THE BRIDGE

translation

Japan’s Medley, job board and portal for medical professionals, raises $1.9 million

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based startup Medley announced in December that it had fundraised a total of 230 million yen (about $1.9 million) from Nikkei Business Publications (Nikkei BP), East Ventures, and Japanese angel investor Yuzuru Honda. East Ventures have invested in Medley in the past while Honda is the CEO of Japanese adtech company FreakOut (TSE:6094). The latest funding follows the company’s previous round in June of 2015, having raised 300 million yen (about $2.5 million) from Mitsui Sumitomo Insuarance Capital, MRT (TSE:6034, medical human resource), and Gree (TSE:3632, mobile gaming), as well as other angel investors. Medley provides an online job board for medical professionals, called Job Medley, as well as an online disease encyclopedia called Medley. Coinciding with the latest funds, Medley will partner with Nikkei BP to integrate Job Medley with Nikkei Medical Online, the publisher’s comprehensive information portal site for medical professionals. By utilizing the mutual strengths of both companies, they are looking to develop new services for 510,000 registered users of the portal site, encompassing 130,000 medical doctors. Medley CEO Kohei Takiguchi explained: Combining Nikkei Medical Online with our strength that engineers and medical professionals provide our services, I believe that both…

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The Medley team: CEO Kohei Takiguchi stands third from left,
Co-CEO/medical doctor Goichiro Toyoda stands on right.

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based startup Medley announced in December that it had fundraised a total of 230 million yen (about $1.9 million) from Nikkei Business Publications (Nikkei BP), East Ventures, and Japanese angel investor Yuzuru Honda. East Ventures have invested in Medley in the past while Honda is the CEO of Japanese adtech company FreakOut (TSE:6094). The latest funding follows the company’s previous round in June of 2015, having raised 300 million yen (about $2.5 million) from Mitsui Sumitomo Insuarance Capital, MRT (TSE:6034, medical human resource), and Gree (TSE:3632, mobile gaming), as well as other angel investors.

Medley provides an online job board for medical professionals, called Job Medley, as well as an online disease encyclopedia called Medley. Coinciding with the latest funds, Medley will partner with Nikkei BP to integrate Job Medley with Nikkei Medical Online, the publisher’s comprehensive information portal site for medical professionals. By utilizing the mutual strengths of both companies, they are looking to develop new services for 510,000 registered users of the portal site, encompassing 130,000 medical doctors.

Medley CEO Kohei Takiguchi explained:

Combining Nikkei Medical Online with our strength that engineers and medical professionals provide our services, I believe that both companies can better grow their businesses leveraging the mutual strengths.

The capital raised from this fundraising will be used to develop new collaborative services and for their operation. Although there is no official release of service content, they are creating brand new content for healthcare professionals.

We were told that the funds will be used to develop and operate a new service. Details of that are not yet disclosed but the company claimed that it will be something new for medical professionals.

The Job Medley platform has been steadily growing to date, building a sold revenue base for the company. It lists 47,055 positions for job-seeking medical professionals as of this writing. Instead of such a huge number of job postings, however, Takiguchi says that his team have fulfilled only about 10% of their objective which expects to list all positions available online.

Medley, the online medical resource, has attempted to enhance its service coverage, by adding a special feature page for prevention of influenza as well as a hospital search according to symptoms or the method of treatment. These efforts are based on the team’s intention to improve accessibility to existing medical database services for the public.

Takiguchi added:

Since existing medical database services are incomplete, we needed to build our own from scratch. It took more than expected to complete, but we have almost completed gathering and organizing symptoms, medical supplies, hospitals, and other related metadata information. We think that the next step is to provide users value based on our database. Using the symptom-based disease search function as well as the infection risk prediction model, we will explore new types of online medical services for users in 2016.

Medley has been receiving huge funding throughout 2015. The company has been devoted to developing the Job Medley platform to enhance the business prospects while developing the Medley database service to better serve users. They are steadily moving forward to disrupt the medical industry by inventing new online services.

Translated by Mariko Kobayashi via Mother First
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy and Masaru Ikeda

Japan’s Skyland Ventures forms $10 million fund to invest in 30 startups

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Skyland Ventures, a VC firm focusing on seed-stage startups, announced the launch of its second fund today. The fund of $1.2 billion yen ($10 million) will be for investment in about 30 startups. See also: Up-and-coming investor hosts startup event in Tokyo, encourages global entrepreneurship Skyland Ventures CEO Yoshihiko Kinoshita says their typical scheme consists of a 15 million yen ($125,000) initial investment in a startup in a seed round with a potential follow-up investment of 5 million yen to 50 million yen ($42,000 to $420,000). Based on the scheme, Skyland Ventures wants to hold a 10% stake in the startup after its second round funding. Kinoshita says that his fund will make investments in several batches rather than doing a one-time major investment, in order to reduce the risk that the fund’s large stake in a startup may make it harder to get follow-up funding from other investors. Kinoshita has been conducting 15-minute mentoring sessions for acting and aspiring entrepreneurs every Wednesday. Through this effort, he has made investments in 20 startups in the last 40 months. The new fund will invest in startups in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, movie communication, smart…

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Skyland Ventures’ Yoshihiko Kinoshita (middle) and other members

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Skyland Ventures, a VC firm focusing on seed-stage startups, announced the launch of its second fund today. The fund of $1.2 billion yen ($10 million) will be for investment in about 30 startups.

See also:

Skyland Ventures CEO Yoshihiko Kinoshita says their typical scheme consists of a 15 million yen ($125,000) initial investment in a startup in a seed round with a potential follow-up investment of 5 million yen to 50 million yen ($42,000 to $420,000). Based on the scheme, Skyland Ventures wants to hold a 10% stake in the startup after its second round funding.

Kinoshita says that his fund will make investments in several batches rather than doing a one-time major investment, in order to reduce the risk that the fund’s large stake in a startup may make it harder to get follow-up funding from other investors.

Kinoshita has been conducting 15-minute mentoring sessions for acting and aspiring entrepreneurs every Wednesday. Through this effort, he has made investments in 20 startups in the last 40 months.

The new fund will invest in startups in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, movie communication, smart robotics, and other Internet sectors. Combining with portfolio startups in the previous fund, Skyland Ventures expects to have invested in 50 startups within two years.

Coinciding with the announcement, Skyland Ventures unveiled that they have invested in the following six startups:

  • Virtual reality; Fictbox (CEO Naoto Kato)
  • Artificial intelligence; Liaro (CEO Kento Hanada)
  • Video communication; Popshoot (CEO Toshihiro Oyama), Modecas (Yusuke Saito)
  • Personal robot; Doki Doki (CEO Takahito Iguchi)
  • Media; ConU (CEO Takashi Ban)

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by Kurt Hanson

From the 3rd Japan Startup Awards, panel discussion with international media guests

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The content of this article first appeared on CNET Japan. It has been translated and reproduced by The Bridge with the approval of CNET Japan and the author of this article. (Text by Yuki Yamadai, Photography by Takao Tsushima) The Third CNET Japan Startup Awards ceremony was held on December 10th. The CNET Japan Startup Awards are given to startups that were noticed in 2015 and chosen. Selection was done by CNET Japan as well as The Bridge’s editorials with five startups receiving awards. In addition to the award ceremony, a variety of lectures as well as discussion panels were held with guest speakers. In this article I will be reporting on a discussion that was held on the topic of “How Japanese Media and Foreign Media View Startups in Japan.” The discussion featured four reporters from Japan and abroad and was moderated by The Bridge’s Masaru Ikeda. See also: Articles on past CNET Japan Startup Awards events A discussion between four reporters from Japan and abroad First, an introduction of the four panels members. Serkan Toto worked as a Tokyo-based writer for the world’s biggest tech blog, TechCrunch, from 2008 to 2012. Currently he is the CEO of a…

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The content of this article first appeared on CNET Japan. It has been translated and reproduced by The Bridge with the approval of CNET Japan and the author of this article. (Text by Yuki Yamadai, Photography by Takao Tsushima)


The Third CNET Japan Startup Awards ceremony was held on December 10th. The CNET Japan Startup Awards are given to startups that were noticed in 2015 and chosen. Selection was done by CNET Japan as well as The Bridge’s editorials with five startups receiving awards.

In addition to the award ceremony, a variety of lectures as well as discussion panels were held with guest speakers. In this article I will be reporting on a discussion that was held on the topic of “How Japanese Media and Foreign Media View Startups in Japan.” The discussion featured four reporters from Japan and abroad and was moderated by The Bridge’s Masaru Ikeda.

See also:

A discussion between four reporters from Japan and abroad

First, an introduction of the four panels members. Serkan Toto worked as a Tokyo-based writer for the world’s biggest tech blog, TechCrunch, from 2008 to 2012. Currently he is the CEO of a Tokyo-based consulting company for the video game industry, called Kantan Games. Richard Solomon is the editor of his self-published Beacon Reports and Nikkei Asian Review, as well as a contributing writer of articles on Japanese startups for the Japan Times.

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Serkan Toto, Freelance Journalist / Kantan Games CEO

Tim Romero is an entrepreneur who came to Japan twenty years ago, having since established four companies. He is also the host of a podcast program called Disrupting Japan. From CNET Japan, Ryo Fujii, an editor/writer covering Japanese web services and mobile carriers, also participated in the discussion.

What is the most interesting startup in Japan?

The discussion proceeded while referring to the results of a questionnaire that was completed by both Japanese and international writers and media partners.

The first topic of the questionnaire was “What is the most intersting startup in Japan?” Results from the questionnaire included Whill, a startup developing stylish electric wheelchairs, Eureka, a social matching service, Preferred Networks, promoters of the use of real-time machine learning technology in business, Wantedly, a business social network specializing in searching for interns, and others. There was also a percentage of responses from people who said “nothing particular comes to mind.”

Surely there are some startups among the questionnaire results that the discussion panel members recognize. Picking out Preferred Networks, Toto remarked that as for their field, the video game market,

Japan has reached maturity, but in the past year no significant startups have come out.

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Richard Solomon, Beacon Reports

Solomon, who wrote about Whill three years ago, cited another recognized startup, C Channel, the video sharing social network founded by messaging app Line’s ex-CEO Akira Morikawa. He explained that he sees Japan’s startup scene as being in a transitional phase, until now remaining in a outdated post industrial revolution state, but is now right on the verge of moving to the next level.

On the other hand, Romero, citing crowdsourcing platform CrowdWorks and curated news app Smartnews as examples, sees Japan as having a lot of interesting startups. He explained that one main difference between the startup scene in the US compared to Japan, is that in Japan startups are often founded by entrepreneurs who have left positions at major Japanese companies and thus have a wealth of experience to draw on, making it easier for such startups to succeed.

CNET Japan’s Fujii made note of services that have moved into IoT territory, not limiting themselves only to the web. Especially in 2015, similarly to how mobile healthcare startup FiNC received funding from, for example, ANA (All Nippon Airways), looking back Fujii noted that this has been a year of progress in collaboration between startups and major corporations. He also added that cases where startups have been founded internally in large corporations are also increasing.

On what criteria do journalists choose startups?

The next topic for discussion was, “On what criteria do you choose startups to write articles about?” Questionnaire responses centered around criteria such as “originality” and “the entrepreneur’s vision”.

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Serving as discussion moderator, The Bridge’s Masaru Ikeda

Discussion moderator Ikeda, a writer and journalist himself, pointed out that “there are startups that can’t very well differentiate PR from media.” Ex-writer for TechCrunch Toto agreed,

That’s true, there are people who misunderstand that difference. What writers and journalists are thinking about is the reader, what the reader is interested in. Why not try approaching media from the same point of view?

As a podcaster himself, Romero’s idea of journalism is a little bit different from journalism as information disseminated in text.

Podcasts are a type of media where you can directly hear the person’s voice, so I want to share that human aspect.

Japanese people, however, generally prefer not to display that “human aspect”, so therein lies somewhat of a challenge, Romero explained.

When searching for startups to write about, Fujii says he looks for “societal potential” and “ability to help large numbers of people overcome challenges”. If, say, some kind of progressive technology is created but we can’t see any concrete application for it in society, we won’t write about the technology on its own, Fujii explained. He also shared that at CNET Japan, they aren’t particularly picky about the scale of the companies they write about, rather, if it is determined that there is information that has some value to the world, they believe it should be shared equally whether it comes from major corporations or startups.

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Ryo Fujii, CNET Japan writer/editor

A message to startups in Japan

The discussion’s final theme was, “What message would you like to send to startups in Japan?” One opinion that was frequently present in the questionnaire results was “Please issue press releases in English.” To this, all members of the discussion panel agreed.

Toto brought up what Japanese companies often consider “globalization”.

Hiring one foreigner and putting that person in charge of all international business… that’s not global.

Toto flatly stated.

Hire someone to do the work of globalization and you’ve created a total divide. Instead, companies should make their whole team global.

Moving on to Romero, he said with a wry smile,

I’ve lived in Japan for twenty years and my Japanese isn’t perfect, so I can’t blame anybody for not being able to speak English.

He asserted, however, that for companies that want to globalize, not only language but knowledge of the international market is what is really needed. Companies need to think more about what kind of value they can offer to the international community.

cnet-japan-startup-award-2015-media-panel-tim-romero
Tim Romero, Disrupting Japan

Closing out the discussion, CNET Japan’s Ryo Fujii, citing LINE’s success internationally as a precedent, expressed his opinion regarding globalization.

There have been a lot of companies that tried to expand into the US and failed, but why not first try moving into the Asian market, where at least the culture is somewhat similar?

Translated by Connor Kirk
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Startups show improvement after joining Heart Catch, UX mentoring initiative in Tokyo

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See the original story in Japanese. There are many startups that develop great technologies and have a great team spirit, yet fail to promote their products or services because they lack user experience (UX) or good marketing skills. The Heart Catch program helps those foundering startups by matchmaking professional designers and marketers as their mentors during a period of two months. On this very first showcasing event organized by the program, five participating startups presented their results. On stage, each team gave a pitch of their improvement by comparing their project before and after the mentoring sessions. Then, team members discussed in detail the mentoring process with their mentors. In this article, I summarized how each team improved through this program (Hotaru, one of these five teams, is excluded because they are still in a stealth mode as of this writing). Mana.bo Mana.bo provides a private tutoring service via smartphones or tablets. Students can ask questions on their platform, which will be answered by tutors. In this way, students can take charge of their learning by asking freely what they don’t understand, which would be difficult to do in a classroom where teachers usually teach many students in their own…

heart-catch-2015-ornament

See the original story in Japanese.

There are many startups that develop great technologies and have a great team spirit, yet fail to promote their products or services because they lack user experience (UX) or good marketing skills. The Heart Catch program helps those foundering startups by matchmaking professional designers and marketers as their mentors during a period of two months. On this very first showcasing event organized by the program, five participating startups presented their results.

On stage, each team gave a pitch of their improvement by comparing their project before and after the mentoring sessions. Then, team members discussed in detail the mentoring process with their mentors. In this article, I summarized how each team improved through this program (Hotaru, one of these five teams, is excluded because they are still in a stealth mode as of this writing).

Mana.bo

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Mana.bo CFO Koichi Tsunoda

Mana.bo provides a private tutoring service via smartphones or tablets. Students can ask questions on their platform, which will be answered by tutors. In this way, students can take charge of their learning by asking freely what they don’t understand, which would be difficult to do in a classroom where teachers usually teach many students in their own pace. In order for this project to succeed, it would be crucial for student users to ask many questions on the platform.

See also:

Mentors asked the Mana.bo team to redefine whom the target users are and what kind of message they wish to convey. After some reflection, they realized that although all users are students, their true targets are their mothers who make the final decision of paying for this service. Therefore, while creating an attractive interface to students, the team needs to convince their mothers that this is a solid service that helps their children.

Then, the team made one-year, three-year and five-year plans concerning what kind of service they want to provide, whether they should provide business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) service, and the estimated conversion rates. Breaking down these steps helped them understand how to improve user interface (UI). As a result, one important factor of key performance indicator (KPI) concerning the probability of trial users to ask the first question has increased from 25% to 64%; the probability improved 2.5 times. It contributed directly to users’ conversion to the service, since once a question is asked it will lead to second and third questions.

heart-catch-2015-mana.bo-newui2Mentors:

  • Yasuhiro Yano (CEO, Bloom & Co.)
  • Takayuki Fukatsu (Interactive Designer, The Guild)

Sommnie by Neurospace

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Neurospace CEO Takanori Kobayashi

Neurospace is a startup specializing in sleep. In order to stay healthy, we need to eat well, exercise and have a good night’s sleep. We usually ask nutritionists about what kind of food we should eat or ask gym instructors for efficient exercise programs. Yet we don’t often ask specialists about how to sleep well. In fact, there are various methods available for measuring how much food is consumed or how much exercise is done. If we wish to measure how long and how deep one sleeps, on the other hand, we need an electroencephalograph (EEG) to measure brainwaves, which is not easy to do.

Specializing in EEG technologies, Neurospace has teamed up with Tsukuba University to develop an easy-to-use portable EEG for commercialization. By allowing users to record brainwave data on their smartphone or on the cloud, the team started developing a service for observing and improving the sleeping habit without any help of sleeping pills.

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Prior to the mentoring program, the company contemplated marketing this service to taxi companies for improving sleeping habits of drivers. They also thought that professional athletes would need their service for improving their performances by sleeping better. After investigating during the Heart Catch program, they discovered that there are other potential marketing B2B and B2C targets. In fact, IT companies are consciously worried about the lack of sleep for its employees due to huge workloads. Companies in the restaurant industry have a hard time recruiting due to its negative image of irregular shift hours. Furthermore, career-oriented working women around 30 also suffer from sleep deprivation, especially if they are team leaders or managers at a company.

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With this new information about other potential targets, the team concluded that a device has to be wearable and comfortable. As a result, they have successfully developed the prototype of a wearable EEG device in the form of a nightcap. From now on, they will provide services to companies by creating online support systems for improving sleeping habits of employees, by asking about and analyzing their sleeping problems. As soon as the nightcap supply logistics is settled, they will also start providing services to individual customers.

Mentors:

  • Futaba Maehara, (Managing Director, Quantum Makers, TBWA\HAKUHODO\QUANTUM)
  • Tomoki Harada (Group Creative Director, TBWA\HAKUHODO\QUANTUM)
  • Rosa Uchima (Product Designer, TBWA\HAKUHODO\QUANTUM)
  • Nobu Takenaka (Marketing, TBWA\HAKUHODO\QUANTUM)

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D Free by Triple W Japan

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Triple W Japan “Organizer” Atsushi Nakanishi

After successfully launching a crowdfunding campaign in Japan this year, Triple W Japan will start shipping its wearable device which predicts the timing of bowel movement, called D Free, from next year. The company’s “organizer” Atsushi Nakanishi told us that he didn’t know how to promote this product that has so many potential applications.

See also:

They started by elucidating three problems to be solved: 1. Price range, 2. Wearability and 3. Potential use cases.

First of all, according to some studies, 62.5% of all seniors, living alone or living under assisted conditions, have experienced bowel control issues. For those potential customers, the estimated price range of around 20,000 yen (about $170) is affordable. They are contemplating other types of sales plans, including monthly subscriptions.

Second, wearability is an important UX aspect upon marketing the device. The company has concluded that the actual form of the device won’t bother seniors both who are actively living and who need assistance. On the other hand, the device must have “cool” design, if they are to expand their market to the beauty, health and sport industries.

Third of all, potential target user base may include women seeking not only outer beauty but also inner beauty in addition to elderly people, as the company expands to the beauty, health, and sport industries as mentioned above. Since many women suffer from constipation, the company envisages the possibility of using the device to propose bowel improvement plans, by generating healthy and natural digestive habits without taking laxatives or suppliments.

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As D Free has many potential applications, mentors suggested that it would help companies to clarify the context by pondering whose life they wish to improve with this product. Nakanishi said that he was reminded of how important designing and marketing is for business through this program.

Mentors:

  • Hiroto Ebata (CMO, IMJ – Professor, Graduate School of Project Design – Ambassador, World Marketing Summit)
  • Mie Hommura (The Guild – Sleepytiger)
  • Yukiya Okuda (ALUMICAN.NET –  IROZA – Part-time instructor, Tama Art University – Designer and Programmer)

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Quiver

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Quiver producer Jessop Petroski

Originally from New Zealand, this startup first appeared on The Bridge during B Dash Camp Osaka in 2013. Relocating the base to Japan, which is one of the Quiver’s biggest markets, the company has steadily gained in reputation by attending international events and obtaining media coverage. Since they don’t know the Japanese market well enough, they have always worried whether their products fits into the Japanese market. By participating in the Heart Catch program, they succeeded in evolving their products by implementing Japanese users’ voices.

Quiver (formally known as colAR) created an augmented reality (AR) tool that allows any colored drawing to be changed into 3D animation, just by taking a picture on the Quiver app using a smartphone or tablet. Developing this idea, they also created a technology to combine real objects with 3D animation by putting markers on the object. As one possibility of the business plan of this product, they propose collaborating with airline companies to create special services for children to play on airplanes with a tablet. This product has promising potentials in the children’s market.

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Quiver possesses high technology of recognizing 2D drawing pictures and turning them into 3D animation. Like D Free introduced above, this technology also has many application potentials. Therefore it’s important to clarify what kind of UX the company wants to provide and who their potential marketing targets are. As Quiver can easily promote this product to adults beyond children, they will more need to cultivate potential use cases.

Mentors:

  • Nobu Takenaka (Marketing, TBWA\HAKUHODO\QUANTUM)
  • Niya Sherif (Interactive Designer)

heart-catch-2015-puteko-mentorsTranslated by Moto Tsujino via Mother First
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy and Masaru Ikeda

Japan’s Crowd Cast secures series B funding to enhance expense balancing platform

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Crowd Cast, a startup offering expense balancing apps such as BizNote for Yayoi Online and Staple, announced earlier this month that they have secured series B round funding from Saison Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Japanese leading credit card company Credit Saison (TSE:8253), and IMJ Investment Partners (henceforth IMJ-IP). While the particulars of this investment have yet to be made clear, funding is thought to reach into the tens of millions of yen (hundreds of thousands of dollars). As the series B round has not yet closed, Crowd Cast will continue inviting further investment from other companies, eventually looking to raise funding in the ballpark of about 1 million yen ($830,000). Crowd Cast also secured an undisclosed amount of series A round funding from IMJ-IP in 2014. As for their investments from business firms thus far, this round’s investment from Saison Ventures comes after a $210,000 seed round contribution in May of 2013 from major Japanese accounting software developer Yayoi. Crowd Cast began providing their expense balancing app for startups and mid-sized companies, Staple, in September of last year, but with this financial partnering with Saison Ventures, they are focusing on…

crowdcast_screenshot

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Crowd Cast, a startup offering expense balancing apps such as BizNote for Yayoi Online and Staple, announced earlier this month that they have secured series B round funding from Saison Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Japanese leading credit card company Credit Saison (TSE:8253), and IMJ Investment Partners (henceforth IMJ-IP). While the particulars of this investment have yet to be made clear, funding is thought to reach into the tens of millions of yen (hundreds of thousands of dollars). As the series B round has not yet closed, Crowd Cast will continue inviting further investment from other companies, eventually looking to raise funding in the ballpark of about 1 million yen ($830,000).

Crowd Cast also secured an undisclosed amount of series A round funding from IMJ-IP in 2014. As for their investments from business firms thus far, this round’s investment from Saison Ventures comes after a $210,000 seed round contribution in May of 2013 from major Japanese accounting software developer Yayoi.

Crowd Cast began providing their expense balancing app for startups and mid-sized companies, Staple, in September of last year, but with this financial partnering with Saison Ventures, they are focusing on expanding Staple’s features and increasing users in cooperation with Credit Saison and their 35 million registered credit card user base. Concretely speaking, the methods of inputting expenses into Staple have been either manual input from receipts and invoices, etc., or by importing IC card use history data. In the future, however, it is expected that we will see functionality for connecting to online credit card use history data for Saison credit card users.

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Crowd Cast CEO Takashi Hoshikawa spoke to The Bridge about this recent investment:

Takashi Hoshikawa
CEO Takashi Hoshikawa

This year we did IC smart card use history reading through NFC (near field communication), so next we want to implement an OCR (optical character recognition) feature for importing receipts. We’ll be expanding our features in the direction of the Electronic Books Maintenance Act of Japan. Also we’re looking to strengthen our back-end infrastructure as well as integration with credit card systems.

He continued:

With our corporate-aimed Staple Team, we’ve come to see the types of industries where our service will be made particularly necessary: advertising firms, real estate companies, and other industries with large numbers of employees. Especially in companies with many locations and large numbers of staff who aren’t supplied with computers for work, (expenses can be balanced using smartphones so) Staple Team is going to be an invaluable tool.

According to Hoshikawa, Crowd Cast has currently placed Staple Team in the research phase while they gather more information about the users’ needs, after which they will be proceeding with monetization. Moving into 2016, as many accounting type services will be boasting support for Japan’s new “my number” system, Crowd Cast says they aren’t particularly concerned with “my number” support. One reason for that might be that, rather than aiming to be a total accounting service, Crowd Cast are concentrating the focus of their solutions on expense balancing. In addition, they are currently considering the possibility of integrating their services with third party payroll management platforms.

Crowd Cast’s app designed for private-use, Staple, is free to use, but their commercial version built for team-based management, Staple Team, starts at 600 yen (about $5) a month. They have, however, began offering a “startup program” which makes Staple Team available to use for free for companies that are less than five years old, student entrepreneurs, as well as NPOs, so for startups in the early stages who don’t yet have a dedicated staff member handling accounting, this might be a good opportunity to try Staple Team.

Translated by Connor Kirk
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Japan’s Stellasia LED wins pitch competition at Global Brain Alliance Forum in Tokyo

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See the original story in Japanese.This is part of our coverage of Global Brain Alliance Forum 2015. Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain this month held an annual startup conference event called Global Brain Alliance Forum (GBAF) in Tokyo. As a part of GBAF, a startup pitch event called the Global Startups Pitch Battle was held, where 10 startups from Japan and the other Asian countries competed. Japan’s Stellasia LED won the top award. The judges were: Shigeyuki Tsuchida, Senior Executive Officer, Innovation Network Corporation of Japan Ken Matsui, Project Manager, Mitsui Fudosan Venture Co-Creation Project, a.k.a. 31 Ventures Takashi Shibayama, Director of Content and Media Business, Furyu Chester Jungseok Roh, CSO, Reality Reflection The top prize winner: Stellasia LED (Japan) Stellasia LED is developing an AC-driven LED lamp for industrial use, in contrast to typical LED lamps driven by AC. Stellasia LED’s design eliminates the use of easily malfunctioning electric components, such as aluminum electrolytic capacitors in AC-driven LED, thus reducing failure rates, energy consumption, and noise. Although voltage differs by country, the AC-driven LED will enable standardizing circuits in products and unified production lines, thus reducing manufacturing costs. The team is planning to start new businesses, such as smart…

gbaf-presenters-and-judges-on-stage

See the original story in Japanese.
This is part of our coverage of Global Brain Alliance Forum 2015.

Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain this month held an annual startup conference event called Global Brain Alliance Forum (GBAF) in Tokyo.

As a part of GBAF, a startup pitch event called the Global Startups Pitch Battle was held, where 10 startups from Japan and the other Asian countries competed. Japan’s Stellasia LED won the top award.

The judges were:

The top prize winner: Stellasia LED (Japan)

gbaf-pitch-winner-stellasia-led
Stellasia CEO Richard Matsuura (left) receives the award from judge Ken Matsui.

Stellasia LED is developing an AC-driven LED lamp for industrial use, in contrast to typical LED lamps driven by AC. Stellasia LED’s design eliminates the use of easily malfunctioning electric components, such as aluminum electrolytic capacitors in AC-driven LED, thus reducing failure rates, energy consumption, and noise.

Although voltage differs by country, the AC-driven LED will enable standardizing circuits in products and unified production lines, thus reducing manufacturing costs. The team is planning to start new businesses, such as smart lighting.

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The Global Brain award winner: Kacific (Singapore)

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Singapore-based Kacific aims to use communication satellites to provide broadband Internet service to isolated islands of countries in the Asia-Pacific region such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Leveraging existing technologies, it plans to provide an internet connection service of 50Mbps at cheaper rates than other services.

The satellites will be ordered in 2016 and launches will commence in 2018. The total investment is estimated to be $182 million. Fees will be collected by the wholesaling of the service to ISP or the government in each country. The control center for the satellites and the service will be in Japan.

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Kacific CEO Christian Patouraux

The Global Brain award winner: Eatigo (Thailand)

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Thailand-based Eatigo offers a mobile app for dining deals and restaurant reservations under the same name, attracting customers by providing discount information in off-peak hours. It launched domestically in June 2014, and is being developed for Singapore.

In comparison with typical customer services such as hotels or airlines having 73% and 74% of the usage rate for each, that for restaurants is only 35%. To lower vacancy rates of restaurants, this service supports user restaurants to shape their customer traffic.

Eatigo is developing a mobile app for Japan and India. Also, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Indonesia are targeted as future markets.

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Eatigo CEO Michael Cluzel

The audience award winner: Axelspace (Japan)

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Axelspace CEO Yuya Nakamura (right) receives the award from judge Takashi Shibayama.

Japan’s Axelspace was established as a spin-off from the University of Tokyo in 2008. The team developed a micro-satellite only 50 centimeters square and 60 kilograms in weight. It will launch satellites for Japan’s weather information service Weathernews (TSE:4825). Starting from three satellites in 2017, it will launch ten satellites every year from 2018, to construct a system of 50 low-earth orbit satellites for data collection of weather or topography. The data will be sold to public agencies or private companies. The launch of a typical satellite can cost several tens of millions dollars, however, the micro-satellite can be launched for about $8 million.

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Japan’s Liquid secures funding round to advance biometric payment solutions

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Liquid, a Japanese startup developing payment solutions leveraging a unique biometric authentication technology, announced on 25 December that it has fundraised from Itochu (TSE:8001), Information Services International-Dentsu (ISID, TSE: 4812), Credit Saison (TSE:8253), and The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC). Financial details of the investment have not been disclosed. Prior to the latest funding, Liquid received government grants of about 42 million yen ($350,000) in 2014 and about 50 million yen ($416,000) in 2015 based on the qualification to the I-Challenge innovation initiative program by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, followed by receiving an undisclosed sum of investment from UTEC. In addition, the company disclosed that their shareholders include Japan’s major telco conglomerate NTT Group and Internet service giant Digital Garage (TSE:4819) while they have not disclosed when these companies joined as shareholders. Liquid was born out of the third incubation batch by Docomo Ventures. The company has developed a biometric payment system called Liquid Pay, which uses fingerprints to authenticate users. Traditionally, the fingerprint authentication used the 1:1 verification method that took time to identify the input fingerprint from a large number of registered fingerprint patterns. But this…

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See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Liquid, a Japanese startup developing payment solutions leveraging a unique biometric authentication technology, announced on 25 December that it has fundraised from Itochu (TSE:8001), Information Services International-Dentsu (ISID, TSE: 4812), Credit Saison (TSE:8253), and The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC). Financial details of the investment have not been disclosed.

Prior to the latest funding, Liquid received government grants of about 42 million yen ($350,000) in 2014 and about 50 million yen ($416,000) in 2015 based on the qualification to the I-Challenge innovation initiative program by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, followed by receiving an undisclosed sum of investment from UTEC. In addition, the company disclosed that their shareholders include Japan’s major telco conglomerate NTT Group and Internet service giant Digital Garage (TSE:4819) while they have not disclosed when these companies joined as shareholders.

Liquid was born out of the third incubation batch by Docomo Ventures. The company has developed a biometric payment system called Liquid Pay, which uses fingerprints to authenticate users. Traditionally, the fingerprint authentication used the 1:1 verification method that took time to identify the input fingerprint from a large number of registered fingerprint patterns. But this company has employed a 1:N identification method using deep learning algorithms. With this method, it only takes a few seconds to identify the input fingerprint. Once users are enrolled in this system, they can purchase with their fingerprints, allowing them to go out without cash or credit cards. By registering the fingerprints from two fingers, the risk of misidentifying the fingerprint is reduced to 1 in one hundred million.

This system is used at Huis Ten Bosch, a theme park in Nagasaki, Japan, where visitors can pay at restaurants and make purchases at souvenir shops without having to bring their wallet, giving them a sense of freedom. It has also been implemented at a hotel in Sri Lanka where hotel guests enroll their biometric information at check-in. After that, they can then unlock the key and make purchases at partnered stores using just their fingerprints. Based on the Liquid Pay technology, the company rolled out a trial of a community currency system in Hokkaido in association with ISID, aiming to offer foreign visitors a more convenient payment option at travel destinations.

Based on the partnership with new shareholders on this funding, Liquid plans to focus on developing services for an increasing number of inbound visitors to Japan toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, expanding to the medical and public sectors, as well as regional service expansion to the Southeast Asian market. Having a dazzling selection of companies with expertise in global expansion, system development, finance, and payments infrastructure as shareholders, the partnership will give a boost to an expanding Liquid Pay and other applications based on the company’s biometric authentication technology.

Liquid won the Sony Select award at Docomo Venture’s 3rd batch Demo Day, followed by winning the Microsoft award at Innovation Weekend Grand Finale 2015 earlier this month.

Edited by Kurt Hanson

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Liquid delivers a pitch at Tech in Asia Tour 2015: Road to Jakarta at Tokyo.

Orange Fab Asia unveils graduating startups from Fall 2015 season at Demo Day in Tokyo

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See the original story in Japanese. Orange Fab Asia, an incubation program for the East Asian region hosted by French telecom major Orange, held a Demo Day event for the latest batch in Tokyo earlier this month. While originally this incubation program had been focusing on Asia including Japan, Korea and Taiwan, La French Tech, a business invitation program by the French government for European startups to Tokyo has joined the Demo Day from this time, in affiliation with French governmental business support initiative Business France. Therefore, 29 teams including 8 French startups made pitches and opened booth exhibitions in this event. See also: Startups enter the fray with arrival of fall exhibition season in Japan Although unfortunately we cannot cover all of them in this article, some outstanding startups are introduced below. BankGuard (Japan) The total damage from illegal money transfers using online banking systems around the world is said to amount at $2 billion per year. Super Matrix developed by Tokyo-based BankGuard is a safer and more inexpensive banking solution than the one-time password or conventional table of random numbers, which is distinguished by not utilizing characters or numbers but pictograms. Sealing non-disclosure agreements with Shizuoka Bank, Yokohama…

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See the original story in Japanese.

Orange Fab Asia, an incubation program for the East Asian region hosted by French telecom major Orange, held a Demo Day event for the latest batch in Tokyo earlier this month.

While originally this incubation program had been focusing on Asia including Japan, Korea and Taiwan, La French Tech, a business invitation program by the French government for European startups to Tokyo has joined the Demo Day from this time, in affiliation with French governmental business support initiative Business France. Therefore, 29 teams including 8 French startups made pitches and opened booth exhibitions in this event.

See also:

Although unfortunately we cannot cover all of them in this article, some outstanding startups are introduced below.

BankGuard (Japan)

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The total damage from illegal money transfers using online banking systems around the world is said to amount at $2 billion per year. Super Matrix developed by Tokyo-based BankGuard is a safer and more inexpensive banking solution than the one-time password or conventional table of random numbers, which is distinguished by not utilizing characters or numbers but pictograms. Sealing non-disclosure agreements with Shizuoka Bank, Yokohama Bank and SBI Sumishin Net Bank, currently it has international patents pending. In addition to Super Matrix, the team has developed a cryptocurrency solution called Super Money utilizing the Bitcoin technology.

Geo-Line (Korea)

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Korea-based Geo-Line offers a battery charge solution for electric vehicles called Plug & Pay. In general, the greatest concern for electric vehicle users may be the securing of battery charge measures away from home. The number or the location of charging stations are still limited due to the higher costs for installation and maintenance. Plug & Pay allows users to charge batteries from conventional electric outlets by attaching the devices to them, and moreover, notifies the amount of charged energy to the power company via an implemented mobile SIM. Therefore, if users utilize electric outlets in public facilities or a stranger’s home upon charging, they will be charged for the electric fees themselves, and that will not lead to accusations of power theft.

Mist Technologies (Japan)

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Mist Technologies, which previously developed a predominant video distribution system using WebRTC named MistCDN, has launched its second product called Mist Inline Player. When one is to watch embedded videos on web pages with mobile browsers, not only browsers but video players will be started generally. Mist Inline Player provides video playable environment on browsers just by adding a single JavaScript code onto websites with HTML5. By synchronizing acceleration sensors in smartphones, it can also play videos interactively based on users’ motion. It is seen being utilized in video advertisement, on-demand video services and video services offering a panorama view.

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Pamily (Korea)

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Dogs are an emotionally weak animal and become easily depressed. If owners neglect to play with their dog or take it for a walk, the dog gets stressed and that causes self-injury in the worst case. Pamily is a golfball-sized dog toy which can move automatically by remote control upon operation with a mobile app. It is waterproof and wireless charging-enabled in addition to being capable of emitting light, sound and vibration according to the operation through the app. The team aims to strengthen sales activities through cooperation with petfood mnufacturers, pet insurance providers or telcos.

Ripple (Korea)

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Korea-based Ripple has developed an in-ear microphone device for smartphones called RippleBuds, allowing communication with clear voices even under a noisy environment. Implementing both an earphone and a microphone inside, it picks up voices using bone conduction to prevent distraction due to noises around the user. Absence of noise-canceling tips, which are typically applied to such kind of products, has lowered its manufacturing costs and energy consumption. The team plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in January 2016, and expects the adoption in sports, military and police application.

StradVision (Korea)

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StradVision is an object recognition solution which is an essential technology for self-driving cars, enabling recognition of other cars, pedestrians and even characters in traffic signs. The noteworthy function is its character recognition, which is capable of recognizing characters and even its context on notice boards or traffic signs written not only in English but also in Chinese. Although the recognition of Japanese was not exhibited this time, the availability of Chinese will facilitate the support for Japanese shortly. It is expected to be applied to the development of safer self-driving cars by linking with a car navigation system, GPS (global positioning systems), or ITS (intelligent transport systems).

Thinktank (Taiwan)

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Taiwan-based Thinktank, which introduced a platform for measurement of audience feedback at events in real-time called Clappio at IdeasShow in Taipei in August, this time introduced a new service called Exit. People in subway stations are easily lost because they cannot use map apps sufficiently due to the weak GPS signals from satellites. This mobile app allows users to find appropriate exits quickly at subway stations. Currently it supports information for 179 subway stations in Taipei and Bangkok. Since the total number of daily passengers at these stations accounts for 6.84 million, utilization of the app will save a great deal of time if one gets lost.

Tobila Systems (Japan)

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Nagoya-based Tobila Systems has developed an incoming call control solution called Tobilaphone in order to reject crank calls or fund-transfer frauds, serving land-line phones, smartphones and other phones. Based on the whitelists/blacklists shared among users, unauthorized phone numbers listed for each user, and lists made by the Metropolitan police or an independent survey by Tobila Systems itself, it blocks incoming calls from dubious callers. The concept of this product appears similar to Taiwan’s Whoscall (acquired by Line) or Korea’s Moya Calling.

VitaNet (Japan)

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VitaNet is an encryption solution for communication technologies in IoT such as BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and Bluetooth. These wireless technologies broadcast recognition IDs for devices upon handshaking to connect with each other. So, if malicious users obtain these information, it might be used for illegal hacking. By applying VitaNet technologies, recognition IDs are masked and an encryption layer is added in communication so that it will bring more highly secured communication between IoT devices while minimizing the possibility of being hacked.

WhyNotTech (Taiwan)

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WhyNotTech has developed a wearable ring device for voice recognition linked to a smartphone called ARING Pro. Conventional voice recognition solutions for smartphones including Google Voice Search and Siri are only available in specific app environments. ARING Pro realizes much smarter app operation without the character input, by selecting or starting up mobile apps manually and by inputting or indicating by the ring device. The team failed on a recent crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter but are planning sales of the product on Amazon. They are thinking to integrate the product with e-commerce sites like Amazon so that users can more quickly find a product to buy, as well as integrating with headphones connectable to the Internet in the future.


Coinciding with holding this Demo Day event, Open Fab Asia started receiving applications for the next batch, Spring 2016 season. If interested in business development not only in Asia but also in the European market including France, you are encouraged to check out their website to apply.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy and Masaru Ikeda

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Japan’s Secual, smart home security startup, ties up with major vacation rentals agencies

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Secual, the Japanese startup developing smart home security solutions under the same name, announced today that it has fundraised about 60 million yen (about $500,000) from two vacation rental agencies  / apartment rental companies in Japan: Adventure and Ambition. In addition to the funds, Secual has tied up with these two companies for a potential business synergy such as utilization of smart locks, home security cameras and other smart home products. Secual has successfully raised more than six times its initial goal of 1 million yen ($8,300) on the Makuake crowdfunding site this year. The company recently started receiving pre-orders for their products on AppBank Store, the e-commerce outlet of a leading iPhone/iPad service review website in Japan. They are also running a Secual giveaway campaign for users of Ietty, a Japanese apartment hunting platform. In our previous interview, the company asserted that they would expand their approach to the areas where they can find potential chemistry with users. Using the latest funds, they are expected to strengthen human resources for sales and development. Secual is now trying to start shipment of their first product from February next year. Translated by Masaru Ikeda…

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See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Secual, the Japanese startup developing smart home security solutions under the same name, announced today that it has fundraised about 60 million yen (about $500,000) from two vacation rental agencies  / apartment rental companies in Japan: Adventure and Ambition. In addition to the funds, Secual has tied up with these two companies for a potential business synergy such as utilization of smart locks, home security cameras and other smart home products.

Secual has successfully raised more than six times its initial goal of 1 million yen ($8,300) on the Makuake crowdfunding site this year. The company recently started receiving pre-orders for their products on AppBank Store, the e-commerce outlet of a leading iPhone/iPad service review website in Japan. They are also running a Secual giveaway campaign for users of Ietty, a Japanese apartment hunting platform.

In our previous interview, the company asserted that they would expand their approach to the areas where they can find potential chemistry with users. Using the latest funds, they are expected to strengthen human resources for sales and development.
Secual is now trying to start shipment of their first product from February next year.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s Dentsu Ventures invests in health tracking lab-in-a-box developer Cue

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See the original story in Japanese. Dentsu Ventures, the corporate venture capital of Japanese ad agency Dentsu (TSE:4324), announced today that it has invested an undisclosed sum in San Diego-based Cue, the startup developing a health tracking device under the same name. Financial details have not been disclosed. For Dentsu Ventures, this is the fifth investment in a startup followed by Jibo (communication robot), Agolo (curated content generation), Nextbit (cloud-based smartphone), Sensai (bigdata analasys), and others. See also: Japan’s Dentsu Ventures invests in NYC-based automated content creation startup Agolo Japan’s Dentsu Ventures invests in SF-based cloud-first phone developer Nextbit Cue has developed a health tracking platform consisting of a lab-in-a-box device, five kinds of cartridges, and sampling sticks. By sampling saliva, blood, or mucous and using a cartridge intended for the symptom you want to know, the device can easily track inflammation, influenza, testosterone, and fertility. After completing an analysis, which typically requires several minutes, the device then sends the analyzed results to a mobile app so that you can check the status on your smartphone. When the platform was launched, Cue initially sold it via pre-orders on their website so that an investigational device exemption was applied and no…

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See the original story in Japanese.

Dentsu Ventures, the corporate venture capital of Japanese ad agency Dentsu (TSE:4324), announced today that it has invested an undisclosed sum in San Diego-based Cue, the startup developing a health tracking device under the same name. Financial details have not been disclosed. For Dentsu Ventures, this is the fifth investment in a startup followed by Jibo (communication robot), Agolo (curated content generation), Nextbit (cloud-based smartphone), Sensai (bigdata analasys), and others.

See also:

Cue has developed a health tracking platform consisting of a lab-in-a-box device, five kinds of cartridges, and sampling sticks. By sampling saliva, blood, or mucous and using a cartridge intended for the symptom you want to know, the device can easily track inflammation, influenza, testosterone, and fertility. After completing an analysis, which typically requires several minutes, the device then sends the analyzed results to a mobile app so that you can check the status on your smartphone.

When the platform was launched, Cue initially sold it via pre-orders on their website so that an investigational device exemption was applied and no FDA approval was needed. However, the company says it will shortly launch full-scale sales upon approval from governmental health authorities in each country. They aim to start sales in Europe and Hong Kong in early 2016, in the US in 2016, and in Japan in 2017. Inspectable symptoms will be expanded to about 20 kinds from the current five.

Cue has said it may integrate their platform with Apple HealthKit. However, there is the possibility that they will also integrate with other healthcare platforms by tech giants, such as Samsung Digital Health and Google Fit.

Cue fundraised $1 million in a seed round, followed by securing $7.5 million in a series A round led by Sherpa Ventures with participation from life science-focused fund Immortalana. Immortalna also invested in Cue in an angel funding round.

Edited by Kurt Hanson