, shared calendar app for couples, raises $18M

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based TimeTree (previously known as Jubilee Works), the startup behind shared calendar app for couples under the same name, announced in late December that it has raised about 1.96 billion yen (about $17.9 million) in the latest round. Participating investors are Seoul-based Stonebridge Ventures, Persol Innovation Fund (investment arm of Tokyo-based human resource services company Persol Holdings=TSE:2181), and Orient Corporation (TSE:8585). This follows their venture round (raising undisclosed amount) back in December of 2018, series A round (raising $4.6 million) back in August of 2017, and seed round (raising $1.9 million) back in October of 2016. The TimeTree app allows users to share their calendar with their family members, loved ones, friends and colleagues. It surpassed 20 million registered users in December, planning to launch TimeTree Ads, the ad network which can target users based on their schedule, as well as the TimeTree API that enables an easy integration with other apps for input and output schedule data.

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based TimeTree (previously known as Jubilee Works), the startup behind shared calendar app for couples under the same name, announced in late December that it has raised about 1.96 billion yen (about $17.9 million) in the latest round.

Participating investors are Seoul-based Stonebridge Ventures, Persol Innovation Fund (investment arm of Tokyo-based human resource services company Persol Holdings=TSE:2181), and Orient Corporation (TSE:8585). This follows their venture round (raising undisclosed amount) back in December of 2018, series A round (raising $4.6 million) back in August of 2017, and seed round (raising $1.9 million) back in October of 2016.

The TimeTree app allows users to share their calendar with their family members, loved ones, friends and colleagues. It surpassed 20 million registered users in December, planning to launch TimeTree Ads, the ad network which can target users based on their schedule, as well as the TimeTree API that enables an easy integration with other apps for input and output schedule data.

Japan’s Cluster secures $7.7M in series C to enhance VR hangout and performance platform

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Cluster, the Japanese startup behind the social VR (virtual reality) platform under the same name supporting thousands-scale events in VR space, announced today that it has secured 830 million yen (about $7.7 million) in a series C round. This follows their series B round back in September of 2018 and brings their total funding raised so far to 1.48 billion yen ($13.7 million). Participating investors in the latest round are KDDI Innovation Fund (operated by KDDI and Global Brain), TV Asahi Holdings, Gree’s virtual YouTuber management agency Wright Flyer Live Entertainment (WFLE), 31Ventures (operated by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), and several angel investors. Cluster has partnered with TV Asahi and WFLE for joint business development. Since its official launch back in May of 2017, Cluster has been acquiring gaming companies and virtual YouTuber agencies as clients to provide VR-powered live music and other performance events for viewers. They could offer only one paid event back in 2018 but was seeing solid growth by serving about 100 events last year alone thanks to higher demand promoting virtual YouTubers. Since users are able to hold VR events for free on the platform, the company…

Image credit: Cluster

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Cluster, the Japanese startup behind the social VR (virtual reality) platform under the same name supporting thousands-scale events in VR space, announced today that it has secured 830 million yen (about $7.7 million) in a series C round. This follows their series B round back in September of 2018 and brings their total funding raised so far to 1.48 billion yen ($13.7 million).

Participating investors in the latest round are KDDI Innovation Fund (operated by KDDI and Global Brain), TV Asahi Holdings, Gree’s virtual YouTuber management agency Wright Flyer Live Entertainment (WFLE), 31Ventures (operated by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), and several angel investors. Cluster has partnered with TV Asahi and WFLE for joint business development.

Since its official launch back in May of 2017, Cluster has been acquiring gaming companies and virtual YouTuber agencies as clients to provide VR-powered live music and other performance events for viewers. They could offer only one paid event back in 2018 but was seeing solid growth by serving about 100 events last year alone thanks to higher demand promoting virtual YouTubers.

Since users are able to hold VR events for free on the platform, the company monetizes by helping companies produce and hold their events. This B2B2C (business-to-business-to-consumer) model worked well, which helped them improve their cash flow. Because of the growth of viewers from overseas as more events are being organized, Cluster is planning to more focus on global expansion. The company also further develop the platform to support more head-mounted display models including Oculus Quest while it can now work with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift only.

Regarding partnerships with investors participating in this round, Cluster will work with TV Asahi to develop content and TV programs using VR, with KDDI to develop content optimized for 5G networking that enables high bandwidth and low latency connectivity in addition standalone VR that requires no desktop for image rendering, will work with WFLE to integrate their Reality app so that their users can view and participate in events on the Cluster platform. Going forward, the company also plans to enhance it so that real human artists can also perform with virtual YouTubers on the platform.

Naoto Kato, founder and CEO of Cluster, said:

As apps like Mirrativ are being emerged, more individuals want to have their own avatar. I would like to offer user experience allowing such avatars to participate and give virtual gift items each others across different platforms while I don’t think all these functions can be provided by one company. […]

With the business model in place, we will focus on cultivating the content through this financing. We would like more gaming companies and animation studios to use the platform as one not only for live music events and concerts but also for various virtual events.

Not to mention engineers focused on system development, the company will strengthen hiring people for business and content development. While Cluster’s simultaneous viewership record is about 30,000 so far, the company aims to hold larger events attracting a six- to seven-digit number of people in the future.

Japan’s Thai Embassy holds 2nd batch helping startups connect with local conglomerates

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See the original story in Japanese. On Monday at True Digital Park in Bangkok, the Japanese Embassy in Thailand together with the CP Group (Charoen Pokphand Group) held a Demo Day of the second batch of Rock Thailand, a matchmaking event aiming to help Japanese startup 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. 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. Since top executives…

See the original story in Japanese.

On Monday at True Digital Park in Bangkok, the Japanese Embassy in Thailand together with the CP Group (Charoen Pokphand Group) held a Demo Day of the second batch of Rock Thailand, a matchmaking event aiming to help Japanese startup 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.

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. Since top executives from local conglomerates including CP group listen to startup pitches, their effort is more likely to lead to PoC (proof of concept) and other collaborative work because of top-down decision making.

From left: Thanasorn Jaidee (President, True Digital Park), Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin (CEO, Digital Economy Promotion Agency (depa), Thailand), Soopakij Chearavanont (Chairman, CP Group), Kobsak Pootrakool (Deputy Secretary-General for political affairs to Thai Prime Minister), Shiro Sadoshima (Japaese Ambassador to Thailand), John Jiang (Chief Digital Officer, CP Group)
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

As a result of the initiative’s previous batch, our readers may recall that there were an announcement regarding the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on PoCs towards collaboration between Japanese startups and Thai conglomerates:

  • Umitron (IoT-powered aquaculture tech) – CP Foods (Thailand’s largest food distributor)
  • Ground (autonomous collaborative robot for the logistics industry) – WHA (logistics facility giant in Thailand)
  • Skydisc (AI and IoT) – TTCL (Thiland’s engineering giant)
  • Toppan Printing – DRVR (fleet analytics)
  • Flare (ad-wrapping service for car owners and telematics) – Toyota Tsusho Thailand
  • Leave a Nest – Innospace (Thailand’s startup accelerator backed by the government and private sectors)

Since Shiro Sadoshima were finishing his term as the Japanese ambassador to Thailand, attending the Demo Day was the last opportunity for him to be involved in a series of the OIC activities. In the event, Kobsak Pootrakool, Deputy Secretary-General to the Thai Prime Minister for Political Affairs, made a keynote speech and thanked Sadoshima for his great work for many years. Because of high reputation from the Thai Government and local conglomerates, Roch Thailand and other OIC activities are expected to be taken over and followed up by the next ambassador.

The founders of participating 10 startups from Japan made a pitch to Soopakij Cheravanont, chairman of CP Group, and other 60 representatives from his group companies in addition to 80 people from other local conglomerates. Discussions between potential partners with Japanese startups have just begun after the pitch, so please stay tuned to their future progress and eventually public announcement as their previous batch grads recently did. For now, let’s have a quick look down on how the participating startups are working to tackle.

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Paronym

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

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

Connected Robotics

Connected Robotics was founded back in 2014 by CEO Tetsuya Sawanobori who has been developing industrial robot controllers and won a robot contest organized by Japanese public broadcaster NHK when he was attending the university of Tokyo. Their portfolio products include OctoChef offering automated cooking of Octopus Dumplings, the Reita ice cream serving robot, Dish Washing System, hot snacks serving robot for convenience stores, and the Loraine breakfast cooking robot.

The company won the Startup Weekend Robotics back in 2017, and was also selected for Kirin Accelerator 2017 and IBM BlueHub 4th Batch. Their robot is not intended for sale but is provided as a service (Robot as a Service=RAAS) that allows store owners to use it by paying installation and monthly usage fees so that then can start using it as an alternative to clerks. Supporting various robot arms with its control software and computer vision-based positioning system, the system is very flexible in dealing with a variety of ingredients and cooking procedures.

IntegriCulture

IntegriCulture has developed cell farming technology for producing cultured meat. As a means of supplying animal protein, meat products derived from livestock has many issues from the viewpoint of sustainable society because of excessive consumption of water resources, deforestation, and emission of greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, the technology for producing cultured meat is very expensive and still far from far from our daily consumption.

The company has succeeded in producing meat for human consumption by culturing actual cells. For example, it enables to produce chicken liver paste equivalents by putting muscle cells into culture solution (biocatalyst). In the actual animal body, internal organs secrete hormones to change cells to support every different function in the body but the company’s solution, called CulNet, made it possible virtually. The company is currently developing cultured foie gras, hoping to work with Thai companies to market artificial anti-aging serum based on the same culture technology.

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A.L.I. Technologies

A.L.I. Technologies has three business domains: drone, air mobility, and computing power sharing. in the air mobility business, the company unveiled the prototype of hoverbike for public road use back in March. In the machine computing power sharing using high-spec GPUs, our readers may recall that the company invested in Pegara, the startup behind a CPU cloud service for deep learning called GPU Eater, back in September this year.

The company’s drone can be also used for streamlining the regular semi-annual inspection of power plant facilities and eventually saving up to $9 million yen. Having formed a nationwide network of drone pilots who have received high-level training, the company is looking to increase demands of drones in periodical facility inspections, agriculture, and surveys in addition to those of hoverbikes in racing, entertainment, and mobility use.

LinkWiz

The working population, especially in the manufacturing industry, is shrinking not only in Japan but also in Thailand as the aging society advances. LinkWiz automates manufacturing and inspection processes of industrial products using robots, realizing labor savings and gaining efficiency. Their flagship products are the L-Qualify 3D weld bead inspection system and the L-Robot teaching tool that helps robots correct movements aligned with target work.

The company claims their technology has helped precision machinery and auto parts manufacturers like Yamaha, Mitutoyo, and Aisin Seiki cut down their production cost. LinkWiz hopes clients to use these robots “as sensors” and use them throughout the entire manufacturing process at the factory. In June, the company secured about $8.2 million from round INCJ, SMBC Venture Capital, Mitutoyo, Panasonic, Global Brain, Hamashin Lease, and other investors in a series B round.

TBM

TBM has developed a new limestone-based material called Limex, an alternative to paper, plastic, and vinyl. Making paper consumes a lot of wood and water, while producing plastic also consumes fossil fuels and releases greenhouse gases. As plastic pollution in the ocean has become a mindful issue, Limex can replace traditional materials and be used for business cards and packages. The new material is used for a menu at Yoshinoya beef bowl restaurants in Japan while it’s also attracting people’s attention as plastic bags provided at supermarkets are being charged for environmental reasons.

In addition to recycling collected materials into equivalent products, the technology enables to create a value-added product such as converting collected old Limex-made menus into new bowls, which they call ‘up-cycle’. The company runs their business in over 30 counties by licensing their technologies to local partners in over 30 countries, exploring potential partnership with manufacturing companies as well as investment. They were ranked in the second place both in Nikkei’s Next Unicorn Survey and For Startups’ estimated valuation raking.

Metro Engine

With the increasing supply of hotels and vacation rentals, price wars with competitors are intensifying for owners. It is difficult for them to hire experienced pricing managers, and price adjustment process ridiculously time-consuming. Metro Engine provides hotels with dynamic pricing function (enabling them to maximize profit by price optimization) leveraging AI-powered demand forecast forecasting. It’s currently used by more than 30 hotel chains in Japan.

The platform offers sales management, demand forecasting, past data analysis, OTA (online travel agency) ranking and other functions for hotels, as well as other services supporting demand forecasting and pricing for car rental agencies and rental property owners. In the future, the company wants to offer the best means of transportation for visitors by aggregating data from car rentals, highway bus, events, and trains as well as hotels. Having partnered with Toppan Printing, the company was qualified for both the IBM BlueHub (inbound) open innovation program and the JR East Accelerator Program 2nd batch.

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SAgri

SAgri gets soil conditions (corrosion content) using satellite data and updates on farm products and varieties from farmers to create a blockchain-powered database. Putting these altogether, the company tells farmers how to improve soil conditions from biological, chemical and physical viewpoints in addition to offering them with accurate measurement to help farmers get more harvest. They have also developed a scoring scheme evaluating farmland by soil conditions data and macro data of corrosion content.

Conventional methods measuring nitrogen in soil were expensive while the company has succeeded in lowering the cost using satellite data. Focused on what, rice and sugar cane, the technology can give farmers harvest prediction and advise them how much fertilizer they should use. By sending all these insights to financial institutions, the company encourages them give loans to local farmers in India while the Japanese government leverages the technology to determine the status of fallow fields to see if then can resume cultivation. They were qualified for the MUFG Digital Accelerator 4th Batch and the 500 Kobe 3rd Batch.

Terra Drone

Terra Drone provides drone-powered services for industry use. In August, Drone Industry Insights published the Service Provider Ranking for this year and put Terra Drone in the second place following ZipLine. Currently targeting markets include oil and gas fields, power houses and grids, mines and quarries. The technology visualizes the layout of power grids in 3D using LIDAR data from drones while the recently-launched technology enables aerial livestreaming for hot spot corrosion monitoring for pipelines.

Other use cases include detecting crime from high places, detecting gas leaks in pipelines, and ultrasonic flaw detection in LNG tanks. With the unique feature of their LIDAR-based mapping technology that can visualize terrain data, demand for the technology is growing in many industries, especially in the construction one. The company is looking at series A round funding soon, exploring partnerships with local companies in Thailand and other Southeast Asian markets.

Optimind

Oprimind has developed a route planner for last-mile delivery providers called Looqia, leveraging the Combinational Optimization technology spun off from Nagoya University. In addition to Looqia as SaaS (Software as a Service), the company offers an algorithm platform as PaaS (Platform as a Service) and R&D service for enterprises. Logistics companies had been planning routes and delivery orders manually, but Looqia allows them to find the most efficient route considering traffic conditions and parking / loading restrictions on roads.

The platform can complete route plannings in 100 seconds for 30 drop-offs for each of 5 deliverers. It also has functions allowing drivers to less u-turns, helping them find easy parking lots, appropriately allocating tasks to deliverers. Their targeting industries include home delivery providers, food, liquor and medicine wholesalers, as well as vending machine vendors. In order to create a local routeing map, the company wants to partner with companies owning car driving data in Thailand. They won the Demo Day at Post LogiTech Innovation Program Batch 1, or the startup acceleration program by Japan Post.

Attendees enjoying networking opportunities.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda
IntegriCulture’s Yuki Hanyu (left) in talk with CP Group CDO John Jiang (right)
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Japan’s Space Market, on-demand venue rental marketplace, files for IPO

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Tokyo-based Space Market, offering a marketplace of unused or idle venues for on-demand rental use, announced today that the IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 20 with plans to offer 520,000 shares for public subscription and to sell about 269,200 shares in over-allotment options for a total of about 1,274,700 shares. The company’s valuation is expected to reach 5.8 billion yen ($53.3 million) through the IPO. Their ticker code will be 4487. Space Market lists unused or idle venues and allows users to pick one to rent on demand for business or private needs such as corporate meetings, shareholder meetings, training courses, photo shooting of costume players, and other events. The company adds 5% charge on the price in the venue listing for users while it takes 30% commission from venue owners when their deal is made between them and users. According to the consolidated statement as of December 2018, they posted revenue of 578.2 million yen (about $5.3 million) with an ordinary loss of 271.9 million yen ($2.5 million). Led by founder and CEO Dausuke Shigematsu and his asset management company Double…

Space Market CEO Daisuke Shigematsu

Tokyo-based Space Market, offering a marketplace of unused or idle venues for on-demand rental use, announced today that the IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved.

The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 20 with plans to offer 520,000 shares for public subscription and to sell about 269,200 shares in over-allotment options for a total of about 1,274,700 shares. The company’s valuation is expected to reach 5.8 billion yen ($53.3 million) through the IPO. Their ticker code will be 4487.

Space Market lists unused or idle venues and allows users to pick one to rent on demand for business or private needs such as corporate meetings, shareholder meetings, training courses, photo shooting of costume players, and other events. The company adds 5% charge on the price in the venue listing for users while it takes 30% commission from venue owners when their deal is made between them and users.

According to the consolidated statement as of December 2018, they posted revenue of 578.2 million yen (about $5.3 million) with an ordinary loss of 271.9 million yen ($2.5 million).

Led by founder and CEO Dausuke Shigematsu and his asset management company Double Pines (47.63%), the company’s major shareholders include Opt Ventures (10.64%), CyberAgent Capital (6.57%), My Navi (2.86%), Orix (2.18%), and Mizuho Capital (1.75%), Tokyo Tatemono (1.46%), XTech (1.46%), and Docomo Innovation Fund (1.46%).

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Japanese crowdsourcing startup Lancers files for IPO

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Lancers, the Japanese startup providing a major crowdsourcing platform under the same name, announced on Wednesday that the IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 16 with plans to offer 2,270,000 million shares for public subscription and to sell up to 1,100,600 shares in over-allotment options, for a total of 5,067,400 shares. Daiwa Securities will lead the underwriting. Its share price range will be released on November 17 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on November 29 and pricing on December 6. According to the consolidated statement as of March 2019, they posted revenue of 2.52 billion yen (about $23.2 million) with an ordinary loss of 93 million yen ($854,000), serving 33,000 companies in Japan while unit sales per client reaches 194,000 yen (about $1,780). See also: Can crowdsourcing startups change Japan’s employment landscape? Lancers CEO Yosuke Akiyoshi on obstacles facing crowdsourcing in Japan Japanese crowdsourcing startup Lancers launches matchmaking platform for regional businesses Since its launch back in 2008, the company has been offering a platform allowing companies outsource tasks to freelancers. The traditional concept of crowdsourcing…

Lancers CEO Yosuke Akiyoshi

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Lancers, the Japanese startup providing a major crowdsourcing platform under the same name, announced on Wednesday that the IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on December 16 with plans to offer 2,270,000 million shares for public subscription and to sell up to 1,100,600 shares in over-allotment options, for a total of 5,067,400 shares. Daiwa Securities will lead the underwriting.

Its share price range will be released on November 17 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on November 29 and pricing on December 6. According to the consolidated statement as of March 2019, they posted revenue of 2.52 billion yen (about $23.2 million) with an ordinary loss of 93 million yen ($854,000), serving 33,000 companies in Japan while unit sales per client reaches 194,000 yen (about $1,780).

See also:

Since its launch back in 2008, the company has been offering a platform allowing companies outsource tasks to freelancers. The traditional concept of crowdsourcing has been that someone in a remote location helps you finish minor tasks at an affordable rate. But platforms like Lancers are being used for more, serving as a primary income stream for some.

Led by CEO Yosuke Akiyoshi (62.47%), the company’s major shareholders include Globis Capital Partners (15.62%), KDDI (5.95%), Persol Holdings (5.38%), GMO Venture Partners (3.05%), Shinsei Bank (2.3%), and Gree Ventures (1.18%, now known as Strive).

Japan’s Money Forward acquires SaaS comparison startup Smartcamp for $18M

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Money Forward (TSE:3994), the Japanese company providing cloud-based accounting solutions, announced on Monday that it will take a 72.3% stake in Smartcamp, the Japanese startup behind the Boxil SaaS comparison site and the Bales inside sales support service, for about 2 billion yen, or $18.3 million US. Smartcamp eventually made an exit by joining the Money Forward group. Founded back in June of 2014, Smartcamp launched Boxil back in May of 2015 by pivoting from their previous Sket service through participating twice in Incubate Camp, an annual 2-day bootcamp program by Incubate Fund offering budding entrepreneurs with mentoring opportunities. As of October, the company boasted 1 million monthly page views and more than 120,000 registered users with bringing over 30,000 potential users to SaaS providers. Smartcamp launched a service called Bales back in September of 2017, which allows SaaS providers to outsource their sales operations to the startup. In August, they launched another new service called Biscuit, a cloud-based customer relationship management tool for inside sales. Through these services, the company has successfully been offering marketing channels for over 100 third parties. Meanwhile, Money Forward has been acquiring approximately a startup an year…

Money Forward President & CEO Yosuke Tsuji (right), Smartcamp CEO Satoshi Furuhashi (left)
Image credit: Money Forward

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Money Forward (TSE:3994), the Japanese company providing cloud-based accounting solutions, announced on Monday that it will take a 72.3% stake in Smartcamp, the Japanese startup behind the Boxil SaaS comparison site and the Bales inside sales support service, for about 2 billion yen, or $18.3 million US. Smartcamp eventually made an exit by joining the Money Forward group.

Founded back in June of 2014, Smartcamp launched Boxil back in May of 2015 by pivoting from their previous Sket service through participating twice in Incubate Camp, an annual 2-day bootcamp program by Incubate Fund offering budding entrepreneurs with mentoring opportunities. As of October, the company boasted 1 million monthly page views and more than 120,000 registered users with bringing over 30,000 potential users to SaaS providers.

Smartcamp launched a service called Bales back in September of 2017, which allows SaaS providers to outsource their sales operations to the startup. In August, they launched another new service called Biscuit, a cloud-based customer relationship management tool for inside sales. Through these services, the company has successfully been offering marketing channels for over 100 third parties.

Meanwhile, Money Forward has been acquiring approximately a startup an year to expand their business, including acquiring Klavis, the Japan-/Singapore-based startup behind accounting and book-keeping software Streamed, as well as knowledgelabo, the Osaka-based startup behind cloud-based business management analytics tool Manageboard.

With the acquisition, Money Forward can boost customer acquisition effort for their product series leveraging Smartcamp’s marketing intelligence while Smarcamp aims to attract more users for their products leveraging Money Forward’s vast network and customer base.

Wassha, power supplier for off-grid Africa, snags $9M from Daikin, Yamaha Motor, others

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Wassha, developing a prepaid solar power delivery service to off-grid areas in rural Africa by networking kiosk vendors under the same name, announced today that it has raised 1.01 billion yen (about $9.2 million) in a series B round. Participating investors are Daikin Industries (TSE:6367), Yamaha Motor (TSE:7272), Mistletoe, Mizuho Capital in addition to existing investors such as The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC) and Marubeni (TSE:8002). The latest round brought their total funding sum up to about 2.4 billion yen (about $22 million). See also: Wassha, power supplier for off-grid Africa, secures $3M from Japan aid agency How Japanese energy startup Wassha delivers prepaid solar power to rural Africa Wassha installs solar panels or battery chargers, then provides LED lanterns, radios, tablets to kiosk operators; the kiosks rent these out to villagers and collect fees from them for charging power at the kiosks. The owners settle the electricity bills from smartphones and power charging boxes for the appliances, not to mention earning at each kiosk by charging money for use of mobile phones. Among the investors participating investors, Wassha aims to develop new business with Daikin Industries, Yamaha Motor, and Mistletoe….

Image credit: Wassha

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Wassha, developing a prepaid solar power delivery service to off-grid areas in rural Africa by networking kiosk vendors under the same name, announced today that it has raised 1.01 billion yen (about $9.2 million) in a series B round.

Participating investors are Daikin Industries (TSE:6367), Yamaha Motor (TSE:7272), Mistletoe, Mizuho Capital in addition to existing investors such as The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC) and Marubeni (TSE:8002). The latest round brought their total funding sum up to about 2.4 billion yen (about $22 million).

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Wassha installs solar panels or battery chargers, then provides LED lanterns, radios, tablets to kiosk operators; the kiosks rent these out to villagers and collect fees from them for charging power at the kiosks. The owners settle the electricity bills from smartphones and power charging boxes for the appliances, not to mention earning at each kiosk by charging money for use of mobile phones.

Among the investors participating investors, Wassha aims to develop new business with Daikin Industries, Yamaha Motor, and Mistletoe. We were told that Wassha will unveil details on but the potential joint projects with these investors.

However, it seems like the startup aims to work with Daikin to establish a cold chain, a temperature-controlled food distribution network leveraging air conditioning and refrigeration facilities, and also work with Yamaha Motor to establish a motorcycle-based delivery network connecting the kiosks participating in the Wassha network. Kindly think a somewhat another version of Zipline (drone-based logistics platform in Africa) plus NinjaCart (fresh foods marketing platform in India).

Mistletoe has invested in Zipline and NinjaCart in addition to Agribuddy (microfinance platform for farmers in Southeast Asia) and FOMM (manufacturing floatable electric vehicles). Leveraging Wassha’s kiosk network, Mistletoe is expected to help their portfolio companies expand their solution into the African market.

Having rolled out their service in Tanzania, Wassha is planning to expand into Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Ethiopia going forward. While keeping power delivery service in the off-grid area as a their core business, they will cultivate new businesses such as food distribution and marketplace aiming to help farmers get more income, which may lead to gaining the need of power delivery service users.

Smart driving assistant developer Drivemode acquired by Honda R&D

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See the original story in Japanese. Honda R&D, the research and development-focused subsidiary of the Japanese automotive giant, announced on Monday that it has acquired full stake in Drivemode, the US-based startup developing smart driving assistant technology, for an undisclosed sum. The two companies will join forces to develop connect mobility services at Digital Solution Center, a newly developed facility in Honda R&D. They have been working together since 2015 sice the Honda Xcelerator open innovation program. Since its launch back in 2014, Drivemode secured seed funding from Tokyo-based Incubate Fund and then launched an Android app under the same name which allows drivers to control their cars without watching the screen of the app. Prior to launching Drivemode, the startup’s founder Yokichi Koga previously worked at a Boston-based VC as a director and then car-sharing startup Zipcar as an advisor.  

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See the original story in Japanese.

Honda R&D, the research and development-focused subsidiary of the Japanese automotive giant, announced on Monday that it has acquired full stake in Drivemode, the US-based startup developing smart driving assistant technology, for an undisclosed sum.

The two companies will join forces to develop connect mobility services at Digital Solution Center, a newly developed facility in Honda R&D. They have been working together since 2015 sice the Honda Xcelerator open innovation program.

Since its launch back in 2014, Drivemode secured seed funding from Tokyo-based Incubate Fund and then launched an Android app under the same name which allows drivers to control their cars without watching the screen of the app.

Prior to launching Drivemode, the startup’s founder Yokichi Koga previously worked at a Boston-based VC as a director and then car-sharing startup Zipcar as an advisor.

 

Japanese AI-powered cancer detection startup raises $43M in series B round

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based AI Medical Service, the Japanese startup developing the AI-powered technology to detect cancerous lesions from endoscopic footage, announced on Friday that it has secured about 4.6 billion yen (about $43 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors in this round are: Globis Capital Partners(GCP) WiL Sparx Group Sony Innovation Fund by IGV(Managed by Innovation Growth Ventures, the joint venture of Sony and Daiwa Capital Holdings) Japan Lifeline (cardiovascular medical device manufacturer, TSE:7575) Japan Post Capital Aflac Ventures Ryoyo Electro (semiconductor trader, TSE:8068) SMBC Venture Capital Daiwa Corporate Investment An unnamed angel investor For the company, this follows their previous funding (series A round) worth 1 billion yen back in August of last year and brought their funding sum up to 6.2 billion yen (about $58 million US). Established by physician Dr.TOmohiro Tada, AI Medical Service has been developing an AI-powered diagnostic system for cancer detection. A survey says only 31% even among medical doctors can correctly determine the presence or absence of gastric cancer symptoms from endoscopic footage. With help from more than a few medical doctors, the company can improve the AI engine because of using hundreds of thousands of…

incubate-camp-10th-ai-medical-1

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based AI Medical Service, the Japanese startup developing the AI-powered technology to detect cancerous lesions from endoscopic footage, announced on Friday that it has secured about 4.6 billion yen (about $43 million US) in a series B round.

Participating investors in this round are:

  • Globis Capital Partners(GCP)
  • WiL
  • Sparx Group
  • Sony Innovation Fund by IGV(Managed by Innovation Growth Ventures, the joint venture of Sony and Daiwa Capital Holdings)
  • Japan Lifeline (cardiovascular medical device manufacturer, TSE:7575)
  • Japan Post Capital
  • Aflac Ventures
  • Ryoyo Electro (semiconductor trader, TSE:8068)
  • SMBC Venture Capital
  • Daiwa Corporate Investment
  • An unnamed angel investor

For the company, this follows their previous funding (series A round) worth 1 billion yen back in August of last year and brought their funding sum up to 6.2 billion yen (about $58 million US).

Established by physician Dr.TOmohiro Tada, AI Medical Service has been developing an AI-powered diagnostic system for cancer detection. A survey says only 31% even among medical doctors can correctly determine the presence or absence of gastric cancer symptoms from endoscopic footage. With help from more than a few medical doctors, the company can improve the AI engine because of using hundreds of thousands of high-definition endoscopic images to let it learn better. The engine now can detect with high accuracy the presence of Helicobacter Pylori bacteria, which is known to be the major cause of stomach cancer.

In 2017, the company won the top award at Beyond Next Ventures’ Brave accelerator program in the pre-incorporated startup segment. They also won the Best Growth and Judge awards at Incubate Camp 10th back in August of 2017, followed by winning the TechCrunch Japan award at the 10th Batch Demo Day of Recruit’s Tech Lab Paak accelerator.

The company uses the funds to promote clinical trials, expand the pipeline, hire talents, make more investments, aiming to accelerate the development of real-time endoscope AI and to get an approval of medical regulatory for it.