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Japan’s cloud-based CCTV solution provider Safie hits $1.6B market cap after IPO

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Safie (TSE: 4375), the Japanese startup offering cloud-based CCTV solutions, went public on the TSE Mothers market on Wednesday. The company has priced its initial public offering at 2,430 yen (about $22) a share but it hit the highest price of 3,700 yen (about $33) last week which brought the company’s market cap up to over 180 billion yen (about $1.6 billion). In Japan, Safie is this year’s fourth IPO-ed company with a market cap over 100 billion yen (about $900 million) at its opening price, following Taiwanese AI startup Appier, job-placement portal site BizReach’s parent company Visional, and data analysis firm Plus Alpha Consulting. Safie was founded in October of 2014 by Ryuhei Sadoshima (currently CEO) and his two longtime colleagues who all previously worked at Japanese image processing startup Motion Portrait, a spin-off of Sony’s Kihara Research Center. Sadoshima is also known for Daigakunote.com, his previous startup running a university student portal. The company launched a cloud-based CCTV solution back in 2015. Safie has so far secure funds from NTT Docomo Ventures, 31Ventures (by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), Innovation Fund 25 (by Senshu Ikeda Bank and others), Orix, Kansai Electric…

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Safie (TSE: 4375), the Japanese startup offering cloud-based CCTV solutions, went public on the TSE Mothers market on Wednesday. The company has priced its initial public offering at 2,430 yen (about $22) a share but it hit the highest price of 3,700 yen (about $33) last week which brought the company’s market cap up to over 180 billion yen (about $1.6 billion).

In Japan, Safie is this year’s fourth IPO-ed company with a market cap over 100 billion yen (about $900 million) at its opening price, following Taiwanese AI startup Appier, job-placement portal site BizReach’s parent company Visional, and data analysis firm Plus Alpha Consulting.

Safie was founded in October of 2014 by Ryuhei Sadoshima (currently CEO) and his two longtime colleagues who all previously worked at Japanese image processing startup Motion Portrait, a spin-off of Sony’s Kihara Research Center. Sadoshima is also known for Daigakunote.com, his previous startup running a university student portal. The company launched a cloud-based CCTV solution back in 2015.

Safie has so far secure funds from NTT Docomo Ventures, 31Ventures (by Mitsui Fudosan and Global Brain), Innovation Fund 25 (by Senshu Ikeda Bank and others), Orix, Kansai Electric Power, Canon Marketing Japan, NEC Capital Solutions, and others.

Japan’s Citadel AI secures seed round to automatically detect errors in predictions

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Citadel AI, the Japanese startup developing automated AI quality maintenance tools, announced on Monday that it has secured 100 million yen (about $900,000 US) in a seed round from UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC) and Anri. For the startup, this is the first funding from external investors. They launched Citadel Rader in beta in May, aiming to help companies protect themselves from AI-specific risks by automatically monitoring their AI systems, detecting, blocking, and visualizing anomalies. Citadel AI was launched in December by CEO Hironori “Rick” Kobayashi and CTO Kenny Song. Prior to Citadel AI, Kobayashi served Loyalty Marketing as president, Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas) as SVP, and US-based meat processing firm Indiana Packers Corporation as CEO. Meanwhile, Song led the development of TensorFlow and AutoML as a product manager at Google Brain, the tech giant’s AI research and development unit. Unlike traditional hardware-based software, AI systems are exposed to an ever-changing real-world environment that degrades their accuracy and quality day by day. It is important for businesses to maintain the quality of AI functions by automatically detecting anomalies before they are misrecognized and misjudged, resulting in business losses and compliance issues. Citadel Rader has an XAI (eXplainable Artificial Intelligence) function that…

Image credit: Citadel AI

Citadel AI, the Japanese startup developing automated AI quality maintenance tools, announced on Monday that it has secured 100 million yen (about $900,000 US) in a seed round from UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC) and Anri. For the startup, this is the first funding from external investors. They launched Citadel Rader in beta in May, aiming to help companies protect themselves from AI-specific risks by automatically monitoring their AI systems, detecting, blocking, and visualizing anomalies.

Citadel AI was launched in December by CEO Hironori “Rick” Kobayashi and CTO Kenny Song. Prior to Citadel AI, Kobayashi served Loyalty Marketing as president, Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas) as SVP, and US-based meat processing firm Indiana Packers Corporation as CEO. Meanwhile, Song led the development of TensorFlow and AutoML as a product manager at Google Brain, the tech giant’s AI research and development unit.

Unlike traditional hardware-based software, AI systems are exposed to an ever-changing real-world environment that degrades their accuracy and quality day by day. It is important for businesses to maintain the quality of AI functions by automatically detecting anomalies before they are misrecognized and misjudged, resulting in business losses and compliance issues. Citadel Rader has an XAI (eXplainable Artificial Intelligence) function that automatically detects and blocks AI input and output anomalies and visualizes them in a form that humans can understand.

Kobayashi says,

In the development stage, AI reads only clean data, but when it moves to actual operation, it receives a variety of data, including those with input errors. Basically, people think that computers will give correct answers, and even if they give wrong answers, it is difficult to point them out.

Since it is difficult for companies to allocate human resources to monitor the output of AI, our tool may help AI engineers who are usually busy with their daily work find the time to concentrate on their original work.

Image credit: Citadel AI

When a system integrator receives an order for an AI system, they will typically implement the system but not provide services to automate the operation and maintenance afterwards.

Kobayashi continued,

If the accuracy and quality of the data deteriorates, in the worst case scenario, it could lead to errors in sales forecasting, or in credit approval. For example, think FATF (Financial Action Task Force, the global organization working with money laundering regulators in various countries). A single node with poor security in determining a money laundering case could lead to the vulnerability of the entire global network, which could lead to the node not being allowed to join the organization.

He added that Citadel Rader is currently used by more than 10 companies on a trial basis and is in talks with more than 100 companies as potential users. The company plans to use the funds to expand its engineering team for the product’s official launch which is scheduled next spring.

Japanese smart lock developer Photosynth files for IPO

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Tokyo-based Photosynth, the Japanese startup developing and offering smart lock Akerun as well as cloud-based room-entry access control system, announced on Thursday that its application to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on November 5 with plans to offer 700,000 shares for public subscription and to sell 946,900 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 5,613,300 shares. The underwriting will be led by Daiwa Securities and Credit Suisse while Photosynth’s ticker code will be 4379. Based on the estimated issue price of 1,500 yen (about $13.4), the company will be valued at 22.9 billion yen (about $204.2 million). Its share price range will be released on October 19 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on October 20 and pricing on October 26. According to the consolidated statement as of December 2020, they posted revenue of 1,175.9 million yen ($10.5 million) with an ordinary loss of 683.5 million yen ($6.1 million). Founded back in September 2014 by Kodai Kawase, Photosynth aims to allow people to gain access to spaces without carrying physical keys. They have developed IoT-based connected smart locks and a cloud-based authentication platform, offering them to…

Photostynth CEO Kodai Kawase

Tokyo-based Photosynth, the Japanese startup developing and offering smart lock Akerun as well as cloud-based room-entry access control system, announced on Thursday that its application to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on November 5 with plans to offer 700,000 shares for public subscription and to sell 946,900 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 5,613,300 shares. The underwriting will be led by Daiwa Securities and Credit Suisse while Photosynth’s ticker code will be 4379.

Based on the estimated issue price of 1,500 yen (about $13.4), the company will be valued at 22.9 billion yen (about $204.2 million). Its share price range will be released on October 19 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on October 20 and pricing on October 26. According to the consolidated statement as of December 2020, they posted revenue of 1,175.9 million yen ($10.5 million) with an ordinary loss of 683.5 million yen ($6.1 million).

Founded back in September 2014 by Kodai Kawase, Photosynth aims to allow people to gain access to spaces without carrying physical keys. They have developed IoT-based connected smart locks and a cloud-based authentication platform, offering them to users based on a subscription basis.

Last year, the company introduced the Akerun Access Intelligence, an access authentication platform to realize a keyless society, as well as a new service called the Akerun visitor management system. In this scheme, users can associate their unique identity used in real life, such as NFC transit card, smartphone, employee ID and entrance pass with their digital entity such as e-mail address and phone number, and then register all them in to the cloud. This allows users to gain access to various spaces such as their office, building and home with just a single ID.

The company won the grand prize at the JR East Startup Program, a startup accelerator program by Japan’s largest railway company, with a system offering access control for the entry to office buildings using JR’s Suica NFC transit card. They established a joint venture with Japanese leading lock and security company Miwa Lock in January.

Led by CEO Kawase (18.35%), the company’s major shareholders include Globis Capital Partners (9.81%), Norinchukin Bank (7.45%), Jafco (5.47%), Fidelity Funds (4.34%), Globis Fund (4.19%), Daiwa Corporate Investment (4.18%), Gaiax (3.82%), Tokyo Metropolitan Government (3.48%), Fidelity Japan Trust (3.10%), and Executive Vice President Hiroaki Uesaka (2.65%).

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Japan’s Incubate Fund launches $147M fund for growth-stage startups

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Tokyo-based VC firm Incubate Fund announced on Tuesday that it has established a new growth fund called IFGO worth 16.1 billion yen (about $147 million). This is the sixth flagship fund for the firm since its first fund established in 2010 (excluding regional funds and franchise funds in India, the US, and Brazil). With the launch of the new fund, Incubate Fund’s AUM (assets under management) has reached approximately 62 billion yen (about $567 million). Focusing on follow-on investments in their more than 400 portfolio companies, the firm will start investing in middle- and later-stage startups. The firm has been focused on investing in early-stage startups, especially those in seed to series B rounds. When a promising startup in need of funding came to the firm but they are in the middle or later stage, the firm may have experienced to decline the startup’s request due to scope mismatch. In an interview with Bridge, Masahiko Honma, the firm’s founder and managing partner says, the new fund is to actively invest in the firm’s portfolio startups preparing for IPO and help them become unicorns. The fund’s ticket size is expected to be 500 million to 2.5 billion yen (about $4.6 million…

Image credit: Incubate Fund

Tokyo-based VC firm Incubate Fund announced on Tuesday that it has established a new growth fund called IFGO worth 16.1 billion yen (about $147 million). This is the sixth flagship fund for the firm since its first fund established in 2010 (excluding regional funds and franchise funds in India, the US, and Brazil). With the launch of the new fund, Incubate Fund’s AUM (assets under management) has reached approximately 62 billion yen (about $567 million). Focusing on follow-on investments in their more than 400 portfolio companies, the firm will start investing in middle- and later-stage startups.

The firm has been focused on investing in early-stage startups, especially those in seed to series B rounds. When a promising startup in need of funding came to the firm but they are in the middle or later stage, the firm may have experienced to decline the startup’s request due to scope mismatch. In an interview with Bridge, Masahiko Honma, the firm’s founder and managing partner says, the new fund is to actively invest in the firm’s portfolio startups preparing for IPO and help them become unicorns.

Image credit: Incubate Fund

The fund’s ticket size is expected to be 500 million to 2.5 billion yen (about $4.6 million to 22.8 million), aiming to actively lead pre-IPO rounds. If it is possible for middle- and later-stage startups to secure billions of yen in their pre-IPO round, they will no longer have to rush into an IPO but will be able to gain sufficient profitability, recognition, an appropriate valuation before it. The Japanese market used to be ridiculed for having many small IPOs compared to the U.S. and other countries, but the recent emergence of growth funds and large funds in Japan may help resolve these issues.

The firm also disclosed some of the investees from the new fund: ispace (lunar development), BellFace (online sales SaaS), Wovn (website multilingualization solution), Timers (parenting app development), Caster (online secretary and assistant), and Satori (marketing automation tool developer). Since all these startups have won a certain level of recognition from the market, there’s no doubt if any of them has started countdown to an IPO.

Image credit: Incubate Fund

About 57% of the new fund is backed by financial institutions and university foundations from North America, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Honma says there may be two main reasons behind the fact. First, the firm proactively disclosed their track records, sharing their performance to date in terms of DPI (Distributions to Paid in Capital) with potential investors, which helped gain the latter’s great understanding.

Secondly, geopolitical trends have also had a significant impact on the market. Due to the offensive between the U.S. and Chinese governments, as well as the restrictions imposed by the Chinese government, China’s big tech market is becoming increasingly suspicious. Even though we don’t know much about the inner workings of the market, the world’s money, with its huge appetite for consumption and expectations of speculative growth, is losing its way here. The Japanese market has been attracting attention because of its moderate market size, stable politics and economy, and steady real returns.

Honma says,

I have wanted to launch such a fund for a long time. Asked about why we could do it at this time this year, I think it’s significantly triggered by the momentum.

Incubate Fund has a strong presence in Japan, but I had a strong impression that they are pouring money from Japanese investors into promising startups in Southeast Asia, as Homma is based out of Singapore and they have invested in KK Fund other funds in the region. With the launch of the new fund, a two-way money flow will be created where funds from overseas will be invested in Japanese startups, which will benefit their international business expansion in the future.

Since the beginning of this year, Japanese independent VC firms have launched a series of large funds worth over 10 billion yen (about $9.1 million): One Capital closed its first fund with 16 billion yen while University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners (UTEC) launched its 30 billion yen fifth fund. Coral Capital launched its third fund worth 14 billion yen, revealing that a third of its investors are from overseas.

Japan curated news app SmartNews secures $230M in series F at $2B valuation

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SmartNews announced on Wednesday that it has raised US$230 million in a Series F round. This brings the company’s total amount raised to date to over US$400 million, and its valuation up to US$2 billion, the highest for a single news app, securing its “double unicorn” status. This follows the close of their previous series E round announced 22 months ago. Participating investors in this round include Princeville Capital and Woodline Partners from the US, JIC Venture Growth Investments, Green Co-Invest Investment, and Yamauchi No.10 Family Office (by Nintendo founder’s family) from Japan in addition to existing investors like ACA Investments and SMBC Venture Capital. According to AppAnnie’s monthly average usage of mobile apps for iOS and Android in the U.S., SmartNews ranked first with 4.7 hours, followed by FlipBoard (4.5 hours) in the second as well as Google News (2.9 hours) and Apple News (0.8 hours). Futhermore, the number of monthly active users has doubled since 2019 (as of 2019, the total number of users in the US and Japan was 20 million). SmartNews plans to use the additional funding to double its headcount in the U.S. (currently 500 staffers globally) and add engineers and leaders, especially in Silicon…

SmartNews announced on Wednesday that it has raised US$230 million in a Series F round. This brings the company’s total amount raised to date to over US$400 million, and its valuation up to US$2 billion, the highest for a single news app, securing its “double unicorn” status. This follows the close of their previous series E round announced 22 months ago.

Participating investors in this round include Princeville Capital and Woodline Partners from the US, JIC Venture Growth Investments, Green Co-Invest Investment, and Yamauchi No.10 Family Office (by Nintendo founder’s family) from Japan in addition to existing investors like ACA Investments and SMBC Venture Capital.

According to AppAnnie’s monthly average usage of mobile apps for iOS and Android in the U.S., SmartNews ranked first with 4.7 hours, followed by FlipBoard (4.5 hours) in the second as well as Google News (2.9 hours) and Apple News (0.8 hours). Futhermore, the number of monthly active users has doubled since 2019 (as of 2019, the total number of users in the US and Japan was 20 million).

SmartNews plans to use the additional funding to double its headcount in the U.S. (currently 500 staffers globally) and add engineers and leaders, especially in Silicon Valley, New York, and San Francisco. The company will also expand its dashboard on the COVID-19 vaccine and its “News From All Sides” feature which gives users easy access to a wide range of political views.

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Teatis closes seed round with $700K, offering meal replacement for diabetic Americans

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Launched by Japanese serial entrepreneur Hiroshi Takatoh, Teatis offers meal replacement / superfood powders for diabetic consumers mainly in the US. The company announced on Friday that it has secured $700,000 in a seed round. Participating in the round are Genesia Ventures, Ryo Ishizuka (co-founder of Japanese C2C company Mercari), Takuya Noguchi (founder of Japanese men’s skincare D2C brand Bulk Homme), and seven unnamed angel investors. This round follows the company’s angel round announced in June and brings their total funding amount up to over $1 million. Noguchi participated in the previous round. Focusing on diabetes, one of the most common lifestyle-related diseases among people today, Teatis started offering meal replacements, which contain a lot of superfood ingredients such as seaweed polyphenols, in the US, where about 120 million people are said to have pre- and diabetes. When dissolved in water, it can be drunk as a smoothie or latte with a focus to help curb blood sugar spike, contains no chemicals nor sweeteners but seaweed extract which has been proven to inhibit the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract and help maintain normal blood sugar levels. Prior to the official launch, Takatoh revealed Teatis already had about 4,000…

Image credit: Teatis

Launched by Japanese serial entrepreneur Hiroshi Takatoh, Teatis offers meal replacement / superfood powders for diabetic consumers mainly in the US. The company announced on Friday that it has secured $700,000 in a seed round. Participating in the round are Genesia Ventures, Ryo Ishizuka (co-founder of Japanese C2C company Mercari), Takuya Noguchi (founder of Japanese men’s skincare D2C brand Bulk Homme), and seven unnamed angel investors. This round follows the company’s angel round announced in June and brings their total funding amount up to over $1 million. Noguchi participated in the previous round.

Focusing on diabetes, one of the most common lifestyle-related diseases among people today, Teatis started offering meal replacements, which contain a lot of superfood ingredients such as seaweed polyphenols, in the US, where about 120 million people are said to have pre- and diabetes. When dissolved in water, it can be drunk as a smoothie or latte with a focus to help curb blood sugar spike, contains no chemicals nor sweeteners but seaweed extract which has been proven to inhibit the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract and help maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Prior to the official launch, Takatoh revealed Teatis already had about 4,000 pre-registered users in June. Asked these users a try, the company received a lot of feedback that they felt it helped control elevated blood sugar levels. In September, they plan to launch a platform called Teatis RD on Demand, aiming to give users nutrition advice by registered dietitians.

via PR Newswire

Japan EdTech startup Atama Plus secures $46M+ series B round for global expansion

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See the original story in Japanese. Atama Plus, the Japanese startup offering AI-based learning materials for cram schools under the same name, announced Wednesday that it has fundraised about 5 billion yen (about $46.4 million US) in a series B round. In addition to existing investors such as DCM Ventures and JAFCO Group, participating investors include the Singapore Government-backed Temasek Holdings’ Pavilion Capital and US-based T. Rowe Price. This has brought the company’s funding sum to date up to about 8.2 billion yen (about $74.6 million). The learning platform allows users to shorten the time to acquire basic academic skills. It can detect where students are likely to get stuck during learning, so it can teach the teacher when they are likely to get stuck, enabling precise and efficient coaching. It is being used in more than 2,500 classrooms, including Japanese notable cram school chains like the Sundai Group and the Z-kai Group, as it is expected to have a high learning effect. In July of last year, the company began offering online mock exams, and in December, it launched a joint research group with Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto to link the company’s learning data to the university’s entrance exams….

The Atama Plus team
Image credit: Atama Plus

See the original story in Japanese.

Atama Plus, the Japanese startup offering AI-based learning materials for cram schools under the same name, announced Wednesday that it has fundraised about 5 billion yen (about $46.4 million US) in a series B round. In addition to existing investors such as DCM Ventures and JAFCO Group, participating investors include the Singapore Government-backed Temasek Holdings’ Pavilion Capital and US-based T. Rowe Price. This has brought the company’s funding sum to date up to about 8.2 billion yen (about $74.6 million).

The learning platform allows users to shorten the time to acquire basic academic skills. It can detect where students are likely to get stuck during learning, so it can teach the teacher when they are likely to get stuck, enabling precise and efficient coaching. It is being used in more than 2,500 classrooms, including Japanese notable cram school chains like the Sundai Group and the Z-kai Group, as it is expected to have a high learning effect.

In July of last year, the company began offering online mock exams, and in December, it launched a joint research group with Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto to link the company’s learning data to the university’s entrance exams. With the latest fund, the company aims to expand its business by increasing employees from the current 160 to 250.

Overseas investors joined the round for the first time

Image credit: Atama Plus

It is rare for foreign funds such as Temasek and T. Rowe Price to invest in privately held Japanese companies, but there have been a few cases in the past, including Studyst and SuperStudio (both from Pavilion Capital), and Freee and Sansan (both from T. Rowe Price).

Global investments (mostly in the US) in the first half of 2021 totaled $288 billion, up significantly from $110 billion in the same period last year. Among these investments, Temasek has invested in 47 companies in the first half of 2021 alone. Temasek invested in 47 companies in the first half of 2021 alone, while T. Rowe Price’s investments totaled $5 billion.

So, why haven’t they paid more attention to Japanese startups so far? As I heard from a local investor, typical overseas investors tend to evaluate deals based on market size. They simply evaluate companies based on their market cap, so the upside is Apple as their market cap hit $2.4 trillion as of this writing.

Manwhile, foreign investors are unlikely to invest in startups which cannot compete in the global arena. Conversely, these investors recognized that Atama Plus CEO Inada and his team could compete globally. In fact, Inada said that the reason for having foreign funds in this round is aiming for a global IPO.

Competing in the global market

The world’s most valued EduTech companies – Toppr (India), Byju’s (India) Yuanfudao (China), and Descoplica (Brazil)

According to Inada the global education market is estimated $3.8 trillion, while $226 billion in Japan alone including $9 billion for cram and prep schools. The Yano Research Institute’s report (forecast as of 2019) says that the market of cram schools, prep schools, language learning and qualification courses is estimated to be about $25.3 billion, with Benesse at the top of the industry with sales of about $4 billion while other businesses scattered across the country.

Meanwhile, as shown in the list of unicorns, Asian startups are making remarkable progress in the global education market. In particular, India’s Byju’s (valued at $16.5 billion) and China’s Yuanfudao (valued at $15.5 billion) may be definite rivals for Atama Plus in the global competition because both of the startups were founded back in 2017 when Atama Plus was so. By the way, Japanese largest education company Benesse is valued at about $2.4 billion (as of this writing).

Inada and his team’s idea wants to take a firm position as a top player by starting with cram and prep schools in Japan first (there about 50,000 schools nationwide), while at the same time expanding the business beyond cram and prep school materials, such as online mock exams and the joint project with Ritsumeikan. The platform used to have a problem taking a long time for onboarding, but now it has been streamlined and the introduction to cram and prep schools has become smoother than before.

Inada thinks that the education market in China and India is still under development, and the challenge there is offering better access to education rather than pursuing the quality of learning materials. The inflated valuations of education startups in these markets are much dependent on marketing-led growth but his company may have a better chance of winning the competition with the quality of products, he says.

Merpay’s Aoyagi joined the board

From left: Naoki Aoyagi (newly-appointed advisor for Atama Plus, CEO of Merpay), Daisuke Inada (Founder and CEO of Atama Plus)

Prior to the latest funding, Merpay CEO Naoki Aoyagi joined the advisory board of Atama Plus. Inada’s intention having him on the board is to learn how to compete in the global market. In the past decade, we haven’t seen that many tech entrepreneurs from Japan challenging the world.

Aoyagi is around Inada’s age, and his experience having startups like Gree and Merpay grown up to giants will certainly be very beneficial for Inada’s team. Atama Plus uses the funds to expand to 250 employees, and such a growth at a startups is the first-time experience for Inada even if he has worked at the education business unit at an enterprise like Mitsui & Co. Inada wants to property deal properly with growing pains that may occur in the future by learning from him in advance.

The company’s latest funding has a huge potential in terms of not only a rare case of funding for a Japanese startup from global institutional investors but also a case study of those looking at global expansion. We’ll keep our eyes on how they will fare from now on.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda

Kamereo secures $4.5M in series A to expand food supply chains in Vietnam

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Ho Chi Minh City-based Kamereo, the startup behind a B2B food marketplace for restaurants in Vietnam under the same name, announced today that it has raised 500 million yen (about $4.5 million US) in a Series A round. Participating investors in this round are CPF Group (the food distribution arm of the Thai business conglomerate Charoen Pokphand), Singapore-based Quest Ventures, Tokyo-based Genesia Ventures, and several unnamed individual investors. Genesia Ventures follows Kamereo’s previous round back in January of 2019. Quest Ventures is a VC firm founded in 2010 by Singaporean entrepreneur James Tan and Chinese entrepreneur Yunming Wang, both of whom successfully launched Chinese Groupon clone Wowo a.k.a. 55Tuan and subsequently listed it on NASDAQ. The firm has so far invested in more than 60 startups including notable names in South East Asia such as automobile marketplace and subscription-based rental startup Carro (joined the Unicorn Club last month), flea market app Carousell (reportedly planning the US IPO via SPAC within this year). Kamereo was founded back in June of 2018 by HCMC-based Japanese entrepreneur Taku Tanaka. Prior to launching the startup, he previously worked at Credit Suisse followed by joining Pizza 4Ps, one of the most popular pizza chains in…

KAMEREO management: CEO Taku Tanaka stands in the third from left, CTO Hiroshi Tokaku stands in the fifth from left.
Image credit: Kamereo

Ho Chi Minh City-based Kamereo, the startup behind a B2B food marketplace for restaurants in Vietnam under the same name, announced today that it has raised 500 million yen (about $4.5 million US) in a Series A round. Participating investors in this round are CPF Group (the food distribution arm of the Thai business conglomerate Charoen Pokphand), Singapore-based Quest Ventures, Tokyo-based Genesia Ventures, and several unnamed individual investors. Genesia Ventures follows Kamereo’s previous round back in January of 2019.

Quest Ventures is a VC firm founded in 2010 by Singaporean entrepreneur James Tan and Chinese entrepreneur Yunming Wang, both of whom successfully launched Chinese Groupon clone Wowo a.k.a. 55Tuan and subsequently listed it on NASDAQ. The firm has so far invested in more than 60 startups including notable names in South East Asia such as automobile marketplace and subscription-based rental startup Carro (joined the Unicorn Club last month), flea market app Carousell (reportedly planning the US IPO via SPAC within this year).

Kamereo
Image credit: Kamereo

Kamereo was founded back in June of 2018 by HCMC-based Japanese entrepreneur Taku Tanaka. Prior to launching the startup, he previously worked at Credit Suisse followed by joining Pizza 4Ps, one of the most popular pizza chains in Vietnam, as the Chief Operating Officer. In a previous interview with Bridge, they were advocating a platform that would streamline communication, trading, and management that restaurants have with a variety of suppliers, similar to what Infomart (TSE: 2492) has been doiing in Japan, but it looks like their business has pivoted a bit since then.

Tanaka explained:

The structure of food supply chains is different in Japan and Vietnam. In Japan, there are many restaurant chains with multiple stores, and once a supplier starts selling to one store, it may be relatively easy to expand into other store in the same chain. Restaurants can also receive exactly what they have ordered to suppliers.

However, in Vietnam, both the system of restaurants and suppliers are still developing. There are many family-run restaurants which don’t usually require a huge amount of food supply so they buy directly from a nearby market. That’s why we pivoted to a food supplier in August of 2019. We are buying foods from producers and delivers to stores.

The Kamereo team
Image credit: Kamereo

If you’ve visited Ho Chi Minh City, you may know that there are still narrow alleys in the old town area while development is going on all over the city. In order to deliver food to restaurants in these places in a timely manner, motorcycles are very useful. Although motorcycles cannot carry a large amount at once, the company has set up multiple distribution centers in the city to ensure efficient deliveries to these restaurants. In addition to Cash on Delivery, the company accepts selling on credit on a semi-monthly or monthly payment basis.

On the contrary to most vegetables which can be procured from small-scale businesses such as farmers, it will be necessary to deal with majors for obtaining meats because it requires capital investment such as slaughterhouses and HACCP-certified fresh meat plants. With this background, Kamereo decided to raise funds from CPF Group.

B2B food supply platforms are showing steady growth in many countries, such as FoodMarven in the U.S., Meicai in China (Bloomberg reported in May that it’s preparing for an IPO in the U.S.), Ninjacart in India (with a market cap of US$500 million as of May), Twiga Foods in Kenya, and Supp.li in Poland and Hungary. Kamereo currently has about 100 employees, and aims to become a leading player in this sector in Vietnam by 2022 by expanding into Hanoi, the country’s capital and second most populous city.

Japanese chat fiction app Peep secures series D from Tencent for global expansion

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Tokyo-based Taskey, the Japanese startup behind chat fiction app Peep, announced last week that it has secured a series D round from Chinese tech giant Tencent. For the startup, this follows their previous funding rounds in June of 2015, July of 2018, and May of 2019. The funding amount of the latest round has not been disclosed but it is estimated seven-digit or more figures in US dollars based on the size of previous rounds. The company was founded in 2014 by Hiromu Oishi who is also known as novelist Romy Oishi for his works “Love is a Loaded Pistol” and “Escalator Boy”. In December of 2017, his startup launched the Peep app, which allows subscribers to read stories in the category of chat fiction, a format of web fiction written solely in the form of text-message or instant messaging conversations. A flock of excellent works created by novelists and editors have contributed to achieving the 3 million downloads milestone to date. Compared to comics and video clips, text may seem unremarkable but it can be a base for derivative works in other formats, which is very advantageous for creating more potential for films or TV drama series. Despite only…

Image credit: Taskey

Tokyo-based Taskey, the Japanese startup behind chat fiction app Peep, announced last week that it has secured a series D round from Chinese tech giant Tencent. For the startup, this follows their previous funding rounds in June of 2015, July of 2018, and May of 2019. The funding amount of the latest round has not been disclosed but it is estimated seven-digit or more figures in US dollars based on the size of previous rounds.

The company was founded in 2014 by Hiromu Oishi who is also known as novelist Romy Oishi for his works “Love is a Loaded Pistol” and “Escalator Boy”. In December of 2017, his startup launched the Peep app, which allows subscribers to read stories in the category of chat fiction, a format of web fiction written solely in the form of text-message or instant messaging conversations. A flock of excellent works created by novelists and editors have contributed to achieving the 3 million downloads milestone to date.

Compared to comics and video clips, text may seem unremarkable but it can be a base for derivative works in other formats, which is very advantageous for creating more potential for films or TV drama series. Despite only 2,000 titles available on the app at the moment, “let’s read” video clips featuring these titles have been viewed more than 45 million times to date. It has also succeeded in winning the hearts of the Gen Z by creating clips starring notable influencers.

The company plans to use the funds to add a new viewing experience called Illustrated Novels (literally translated) to the app. In addition, they will launch a global version app in August where users can read English translation of the works from the Peep app. By teaming up with Tencent, the Chinese tech giant renowned for its strength in promoting and developing various types of games, Taskey expects to turn their smash-hit fictions into games and expand them globally.

 

 

Webtoons have been driving force behind the creation of movies and TV drama series in Korea. Our readers may recall that Korean webtoon studio Tapas Media was acquired by portal giant Kakao for US$510 million last year, and more recently, Korean short-form drama startup WhyNot Media secured funding from Japanese telco KDDI to expand into the Japanese market.

Kakao Japan, the Japanese subsidiary of Korean platform giant known for running the Piccoma digital comics platform, secured $526.5 million in funding, which brought their market cap to $7.7 billion and is expected to soon join the so-called Decacorn Club. Rocket Staff, the Japanese startup joining the umbrella of Japanese anime conglomerate Animate back in January, is aiming to develop its webtoon business in Japan while Korean portal giant Naver has announced that it will integrate Wattpad, a Canadian novel creation social networking service acquired earlier this year, with its webtoon business to begin full-scale global expansion.

In this way, a number of platforms have been emerged to distribute content born out of the community. Although Japanese manga is highly regarded worldwide, it takes a long time to create a smash-hit due to the shortage of manga artists and their candidates.

Taking their advantage of the lower cost for finding artists and the ability to output interesting stories, Taskey will focus on developing more fictions and other intellectual properties that can be transformed into a variety of entertainment formats.

Japanese entrepreneur to launch meal replacement shakes for pre- and diabetes in US

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I think we should introduce Hiroshi Takatoh as an angel investor. He introduced Japan’s first ad fraud detection service at his own startup Momentum back in 2014, and then sold it in 2017 to Syn. Holdings (now known as Supership Holdings), a subsidiary of Japanese telco KDDI (TSE: 9433). Since then, as far as we know, he has invested in startups that contribute to improving people’s social lives, such as Triple W Japan, Legal Technology, and Holoash. Earlier this year Takatoh took became back to a serial entrepreneur by founding a new startup called to develop foods for for diabetes. It may be unusual for anyone to switch from ad to health food industry, but it seems that his feelings for his wife, who he lost to cancer, are behind his decision. Although it depends on the type of cancer and the location of the onset, there is a lot of scientific evidence that cancer cannot be completely cured by surgical treatment alone, and that it is largely due to diet. Consuming well-balanced nutritious food on a daily basis can lead to prevention, but today’s busy people do not have much time to shop and some of them may not…

Image credit: Teatis

I think we should introduce Hiroshi Takatoh as an angel investor. He introduced Japan’s first ad fraud detection service at his own startup Momentum back in 2014, and then sold it in 2017 to Syn. Holdings (now known as Supership Holdings), a subsidiary of Japanese telco KDDI (TSE: 9433). Since then, as far as we know, he has invested in startups that contribute to improving people’s social lives, such as Triple W Japan, Legal Technology, and Holoash.

Earlier this year Takatoh took became back to a serial entrepreneur by founding a new startup called to develop foods for for diabetes. It may be unusual for anyone to switch from ad to health food industry, but it seems that his feelings for his wife, who he lost to cancer, are behind his decision. Although it depends on the type of cancer and the location of the onset, there is a lot of scientific evidence that cancer cannot be completely cured by surgical treatment alone, and that it is largely due to diet. Consuming well-balanced nutritious food on a daily basis can lead to prevention, but today’s busy people do not have much time to shop and some of them may not have the cooking skills.

Hiroshi Takatoh

This is why Takatoh created meal replacements, or complete nutritious meals that can replace our usual meals. Focusing on diabetes, one of the most common lifestyle-related diseases among people today, he plans to start selling meal replacements, which contain a lot of superfood ingredients such as seaweed polyphenols, in August in the US, where about 120 million people are said to have pre- and diabetes. When dissolved in water, it can be drunk as a smoothie or latte with a focus to help curb blood sugar spikes. Many people in the US have been so far using the protein sheets to manage morning blood sugar spikes.

Dr. Yoshiro Kubota (Director Kikkoman General Hospital, preventive medicine expert Dr. Mitsuo Numata (Umikaze Clinic in Yamaguchi), and Dr. Roman Kalista (CEO, New York-based nutrition-focused AI developer RxDiet) have helped develop the Teatis meal replacement. Ahead of the official launch, about 4,000 pre-registered users have tried the Teatis product, and many of them have given positive feedback that they felt they were able to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

Before the official launch in the US, Teatis revealed that it had raised about 40 million yen ($360,000 US) in funding from several angel investors. The names disclosed include Takuya Noguchi (CEO of Japanese D2C healthcare startup), Tatsuro Shimada (former CTO, mobile Q&A app developer cConnehito), and Yuichi Uchida (Mercari). The company plans to conduct a product market fit first, and then expect to raise funds from a variety of investors around the world to expand to India, China, Japan, and other countries if the market response is good.