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UTokyo-related VC firm UTEC raises $275M fifth fund, launches acceleration program

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The University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners (UTEC) announced on Monday that it has launched its fifth fund. The firm made the first close of the fund which is eventually expected to secure up to 30 billion yen (about $275 million US). The fund’s investors have not been disclosed but Nikkei says the majority of them are institutional investors including sovereign wealth funds from Southeast Asia. The fund’s ticket size is up to 2.5 billion yen ($22.9 million US) per investment and company. Since its launch back in 2004, UTEC has been running five funds worth 85 billion yen ($780 million US) in the total commitment amount. It has invested in more than 110 companies, 13 of which have IPO-ed and 12 of which have been acquired by other companies. The total market cap of the IPO-ed 13 companies reached 1.5 trillion yen ($13.7 billion US) as of December 2020. The fund can invest in startups at various stages while we may recall recent funding from the fund such as Startbahn (blockchain-based certificate issuing for art) and Kuzen (no-code interactive AI platform). UTEC also announced that it has launched the UTEC Founders Program (UFP), an open-ended support program for startups…

The University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners (UTEC) announced on Monday that it has launched its fifth fund. The firm made the first close of the fund which is eventually expected to secure up to 30 billion yen (about $275 million US). The fund’s investors have not been disclosed but Nikkei says the majority of them are institutional investors including sovereign wealth funds from Southeast Asia. The fund’s ticket size is up to 2.5 billion yen ($22.9 million US) per investment and company.

Since its launch back in 2004, UTEC has been running five funds worth 85 billion yen ($780 million US) in the total commitment amount. It has invested in more than 110 companies, 13 of which have IPO-ed and 12 of which have been acquired by other companies. The total market cap of the IPO-ed 13 companies reached 1.5 trillion yen ($13.7 billion US) as of December 2020. The fund can invest in startups at various stages while we may recall recent funding from the fund such as Startbahn (blockchain-based certificate issuing for art) and Kuzen (no-code interactive AI platform).

UTEC also announced that it has launched the UTEC Founders Program (UFP), an open-ended support program for startups in the science and technology fields. The program consists of two tracks: the Equity Track, which provides up to 100 million yen in equity investment, and the Grant Track, which provides up to 5 million yen in grant. Equity Track applications are accepted at all times while Grant Track ones will be accepted from June 15 to July 31.

Japan’s Brazil Venture Capital announces first close of $9M second fund

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In 2020, startup investment in Brazil reached US$3.5 billion, up 30% from the previous year, while the number of unicorns in 2020 increased by 3 to 14. Meanwhile, that in Japan reached US$4.32 billion, and the number of unicorns increased by Spider alone to 7 during the same period. This indicates that Brazil has produced unicorns at about twice the rate of Japan so far and last year despite having experienced one of the worst pandemic situation in the world. Mitsuru Nakayama, founder and CEO of Brazil Venture Capital (BVC) has been forced to stay inside Japan due to the pandemic but been busy to remotely support startups which are typically located on the other sdide of the planet. Thanks to the efforts of newly joined partners and associates in Brazil and Peru, the firm’s investment activities are keeping going well. BVC announced its second fund with a targeted final size of 1 billion yen in December, and has reached its first close and disclosed the names of their investors and two invested startups. Most of the fund’s investors are angels in Japan as follows (except for those who don’t want to be named): Shintaro Okuno — Managing Partner and…

BVC’s Mitsuru Nakayama
Image credit: BVC

In 2020, startup investment in Brazil reached US$3.5 billion, up 30% from the previous year, while the number of unicorns in 2020 increased by 3 to 14. Meanwhile, that in Japan reached US$4.32 billion, and the number of unicorns increased by Spider alone to 7 during the same period. This indicates that Brazil has produced unicorns at about twice the rate of Japan so far and last year despite having experienced one of the worst pandemic situation in the world.

Mitsuru Nakayama, founder and CEO of Brazil Venture Capital (BVC) has been forced to stay inside Japan due to the pandemic but been busy to remotely support startups which are typically located on the other sdide of the planet. Thanks to the efforts of newly joined partners and associates in Brazil and Peru, the firm’s investment activities are keeping going well. BVC announced its second fund with a targeted final size of 1 billion yen in December, and has reached its first close and disclosed the names of their investors and two invested startups.

Most of the fund’s investors are angels in Japan as follows (except for those who don’t want to be named):

  • Shintaro Okuno — Managing Partner and Head of Tokyo, Bain & Company
  • Haruo Amano — Executive Vice President, Hennge
  • Soki Ohmae — Co-Founder and Representative Partner, Drone Fund
  • Ken Soga — President, SGcapital
  • Shota Kawaminami — Executive Officer, HENNGE
  • Tatsuya Matsuoka — President, Japan Medical Support Institute
  • Nobuaki Takahashi — Founder, Phil Company / PHALs

Second Fund’s portfolio 1: Digital Restaurants sees a spree.

Image credit: Digital Restaurants

In late April, Europe-based Taster announced it has secured 27 million euros. The startup wants to call themselves a digital restaurant brand rather than a ghost restaurant or a cloud kitchen operator because they dare not just providing cooking resources behind third-party brands but trying to build new brands themselves. The sales in Paris of Europe’s leading food delivery operator Deliveroo recently showed a consolidation of Taster brands was ranked in third place following McDonald’s and Burger King.

Pedro Neira Ferrand, a four-time serial entrepreneur from Peru, launched Digital Restaurants. Approved to join renowned entrepreneur support networks like Endeavor and Founders Network, he had been running a Latin America-focused dating app called MiMediaManzana (already shut down) prior to the current startup.

Digital Restaurants has partnered with MCK Hospitality, an operator behind the Japanese-Peruvian restaurant chain Osaka being operated in major Latin American cities, and is now operating several digital restaurant brands like Lucky’s Crispy Chicken, Poke for the People and Black Burger. Currently, the company is only serving Peru but it may be easier for them to expand into other markets in South America where MCK has been running their operations.

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Second Fund’s portfolio 2: Mono is an Colombian answer to neobank.

Image credit: Mono

In our previous interview with Nakayama, he said that many local people are experiencing fewer access to financial services in Latin America while financial infrastructure is in place. If any startup can use the infrastructure to provide innovative services which are too cumbersome for conventional banksto provide, it could be a huge market out there. One example is ContaSimples, an investee from BVC’s first fund. The Brazilian startup currently serves 13,000 customers, planning to triple it by the end of the year. In late last year, they secured a US$2.5 million funding led by Brazil’s FinTech-focused VC firm Quartz.

We can guess that Mono is a Colombian answer to ContaSimples. It’s seeing a high growth by issuing credit cards to entrepreneurs and sole proprietors with no credit history but high demand for card payments in their business. All four of Mono’s founders have previously worked at fintech startups, including the two who has been selected in a Y Combinator-qualified startup (tpaga, selected for the YC S17 batch).

A growing number of startups from the fintech industry are joining the unicorn club in Latin America, including local neobanks like Brazil’s Nubank and Argentina’s Uala we well as payments startups like Uruguay’s dLocal and Mexico’s Clip. What is more, many of these unicorns have common in terms of having got SoftBank Vision Fund as an investor. SoftBank tends to invest in the middle or later stage, it is interesting to note that BVC is able to reach out to potential unicorns in the early stage.


BVC has also informally agreed with four Brazilian startups to invest in them from its second fund shortly. The first fund, launched in August 2016, has invested in 12 companies so far, and Nakayama told us that they would see some exits from that portfolio pretty soon. The first fund’s portfolio includes bxblue (automated payroll loans), ContaSimples, ARPAC (drone technology for efficient pesticide spraying).

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Japan’s Axelspace nabs $24M series C, all set to put 10 nanosats into orbits

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Axelspace Holdings, the parent company of nano-satellite developer Axelspace, announced on Friday that it has secured approximately 2.58 billion yen (about $23.6 million US) in a Series C round. Participating invesotors are Sparx Innovation for Future, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Investment, JP Investment, 31 Ventures-Global Brain Growth I LLC (jointly operated by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), Kyocera, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital. For the satellite startup, this follows their Series A round in September 2015 and Series B round in December 2018. The 31 Ventures-Global Brain-Growth I fund participated in the series B round as well. The latest round brought the company’s total funding sum to date up to more than 7 billion yen (about $64 million US). Axelspace was spun off from the University of Tokyo and incorporated as a company in 2008. The company has been developing small and inexpensive satellites weighing some 60 kilograms, and launched satellites outsourced from Japanese weather company Weathernews (TSE:4825). Leveraging these low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites, Axelspace plans to collect weather and terrain data to sell to governmental organizations and private businesses. Launching a conventional satellite usually costs tens of millions of dollars, but the cost of a nano-satellites can be reduced to less…

The Axelspace management team. From left: CTO Naoki Miyashita, CSO Yoshihiro Ohta, CBO Yasunori Yamazaki, CEO Tomoya Nakamura, CPO Yusuke Nakanishi, and CFO / CHORO Hiroki Aomoto
Image credit: Axelspace

Axelspace Holdings, the parent company of nano-satellite developer Axelspace, announced on Friday that it has secured approximately 2.58 billion yen (about $23.6 million US) in a Series C round. Participating invesotors are Sparx Innovation for Future, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Investment, JP Investment, 31 Ventures-Global Brain Growth I LLC (jointly operated by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), Kyocera, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital.

For the satellite startup, this follows their Series A round in September 2015 and Series B round in December 2018. The 31 Ventures-Global Brain-Growth I fund participated in the series B round as well. The latest round brought the company’s total funding sum to date up to more than 7 billion yen (about $64 million US).

Axelspace was spun off from the University of Tokyo and incorporated as a company in 2008. The company has been developing small and inexpensive satellites weighing some 60 kilograms, and launched satellites outsourced from Japanese weather company Weathernews (TSE:4825). Leveraging these low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites, Axelspace plans to collect weather and terrain data to sell to governmental organizations and private businesses. Launching a conventional satellite usually costs tens of millions of dollars, but the cost of a nano-satellites can be reduced to less than $10 million, making it possible to build a constellation system for earth observation with multiple nano-satellites.

In 2015 the company announced AxelGlobe, the earth observation infrastructure which will provide imagery of more than half of the planet’s dry land once every single day. The infrastructure is composed of several nano-satellites, five of which have already been launched, and the goal is to have ten in the future. Since the latest round has paved the way for the initial target of 10 satellites, the company established the AxelGlobe Business Unit to promote the widespread use of satellite data and implement it into many aspects of our society.

UTokyo-backed fund sizes up to $220M+, works with other univs to help more startups

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UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), a VC firm backed by the University of Tokyo, has agreed with the University of Tsukuba, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, and Tokyo Institute of Technology to operate together the firm-led entrepreneurship support program called 1st Round. This means four national universities in the Tokyo metropolitan area join forces in sourcing more budding startup teams to help nurture and fund. The 1st Round program was originally launched in 2017 and then rebranded as the current name in 2019. Inspired by Stanford University-backed StartX, the program helps graduates, faculty members, and students who are looking to start their own businesses, as well as university-related seed startups that have not yet raised funds, with up to 10 million yen (about $100,000 US) in funding and hands-on support for six months. Selected startups will receive a variety of resource support for PoC (proof of concept), collaboration, and commercialization from the program’s partners. Fuyo General Lease, JR East Japan Startup, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, PCA, Mitsui Fudosan, Nippon Life Insurance, Toyota Motor, Yamato Holdings, and Yaskawa Electric are joining the latest batch, the fifth of its kind, as partners. The program has turned out 34 startups to…

The UTokyo IPC team
Image credit: UTokyo IPC

UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), a VC firm backed by the University of Tokyo, has agreed with the University of Tsukuba, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, and Tokyo Institute of Technology to operate together the firm-led entrepreneurship support program called 1st Round. This means four national universities in the Tokyo metropolitan area join forces in sourcing more budding startup teams to help nurture and fund.

The 1st Round program was originally launched in 2017 and then rebranded as the current name in 2019. Inspired by Stanford University-backed StartX, the program helps graduates, faculty members, and students who are looking to start their own businesses, as well as university-related seed startups that have not yet raised funds, with up to 10 million yen (about $100,000 US) in funding and hands-on support for six months.

Selected startups will receive a variety of resource support for PoC (proof of concept), collaboration, and commercialization from the program’s partners. Fuyo General Lease, JR East Japan Startup, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, PCA, Mitsui Fudosan, Nippon Life Insurance, Toyota Motor, Yamato Holdings, and Yaskawa Electric are joining the latest batch, the fifth of its kind, as partners.

The program has turned out 34 startups to date. Among the alumni, our readers may recall interesting startups which have secured funds from UTokyo IPC, such as HarvestX (from the 3rd round, developing automated pollination and harvesting of strawberries), ARAV (from the 3rd round), developing remote control and autonomous drive of construction machinery), as well as Sonus (from the 4th round, developing the power-saving multi-hop wireless network technology). 90% of the teams graduated from the program have successfully secured VC funding.

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UTokyo IPC revealed that it has significantly enlarge the size of the firm’s AOI Fund (named after Accelerating Open Innovation) which was introduced announced last May. Worth 2.75 billion yen (about $25 million) at the time, it has now grown up to 24 billion yen (about $219 million). In addition to conventional investors like Mitsubishi UFJ Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, SBI Group, Daikin Industries, Development Bank of Japan Group, Hakuhodo, Fuyo General Lease, and Mitsubishi Estate have newly invested in the fund as limited partners.

The disclosed six startups which have secured investments from the AOI fund are:

  • Fimecs …… research and development of novel drugs based on proteolysis induction (carve-out from Takeda Pharmaceutical)
  • Onedot …… operating the Chinese childcare media Babily and helping Japanese e-commerce companies make digital strategies and marketing efforts for the Chinese market (carve-out from Unicharm and BCG Digital Ventures)
  • Bird Initiative …… Offering consulting services for solving company issues through digital transformation as well as prototyping services for expanding R&D functions (joint venture with NEC and others)
  • UrbanX Technologies …… building a real-time Digital Twin for road inspections and urban infrastructure management
  • HarvestX …… developing automated pollination and harvesting of strawberries
  • ARAV …… developing remote control and autonomous drive of construction machinery

UTokyo IPC plans to more actively invest in startups from these universities. As the fund has become larger, it is now able to handle ticket sizes ranging from a seed investment worth tens of millions of yen to a large-scale one worth more than 2 billion yen, according to the firm.

Infinity Ventures, e.ventures, rebranded to Headline

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Three VC firms from around the globe – Asia-focused Infinity Ventures, US- and Europe-focused e.ventures, and Brazil-based Redpoint e.ventures – announced its integrated rebranding to Headline, aiming to increase their global recognition. Their offices are located in Beijing, Taipei, Tokyo, San Francisco, Berlin, Paris, and Sao Paulo. Over 10 years, the three VC firms have jointly worked together and invested in startups like Groupon Japan, Farfetch’s Japan business as well as China’s largest QR code aggregator, Yeahka (IPOed in Hong Kong in 2019). In a statement, Akio Tanaka, the founding partner of Infinity Ventures and the partner of Headline, said, The world is becoming more connected, ideas from one part of the world to another travel much, much faster today. There is no such thing as purely regional deals anymore. Every regional deal in the future will have an international angle. For VCs to find winners early, and opportunities that scale, you need international intelligence. That’s what we have had so far working with Redpoint and e.ventures, and that’s what we’re betting on further with Headline. During IVS 2021 Spring in March, a spin-off startup conference from Infinity Ventures, a video clip shown in the last moment suggested that Infinity…

Three VC firms from around the globe – Asia-focused Infinity Ventures, US- and Europe-focused e.ventures, and Brazil-based Redpoint e.ventures – announced its integrated rebranding to Headline, aiming to increase their global recognition. Their offices are located in Beijing, Taipei, Tokyo, San Francisco, Berlin, Paris, and Sao Paulo.

Over 10 years, the three VC firms have jointly worked together and invested in startups like Groupon Japan, Farfetch’s Japan business as well as China’s largest QR code aggregator, Yeahka (IPOed in Hong Kong in 2019).

In a statement, Akio Tanaka, the founding partner of Infinity Ventures and the partner of Headline, said,

The world is becoming more connected, ideas from one part of the world to another travel much, much faster today. There is no such thing as purely regional deals anymore.

Every regional deal in the future will have an international angle. For VCs to find winners early, and opportunities that scale, you need international intelligence. That’s what we have had so far working with Redpoint and e.ventures, and that’s what we’re betting on further with Headline.

During IVS 2021 Spring in March, a spin-off startup conference from Infinity Ventures, a video clip shown in the last moment suggested that Infinity Ventures would be rebranded soon. Infinity Ventures has managed US$300 million and has invested in over 100 startups, resulting in nine IPOs to date.

According to Headline’s website, Akihiko Okamoto, who has served as the executive officer in charge of R&D at Recruit Holdings as well as the executive vice president and head of strategic investment at MUFG Innovation Partners, has been appointed as a partner of Headline. Prior to it, he was appointed as the co-head of WEIN Financial Group in November.

Japan’s Hacobu secures $8.7M to use big data for optimizing B2B logistics

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Tokyo-based Hacobu, a business-to-business logistics optimization startup, has announced that it has secured 940 million yen (about $8.7 million US) in its latest round of funding. Participating investors are JIC Venture Growth Investments (JIC VGI), NN Corporate Capital (Investment arm of Nomura Real Estate Holdings), Toyota Tsusho (TSE:8015), Logistics Innovation Fund (Spiral (TSE:8015), Logistics Innovation Fund (a sector-focused fund managed by Spiral Capital and ledby Seino Holdings as an anchor limited partner), SMBC Venture Capital, Daiwa House Group’s Daiwa Logitech, and Mitsui Fudosan (TSE:8801). For the startup, this round follows 160 million yen funding in November of 2016, 140 million yen funding in November of 2017, and 400 million yen funding in April of 2019. Among the investors participating in the latest round round, Daiwa Logitech and Mitsui Fudosan followed their previous investments made in September of 2017 and September of 2019 respectively. The latest rounding brought the company’s funding sum to date up to at least 1.64 billion yen ($15.2 million). Hacobu was founded in May 2016 by CEO Taro Sasaki who had been previously working as a consultant on a project for Morinaga Milk where he faced with the challenge of how to improve the logistics efficiency of…

Image credit: Hacobu

Tokyo-based Hacobu, a business-to-business logistics optimization startup, has announced that it has secured 940 million yen (about $8.7 million US) in its latest round of funding. Participating investors are JIC Venture Growth Investments (JIC VGI), NN Corporate Capital (Investment arm of Nomura Real Estate Holdings), Toyota Tsusho (TSE:8015), Logistics Innovation Fund (Spiral (TSE:8015), Logistics Innovation Fund (a sector-focused fund managed by Spiral Capital and ledby Seino Holdings as an anchor limited partner), SMBC Venture Capital, Daiwa House Group’s Daiwa Logitech, and Mitsui Fudosan (TSE:8801).

For the startup, this round follows 160 million yen funding in November of 2016, 140 million yen funding in November of 2017, and 400 million yen funding in April of 2019. Among the investors participating in the latest round round, Daiwa Logitech and Mitsui Fudosan followed their previous investments made in September of 2017 and September of 2019 respectively. The latest rounding brought the company’s funding sum to date up to at least 1.64 billion yen ($15.2 million).

Hacobu was founded in May 2016 by CEO Taro Sasaki who had been previously working as a consultant on a project for Morinaga Milk where he faced with the challenge of how to improve the logistics efficiency of the milk company’s 10 logistics subsidiaries in Japan, which led to developing a shared logistics platform called Movo.

They offer the platform to more than 500 companies including manufacturers, retailers, and logistics providers all across Japan. Thanks to the cloud and hardware such as the IoT devices managing moving vehicles, the company solves problems like vehicle dispatch (as an integrated logistics management solution, solves the problem of the difficulty of finding trucks to dispatch), operation management (solves the problem of not knowing location information of the trucks), and berth management (solves the problem of using trucks efficiently because of waiting time).

The startup will use the funds to hire talents for the development and sales of the application, strengthen logistics big data analysis infrastructure, and launch and operate big data governance system. They expect to accelerate their progress toward solving social issues such as long working hours at logistics sites, carbon emissions, inventory disposal, and food waste through the optimization of logistics and supply chains.

Insurance giant Sompo buys 21.9% stake in Google-backed deep learning startup Abeja

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Tokyo-based Abeja announced that it has formed a capital and business alliance with Japanese insurance giant Sompo Holdings (TSE:8630). Sompo acquired 21.9% of the outstanding shares from Abeja’s five existing shareholders: INCJ, Salesforce.com, Mizuho Capital Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, and Itochu (TSE:8001). The startup became an affiliate of the insurance conglomerate. Founded in September of 2012, Abeja has provided their AI-powered analytics suite Abeja Platform companies while more than a few stores have adopted Abeja Insight for Retail, their retail industry store analysis solution. To date, the company has secured over 6 billion yen (about $55 million) from domestic VC firms in addition to global tech giants like Google and Nvidia. Meanwhile, Sompo invested US$500 million in Palantir Technologies (NYSE: PLTR), the data analytics startup well known to have been founded by Peter Thiel, in June 2020 prior to its listing so that the former is poised to adopt the latter’s data integration and analysis platform. Since last year, Abeja has been working with Sompo to develop predictive models and other joint businesses based on data analysis machine learning, especially in the areas of nursing care, healthcare, and domestic non-life insurance businesses. Sompo has been considering to develop “real data platform…

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

Tokyo-based Abeja announced that it has formed a capital and business alliance with Japanese insurance giant Sompo Holdings (TSE:8630). Sompo acquired 21.9% of the outstanding shares from Abeja’s five existing shareholders: INCJ, Salesforce.com, Mizuho Capital Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, and Itochu (TSE:8001). The startup became an affiliate of the insurance conglomerate.

Founded in September of 2012, Abeja has provided their AI-powered analytics suite Abeja Platform companies while more than a few stores have adopted Abeja Insight for Retail, their retail industry store analysis solution. To date, the company has secured over 6 billion yen (about $55 million) from domestic VC firms in addition to global tech giants like Google and Nvidia. Meanwhile, Sompo invested US$500 million in Palantir Technologies (NYSE: PLTR), the data analytics startup well known to have been founded by Peter Thiel, in June 2020 prior to its listing so that the former is poised to adopt the latter’s data integration and analysis platform.

Since last year, Abeja has been working with Sompo to develop predictive models and other joint businesses based on data analysis machine learning, especially in the areas of nursing care, healthcare, and domestic non-life insurance businesses. Sompo has been considering to develop “real data platform for safety, security, and health” with Palantir, and joining Abeja in this initiative will accelerate the move toward launching the platform. Abeja will also help Sompo promote the use of AI and cultivate human resources optimized for digital businesses.

In an interview with Nikkei published on Friday, Abeja CEO Yosuke Okada revealed that even after becoming an affiliate of the conglomerate, Abeja will maintain independent management scheme and aim for an IPO.

Sompo has been active in offering and developing services for elderly care, also operating several subsidiaries focused on senior care facilities in Japan. In recent years, it has invested in IoT developers Novars and Moff for helping monitor the elderly and supporting their rehabilitation, smart security device company Secual, and Taiwan-based diabetes management platform Health2Sync. The insurance giant has launched digital strategy hubs called Sompo Digital Lab in Silicon Valley and Israel, and some of our readers may recall that last year it invested in Intuition Robotics, the Israeli startup developing robots to help the elderly relieve isolation and loneliness.

See our past articles featuring Abeja:

Daiz, Japan’s answer to Impossible Foods, secures $17M series B round

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Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced on Monday that it has secured about 1.85 billion yen (about $17.1 million) in a series B round. Participating investors are Ajinomoto (TSE:2802), Marubeni (TSE:8002), Nippon Steel Trading (TSE:9810), Kanematsu (TSE:8020), Kanematsu Foods, ENEOS Innovation Partners, Kichiri Holdings (TSE:3082), Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Capital, The Norinchukin Bank, Global Brain, Kemuri Ventures, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Golden Asia Fund Ventures (jointly run by Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute-backed investment arm and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital), QB Capital, Shinkin Capital, and Kirin Holdings (TSE:2503). Among these investors, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital follows the Series A investment in May 2020 while QB Capital follows the September 2018 round. The latest round brought Daiz’s funding sum to date up to 3.05 billion yen (about $28.2 million). The company will use the funds to expand its meat substitutes production, strengthen research and development, develop global business channels, and hire new employees. The company plans to expand its annual production capacity up to 4,000 tons from June this year. Following this round, Daiz will work with Ajinomoto and Nichirei Foods (Nichirei Foods joined the series A round) to develop products for household and commercial use using the startup’s…

Image credit: Daiz

Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced on Monday that it has secured about 1.85 billion yen (about $17.1 million) in a series B round.

Participating investors are Ajinomoto (TSE:2802), Marubeni (TSE:8002), Nippon Steel Trading (TSE:9810), Kanematsu (TSE:8020), Kanematsu Foods, ENEOS Innovation Partners, Kichiri Holdings (TSE:3082), Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Capital, The Norinchukin Bank, Global Brain, Kemuri Ventures, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Golden Asia Fund Ventures (jointly run by Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute-backed investment arm and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital), QB Capital, Shinkin Capital, and Kirin Holdings (TSE:2503).

Among these investors, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital follows the Series A investment in May 2020 while QB Capital follows the September 2018 round. The latest round brought Daiz’s funding sum to date up to 3.05 billion yen (about $28.2 million).

The company will use the funds to expand its meat substitutes production, strengthen research and development, develop global business channels, and hire new employees. The company plans to expand its annual production capacity up to 4,000 tons from June this year.

Following this round, Daiz will work with Ajinomoto and Nichirei Foods (Nichirei Foods joined the series A round) to develop products for household and commercial use using the startup’s flagship meat substitute Miracle Meat. Leveraging the network of trading companies like Marubeni, Nippon Steel Trading, and Kanematsu/Kanematsu Foods, the company expects to cultivate sales channels for the meat substitute in both overseas and domestic markets. Daiz and ENEOS Holdings (parent company of ENEOS Innovation Partners) aim to create a low-carbon society through the spread of the meat substitute, which has a smaller environmental impact than animal meat and plant-based substitutes from defatted soybeans.

DAIZ adopts the patented Ochiai method in germinating soybeans, which activates enzymes and increases the amount of free amino acid contained by imparting stress such as lower oxygen level and higher temperature at the right timing of germination. This eventually contributes to bringing out the flavor of the raw ingredients and reproducing the meat-like texture without adding any additives.

Studist nabs $17M from Pavilion Capital and others to boost Asia expansion

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Studist, the Japanese startup behind the TeachMe Biz visual workflow management platform and the Hansoku Cloud sales promotion PDCA management platform, announced today that it has secured 1.85 billion yen (about $17.1 million US) in the latest round. In addition to existing investors such as DNX Ventures, Nippon Venture Capital, and Salesforce Ventures, participating investors in this round are 31 Ventures-Global Brain Growth I (jointly run by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), Pavilion Capital (a private equity fund by Singaporean Government-backed Temasek Holdings), and Hakuhodo DY Ventures. For Studist, this round follows their series C round back in April of 2019. The company has not disclosed the round stage but this is its fifth round securing funds from external investors. It brought the total sum of funding up to about $29.6 million US. According to the Initial startup database, the company’s post series C round (previous round) valuation is estimated about $63.4 million US. TeachMe Biz is widely used in the manufacturing, retail, and restaurant industries. The platform has served more than 318,000 accounts and saved over 520,000 SOPs (standard operation procedures) as of March of this year. In November of last year,…

Studist CEO Satoshi Suzuki
Image credit: Studist

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Studist, the Japanese startup behind the TeachMe Biz visual workflow management platform and the Hansoku Cloud sales promotion PDCA management platform, announced today that it has secured 1.85 billion yen (about $17.1 million US) in the latest round.

In addition to existing investors such as DNX Ventures, Nippon Venture Capital, and Salesforce Ventures, participating investors in this round are 31 Ventures-Global Brain Growth I (jointly run by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), Pavilion Capital (a private equity fund by Singaporean Government-backed Temasek Holdings), and Hakuhodo DY Ventures.

For Studist, this round follows their series C round back in April of 2019. The company has not disclosed the round stage but this is its fifth round securing funds from external investors. It brought the total sum of funding up to about $29.6 million US. According to the Initial startup database, the company’s post series C round (previous round) valuation is estimated about $63.4 million US.

TeachMe Biz is widely used in the manufacturing, retail, and restaurant industries. The platform has served more than 318,000 accounts and saved over 520,000 SOPs (standard operation procedures) as of March of this year.

In November of last year, the company launched Hansoku Cloud as a new product line. The platform enables chain retailers, such as small supermarkets and drugstores, to put all instructions from their headquarters to stores in a place. It can reduce the burden on store clerks and encourages them to display new products as the instructions are given in an easy-to-understand manner that does not rely on text alone.

Studist has been focused on the SaaS business, but will strengthen its consulting service for better introducing TeachMe Biz, which has been offered on a testing basis to a total of 12 big companies since August last year. Generally speaking, consulting business is often labor-intensive, but the Studist’s one may rather help bring more users to the SaaS platform.

With Mitsui Fudosan, one of the new investors, Studist intends to introduce the TeachMe Biz platform to Mitsui’s subsidiaries and tenants in their office buildings and shopping malls to help them improve their productivity.

Meanwhile, Studist has been expanding into Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand where about 70 companies are using the TeachMe Biz platform. Having Pavilion Capital onboard, Studist may be more likely to reach potential customers in Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Vietnam.

Based on the Hansoku Cloud platform, Studist plans to launch a new service for brands this summer. Details have not been disclosed but it may be something allowing brands to introduce their new products directly to retailers and use the storefront as a marketing tool. Hakuhodo, another investor in the round, has a creative department with strong ties with these brands.

Japan’s Warrantee rolling out complimentary health insurance in US, Singapore

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We first covered Warrantee seven years ago when the company’s founder Yusuke Shono was selected as a finalist at HackOsaka 2014, an annual startup conference hosted by Osaka City. His rare experience that every single home appliance he bought when he started living alone was broken triggered him to launch his first business Warrantee aiming to convert all warranties into digital. It may be often hard for us to find a warranty form when we specifically need it. He created the service because he thought it would be convenient to manage such warranties electronically, but at first he had no idea about how to get companies to pay for it or how to grow the user base. They wondered if they could provide something like, “If you register your warranty on the platform, we’ll give you another year of warranty for free.” That was the beginning of their new insurance concept. In late 2014, Warrantee received investment from Japanese cooking-recipe sharing site Cookpad (TSE:2193) and started exploring business synergy with them. This made Shono keenly aware of the strength of a complimentary service, and he says, “It’s amazing that (Cookpad) can attract so many users even though it’s free,”. This…

Image credit: Warrantee

We first covered Warrantee seven years ago when the company’s founder Yusuke Shono was selected as a finalist at HackOsaka 2014, an annual startup conference hosted by Osaka City. His rare experience that every single home appliance he bought when he started living alone was broken triggered him to launch his first business Warrantee aiming to convert all warranties into digital.

It may be often hard for us to find a warranty form when we specifically need it. He created the service because he thought it would be convenient to manage such warranties electronically, but at first he had no idea about how to get companies to pay for it or how to grow the user base. They wondered if they could provide something like, “If you register your warranty on the platform, we’ll give you another year of warranty for free.” That was the beginning of their new insurance concept.

In late 2014, Warrantee received investment from Japanese cooking-recipe sharing site Cookpad (TSE:2193) and started exploring business synergy with them. This made Shono keenly aware of the strength of a complimentary service, and he says, “It’s amazing that (Cookpad) can attract so many users even though it’s free,”. This may be another reason why Warrantee is focused on developing a complimentary service.

Shono said,

Insurance for home appliances could be provided for free (as a way for sponsoring appliance manufacturers in return to obtain detailed user profiles) because it’s inexpensive, but not for automobiles because of high price. But if, for example, we divide a year by 365 days and ask a companies to pay 200 yen a day for each user, it could work.

Warrantee announced the launch of its first InsureTech business in 2017. Warrantee CEO Yusuke Shono (left), Tokio Marine Nichido Managing Executive Officer Yusuke Otsuka (right)
Image credit: Warrantee

In 2017, Warrantee, which had been touting themselves a warranty managing startup, suddenly started talking about insurance. Through its experience launching insurance business, Shono says his company could learn about Japan’s Insurance Business Act and how to coordinate with government agencies. Warrantee’s “Free Insurance” is a way of making on-demand insurance premium-free.

He explained,

One example is our partnership between Japanese air-conditioner giant Daikin and property franchisor Century 21 Japan. Daikin wanted to connect with property owners (such as landlords) who owned a large number of air conditioners in their properties. However, since air conditioners are typically sold through retailers or housing equipment companies, Daikin had no profile of these air conditioner owners as end users.

By having Daikin sponsor our product, Warrantee provided property owners with an additional warranty for their air conditioners free of charge. In return, Daikin could obtain the real estate owner’s profiles. It was a win-win situation for both Daikin and the property owners.

Despite its start with insurance for home appliances, Shono’s company can provide the service even for clinics which typically own expensive medical equipments. In view of how pharmaceutical firms and medical equipment manufacturers approaching medical institutions, we may imagine their sales representatives making on-site visits and phone calls but this is inefficient because medical professionals are often very busy. If Warrantee can provide give the firms sales channels in return for sponsoring Free Insurance for clinics, medical professionals would be willing to find the time slot for meet-up.

He continued,

Many manufacturers are pivoting their business model from product selling to subscription-based. For example, before a product becomes obsolete or broken, they can send customers a new model at no extra cost after 10 years of their first purchase. I believe that our Free Insurance is a great match for this trend.

The Free Insurance concept can be applied not only to “products” but also to “humans”. For example, it may give osteoporosis patients calcium supplements for free, or may allow people to sign up for complimentary health promotion services based on the result of their medical checkup. Some people may be reluctant to give out their profile but many may be willing to receive these rewards if the benefits outweigh the negatives.

He added,

Japan has a universal health insurance system that allows all its nationals to receive advanced medical care at lower cost. But US and Singapore don’t, so doctor bills there vary from hospital to hospital, making it easy for us to launch the Free Insurance in these markets. In the US, not only health insurance but also car insurance is expensive. We decided to open a branch office in Singapore because it is a good place to start something new.

Warrantee’s core members are located in Tokyo and Osaka, but we finally learned why Shono has repeatedly visited Singapore despite the inconvenience of being quarantined for two weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Free Insurance business seems to be doing quite well although the amount of sales is unknown, and the firm is aiming for an IPO in the US through an SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) in the near future, sources say.

In February, Evo Acquisition was incorporated as an SPAC to help get Japanese companies listed in the US. There will be more and more Japanese startups like Warrantee seeking a way out of the global market and aiming for a US IPO.