THE BRIDGE

News

Japan’s powered prosthetic leg developer BionicM secures $5M in series A funding

SHARE:

Tokyo-based BionicM, the Japanese startup developing powered prosthetic legs, announced today that it has secured 550 million yen (about $5 million US) in a Series A round. Participating investors are The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC), Utokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyoIPC), and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). UTEC’s investment follows the startup’s seed round last year. UTokyoIPC financially backed BionicM by selecting for the third batch of the former’s entrepreneur support program in 2018. BionicM is developing a powered prosthetic leg that solves the challenges of traditional non-powered passive prostheses. Since the pre-foundation research stage, it has received high recognition from the public, such as winning the SXSW Interactive Innovation Award and the James Dyson Award in Japan. BionicM will represent Japan to participate in the Advanced Technology and Engineering Challenge (A-TEC), the global startup competition to be held later this month in Shenzhen by Leaguer Group, a Chinese startup support company. Founded by Xiaojun Sun who himself had to have his right leg amputated at the age of 9 due to osteosarcoma, BionicM began research and development in 2015 at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Information Science and Technology. Of the 10 million potential users…

Image credit: BionicM

Tokyo-based BionicM, the Japanese startup developing powered prosthetic legs, announced today that it has secured 550 million yen (about $5 million US) in a Series A round. Participating investors are The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC), Utokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyoIPC), and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). UTEC’s investment follows the startup’s seed round last year. UTokyoIPC financially backed BionicM by selecting for the third batch of the former’s entrepreneur support program in 2018.

BionicM is developing a powered prosthetic leg that solves the challenges of traditional non-powered passive prostheses. Since the pre-foundation research stage, it has received high recognition from the public, such as winning the SXSW Interactive Innovation Award and the James Dyson Award in Japan. BionicM will represent Japan to participate in the Advanced Technology and Engineering Challenge (A-TEC), the global startup competition to be held later this month in Shenzhen by Leaguer Group, a Chinese startup support company.

Founded by Xiaojun Sun who himself had to have his right leg amputated at the age of 9 due to osteosarcoma, BionicM began research and development in 2015 at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Information Science and Technology. Of the 10 million potential users of prosthetic legs worldwide, only about 40% actually have access to them because they are expensive or have limited functionality. The company established a corporate entity in 2018 to commercialize the product in order to bring a high-performance prosthetic leg to all those who need it at a low price.

According to BionicM, more than 99% of the global prosthetic leg market deals with passive type, and has not benefited from the technological advancements that have taken place in recent years with the proliferation of robotic technology. Passive leg prostheses not only place a heavy physical burden on the user, but also place a mental burden on the user, as they are unable to walk naturally or take turns walking up and down stairs in both legs, making them uncomfortable to watch. Powered prostheses have the potential to solve this problem.

BionicM is preparing for the mass production of powered prosthetic legs with a view to commercial launch in 2021, and the financing at this time is intended to strengthen the company’s structure to achieve this goal. The company hopes to establish a B2B2C business model where powered leg modules are offered to artificial limb factories to be built into sockets for lower-limb amputees.

BionicM hopes to have its powered leg certified as a complete prosthetic component from the government by next year. Once certified, the company would generally be eligible for the government’s subsidies under the Services and Supports for Persons with Disabilities Act, but powered prosthetic legs are high-end and expensive and may not be eligible for subsidies at the time of user purchase. The company is also looking to collaborate with other companies to introduce installment payments and leasing.

Sun says,

It is difficult to get subsidies for expensive prosthetic legs. BionicM will not only innovate in technology, but will also look to partner with other companies to provide services such as rentals and leases in a new way.

BionicM established a subsidiary in China in June where four employees have begun sales development. Due to the large population in China, the Chinese prosthetic market is larger than that of Japan. From a sales standpoint, there is a good chance that the company’s post-start-up growth will be greater in China than in Japan, Sun said.

In conjunction with the funding, BionicM also announced that Tao Cheng, founder and CEO of Japanese online ad startup popIn, has joined the company’s board of directors. Sun and Cheng are both from China and have similar backgrounds in that they were spun off from the University of Tokyo and were initially backed by UTEC. Looking up to Cheng as a predecessor who has completed an exit in Japan (popIn was acquired by Baidu in 2015), Sun said Cheng’s experience in running a software company will be of a great help of BionicM as a hardware company.

Reference:

Japan’s “flying car” developer SkyDrive secures $37M series B, unveils piloted demo flight

SHARE:

Tokyo-based SkyDrive, the Japanese drone startup spun off from the Cartivator volunteer group consisting of aircraft, drone and automotive engineers, announced on Friday that it has secured 3.9 billion yen (about $36.8 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors in this round are: Development Bank of Japan Itochu (TSE:8001) Itochu Technology Ventures Eneos Innovation Partners Obayashi Corporation (TSE:1802) Energy & Environment Investment Strive NEC (TSE:6701) Veriserve Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing For SkyDrive, this follows their series A round back in September of 2019. Among the investors participating in the latest round, Itochu Technology Ventures, Energy & Environment Investment, and Strive participated in the previous round. Since its seed round back in November of 2018, the company has raised a total of 5.7 billion yen (about 53.8 million US) to date. SkyDrive’s so-called “flying car” is an electrically-powered, vertical take-off and landing pilotless aircraft. As a new trend in the mobility industry, the drone is expected to be used for taxi service in cities, means for transportation in remote islands and mountainous areas, emergency transport in the event of a diaster. Compared to conventional air crafts, the drone is cost-effective, makes lower noise but requires a smaller space…

Tokyo-based SkyDrive, the Japanese drone startup spun off from the Cartivator volunteer group consisting of aircraft, drone and automotive engineers, announced on Friday that it has secured 3.9 billion yen (about $36.8 million US) in a series B round. Participating investors in this round are:

  • Development Bank of Japan
  • Itochu (TSE:8001)
  • Itochu Technology Ventures
  • Eneos Innovation Partners
  • Obayashi Corporation (TSE:1802)
  • Energy & Environment Investment
  • Strive
  • NEC (TSE:6701)
  • Veriserve
  • Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing

For SkyDrive, this follows their series A round back in September of 2019. Among the investors participating in the latest round, Itochu Technology Ventures, Energy & Environment Investment, and Strive participated in the previous round. Since its seed round back in November of 2018, the company has raised a total of 5.7 billion yen (about 53.8 million US) to date.

SkyDrive’s so-called “flying car” is an electrically-powered, vertical take-off and landing pilotless aircraft. As a new trend in the mobility industry, the drone is expected to be used for taxi service in cities, means for transportation in remote islands and mountainous areas, emergency transport in the event of a diaster. Compared to conventional air crafts, the drone is cost-effective, makes lower noise but requires a smaller space for take-off and landing.

Along with the announcement of the funding, SkyDrive has also announced that it has successfully conducted a four-minute public manned flight test at a test field in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, using its newly developed manned SD-03 aircraft. The company plans to continue to develop even safer and more secure technology by conducting further flight tests under a wider range of conditions based on the results.

SkyDrive hopes to have the SD-03 approved for flight by the end of this year and turn the prototype into a commercial model by 2023. The company is also developing another concept model, the SD-XX, which is said to be capable of flying at a maximum altitude of 500 meters, 100 kilometers per hour, and a range of 19 kilometers.

Studist ties up with Docomo Asia to expand visual workflow management tool into Singapore, APAC

SHARE:

Tokyo-based Studist announced today that it has partnered with NTT Docomo Asia to expand the former’s TeachMe Biz visual workflow management platform in Singapore and other Asia pacific regions. In Singapore, the Circuit Breaker measure has been forcing people to stay home for working and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Studist wants to help companies digitize their employee training and adot e-learning programs through the platform. Founded in March of 2010, Studist learned about 90% of all jobs in the world do not rely on qualifications, experience, or sensory knowledge through a survey, which let them decide to develop the platform. Its official version was launched back in late 2012 September of 2013. The company has raised over $12 million US in total, including a series C round back in April of last year. At that time, the company said it would focus on strengthening marketing, targeting sales boost in Southeast Asia, integrating APIs with other various cloud-based platforms in addition to upgrading the platform into the one for managing standard operating procedures. The company has already set up a Thai subsidiary which are expanding sales to Thai companies in addition to having started serving the platform in Malaysia in…

Tokyo-based Studist announced today that it has partnered with NTT Docomo Asia to expand the former’s TeachMe Biz visual workflow management platform in Singapore and other Asia pacific regions. In Singapore, the Circuit Breaker measure has been forcing people to stay home for working and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Studist wants to help companies digitize their employee training and adot e-learning programs through the platform.

Founded in March of 2010, Studist learned about 90% of all jobs in the world do not rely on qualifications, experience, or sensory knowledge through a survey, which let them decide to develop the platform. Its official version was launched back in late 2012 September of 2013. The company has raised over $12 million US in total, including a series C round back in April of last year. At that time, the company said it would focus on strengthening marketing, targeting sales boost in Southeast Asia, integrating APIs with other various cloud-based platforms in addition to upgrading the platform into the one for managing standard operating procedures.

The company has already set up a Thai subsidiary which are expanding sales to Thai companies in addition to having started serving the platform in Malaysia in partnership with TK International, a local IT service provider in Kuala Lumpur. Leveraging the partnership with Docomo Asia, Studist wants to boost the sales in Singapore and APAC to help companies in these regions solve their challenges over human resource development.

The platform is serving 2,600 companies in Japan (as of February 2020) and 66 companies in ASEAN countries as of today. The company aims to introduce it to 100 companies by the end of February 2021.

Daiz rolls out plant-based meat burger to nearly 180 fast-food restaurants in Japan

SHARE:

Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced today that it is offering The Good Burger using the company’s proprietary meat alternative as a patty at all stores of the Freshness Burger fast-food restaurant chain all across Japan. The Good Burger has been offered at selected stores in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area on a trial basis since the middle of this month. In the burger, a patty made from soybeans is smothered in teriyaki sauce and sandwiched with low-carb buns and vegetables. Freshness Burger, the fast-food brand operated by Japanese restaurant chain giant Colowide (TSE:7616), has 183 locations nationwide and is ranked in the sixth place in Japan by number of outlets. The new product will be available from September 1 through the end of the month exclusively to Freshness Burger app members, and will be available to all customers after October 1. 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…

The Good Burger ordered at Jiyugaoka store, the Freshness Burger fast-food chain restaurant.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced today that it is offering The Good Burger using the company’s proprietary meat alternative as a patty at all stores of the Freshness Burger fast-food restaurant chain all across Japan.

The Good Burger has been offered at selected stores in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area on a trial basis since the middle of this month. In the burger, a patty made from soybeans is smothered in teriyaki sauce and sandwiched with low-carb buns and vegetables.

Freshness Burger, the fast-food brand operated by Japanese restaurant chain giant Colowide (TSE:7616), has 183 locations nationwide and is ranked in the sixth place in Japan by number of outlets. The new product will be available from September 1 through the end of the month exclusively to Freshness Burger app members, and will be available to all customers after October 1.

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.

In May, the company secured about $6 million US in a series A round, which brought the total sum of funding to date up to about $11.4 million US.

Japan’s Medmain nabs over $10M to expand AI-powered telepathology diagnostic system

SHARE:

See the original story in Japanese. Fukuoka-based Medmain, the Japanese MedTech startup behind the PidPort telepathology solutions and the Medteria cloud for medical students, announced on Monday that it has secured 1.1 billion yen (about $10 million US) through the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that Hike Ventures has set up for this round. The company has not mentioned the stage of the rounud but it’s believed as a series A round. The latest round follows the 100 million yen funding back in August 2018, and brought the total sum of funding to date up to 1.2 billion yen (about 11.3 million US). Participating investors in this round are Fukuoka Wajiro Hospital Group, IHW Group from International University of Health and Welfare (IUHW), QTnet, Hike Ventures, Innovations and Future Creation, Deepcore, Dogan Beta as well as unnamed angel investors. Deepcore and Dogan Beta participated in the previous round. SPVs have advantages for startups, including lowering the time and effort required to raise funds, and some of our readers may recall that Japanese HRTech startup SmartHR used this scheme for their Series B round. Medmain said it adopted the scheme this time to streamline raising a large sum of funding from multiple…

The Medmain team, CEO Osamu Iizuka stands on the center.
Image credit: Medmain

See the original story in Japanese.

Fukuoka-based Medmain, the Japanese MedTech startup behind the PidPort telepathology solutions and the Medteria cloud for medical students, announced on Monday that it has secured 1.1 billion yen (about $10 million US) through the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that Hike Ventures has set up for this round. The company has not mentioned the stage of the rounud but it’s believed as a series A round. The latest round follows the 100 million yen funding back in August 2018, and brought the total sum of funding to date up to 1.2 billion yen (about 11.3 million US).

Participating investors in this round are Fukuoka Wajiro Hospital Group, IHW Group from International University of Health and Welfare (IUHW), QTnet, Hike Ventures, Innovations and Future Creation, Deepcore, Dogan Beta as well as unnamed angel investors. Deepcore and Dogan Beta participated in the previous round.

SPVs have advantages for startups, including lowering the time and effort required to raise funds, and some of our readers may recall that Japanese HRTech startup SmartHR used this scheme for their Series B round. Medmain said it adopted the scheme this time to streamline raising a large sum of funding from multiple investors including hospital managements.

The Fukuoka Wajiro Hospital Group has 24 medical institutions and seven medical education institutions in Japan, while the IHW Group from IUHW is made of medical, educational, and welfare groups with about 60 facilities nationwide. With the participation of these groups, the company intends to accelerate product development involving the clinical environment.

The PidPort functions.
Image credit: Medmain

Medmain is the first startup born out of Kyushu University’s officially approved club activity for encouraging entrepreneurship. PidPort, one of the startup’s flagship products, leverages deep learning and proprietary computer vision technology to enable quick and accurate pathology diagnosis.

In partnership with the Kyushu University School of Medicine and Kyushu University Hospital, the company has been using supercomputers to conduct high-speed learning for artificial intelligence (AI). Launching the alpha version back in winter in 2018 followed by the official version in February this year, it is conducting joint research with over 50 medical institutions in Japan.

Medical care and computer vision are considered to be a good match. Among many medical applications (e.g., radiological and endoscopic images), the company has chosen pathology as a focus because it believed this area was particularly behind in digitalization. In pathology, a doctor takes tissue samples from a patient’s body and a pathologist uses a microscope to check them. Medmain provides pathologists with an environment so that they can remotely complete this process by checking scanned images. In addition, the more images and learning data are collected, the more precise diagnosis the platform can provide. This may contribute to solving the delay in diagnosis due to the shortage of pathologists.

PidPort viewer’s image
Image credit: Medmain

Because of the restrictions of medical-related laws, PidPort is used only on a research basis at this point in Japan, but it is used for actual medical diagnosis in other countries. In countries and regions where pathologists are scarce, pathologists in Japan have provided consultation and advice to a local doctor based on images of the latter’s patient’s tissue using the platform.

In addition, the spread of the novel coronavirus has restricted the movement people including even pathologists, but the platform allows pathologists to make diagnoses online without traveling multiple hospitals, which becomes a good opportunity to advance digital pathology.

Medmain plans to use the funds to enhance its AI algorithms, investing in image scanning equipment in addition to hiring talents for global business expansion effort. In Japan, the AI-powered diagnostic function is currently limited to research use due to legal restrictions, so the company will highlight the potential of remote pathological diagnosis leveraged by digital scanning and cloud storage functions for domestic sales.

Japan’s Yenta, Tinder-inspired business networking app, expands into India

SHARE:

Some of our readers may recall that Tokyo-based Atrae (TSE:6194) has introduced a mobile app called Yenta, an AI-powered professional matching app leveraging the Tinder-like Swipe UI (user interface). It was revealed today that the company has just launched the global edition ( iOS / Android ) and chosen India as the first destination of their global expansion effort. The app helps users connect with businesspersons upon widening their network through profile registration and repeated swipes on a screen. It recommends 10 persons the user may be interested in connecting with at noon daily. After choosing which persons the user wants to meet by swiping on it, the matching result with other users will be sent out later at 8pm on the same day. When both users confirm to meet (or e-meet) each other, they can start chatting via the app to make an appointment. The latest version of the app allows even Japanese users to have their English profile so that they can connect with Indian users. We have learned that the app has contributed to helping users build significant business relationships such as Japanese factoring startup Olta’s CEO having found his CSO as co-founder in addition to Japanese…

Some of our readers may recall that Tokyo-based Atrae (TSE:6194) has introduced a mobile app called Yenta, an AI-powered professional matching app leveraging the Tinder-like Swipe UI (user interface). It was revealed today that the company has just launched the global edition ( iOS / Android ) and chosen India as the first destination of their global expansion effort.

The app helps users connect with businesspersons upon widening their network through profile registration and repeated swipes on a screen. It recommends 10 persons the user may be interested in connecting with at noon daily. After choosing which persons the user wants to meet by swiping on it, the matching result with other users will be sent out later at 8pm on the same day. When both users confirm to meet (or e-meet) each other, they can start chatting via the app to make an appointment.

The latest version of the app allows even Japanese users to have their English profile so that they can connect with Indian users. We have learned that the app has contributed to helping users build significant business relationships such as Japanese factoring startup Olta’s CEO having found his CSO as co-founder in addition to Japanese satellite antenna-sharing startup Infostellar having succeeded in finding a new seed investor through it.

Since its launch back in 2016, the Yenta has not disclosed the size of its user base but it is estimated about hundreds of thousand of users in Japan. The company revealed that it has connected users each other over 3 million times to date.

To promote the India expansion, Atrae announced that it is hosting a data analysis competition in partnership with Tokyo-based DataGateway which boasts a local community of more than 20,000 data scientists in India. Based on the Open Innovation approach, the competition is aimed to encourage them to invent a new algorithm to create better matchmaking experience in the app. The competition winner can get 10,000 US dollars as a prize.

As for business matching apps with the Tinder-like swipe UI in the English-speaking market, New York/Paris-based Shapr, launched by a French entrepreneur, has secured US$16.5 million through a total of four rounds with over 2.5 million users as of May 2019 (according to The Independent’s sponsored article). In 2018, Tinder’s founders launched an app called Ripple with the back of the dating app’s parent company Match Group, but it is believed to be already in the deadpool given various situation.

TalentEx offers online course for Russian developers to work with Japanese IT firms

SHARE:

Bangkok-based TalentEx, offering recruitment-focused online media and SaaS (software as a service) for human resource affairs, unveiled on Sunday that its Russian subsidiary has launched an online school business called CyberSamurai (КиберСамурае in Russian). The monthly subscription-based class is intended for Russian-speaking IT developers and engineers, helping them keep updated with IT industry and technology updates as well as business practices from Japan. It may also aim to allow them to enjoy commentary on Japanese anime and subculture in addition to giving them opportunities to e-meet up with CTOs from Japanese companies. TalentEx was launched back in 2013 by Yojiro Koshi who previously worked for Japanese ad network startup Nobot (Nobot was acquired by Japanese telco giant KDDI’s subsdiary Mediba in 2011). The company has several core businesses: the Wakuwaku online and offline recruiting service to find Japanese-speaking talents in Thailand, community management at the Monstar Hub Bangkok co-working space, and sales and marketing of the Michiru RPA software for Japanese companies in Thailand. See also: Meet Japanese entrepreneur trying to disrupt Thai recruitment market In July of 2018, the company founded a local subsidiary in Russia for a new project supplying Russian IT engineers to Japanese companies. After a…

Anatoli Kolbinov (left up), Dasha An (right up), and Ryosei Suginaka (left down) speak during the opening event on Sunday. All these TalentEx members can speak more than two languages including Japanese and Russian.

Bangkok-based TalentEx, offering recruitment-focused online media and SaaS (software as a service) for human resource affairs, unveiled on Sunday that its Russian subsidiary has launched an online school business called CyberSamurai (КиберСамурае in Russian). The monthly subscription-based class is intended for Russian-speaking IT developers and engineers, helping them keep updated with IT industry and technology updates as well as business practices from Japan. It may also aim to allow them to enjoy commentary on Japanese anime and subculture in addition to giving them opportunities to e-meet up with CTOs from Japanese companies.

TalentEx was launched back in 2013 by Yojiro Koshi who previously worked for Japanese ad network startup Nobot (Nobot was acquired by Japanese telco giant KDDI’s subsdiary Mediba in 2011). The company has several core businesses: the Wakuwaku online and offline recruiting service to find Japanese-speaking talents in Thailand, community management at the Monstar Hub Bangkok co-working space, and sales and marketing of the Michiru RPA software for Japanese companies in Thailand.

See also:

In July of 2018, the company founded a local subsidiary in Russia for a new project supplying Russian IT engineers to Japanese companies. After a little more than a year after its launch, the Russian business had been outpacing other businesses in Thailand in terms of revenue, but the recent coronavirus pandemic has halted it. After several months of their efforts to keep the Russian operation alive leveraging the sales from their Thai business, their Russian team of young members decided to launch a new business called CyberSamurai at this time.

The service’s mascot looks like a fox but they told us it is modeled after Masaru, renowned Russian figure skater Alina Zagitova’s Japanese dog.
Image credit: TalentEx

Many startup businesses use a model that makes money by bridging the gap between the two sides of the transaction, such as information asymmetry and arbitrage. That’s something TalentEx is good at because of having presence in four markets – Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Russia. Coming up with moving talent from market to market, we may think the biggest challenge is language gap. According to Koshi, however, he turned to recognize that’s not true while work from home is more common in a huge country like Russia in addition to the fact that such a working style is becoming the global norm due to the pandemic.

When a Japanese company hires a Russian engineer, language gap is certainly a concern at first. Recently, however, these companies have been forced to shift to work from home, job instructions and other communication among colleagues are now often done through Slack and other online tools.

Koshi continued.

With more communication using tools than face-to-face meetings, the language barrier has been lowered for foreigners than in the past. In fact, we need to more focus on the cultural gap that cannot be fully verbalized but is often seen in business practices and work processes, which is more important when working with a Japanese company.

CyberSamurai’s Telegram group

Many of my foreign friends have learned the Japanese language as a result of watching Japanese TV drama series and anime titles in their country. Japanese anime was also a source of inspiration for Hong Kong Democracy Movement stalwart Agnes Chow to learn Japanese. Perhaps what makes her so popular in Japan may be our perception that she deeply understands Japanese culture and social customs rather than just her ability speaking the language.

That’s why the service is not just about language learning but rather giving opportunities to learn industry trends and subculture commentary which are not directly related to business operations or professional activities. The company charges membership fee but it may be hard for them to see significant revenue with the new business alone compared to their past human resources business in Russia. Perhaps the company sees the member base as kinda talent pool for the time when the demand of Japanese companies hiring Russian engineers recovers after the pandemic settle down.

Run by TalentEx’s team of a few young Japanese and Russian members in Russia, the service is wow focused on community building using Telegram which is one of the most popular messaging apps in the country. Going forward, they are expanding into other Russian-speaking markets including former CIS countries.

Livestreaming firm M17 appoints Infinity Venture Partners’ Hirofumi Ono as Global CEO

SHARE:

See the original story in Japanese. 17 Media Japan, the local operating company of mobile livestreaming app 17 Live or ‘Ichinana’ also known as Livit in the English-speaking countries, announced today that Hirofumi Ono was appointed as Global CEO of its parent company M17 Entertainment Limited (M17). Focused on the Japanese market, M17 will be continually responsible for service operations in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, and other Asian countries. Former M17 CEO Joesph Phua will step down as CEO to become a non-executive chairman. Ono will also continue to serve 17 Media japan as its president. The Japanese operations of the livestreaming app was launched back in 2017 by Ono who has been backing M17 as one of investors – Co-founder & Managing Partner of Infinity Venture Partners. The app now has become an outstanding platform where singers and entertainers perform their live shows. It has acquired 45 million registrants as of November of 2019. Along with this, Ono announced that he will be stepping down from his role as managing director at Infinity Ventures in September. He was involved in launching the VC firm back in 2008 together with Akio Tanaka and Masashi Kobayashi. See also: Infinity Venture…

M17 Entertainment’s new Global CEO Hirofumi Ono
Image credit: M17 Entertainment

See the original story in Japanese.

17 Media Japan, the local operating company of mobile livestreaming app 17 Live or ‘Ichinana’ also known as Livit in the English-speaking countries, announced today that Hirofumi Ono was appointed as Global CEO of its parent company M17 Entertainment Limited (M17). Focused on the Japanese market, M17 will be continually responsible for service operations in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, and other Asian countries. Former M17 CEO Joesph Phua will step down as CEO to become a non-executive chairman. Ono will also continue to serve 17 Media japan as its president.

The Japanese operations of the livestreaming app was launched back in 2017 by Ono who has been backing M17 as one of investors – Co-founder & Managing Partner of Infinity Venture Partners. The app now has become an outstanding platform where singers and entertainers perform their live shows. It has acquired 45 million registrants as of November of 2019.

Along with this, Ono announced that he will be stepping down from his role as managing director at Infinity Ventures in September. He was involved in launching the VC firm back in 2008 together with Akio Tanaka and Masashi Kobayashi.

See also:

In addition to investing in ventures in Japan and the Greater China region, Ono has contributed to the growth of startups with his unique style of entrepreneurial involvement as a founding member of them. The startups he was involved in managing include Rekoo Japan (the company behind Sunshine Ranch), Jmty.jp (Japanese classifieds site), Groupon Japan, Farfetch Japan, and of course 17 Media Japan. He has also made a significant impact on the startup ecosystem as an investor, hosting Infinity Ventures Summit (IVS), one of the largest venture conferences in Japan, for 12 years.

Below is his open letter on his Facebook timeline. (sic)

It is my pleasure to announce that I will be graduating from Infinity Ventures(IV), which I have led with Akio since 2008, this September.

And I will be taking on the role of Global CEO at M17 Entertainment, Ltd(M17). that is portfolio company of IV and is the parent company of
17 Media Japan where I have been acting as CEO over 3 years.

After launching 17 Media Japan from zero and leading its growth to No. 1 in Japan, there was a strong request from Joseph Phua, Co-Founder of M17 Global and Chairman, for me to take over the global CEO position, and after discussions with Akio and Joseph Huang internally in IV. I decided that the best way for me is to graduate from IV and commit to M17 as CEO so that I can contribute to those who helped me a lot during my time in IV by leading M17 to further growth stage.

In the 12 years since launching IV from scratch, I have had the great opportunity to not only invest but also run many companies on my own like Rekoo Japan (Sunshine Farm), Groupon Japan, Jimoty, Farfetch Japan, and 17 Media Japan. And fortunately most of them made great success to be leading companies in that industries and brought successful exit.

I am particularly pleased that Jimoty that I had built literally from scratch completely on my own went public this year.

I have also been able to get involved in some of the big exits for IVP’s fund, such as Soracom, freee and some of great investment like Wealth Navi and YeahKa (listed in HK and worth over 3billion USD now).

M17 is now expanding widely in Japan, Taiwan, India, HK, the US and the Middle East, and I will continue to grow the company so that we can expand our live streaming business even further around the world.

I am looking forward to a longer relationship with you as a serial entrepreneur.

As for IV, IVS President Toshiaki Shimakawa has successfully hosted more than 1,000 guests in the first online IVS, and the IV Japan team will continue to strengthen its operations with keeping investing in Japan and leading IVS.

Also, I will continue to contribute to IVS LaunchPad as an advisor to the development of our startups.

Sorry for that long message.

I would like to have opportunity to say hello to you individually if I could.

Thanks
Hiro

Translated by Masaru Ikeda

Japan startup Styler partners with Tencent to help fashion retailers adapt to pandemic changes

SHARE:

See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Styler, the Japanese startup offering an O2O (offline to online) support service for fashion and apparel stores called Facy, announced in late July that it has partnered with Tencent Cloud, the cloud service division of Chinese tech giant Tencent. Styler had been running the Facy app as a way to drive potential customers from online to offline fashion retailers. However, the company recognized that the expanding pandemic will significantly influence consumer purchasing behavior and decided to evolve the business into supporting Online merges with Offline (OMO) effort where retailers can seemly integrate user experience at their e-commerce site and brick-and-mortar stores. Pandemic accelerates fashion retailers’ shift to digital operations While fashion e-commerce represents a large proportion of the overall e-commerce market (around 20% of the total in terms of market size), it is yet difficult to completely take over all real store sales. Similar to what tech conferences and events are challenging amid the pandemic, one of the problems here is how to give consumers serendipity on online shopping. Unlike giving users recommendations using a collaborative filtering-based engine, it may be difficult for online platforms to give users a chance meeting with the…

Image credit: Tencent Cloud / Styler

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Styler, the Japanese startup offering an O2O (offline to online) support service for fashion and apparel stores called Facy, announced in late July that it has partnered with Tencent Cloud, the cloud service division of Chinese tech giant Tencent.

Styler had been running the Facy app as a way to drive potential customers from online to offline fashion retailers. However, the company recognized that the expanding pandemic will significantly influence consumer purchasing behavior and decided to evolve the business into supporting Online merges with Offline (OMO) effort where retailers can seemly integrate user experience at their e-commerce site and brick-and-mortar stores.

Pandemic accelerates fashion retailers’ shift to digital operations

While fashion e-commerce represents a large proportion of the overall e-commerce market (around 20% of the total in terms of market size), it is yet difficult to completely take over all real store sales. Similar to what tech conferences and events are challenging amid the pandemic, one of the problems here is how to give consumers serendipity on online shopping.

Unlike giving users recommendations using a collaborative filtering-based engine, it may be difficult for online platforms to give users a chance meeting with the brands they have never met before while sales associates at real stores can do it.

Image credit: Alibaba

In China in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, we saw many sales associates at fashion stores setting up lights and tripods to to introduce and sell their products via live video streaming. For fashion brands, it would be difficult to integrate a typical live commerce app with their own customer-facing app while Tencent Cloud’s solutions apparently makes it easier.

Tencent Cloud’s solutions allow stores and customers to interact with each other while seeing each other’s faces through mobiles. The same technology has been adopted to Telelive, CyberAgent subsidiary Cyber Pal’s platform for holding fan meetings online, as well as Ignis’s dating service’s video call app.

Styler plans to introduce Tencent Cloud’s solutions to fashion brands, aiming to help them better implement the OMO into their environment. These solutions allow brands not only offer seamlessly their front-end customer experience online and offline but also to support back-end operations such as integrated inventory management of online and offline sales as well as optimized inventory operations across multiple real stores.

Image credit: Tencent Cloud

In the ever-changing fashion industry, fashion stores often come and go at shopping malls thanks to the growing prominence of direct-to-consumer(D2C) brands. Tencent Cloud’s solutions allow shopping malls to keep their store directory signage updated at all times simply by importing CAD data indicating tenant locations within the mall building. To ensure the practicality of the solution, Styler plans to conduct Proof of Concept trials with Tokyu Land Corporation (TSE:3289) which is known for operating a number of shopping malls in Tokyo.

More D2C brands focusing on online sales are expected to enter the market in the future. In view of having a lot of ups and downs, their real stores’ character don’t fit a typical long-term lease contract for shopping malls. Even in such a tough environment, keeping offering retention opportunities at real stores to brands is a big challenge for shopping malls.

Styler CEO Tsubasa Koseki explained in a recent interview with Bridge.

Leveraging Tencent Cloud’s solution, Styler is being focused on helping brands make their communication and inventory management available in a digital manner. As there is no significant player in Japan with knowledge that straddles between online and offline sales, I think Styler can take an overwhelming lead in this area.

Facy wants to be lifestyle-focused super app

Image credit: Styler
Image credit: Styler

In addition to offering the OMO solutions to fashion brands, Styler is working on upgrading their own flagship Facy app so that brands can easily catch up with the OMO trend. The completely newer version is expected to be out this fall.

We are currently benchmarking super apps like Southeast Asia’s Grab (turned from a ride-hailing app), China’s Meituan (previously known as a restaurant discovery/group buying site), and Columbia-born Rapii

Koseki continued:

Unlike these apps targeted at commodity consumers, Facy wants to be a lifesytle-focused OMO app serving those looking at mid-range priced products. We’re moving forward under the strategy symbolized by two keywords: New Retail and Luxury. Going forward, we’ll be also expanding into other categories like cosmetics and furniture.

In Japan, I think that tech giants like Line and Rakuten as well as other payments apps are probably trying to be a super app, but they have yet less variety in service offerings like what Grab, Meituan, and Rappi are doing. Hence, the Facy app has the potential to dominate this market in Japan if they can succeed in expanding their service offerings.

Japan’s Monstar Lab raises $40M to focus on developing take-away apps for US restaurants

SHARE:

Tokyo-headquartered Monstar Lab, the Japanese company sourcing app developments around the world, announced today that it has raised a total of 4.2 billion yen (about $40 million US) in the latest round. Participating investors are Japan Post Capital, Dentsu Digital Fund, Saudi Arabia’s Alpha Al Imteyaz, Serverworks (TSE:4434), FFG Venture Business Partners, Shimane Central Shinkin Bank and Skylight Consulting. The secured amount includes debt financing from financial institutions. Shimane Central Shinkin Bank also participated in the previous round back in November of 2017. The company said it will use the funds to further expand its digital consulting business globally as well as enhance marketing and product development to increase the value it provides to its clients. This follows the previous round securing approximately 2.4 billion yen back in February of last year. This round’s stage is unspecified but it seems the seventh funding round as far as we know in our effort of reporting. In April of last year, Monstar Lab acquired New York-based digital product and mobile app developer Fuzz Productions which is best known for having developed ordering systems for Shake Shack and other restaurants. In August of 2017, Monstar Lab acquired Danish software company Nodes, which is…

Image credit: Monstar Lab

Tokyo-headquartered Monstar Lab, the Japanese company sourcing app developments around the world, announced today that it has raised a total of 4.2 billion yen (about $40 million US) in the latest round. Participating investors are Japan Post Capital, Dentsu Digital Fund, Saudi Arabia’s Alpha Al Imteyaz, Serverworks (TSE:4434), FFG Venture Business Partners, Shimane Central Shinkin Bank and Skylight Consulting. The secured amount includes debt financing from financial institutions. Shimane Central Shinkin Bank also participated in the previous round back in November of 2017.

The company said it will use the funds to further expand its digital consulting business globally as well as enhance marketing and product development to increase the value it provides to its clients.

This follows the previous round securing approximately 2.4 billion yen back in February of last year. This round’s stage is unspecified but it seems the seventh funding round as far as we know in our effort of reporting.

In April of last year, Monstar Lab acquired New York-based digital product and mobile app developer Fuzz Productions which is best known for having developed ordering systems for Shake Shack and other restaurants. In August of 2017, Monstar Lab acquired Danish software company Nodes, which is known for developing a number of food delivery apps like Careem Now in the Middle East region. According to Nikkei, the company has been focusing on ordering systems for restaurants in North America, but due to the growing demand for take-away apps because of COVID-19, the company plans to establish a development base in Latin America, where engineering labor costs are cheaper, to make offensive sales efforts in the North American market.

Monstar Lab currently operates in 26 cities in 15 countries around the world, including Europe, the US and Asia. The company with its subsidiaries have about 1,200 employees.

via PR Times