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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

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.

Japanese robotics startup Telexistence closes series A round with $40M+

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Tokyo-based Telexistence, the Japanese startup developing remote-controlled robots, announced today that it has secured about 2.2 billion yen (about $20 million US) in a series A2 round. Participating investors include Airbus Ventures, KDDI Open Innovation Fund (KOIF), Deepcore, UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), and several unnamed investors, in addition to Monoful, a digital transformation-focused subsidiary of global logistics giant GLP. This follows a previous round (estimated to be series A1) in December of 2018 when some of the investors participating in the latest round such as KOIF, UTokyo IPC, Deepcore, and Monoful also participated. With the Series A1 (previous round) and A2 (the latest round) rounds combined, the company has secured about 4.5 billion yen (over $40 million US) in a series A round. Telexistence has been developing tele-controlled robots using a variety of technologies including tele-presence, robotics, communications, virtual reality (VR), haptics, and artificial intelligence (AI). They plan to use the funds to expand its product development team as well as accelerating product development and implementation to the expanding customer base in the retail and logistics sectors. The company has partnered with Monoful to develop the Augmented Workforce Platform (AWP) for logistics facility operations. AWP allows operators to control…

The Model-T robot
Image credit: Telexistence

Tokyo-based Telexistence, the Japanese startup developing remote-controlled robots, announced today that it has secured about 2.2 billion yen (about $20 million US) in a series A2 round. Participating investors include Airbus Ventures, KDDI Open Innovation Fund (KOIF), Deepcore, UTokyo Innovation Platform (UTokyo IPC), and several unnamed investors, in addition to Monoful, a digital transformation-focused subsidiary of global logistics giant GLP.

This follows a previous round (estimated to be series A1) in December of 2018 when some of the investors participating in the latest round such as KOIF, UTokyo IPC, Deepcore, and Monoful also participated. With the Series A1 (previous round) and A2 (the latest round) rounds combined, the company has secured about 4.5 billion yen (over $40 million US) in a series A round.

Telexistence has been developing tele-controlled robots using a variety of technologies including tele-presence, robotics, communications, virtual reality (VR), haptics, and artificial intelligence (AI). They plan to use the funds to expand its product development team as well as accelerating product development and implementation to the expanding customer base in the retail and logistics sectors.

The company has partnered with Monoful to develop the Augmented Workforce Platform (AWP) for logistics facility operations. AWP allows operators to control robots installed in warehouses via the Internet and participate in tasks such as loading and unloading pallets while operators are working from home.

The company also announced that it has tied up with Japanese office furniture giant Okamura Corporation (TSE:7984) for joint research and development of fixture products optimized for carrying and displaying by robots.

Wakaze, bringing Japanese sake from Paris brewery, nabs $3M for Europe, US expansion

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See the original story in Japanese. Japanese sake brewing startup Wakaze announced on Wednesday that it has secured 330 million yen (about $3 million US) in a series A round. Participating investors in this round are Jafco Group (TSE:8595), Nissay Capital, Makuake (TSE:4479), and Makoto Capital. This follows a pre-series A round in June 2019 (which we reported as a series A round at the time). For Makuake, one of Japan’s leading crowdfunding platform, this follows their second investment followed by their previous investment in Tokyo-based chocolate direct-to-consumer startup Bace earlier this year. Wakaze aims to bring the wave of craft sake and D2C to the world of sake. Prior to founding the company back in 2016, CEO Takuma Inagawa studied at the École Centrale Paris as a French government scholarship student and then worked as a business strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. In addition to developing new sake brewing recipes in Tokyo and Japan’s eastern prefecture of Yamagata, the company established a sake brewery called Kura Grand Paris in Suburban Paris back in November of 2019 to offer locally brewed Japanese sake for the French market. Since its launch in France back in February of 2020, the…

Wakaze sake bottles
Image credit: Wakaze

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese sake brewing startup Wakaze announced on Wednesday that it has secured 330 million yen (about $3 million US) in a series A round. Participating investors in this round are Jafco Group (TSE:8595), Nissay Capital, Makuake (TSE:4479), and Makoto Capital. This follows a pre-series A round in June 2019 (which we reported as a series A round at the time). For Makuake, one of Japan’s leading crowdfunding platform, this follows their second investment followed by their previous investment in Tokyo-based chocolate direct-to-consumer startup Bace earlier this year.

Wakaze aims to bring the wave of craft sake and D2C to the world of sake. Prior to founding the company back in 2016, CEO Takuma Inagawa studied at the École Centrale Paris as a French government scholarship student and then worked as a business strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. In addition to developing new sake brewing recipes in Tokyo and Japan’s eastern prefecture of Yamagata, the company established a sake brewery called Kura Grand Paris in Suburban Paris back in November of 2019 to offer locally brewed Japanese sake for the French market.

Wakaze CEO Takuma Inagawa
Image credit: Wakaze

Since its launch in France back in February of 2020, the sake brand had been distributed to 50 restaurants in the country but demand suddenly plummeted to almost zero due to the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, sales got back to growing steadily as they could rebrand their products to fit the demand for the direct-to-consumer model rather than offering through restaurants. The company has recently partnered with Nicolas, one of the largest wine store chain with 500 locations in France and 7 countries. The funding is expected to contribute to expanding production capacity to meet the increasing demand.

In an interview with Bridge, Inagawa told us how much French people loves the locally brewed Japanese sake brand,

In view of its local production for local consumption, Wakaze has succeeded to attract eco-conscious consumers at Nicolas. To meet the demand, we’ll increase our production capacity to about three times by fall. Our marketing strategy is working well, which grabs first-time customers with a variety of popular products and increases repeat customers with rare ones.

Sake brewing at Kura Grand Paris
Image credit: Wakaze

Going forward, Wakaze hopes to expand its sales and marketing area beyond France to the UK and Germany, as well as to the US where the company hopes to target early adopters and the Asian population on the West Coast. The company also plans to use the funds to strengthen hiring its human resources in both France and Japan, including sake brewers, marketers, customer support representatives, and business managers.

Among the investors in the latest round, Makoto Capital is focused on investing in startups and entrepreneurs from Japan’s northerneastern region of Tohoku. Headquartered there, Wakaze met Makoto Capital at the Sendai for Startups (SFS) startup event, which led to the latest funding. Makuake (then known as CyberAgent Crowdfunding) participated in SFS in 2017, and it is believed that Wakaze’s encounter with Makuake’s CEO Ryotaro Nakayama led to the subsequent launch of the crowdfunding campaign and the latest investment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infinity Ventures, e.ventures, rebranded to Headline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: Hacobu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See our past articles featuring Abeja:

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

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

Image credit: Daiz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Studist CEO Satoshi Suzuki
Image credit: Studist

See the original story in Japanese.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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