THE BRIDGE

translation

Japan’s retail solution startup Hey secures $66M from Bain Capital, acquires Coubic

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Hey, the Japanese tech firm behind payments startup and e-shop builder, announced today that it has secured series E round funding. Participating investors in this round are Bain Capital, Hong Kong-based Anatole, Goldman Saches, PayPal, YJ Capital (investment arm of Yahoo Japan) as well as World Innovation Lab (WiL). Hey has not disclosed the size of the entire round but their statement reveals Bain Capital alone will invest 7 billion yen (about $66 million) in this deal. Hey will use the funds to double its team from 200 to 400 staffers. Along with the funds, the company will acquire a full stake in Coubic, a Japanese startup behind scheduling and appointment booking solution under the same name. Coubic has recently integrated with “Reserve with Google”, which now allows consumers to make bookings or purchase tickets through Google Search and Maps from the local businesses using Coubic. Coubic has also recently integrated with Zoom in aim to help retailers offer online counseling or other learning services under the COVID-19 pandemic. Founded in October 2013 by ex-Googler Hiroshi Kuraoka, Coubic has now 2.5 million monthly active users and is serving more than 80,000 companies and…

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Hey, the Japanese tech firm behind payments startup and e-shop builder, announced today that it has secured series E round funding.

Participating investors in this round are Bain Capital, Hong Kong-based Anatole, Goldman Saches, PayPal, YJ Capital (investment arm of Yahoo Japan) as well as World Innovation Lab (WiL). Hey has not disclosed the size of the entire round but their statement reveals Bain Capital alone will invest 7 billion yen (about $66 million) in this deal.

Hey will use the funds to double its team from 200 to 400 staffers.

Along with the funds, the company will acquire a full stake in Coubic, a Japanese startup behind scheduling and appointment booking solution under the same name. Coubic has recently integrated with “Reserve with Google”, which now allows consumers to make bookings or purchase tickets through Google Search and Maps from the local businesses using Coubic.

Coubic has also recently integrated with Zoom in aim to help retailers offer online counseling or other learning services under the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded in October 2013 by ex-Googler Hiroshi Kuraoka, Coubic has now 2.5 million monthly active users and is serving more than 80,000 companies and individuals across over 180 business categories.

Here’s what Hey CEO Yusuke Sato says in an official statement:

I’ll never forget the words of a customer I got the other day. That’s from President Suzuki of Hamanoyu, who use our Stores platform to sell his traditional inn’s flagship menu of red bream fish boiled with soy sauce.

He said in his letter to us:

“The kitchen, which had been bereft of guests, has been revitalized by orders online from from all over the country. Our staffs were encouraged by the fact that there were customers who wanted to stay with us, and we felt anew that we had to take a stand for the customers who wanted to come back someday.”

We were reminded that what we can do is small in the face of a major disaster, but nevertheless, we could be a source of hope and vitality for those who are in such a difficult situation.

Through this funding and the acquisition (of Coubic), we will further accelerate the rollout of features for individuals and small and medium-sized businesses in response to the new normal, such as early withdrawal of sales proceeds, support for opening an online store, and simplified online lesson booking through integration with the Zoom video conferencing service, which we have released to address the challenges associated with the pandemic and business restraint measures.

Together with Hey team and our new colleagues from Coubic, we will contribute to creating a society supported by an economy driven by persistence, passion and fun, rather than just pursuing profit and scale.

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Mantra’s AI-powered translation engine wants to help Japanese manga expand global fan base

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This is the abridged version of our original article in Japanese. Tokyo-based Mantra, the Japanese startup developing machine learning-based translation technology for manga, announced on Tuesday that it has officially launched its cloud-based translation platform called Mantra Engine. The platform is specifically designed for translating manga content. It allows comic productions and distributors to release manga titles in foreign languages by helping them manage almost all work processes for manga translation through a single web-based interface. Combining with corrections and proofreading by professional translators, the platform makes it possible for users to produce foreign language versions in about half the time for the traditional workflow. It supports English and Chinese at the moment, but more languages will be added in due course. In aim to help the global expansion of the Japanese manga industry and reducing their economic loss due to piracy, the platform is intended to provide three functions to streamline producing foreign language versions: character recognition (reading Japanese characters in speech bubbles), machine translation, and replacing text in speech bubbles by script typesetting in a targeted language. As electronic versions of manga become more widely available, the platform’s ability to publish a new episode in a foreign language…

Screenshot of Mantra Engine ©️Kuchitaka Mitsuki
Image credit: Mantra

This is the abridged version of our original article in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Mantra, the Japanese startup developing machine learning-based translation technology for manga, announced on Tuesday that it has officially launched its cloud-based translation platform called Mantra Engine.

The platform is specifically designed for translating manga content. It allows comic productions and distributors to release manga titles in foreign languages by helping them manage almost all work processes for manga translation through a single web-based interface.

Combining with corrections and proofreading by professional translators, the platform makes it possible for users to produce foreign language versions in about half the time for the traditional workflow. It supports English and Chinese at the moment, but more languages will be added in due course.

In aim to help the global expansion of the Japanese manga industry and reducing their economic loss due to piracy, the platform is intended to provide three functions to streamline producing foreign language versions: character recognition (reading Japanese characters in speech bubbles), machine translation, and replacing text in speech bubbles by script typesetting in a targeted language.

As electronic versions of manga become more widely available, the platform’s ability to publish a new episode in a foreign language even on a weekly basis is a powerful tool for the industry which is looking to increase sales through global licensing and multilingual distribution. As is common among tech companies, especially for AI firms, the more scope of automated processing expands, the greater value they can provide.

In terms of machine translation, the company added the “glossary of terminology management” function in the official version unveiled today, which is to tackle the biggest issue they found during the trial phase according to CEO Shonosuke Ishiwatari.

In manga, many proper nouns unique to a title or an artist are often used. Using Google Translate, if you find mistakes in translation for a proper noun, it may take a lot of work to correct them all. Registering each new one into the glossary as it appears is a simple idea but very effective.

Mantra raised 80 million yen (about $760,000) from Japanese AI-focused VC Deepcore, DMM Ventures, Legend Ventures, and other unnamed angel investors back in June.

Japan’s Umitron launches satellite ocean data map service for aquaculture farmers

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Singapore- and Tokyo-based aquatech startup Umitron announced on Tuesday that it has launched a web-based ocean satellite data service called Umitron Pulse. Leveraging satellite remote sensing technology, high resolution marine data for various areas of the world can be checked on a daily basis, enabling aquaculture businesses to manage growth and risk more efficiently. The service offers oceanographic data such as seawater temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll concentration and wave height, and can be zoomed in and out on the screen. In addition to offering real-time oceanographic data, the system can predict changes in the marine environment over the next 48 hours. More types of marine environment data, hourly updates of various types of data, and the function to compare and analyze past marine environment data will be added. A mobile app will be available soon. Umitron secured 1.22 billion yen ($11.5 million US) from several investors back in 2018 followed by a $2 million funding from the innovation lab of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) lat year in an aim to help the local economy near Lake Titicaca in Peru improve their salmon trout farming productivity using the startup’s AI-powered remote sensing device Umitron Cell. Last year, the startup…

Umitron Pulse
Image credit: Umitron

Singapore- and Tokyo-based aquatech startup Umitron announced on Tuesday that it has launched a web-based ocean satellite data service called Umitron Pulse. Leveraging satellite remote sensing technology, high resolution marine data for various areas of the world can be checked on a daily basis, enabling aquaculture businesses to manage growth and risk more efficiently.

The service offers oceanographic data such as seawater temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll concentration and wave height, and can be zoomed in and out on the screen. In addition to offering real-time oceanographic data, the system can predict changes in the marine environment over the next 48 hours. More types of marine environment data, hourly updates of various types of data, and the function to compare and analyze past marine environment data will be added. A mobile app will be available soon.

Umitron secured 1.22 billion yen ($11.5 million US) from several investors back in 2018 followed by a $2 million funding from the innovation lab of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) lat year in an aim to help the local economy near Lake Titicaca in Peru improve their salmon trout farming productivity using the startup’s AI-powered remote sensing device Umitron Cell.

Last year, the startup partnered with Thailand’s CP Foods, the world’s largest shrimp farming operator, to launch a proof-of-concept on advancing shrimp farming. Earlier this year, they successfully crowdfunded a project supportiing branded fish farming in Ehime Prefecture in the western part of Japan.

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Japanese serial entrepreneur taking on post-pandemic rise of audio social media

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Since Taka Iguchi has developed so many products and services if you include those that already shut down, I don’t want to mention all of them in this story. But for the past four years he has focused on audio social services, starting with the Baby app in 2016 followed by its enhanced app Ball in 2017. After another pivot, his new app Dabel was launched in the US in January of last year under the previous name of Ear.ly. Iguchi has been based in San Francisco and Kyoto for some time now, but since the global pandemic of COVID-19, he has been unable to travel abroad and has been forced to stay mostly in Kyoto. I thought this may have been a headwind for him, but the app is apparently growing well. What is it about Dabel that attracts so many people? Last week I could have a chance to meet Iguchi in Kyoto to find out. Using audio social app to discover new friends It’s hard to find the best word to describe Dabel. Needless to say, the app’s name comes from the Japanese word meaning chatting but Iguchi himself describes it as “an app for well-side gossip…

Taka Iguchi stands in a temple in his neighborhood in Kyoto.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Since Taka Iguchi has developed so many products and services if you include those that already shut down, I don’t want to mention all of them in this story. But for the past four years he has focused on audio social services, starting with the Baby app in 2016 followed by its enhanced app Ball in 2017. After another pivot, his new app Dabel was launched in the US in January of last year under the previous name of Ear.ly.

Iguchi has been based in San Francisco and Kyoto for some time now, but since the global pandemic of COVID-19, he has been unable to travel abroad and has been forced to stay mostly in Kyoto. I thought this may have been a headwind for him, but the app is apparently growing well. What is it about Dabel that attracts so many people? Last week I could have a chance to meet Iguchi in Kyoto to find out.

Using audio social app to discover new friends

The Dabel app
Image credit: Doki Doki

It’s hard to find the best word to describe Dabel. Needless to say, the app’s name comes from the Japanese word meaning chatting but Iguchi himself describes it as “an app for well-side gossip meeting,” which gives me the impression that it allows you to be a radio anchor. Looking similar to other Japanese audio social apps like Voicy, Radiotalk and Stand.fm at first glance, what makes Dabel unique is that listeners can join the show and talk to each other upon the host’s approval.

It was only in May of last year that the app began to gain popularity in the US since AppleVis, a community website for the visually impaired, featured us. So, in June, we focused on the the Voiceover screen-reading function in the app (in aim to assist the visually impaired), and then more of them started actively using the app as a tool to find their new friends.

Iguchi continued.

In March this year, Mikke CEO Takumi Inoue (arranging an online meetup series called O-Cha) and apparel maker All Yours’ CEO Masashi Kimura started using the app, which triggered a boom in Japan. These users are often hyperactive and full of energy, having been looking for a place to release it. That’s why their content is interesting. You can listen to recording later on but 90% of listeners join their favorite shows live.

That’s probably the biggest advantage of audio social apps, although Dabel recommends that both the talking host and the listening listener use AirPods, so that you can deliver and listen to the show almost regardless of no matter where both of they are. There’s no need to set up your phone on a tripod or use a selfie stick like what YouTubers usually do. In fact, my friend Dabel host brought an afternoon talk show with three of her friends physically located apart each other while she broadcasted the show from the standing bar at a sushi bar on another occasion.

In my opinion, good sound quality and a sense of realism is one of Dabel’s hallmarks. When I heard the aforementioned talk show, I felt as if I, as a listener, were just standing before the sushi bar. There’s no need to shout so loudly, which doesn’t bother people around, and the minimal audio delay makes it easy to enjoy the interaction when the host allows the listener to join in.

Coronavirus pandemic reveals brutal truth

One of the things I like to talk about these days is the “what’s lost in looking for ways to coexist with the novel coronavirus may be serendipity”. With so many tech conferences going online, it’s hard to replicate online the “chance encounter” that might lead to an intimate relationship with someone you happen to meet at a party, as opposed to identifying and communicating with the person you want to talk to. Many of our current relationships are totally based on the result of these chances. Paul Graham explains that such uncertainty is essential to the fostering of the tech community.

But here a new insight: Dabel may bring a bright future to our world. Iguchi explains:

There’s a brutal truth that attracted our attention after the pandemic occurred.

Before the pandemic, we used to chat with acquaintances, family, friends and partners. But the pandemic prevented us from seeing each other. People started using Dabel to find new friends. And then, we found out that it doesn’t eventually matter whomever you chat with.

Originally, communities were often dependent on the physical environment where people found themselves. With the advent of the Internet and mobile, this physical constraint was removed to some extent, but the spread of the novel coronavirus spurred the loss of freedom of movement and caused people to start talking to the people they really wanted to talk to regardless of location.That person you are talking to might be someone you’ve never met, or it might be someone who lives on the other side of the planet. Dabel’s user experience, which relies on common interests to talk to each other but not on the physical environment or existing relationships, is also similar to that of Talkstand, another Japanese mobile app launched in beta back in May.

The world is catching up with the trends

Iguchi speaks at the 10841 launch event in Kyoto in February.
Image credit: Masahiro Noguchi

In May, Clubhouse, the US startup behind an audio social app under the same name, secured $10 million US from Andreesen Horowitz in a series A round, which raised their valuation to $100 million in just a couple of months after the launch. Clubhouse is recognized as one of the fastest growing startups in the region right now. In addition to an accomplishment for audio social networks to get some recognition from the market, it is perhaps a tailwind for Doki Doki, Iguchi’s startup behind the Dabel app, to secure the next round of funding in the not-too-distant future. Doki Doki raised 40 million from Skyland Ventures, CyberAgent Ventures, and Umeda Startup Fund in early 2016 followed by 50 million yen from Kyoto University Innovation Capital in a pre-seed round in February of 2017.

However, audio social is not all good because it’s a very new field. In the US, a recent closed discussion among venture capitalists on the Clubhouse app, in which they criticized Bay Area journalists for having too much power, has been leaked to the public and is causing a stir. There is always the risk that the whispering in the corner of the room can be exposed to the public via new technology. The future is unclear as the exchange of banter extends to issues such as gender and racial discrimination. Iguchi sees it as an object lesson to his venture.

Audio social is a highly intimate form of media. It’s easy to post emotions and passions, but it can also contain sensitive content when shared with the public. This is a double-edged sword, and the Clubhouse case was a bad pattern.

He added.

Dabel has also improved features such as the console banning users who violate the terms and conditions, but still we could experience “flaming cases” in the future. However, it’s not all bad. It’s a new medium, so there is always the risk of flamming, but Dabel is going to be on the offensive, aiming to become a safe and secure platform.

Of the 40,000 current Dabel users, about 30% are women while 67% are American and 10% are Japanese, which boasts a diversified demographic user base as a service by a Japanese startup. The total number of times people have participated in conversations on the app has reached 550,000, and the average dwell time per session on the app is around 57 minutes, which is much longer than that of Facebook.

Audio social is attracting a lot of attention because of its high level of user engagement. Pouring his energy into his enthusiasm, Iguchi wants to dominate the new field globally.

Japanese UX design firm Goodpatch files for IPO, pushing its valuation to $40M

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based user experience and interface (UX/UI) design agency Goodpatch announced today it has applied to be listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and was approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on June 30with plans to offer 308,900 shares for public subscription and to sell about 98,900 shares in over-allotment options for a total of about 350,900 shares. The underwriting will be led by Daiwa Securities while Goodpatch’s ticker code will be 7351. Based on the estimated IPO price of 610 yen (about $5.7) a share, the company’s market valuation will be about 4.3 billion yen (about $40 million). Its share price range will be released on June 11 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on June 15 and pricing on June 19. According to the consolidated statement as of August 2019, they posted revenue of 1.41 billion yen (about $13.1 million) with an ordinary profit of 93 million yen (about $865,000). Goodpatch was founded in August of 2011. Prior to the company, CEO Naofumi Tsuchiya worked as an intern at San Francisco’s digital agency Btrax, and founded Goodpatch after returning home to Japan. The company’s name comes from the incubation…

Image credit Goodpatch

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based user experience and interface (UX/UI) design agency Goodpatch announced today it has applied to be listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and was approved.

The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on June 30with plans to offer 308,900 shares for public subscription and to sell about 98,900 shares in over-allotment options for a total of about 350,900 shares. The underwriting will be led by Daiwa Securities while Goodpatch’s ticker code will be 7351.

Based on the estimated IPO price of 610 yen (about $5.7) a share, the company’s market valuation will be about 4.3 billion yen (about $40 million).

Its share price range will be released on June 11 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on June 15 and pricing on June 19. According to the consolidated statement as of August 2019, they posted revenue of 1.41 billion yen (about $13.1 million) with an ordinary profit of 93 million yen (about $865,000).

Goodpatch was founded in August of 2011. Prior to the company, CEO Naofumi Tsuchiya worked as an intern at San Francisco’s digital agency Btrax, and founded Goodpatch after returning home to Japan. The company’s name comes from the incubation space Dogpatch Labs in San Francisco. Their prototyping tool Prott, which was officially launched in October of 2014, has been introduced in major IT companies, startups, design farms, and so on.

Led by founder and CEO Naofumi Tsuchiya, the company’s major shareholders include Digital Garage Group (21.4%, DG Lab and DG Ventures), Blue Rose (8.24%), SBI Investment (7.93%), and Salesforce Ventures (3.08%).

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Asia-focused EdTech startup Manabie raises $4.8M seed round from Japanese investors

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See the original story in Japanese. Singapore-based Manabie, the EdTech startup offering e-learning service in the Southeast Asian region, announced today that it has fundraised $4.8 million US in a seed round. This round was led by Tokyo-headquartered Genesia Ventures with participation from notable Japanese angel investors including: Keisuke Honda (Professional football player) Mochio Umeda (US-based IT consultant known for having introduced Web2.0 issues to Japan) Nobuhiro Ariyasu (Founder of Coach United) Yasukane Matsumoto (CEO of Raksul) Yoshinori Fukushima (Co-founder of Gunosy, CEO of LayerX) Masayuki Watanabe (Founder of Quipper) Shunsuke Oyu (Founder of Connehito) Details of Financial terms have not been disclosed. Earlier this month, the company published a Japanese article aiming to help teachers turn their classes into virtual ones while many schools are forced to be closed due to the COVIT-19 pandemic. Prior to the launch of Manabie back in April of 2019, the company’s CEO Takuya Honma previously co-founded UK-based EdTech startup Quipper which was subsequently acquired by Japanese human resources and internet service company Recruit Holdings (TSE:6098) back in 2015. Quipper has been helping thousands of schools in the world launch their classes online. Manabie is offering e-learning apps for elementary, junior high, and high…

See the original story in Japanese.

Singapore-based Manabie, the EdTech startup offering e-learning service in the Southeast Asian region, announced today that it has fundraised $4.8 million US in a seed round. This round was led by Tokyo-headquartered Genesia Ventures with participation from notable Japanese angel investors including:

  • Keisuke Honda (Professional football player)
  • Mochio Umeda (US-based IT consultant known for having introduced Web2.0 issues to Japan)
  • Nobuhiro Ariyasu (Founder of Coach United)
  • Yasukane Matsumoto (CEO of Raksul)
  • Yoshinori Fukushima (Co-founder of Gunosy, CEO of LayerX)
  • Masayuki Watanabe (Founder of Quipper)
  • Shunsuke Oyu (Founder of Connehito)

Details of Financial terms have not been disclosed. Earlier this month, the company published a Japanese article aiming to help teachers turn their classes into virtual ones while many schools are forced to be closed due to the COVIT-19 pandemic.

Prior to the launch of Manabie back in April of 2019, the company’s CEO Takuya Honma previously co-founded UK-based EdTech startup Quipper which was subsequently acquired by Japanese human resources and internet service company Recruit Holdings (TSE:6098) back in 2015. Quipper has been helping thousands of schools in the world launch their classes online.

Manabie is offering e-learning apps for elementary, junior high, and high school students as well as running learning centers in the Southeast Asian region, especially in Vietnam for now.

The company plans to use the funds to expand their business into all across Vietnam in addition to offering extensive support for educational institutions in Japan which are in urgent need of making their classes online in face of the pandemic-caused temporarily closure.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda

‘Virtual YouTuber’ startup Activ8 secures $9.3M series C funding for global expansion

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Activ8 (pronounced ‘activate’), the Japanese startup behind the Upd8 (pronounced ‘update’) ‘Virtual YouTuber’ supporting project, announced on Wednesday that it has raised about 1 billion yen (about $9.3 million US) in a series C round. Participating investors include leading manga publisher Shogakukan, design-related solutions provider Too, talent agency Horipro, and others. No details on financial terms have been disclosed. For Activ8, this follows their previous $5.4 million funding from Makers Fund and Gumi back in 2018. The startup was founded back in September of 2016, subsequently graduated from the 3rd batch of the Tokyo XR Startups accelerator back in December of 2018. They have been focused on supporting and nurturing ‘Virtual YouTubers’ through the Upd8 project since then. Notable ‘Virtual YouTubers’ belonging to the project include Kizuna Ai (Love-chan), Kashikomari, and Fukuya Master. Active8 says that they will use the funds to accelerate developing content business centered on developing a virtual reality (VR) live performance system in addition to global business expansion. Based on the partnership with Too, one of the investors participating in this round, the startup will offer systems and services for VR live performance as well as developing new products…

Image credit: Activ8

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Activ8 (pronounced ‘activate’), the Japanese startup behind the Upd8 (pronounced ‘update’) ‘Virtual YouTuber’ supporting project, announced on Wednesday that it has raised about 1 billion yen (about $9.3 million US) in a series C round.

Participating investors include leading manga publisher Shogakukan, design-related solutions provider Too, talent agency Horipro, and others. No details on financial terms have been disclosed. For Activ8, this follows their previous $5.4 million funding from Makers Fund and Gumi back in 2018.

The startup was founded back in September of 2016, subsequently graduated from the 3rd batch of the Tokyo XR Startups accelerator back in December of 2018. They have been focused on supporting and nurturing ‘Virtual YouTubers’ through the Upd8 project since then. Notable ‘Virtual YouTubers’ belonging to the project include Kizuna Ai (Love-chan), Kashikomari, and Fukuya Master.

Active8 says that they will use the funds to accelerate developing content business centered on developing a virtual reality (VR) live performance system in addition to global business expansion. Based on the partnership with Too, one of the investors participating in this round, the startup will offer systems and services for VR live performance as well as developing new products in collaboration with virtual talents.

The new platform, tentatively named Spectacle, is still under development with an aim to offer next-gen VR content for multi-devices. Turning high-end graphics into VR live performance to be delivered via real-time streaming, it pursues offering users with the value experiencing music live performance with higher user experience even for VR users as well as YouTuber viewers.

Below is an example created using the platform:

Japan logistics giant Yamato sets up $46.5M fund to work with startups

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Abridged from our original post on the Japanese edition. Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain announced on Tuesday that it has formed a new fund together with Japanese logistics giant Yamato Holdings (TSE:9064). The fund is named Kuroneko Innovation Fund and worth 5 billion yen, or $46.5 million US. With an aim to promote digital transformation in the logistics industry, the fund is focused on investing in Japanese and foreign startups with technologies and business models evolving logistics and supply chain management. The fund’s ticket size is from 50 million yen to hundreds of million yen (from $460,000 to several million US dollars) while investees can also leverage resources owned by Yamato Holdings and its group companies. Yamato Holdings has partnered with C2C (consumer-to-comsumer) marketplace app Mercari as well as Japanese e-commerce platform Base, giving their sellers better user experience by integrating with logistics solutions. Yamato Holdings published a grand design calling for business structure reform earlier this year, suggesting that the fund is a part of such efforts.

From left: Global Brain CEO Yasuhiko Yurimoto, Yamato Holdings President Yutaka Nagao
Image credit: Yamato Holdings

Abridged from our original post on the Japanese edition.

Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain announced on Tuesday that it has formed a new fund together with Japanese logistics giant Yamato Holdings (TSE:9064). The fund is named Kuroneko Innovation Fund and worth 5 billion yen, or $46.5 million US.

With an aim to promote digital transformation in the logistics industry, the fund is focused on investing in Japanese and foreign startups with technologies and business models evolving logistics and supply chain management.

The fund’s ticket size is from 50 million yen to hundreds of million yen (from $460,000 to several million US dollars) while investees can also leverage resources owned by Yamato Holdings and its group companies.

Yamato Holdings has partnered with C2C (consumer-to-comsumer) marketplace app Mercari as well as Japanese e-commerce platform Base, giving their sellers better user experience by integrating with logistics solutions.

Yamato Holdings published a grand design calling for business structure reform earlier this year, suggesting that the fund is a part of such efforts.

From Yamato’s grand design. (Click to enlarge.)
Image credit: Yamato Holdings

Meet 4real, Japan’s anime figure marketplace making sure you don’t get scammed

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Uridoki, an online shopping mall comprising of shops buying unused goods from owners, announced a cross-border character figure trading platform called 4real today. For individuals, it allows you to sell and buy character figures, principally unused ones only. The startup authenticates every item prior to listing it for sale and issues a certificate so that buyers don’t need to worry about being scammed with fake or pirate products. Product authenticity is a serious problem in the trading market of character figures. In Akihabara, the Tokyo district known for high-tech electronics and Japanese anime / manga culture, 8 out of 15 shops dedicated in buying figures said they have seen more than a few counterfeit items in response to Uridoki’s recent survey. In addition, some respondents said more people come sell fake or pirate ones while others say counterfeit items are distinguishable for professionals only but not for amateurs because of high reproducibility. Uridoki has been brokering deals of character figures with resale shops on the existing platform. Leveraging partnership with them, the company decided to launch the marketplace giving buyers authenticity guarantee as making themselves different from others. Authenticity judgements are primarily based…

From left: Nana Suzuki (4real dept., Uridoki), Yasuo Kogure (CEO, Uridoki), Kota Nojiri (4real dept.)
Image credit: Uridoki

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Uridoki, an online shopping mall comprising of shops buying unused goods from owners, announced a cross-border character figure trading platform called 4real today. For individuals, it allows you to sell and buy character figures, principally unused ones only. The startup authenticates every item prior to listing it for sale and issues a certificate so that buyers don’t need to worry about being scammed with fake or pirate products.

Product authenticity is a serious problem in the trading market of character figures. In Akihabara, the Tokyo district known for high-tech electronics and Japanese anime / manga culture, 8 out of 15 shops dedicated in buying figures said they have seen more than a few counterfeit items in response to Uridoki’s recent survey. In addition, some respondents said more people come sell fake or pirate ones while others say counterfeit items are distinguishable for professionals only but not for amateurs because of high reproducibility.

The 4real marketplace
Image credit: Uridoki

Uridoki has been brokering deals of character figures with resale shops on the existing platform. Leveraging partnership with them, the company decided to launch the marketplace giving buyers authenticity guarantee as making themselves different from others. Authenticity judgements are primarily based on copyright seal, facial expression of figure, color irregularity, what’s printed on a package, smell and elasticity. While Japan-made character figures are earning good reputation at home and abroad, the spillover impact of such popularity induces more piracy cases as we saw a large pirate factory in Shanghai exposed by the local police. In response to the potential global remand, the marketplace is available in multiple languages and can be checked out with PayPal (Users outside Japan can purchase listed items but are not yet allowed to submit their items for sale at the time of launch).

US-based StockX is best known as one of the startups giving an authenticity guarantee for secondhand purchasers. Their greatest strength is dealing with sneakers while they list many character figures in the Collectibles category. In addition, we’ve seen other startups like Goat (US), Monokabu (Japan), Kckc (pronounced as ‘kikcy’, Japan), Novelship (Southeast Asia) and Poizon (China) are being emerged but all of these mainly deal with sneakers. Focused on character figures, 4real can better promote themselves to the global market while emphasizing their competitiveness in the Cool Japan concept.

Image credit: Uridoki

Launched as a price comparison site allowing users to see how much they can sell their unused items to a series of reuse shops, Uridoki later pivoted to a shopping mall of reuse shops. In 2018, the company launched a mobile app called Picol, whiich allows users to sell their unused item just by scanning its barcode (the app already shut down). The company has raised 330 million yen to date, recently partnered with the Japanese subsidiary of eBay.com to share actual market prices of secondhand items in the overseas with reuse shops in Japan.

Japan’s ‘For Startups’, exec and talent search service for startups, files for IPO

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based ‘For Startups‘, the company offering an executive and talent search service for Japanese startups in addition to the Startup DB database platform, announced today that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on March 13 with plans to offer 200,000 shares for public subscription and to sell 120,000 shares in over-allotment options for a total of about 600,000 shares. The underwriting will be led by Nomura Securities while the company’s ticker code will be 7089. Based on the estimated IPO price of 1,520 yen (about $13.8) a share, the company’s market valuation will be about 4.7 billion yen (about $42.8 million). Its share price range will be released on February 21 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on February 26 and pricing on March 3. According to the consolidated statement as of March 2019, they posted revenue of 1.045 billion yen (about $9.5 million) with an ordinary profit of 274 million yen (about $2.5 million). In order to strengthen an executive and talent search service focused on startups, the company was spun off from Saint Media (now known as Willof…

For Startups’ Headquarters
Image credit: For Startups

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based ‘For Startups‘, the company offering an executive and talent search service for Japanese startups in addition to the Startup DB database platform, announced today that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved.

The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on March 13 with plans to offer 200,000 shares for public subscription and to sell 120,000 shares in over-allotment options for a total of about 600,000 shares. The underwriting will be led by Nomura Securities while the company’s ticker code will be 7089.

Based on the estimated IPO price of 1,520 yen (about $13.8) a share, the company’s market valuation will be about 4.7 billion yen (about $42.8 million).

Its share price range will be released on February 21 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on February 26 and pricing on March 3. According to the consolidated statement as of March 2019, they posted revenue of 1.045 billion yen (about $9.5 million) with an ordinary profit of 274 million yen (about $2.5 million).

In order to strengthen an executive and talent search service focused on startups, the company was spun off from Saint Media (now known as Willof Work) and launched back in September of 2016 under their previous name of Net Jinzaibank. Their main shareholders include Willgroup (92%, TSE:6089, Willof Work’s parent company) and For Startups’ CEO Yuichiro Shimizu (8%).

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Translated by Masaru Ikeda