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

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

Screenshot of Mantra Engine ©️Kuchitaka Mitsuki
Image credit: Mantra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Umitron Pulse
Image credit: Umitron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using audio social app to discover new friends

The Dabel app
Image credit: Doki Doki

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

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

Iguchi continued.

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

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

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

Coronavirus pandemic reveals brutal truth

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

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

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

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

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

The world is catching up with the trends

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

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

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

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

He added.

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

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

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

Japanese video tech startup Paronym secures funding from Thai telecom giant

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Tokyo-based Paronym, the Japanese startup behind the TIG interactive video technology, announced on Monday that it has secured an undisclosed sum from Intouch Holdings (BKK:INTUCH), the parent company of Thailand’s largest telecom operator AIS (BKK:ADVANC). Paronym has been raising a series B round since last year, and has so far secured approximately 230 million yen (about $2.1 million) from Japan Post Capital and NTT Docomo Ventures. The company says it has closed the latest round with the funding from Intouch Holdings. This entire round brought the startup’s funding sum up to date to 690 million yen ($6.4 million). Founded back in 2016, Paronym has developed the TIG interactive video solution that allows viewers to obtain necessary information by tapping an item in a video clip. Use cases include e-commerce sites selling interiors and fashion outfits, recipe sites (linking to foods and ingredients in the recipe), and online travel guides (linking to travel destinations). The platform offers tracking editing tool that allows content owners to associate objects in a clip with link destinations in addition to heat map tool showing them which part of the clip their viewers are tapping. The company offers a different line-up for each of six different…

Paronym CEO Michio Kobayashi presented at Rock Thailand in Bangkok in December.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Tokyo-based Paronym, the Japanese startup behind the TIG interactive video technology, announced on Monday that it has secured an undisclosed sum from Intouch Holdings (BKK:INTUCH), the parent company of Thailand’s largest telecom operator AIS (BKK:ADVANC).

Paronym has been raising a series B round since last year, and has so far secured approximately 230 million yen (about $2.1 million) from Japan Post Capital and NTT Docomo Ventures. The company says it has closed the latest round with the funding from Intouch Holdings. This entire round brought the startup’s funding sum up to date to 690 million yen ($6.4 million).

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

Kobayashi shareed the development timeline of his company’s video technology service.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

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

In December, Paronym was qualified and invited to present at the second batch of Rock Thailand, a joint project by the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok and Thailand’s largest conglomerate CP Group with an aim to encourage business partnerships between the two countries, where Paronym CEO Michio Kobayashi explained his company has been seeking business alliances, series B funding, and potential sales partners in Thailand. So the latest funding means his efforts have paid off. Palonym plans to hold a joint press briefing with Intouch Holdings, and detailed plans are expected to be revealed at that time.

Remonade launches global edition, helps employees work from home more easily

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Tokyo-based Queue has launched the English version of Remonade, a team management platform that visualizes the performance of employees working from home. This is the third product for the company, following blueprint finder Blue Assistant and global startup database Sunryse. More people not only in startups but also in enterprises started working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new problems managers may face include helping smooth communication between members working apart each other as well as motivating them to maintain loyalty to the company. The Remonade platform is focused on the gap that tools like Slack and Torello cannot fill in addition to eliminating the stress these employees may feel from being watched by colleagues all day long through Skype or other tools. Remonade provides three key features: Today – offering easy daily task management Progress Sharing and Stats – showing shows daily to-dos for each member Dashboard – helping managers collect and analyze duties, granularity, and achievement rates that each of their team members is responsible for as well as their mental changes. For overall task management, you can use existing management tools, Gantt charts, and WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). But the Remonade platform visualizes daily tasks…

Tokyo-based Queue has launched the English version of Remonade, a team management platform that visualizes the performance of employees working from home. This is the third product for the company, following blueprint finder Blue Assistant and global startup database Sunryse.

More people not only in startups but also in enterprises started working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new problems managers may face include helping smooth communication between members working apart each other as well as motivating them to maintain loyalty to the company. The Remonade platform is focused on the gap that tools like Slack and Torello cannot fill in addition to eliminating the stress these employees may feel from being watched by colleagues all day long through Skype or other tools.

Remonade provides three key features:

  • Today – offering easy daily task management
  • Progress Sharing and Stats – showing shows daily to-dos for each member
  • Dashboard – helping managers collect and analyze duties, granularity, and achievement rates that each of their team members is responsible for as well as their mental changes.

For overall task management, you can use existing management tools, Gantt charts, and WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). But the Remonade platform visualizes daily tasks and helps managers grab what each of their members is working on at a glance. That’s why managers will not need to ask each of their members individually: “what are you working on?” or “how much did you work today?”

Queue CEO Naoto Shibata explained.

We wanted to help users share their status quo with their managers and colleagues as non-verbal as possible. While the government is promoting the work style reform in Japan, managers need to have more tasks to help their members work from home, such as asking them to submit a daily report. We wanted to solve this kind of problem.

The platform also has the feature to share snapshots of participating employees every few minutes (the frequency can be set arbitrarily by the user) using their laptop’s built-in camera. You can make your picture into mosaics, or even you can replace it with just an emoji and an icon.

In the future, some ideas include capturing seating times from camera images to help managers analyze the work performance of their members as well as analyzing their facial expressions to get mental feedback of them, Shibata says.

The company came up with Remonade because many of its employees work from home now. The platform can be used in conjunction with a variety of other tools, and a video conferencing tool integration is expected coming soon.

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

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

Image credit Goodpatch

See the original story in Japanese.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Daiz, Japan’s answer to Impossible Foods, secures $6M series A round

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Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced today that it has secured about 650 million yen (about $6 million) in a series A round. Investors participating in this round are: A-FIVE: Agriculture, forestry and fisheries Fund corporation for Innovation, Value-chain and Expansion Japan (Japan’s state-backed fund) Mitsubishi UFJ Capital Okasan Capital Partners Nichirei Foods (One of major brands of pre-cooked frozen foods in Japan) Kajitsudo (former parent company and current major share holder of Daiz, supplying organically-grown salad greens and leafy vegetables) Details of Daiz’s fundraising so far are unclear, but this follows the company’s previous three funding announcements: 100 million yen from Nishi-Nippon City Bank and QB Capital in September of 2018, 100 million yen from Kagoshima Bank in December of 2018, and 50 million yen from Nichirei Foods in February this year. The latest round brought their total funding sum up to about $11.2 million. The company says it will use the funds to expand its production capacity for soybean-based plant meat raw material called Miracle Chip up to 3,000 tons per year in addition to strengthen R&D efforts to get the taste of plant meat much closer to the real one. The…

Image credit: Daiz

Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced today that it has secured about 650 million yen (about $6 million) in a series A round.

Investors participating in this round are:

  • A-FIVE: Agriculture, forestry and fisheries Fund corporation for Innovation, Value-chain and Expansion Japan (Japan’s state-backed fund)
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Capital
  • Okasan Capital Partners
  • Nichirei Foods (One of major brands of pre-cooked frozen foods in Japan)
  • Kajitsudo (former parent company and current major share holder of Daiz, supplying organically-grown salad greens and leafy vegetables)

Details of Daiz’s fundraising so far are unclear, but this follows the company’s previous three funding announcements: 100 million yen from Nishi-Nippon City Bank and QB Capital in September of 2018, 100 million yen from Kagoshima Bank in December of 2018, and 50 million yen from Nichirei Foods in February this year.

The latest round brought their total funding sum up to about $11.2 million. The company says it will use the funds to expand its production capacity for soybean-based plant meat raw material called Miracle Chip up to 3,000 tons per year in addition to strengthen R&D efforts to get the taste of plant meat much closer to the real one.

Miracle Chip, Daiz’s soybean-based material for meat substitutes
Image credit: Daiz

The company 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.

In this space, we’ve recently seen updates like Impossible Foods raising $500 million to launch the sales of plant-based meat at 1,700 Kroger Co stores across the US in addition to Canada’s Livekindly (previously known as FoodsUnited) raising $200 million to invest in plant-based chicken substitutes. In April, Singapore-based Growthwell raised $8 million while Beyond Meat started offering food items using meat substitutes at over 3,300 Starbucks stores all across Mainland China.

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One Visa, Wovn join forces to keep foreign workers updated with relief efforts over COVID-19

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Two Tokyo startups – One Visa and Wovn Technologies – announced today that they are joining forces to help foreign workers in Japan keep updated with relief efforts and support measures over COVID-19. The will translate and organize notices and advisories from the government and private sectors into English, Chinese, Korean, and “Easy Japanese” so that non-native Japanese speakers can learn the latest developments. Translated updates are expected to reach more than hundreds of thousand foreign workers in Japan through the partnership with Tokyo-based foreign workers-focused recruiting agency Global Power in addition to 150 member companies belonging to Japan Shopping Tourism Organizatioin (JSTO). According to Japan’s Immigration Services Agency, over 2.8 million foreign passport holders are residing in Japan as of June 2019. One Visa has developed an online visa applications management platform, allowing Japanese companies to submit visa applications for their employees and manage when their visas will become expired and must apply for a new one. Wovn has developed an SDK (software developer kit) that allows mobile developers to easily multilingulize their websites and apps.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #4814.

Two Tokyo startups – One Visa and Wovn Technologies – announced today that they are joining forces to help foreign workers in Japan keep updated with relief efforts and support measures over COVID-19. The will translate and organize notices and advisories from the government and private sectors into English, Chinese, Korean, and “Easy Japanese” so that non-native Japanese speakers can learn the latest developments.

Translated updates are expected to reach more than hundreds of thousand foreign workers in Japan through the partnership with Tokyo-based foreign workers-focused recruiting agency Global Power in addition to 150 member companies belonging to Japan Shopping Tourism Organizatioin (JSTO). According to Japan’s Immigration Services Agency, over 2.8 million foreign passport holders are residing in Japan as of June 2019.

One Visa has developed an online visa applications management platform, allowing Japanese companies to submit visa applications for their employees and manage when their visas will become expired and must apply for a new one. Wovn has developed an SDK (software developer kit) that allows mobile developers to easily multilingulize their websites and apps.

Japan virtual YouTuber management agency raises $6.6 million to expand globally

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Cover, the startup offering management production services of VTubers (short for “virtual YouTubers”), announced on Thursday that it has raised 700 million yen (about $6.6 million US) in the latest round. The series of the round has not been specified yet. The funding comes from Hakuhodo DY Ventures, i-nest capital, Chiba Dojo, Dimension, SMBC Venture Capital, angel investors in addition to existing investors including Strive (previously known as GREE Ventures). The amount also includes loans from Mizuho Bank. For the startup, this follows their seed round funding back in August of 2017 (approx. 30 million yen from Mizuho Capital, TLM, and angel investors) and their series A round back in June of 2018 (approx. 200 million yen from GREE Ventures, OLM Ventures, and Mizuho Capital). The latest rounds brought their total funding sum up to about 1 billion yen (about $940 million). The company runs a VTuber agency business called Hololive Production which allows entertainers to perform a fictitious character using VR-based 3D avatars. In the agency, nearly 50 VTubers in Japan and overseas are attrarcting a total of more than 15 million fans through these performers’ livestreaming channels on YouTube and China’s…

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Cover, the startup offering management production services of VTubers (short for “virtual YouTubers”), announced on Thursday that it has raised 700 million yen (about $6.6 million US) in the latest round. The series of the round has not been specified yet.

The funding comes from Hakuhodo DY Ventures, i-nest capital, Chiba Dojo, Dimension, SMBC Venture Capital, angel investors in addition to existing investors including Strive (previously known as GREE Ventures). The amount also includes loans from Mizuho Bank.

For the startup, this follows their seed round funding back in August of 2017 (approx. 30 million yen from Mizuho Capital, TLM, and angel investors) and their series A round back in June of 2018 (approx. 200 million yen from GREE Ventures, OLM Ventures, and Mizuho Capital). The latest rounds brought their total funding sum up to about 1 billion yen (about $940 million).

The company runs a VTuber agency business called Hololive Production which allows entertainers to perform a fictitious character using VR-based 3D avatars. In the agency, nearly 50 VTubers in Japan and overseas are attrarcting a total of more than 15 million fans through these performers’ livestreaming channels on YouTube and China’s Bilibili.

In recent years, the company has been helping the VTubers expand their activities beyond streaming channels. Vtuber Tokino Sora successfully debuted with a Japanese major label last year while another Vtubers, such as Hoshimachi Suisei, Shirakami Fubuki, and Houshou Marine, started their radio shows earlier this year.

The company says it will use the funds to strengthen VTuber management business in Japan and overseas, promote virtual live performances, and develop other Extended Reality-based services. The company has already started offering VTuber management production services in China and Indonesia as well as rolling out auditions in several English-speaking countries.

Founded back in 2016 by Motoaki Tanigo who previously ran the restaurant curation app 30min. (pronounced ‘sun zero minute’), the company was graduated from notable startup accelerators like Incubate Camp 8th, TECH LAB PAAK’s 7th batch, and Tokyo VR Startups’ 2nd batch.

Japan’s Smartround raises from Peter Thiel-led fund to help startups manage equity

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Tokyo-based Smartround, a Japanese startup helping startups and investors manage their funding and investments respectively, announced today that it has secured 100 million yen (about $933,000) in a pre-series A round based on J-KISS, a simple term sheet framework for a convertible instrument for early startups to obtain initial financing. Participating investors in this round include FF APAC Scout, Justin Waldron, and Matias de Tezanos. FF APAC Scout is Peter Thiel-led Founders Fund’s APAC region-focused scout fund, which allows serial entrepreneurs / angel investors to back new entrepreneurs, similarly to Japan Angel Fund and Sequoia Capital’s scout fund in terms of the scheme. Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron is well known in Japan for having invested in language learning startup Lang-8 while Matias de Tezanos is a serial entrepreneur and has experienced seven exits as an investor. Since the company secured over $513,000 from more than 20 Japanese angel investors in a seed round back in March last year, the latest round suggests another massive backing from angel investors but is centered on the Inner Circle in Silicon Valley this time around. Jeff Lonsdale, who’s in charge of the investment at FF APAC Scout, said in a statement: Japan is one…

Image credit: Smartround

Tokyo-based Smartround, a Japanese startup helping startups and investors manage their funding and investments respectively, announced today that it has secured 100 million yen (about $933,000) in a pre-series A round based on J-KISS, a simple term sheet framework for a convertible instrument for early startups to obtain initial financing. Participating investors in this round include FF APAC Scout, Justin Waldron, and Matias de Tezanos.

FF APAC Scout is Peter Thiel-led Founders Fund’s APAC region-focused scout fund, which allows serial entrepreneurs / angel investors to back new entrepreneurs, similarly to Japan Angel Fund and Sequoia Capital’s scout fund in terms of the scheme. Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron is well known in Japan for having invested in language learning startup Lang-8 while Matias de Tezanos is a serial entrepreneur and has experienced seven exits as an investor.

Since the company secured over $513,000 from more than 20 Japanese angel investors in a seed round back in March last year, the latest round suggests another massive backing from angel investors but is centered on the Inner Circle in Silicon Valley this time around.

Jeff Lonsdale, who’s in charge of the investment at FF APAC Scout, said in a statement:

Japan is one of the largest economies in the world with some of the most productive and innovative workers. We should expect many more strong companies to emerge from this ecosystem and Smartround is well positioned to help create this future.

Some of our readers may recall that Lonsdale expressed his extraordinary expectations for the globalization of Japanese startups in the future at Tech in Asia Tokyo 2018.

Smartround is a cloud-based platform serving startups and their backer VCs. It offers entrepreneurs with comprehensive resources for managing their businesses such as capital policy, business management, company introduction, library, and other functions while it enables investors to track their portfolio performance online. The Smartround team appears to consider US startups like Carta and Pully as the benchmark in their growth strategy.

Smartround was founded back in May of 2018. Prior to Smartround, Masaru Sunny Sunagawa, the startup’s founder and CEO, previously worked at a trading company and a VC firm followed by launching Location Value which was later acquired by NTT Docomo back in 2014.

Regarding what the latest funds is used for, Sunagawa said in a statement:

In the midst of the ongoing turmoil caused by COVID-19, Japanese startups leading the next generation are forced to navigate a difficult path. […]

We are grateful to all of our investors who share our philosophy and ideals and are willing to back us under this circumstance, and we will continue to improve our services and expand our business globally. In particular, we would like to take advantage of this funding experience to evolve our service so that Japanese startups can raise funds from overseas investors.