THE BRIDGE

Startups

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

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

Image credit: Daiz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Studist CEO Satoshi Suzuki
Image credit: Studist

See the original story in Japanese.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: Warrantee

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

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

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

Shono said,

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

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

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

He explained,

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

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

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

He continued,

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

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

He added,

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

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

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

Japan’s Allm secures $50.5M+ to promote COVID-19 solutions and telemedicine in Asia

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See the original story in Japanese. Japanese MedTech Startup Allm has secured 5.6 billion yen (over $50.5 million) from investors including Mitsui & Co (TSE:8031) and SOMPO Holdings (TSE:8630), Nikkei reported on Sunday. This round is considered to be a series A extension round while Japanese startup database Initial reports the company’s post-valuation has reached about 32 billion yen (about $300 million). According to a statement issued by Allm at 11am on Monday, participating investors are: SOMPO Holdings, Mitsui, Eisai (TSE:4523), Royal Philips (AMS:PHIA), NID (TSE:2349), Cyberdyne (TSE:7779), Financial Agency, Mixi (TSE:2121), Capital Medica, Vector (TSE:6058), SBI Investment, Bonds Investment Group, Mizuho Capital, Asia Africa Investment and Consulting Royal Philips participated in Allm’s previous series A round as well. Allm was founded in 2001 by Teppei Sakano as SkillUp Japan. After selling its video distribution platform business, the company entered the medical ICT business in 2015 and rebranded its name into the current state. Since then, the company has rolled out medical device programs in more than a few countries around the world. Their portfolio products include Join (communication app for medical professionals), Enroll (patient recruitment solution), JoinTriage (triage app for emergency transport), Team (comprehensive regional care system promotion solution),…

The “Join” app
Image credit: Allm

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese MedTech Startup Allm has secured 5.6 billion yen (over $50.5 million) from investors including Mitsui & Co (TSE:8031) and SOMPO Holdings (TSE:8630), Nikkei reported on Sunday. This round is considered to be a series A extension round while Japanese startup database Initial reports the company’s post-valuation has reached about 32 billion yen (about $300 million).

According to a statement issued by Allm at 11am on Monday, participating investors are:

SOMPO Holdings, Mitsui, Eisai (TSE:4523), Royal Philips (AMS:PHIA), NID (TSE:2349), Cyberdyne (TSE:7779), Financial Agency, Mixi (TSE:2121), Capital Medica, Vector (TSE:6058), SBI Investment, Bonds Investment Group, Mizuho Capital, Asia Africa Investment and Consulting

Royal Philips participated in Allm’s previous series A round as well.

Allm was founded in 2001 by Teppei Sakano as SkillUp Japan. After selling its video distribution platform business, the company entered the medical ICT business in 2015 and rebranded its name into the current state. Since then, the company has rolled out medical device programs in more than a few countries around the world. Their portfolio products include Join (communication app for medical professionals), Enroll (patient recruitment solution), JoinTriage (triage app for emergency transport), Team (comprehensive regional care system promotion solution), and MySOS (life-saving and health app).

Allm will use the funds to focus on research and development of solutions that can contribute to developing countermeasures against COVID-19, not only in Japan but also overseas. The company will team up with Mitsui to help their operating medical institutions in Southeast Asia share information between core hospitals and smaller clinics. It will also develop telemedicine business connecting hospitals in Japan with local doctors in Southeast Asia to support the latter’s medical treatment. It will work with Sompo Holdings to consider creating a system utilizing Allm’s data for insurance and health promotion of nursing home users.

Amid buy-now-pay-later boom, Paidy becomes unicorn after raising $120M in series D

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Paidy, the Japanese startup behind cardless online payments and “Buy Now, Pay Later” service, has raised US$120 million in a Series D round, according to Nikkei’s report on Tuesday. It says the amount is one of the largest ever raised by an unlisted startup in Japan. Participating investors include Wellington Management, two funds owned by prominent investor George Soros, and Tybourne Capital Management (Hong Kong). Goldman Sachs, Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, and other financial institutions has set up debt facilities of up to $182.4 million. Prior to this, the company secured $55 million in a Series C round in July 2018, followed by its extension round securing $83 million in November of 2019 and an undisclosed sum in April of 2020. The latest round brought the sum raised up to date to about $337 million while the total amount of debt facilities has reached $248 million. According to sources, their valuation is estimated about $1.32 billion, which means they have join the unicorn club. Paidy was founded in 2008 by Russell Cummer, whose previous work experience includes Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. It started with a P2P finance or social lending service called Aqush…

Entrance of Paidy Headquarters in Tokyo
Image credit: Paidy

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Paidy, the Japanese startup behind cardless online payments and “Buy Now, Pay Later” service, has raised US$120 million in a Series D round, according to Nikkei’s report on Tuesday. It says the amount is one of the largest ever raised by an unlisted startup in Japan. Participating investors include Wellington Management, two funds owned by prominent investor George Soros, and Tybourne Capital Management (Hong Kong). Goldman Sachs, Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, and other financial institutions has set up debt facilities of up to $182.4 million.

Prior to this, the company secured $55 million in a Series C round in July 2018, followed by its extension round securing $83 million in November of 2019 and an undisclosed sum in April of 2020. The latest round brought the sum raised up to date to about $337 million while the total amount of debt facilities has reached $248 million. According to sources, their valuation is estimated about $1.32 billion, which means they have join the unicorn club.

Russell Cummer pitching at RISE 2018 in Hong Kong on July 12
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Paidy was founded in 2008 by Russell Cummer, whose previous work experience includes Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. It started with a P2P finance or social lending service called Aqush followed by the launch of Paidy back in 2014. Subsequently the management of Paidy shifted from ExCo to the operating company Paidy. They became an equity method affiliate of Itochu after the series C round in July of 2018.

Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) is a global phenomenon. In addition to US and European platformers such as Klarna (Sweden), Affirm (US), and Afterpay (Australia), startups like Hoolah, Pace, and Atome are beginning to emerge in the Asian market. Since the concept has a high affinity with digital wallet services, so-called “super apps,” many of which usually originate from car-hailing or food delivery apps, may also catch up with this trend.

Japan’s Mitsuri, B2B platform for metalworking, secures $3.8M in series A round

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Catallaxy, the company behind a B2B platform for metalworking called Mitsuri, announced on Monday that it has secured about 410 million yen ($3.8 million US) in a Series A round. Participating investors are Incubate Fund, SMBC Venture Capital, Future Venture Capital (TSE:8462), Nagase & Co (TSE:8012), Pavilion Capital (a private equity fund under Temasek Holdings, a Singaporean sovereign investment firm), and unnamed angel investors. This follows the company’s pre-series A round back in March of last year when they raised about 325 million yen (about $3 million). Among the latest round’s investors, Incubate Fund and SMBC Venture Capital also participated in the pre-series A round. Catallaxy was founded in 2015 by Hiroaki Oishi, a former employee at Kingsoft working for Chinese tech giant Qihoo 360. He launched the Fabit manufacturing industry-focused media website and the Mitsuri B2B platform for metalworking in 2018 followed by helping his family’s construction company create their website. Since the construction company has a function as a trading company for metal parts, Oishi had many opportunities to come into contact with metalworking craftspersons. In addition to manual bending and cutting, NC machine tools are often used in the metalworking…

Image credit: Catallaxy

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Catallaxy, the company behind a B2B platform for metalworking called Mitsuri, announced on Monday that it has secured about 410 million yen ($3.8 million US) in a Series A round. Participating investors are Incubate Fund, SMBC Venture Capital, Future Venture Capital (TSE:8462), Nagase & Co (TSE:8012), Pavilion Capital (a private equity fund under Temasek Holdings, a Singaporean sovereign investment firm), and unnamed angel investors.

This follows the company’s pre-series A round back in March of last year when they raised about 325 million yen (about $3 million). Among the latest round’s investors, Incubate Fund and SMBC Venture Capital also participated in the pre-series A round.

Hiroaki Oishi
Image credit: Catallaxy

Catallaxy was founded in 2015 by Hiroaki Oishi, a former employee at Kingsoft working for Chinese tech giant Qihoo 360. He launched the Fabit manufacturing industry-focused media website and the Mitsuri B2B platform for metalworking in 2018 followed by helping his family’s construction company create their website. Since the construction company has a function as a trading company for metal parts, Oishi had many opportunities to come into contact with metalworking craftspersons.

In addition to manual bending and cutting, NC machine tools are often used in the metalworking industry. These tools are required to input numerical information on the order of tools and the work processes required for processing so that craftspersons can automate dangerous machining and improve safety and operational efficiency. However, the fact is not many craftsmen are actually able to fully use these tools, which reminded Oishi of the need for software in the industry and led him to develop the Mitsuri platform.

When major brands need one-of-a-kind items (parts for prototypes, or parts for non-mass-produced machines), they often place orders with small metalworking factories. 300 metalworking companies, accounting 1% of all the 30,000 companies in Japan, are using the Mitsuri platform where these small companies can receive order and quotation requests. For brands, it is an easy way to obtain quotes from factories that match their processing needs, and for metalworking companies, it is an advantage to obtain accurate requests for more precised quotations and processing orders.

On the platform, metalworking companies are rated on a five-point scale based on quality, delivery time, price, and service. A company will be kicked out from the platform if they keep receiving a low rating under a certain level. If a brand has no drawing of what to be ordered, Catallaxy can help design it. The platform also acts as an escrow / middleperson between brands and metalworking companies, which helps eliminate the anxiety even if it is the first deal for both sides.

Catallaxy currently has 22 employees, and the orders dealt on the platform exceeded worth 3 billion yen (about $27.7 million) in 2019 while the number of companies placing orders hitting 10,000 (as of September 2020). The company plans to use the funds to further develop its software for both upstream and downstream processes in the metalworking industry. Joining Pavilion Capital as an investor suggests that the company also hopes to build a presence in Southeast Asia where we can see a similarly high demand in the metalworking industry.

Japan’s Clear, study notes organizer app, acquired by stationery giant Kokuyo

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See the original story in Japanese. The parts colored in red were updated on 4:30pm, Feb 12th based on our additional coverage. We just learned that Tokyo-based Clear, the Japanese startup behind a study notes organizer app under the same name, has been acquired by Japanese stationery giant Kokuyo (TSE:7984). Since its launch back in 2010, the startup has secured about 400 million yen (about $3.8 million) from investors to date. According to Japanese startup database Initial, they were estimated to be valued at 1.938 billion yen (about $18.5 million) after securing the series C round back in 2018. Clear secured a series D round last year, which brought the company’s funding sum up to 516,748,113 yen (about $4.9 million) according to their website. Initial has not shared Clear’s post series D round valuation. (Not to be confused with Clear, another Japanese startup developing brands and online media portal focused on Japanese sake products.) Clear was founded in October of 2010 under its previous name of Arcterus by Goichiro Arai (CEO) who has held various posts including Resort Business Manager at Japanese resort development / management major Hoshino Resort together with Yoshiki Shiraishi (COO/CFO) who was Arai’s classmate at Keio…

Clear CEO Goichiro Arai
Image credit: EduLab

See the original story in Japanese.

The parts colored in red were updated on 4:30pm, Feb 12th based on our additional coverage.

We just learned that Tokyo-based Clear, the Japanese startup behind a study notes organizer app under the same name, has been acquired by Japanese stationery giant Kokuyo (TSE:7984). Since its launch back in 2010, the startup has secured about 400 million yen (about $3.8 million) from investors to date. According to Japanese startup database Initial, they were estimated to be valued at 1.938 billion yen (about $18.5 million) after securing the series C round back in 2018.

Clear secured a series D round last year, which brought the company’s funding sum up to 516,748,113 yen (about $4.9 million) according to their website. Initial has not shared Clear’s post series D round valuation.

(Not to be confused with Clear, another Japanese startup developing brands and online media portal focused on Japanese sake products.)

Clear was founded in October of 2010 under its previous name of Arcterus by Goichiro Arai (CEO) who has held various posts including Resort Business Manager at Japanese resort development / management major Hoshino Resort together with Yoshiki Shiraishi (COO/CFO) who was Arai’s classmate at Keio Business School. The Clear app, launched in December of 2013, allows notebooks sorted by subject or educational unit to be shared with other users and is available for Android, iOS and web.

Started in Japan, the app has expanded into several markets including Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, China, and Hong Kong. It has acquired 2.3 million (Arai says it has already reached 2.5 million) active users (MAUs) in Japan and 3.5 million MAUs worldwide, suggesting that one out of four middle and high school students in Japan is using the app.

Image credit: Clear

Aiming to help cram schools attract their potential customers and better market themselves in addition to developing learning content, the company has partnered with several companies such as:

  • Zoshinkai Publishing (Z-kai Group), Japanese major in offering online or distance learning for students
  • Asahi Gakusei Shimbun, Japanese major news company’s subsidiary for publication for students
  • Sprix (TSE:7030), developing content for cram schools
  • Lacicu, developing web services and educational video apps for cram schools
  • Manabi Aid, offering online video classes for students
  • Rakuten (TSE:4755), Japanese leading e-commerce giant

In an interview with Bridge, Arai shared how his company has reached the agreement:

In fall of 2019, we had a chance to meet Kokuyo CEO Hidekuni Kuroda and we decided to work together.

Kokuyo has a large market share with the paper notebook brand Campus while we do so with the digital notebook brand Clear. We thought it would be a good partnership to utilize the respective brand power each other.

In terms of overseas development, for example, Kokuyo has expanded into Mainland China, while Clear has about 800,000 users of their app in Thailand alone. By sending customers to each other’s strong geographical markets, there would be a possibility of increasing the market share of both brands in respective markets. Having not yet decided on the specifics, Clear may be able to add new functions to the app by bridging the paper and digital gap.

In addition to the notebook mobile app, Clear offers two other key services:

  • Meets – helps cram schools in recruiting students, jointly operated with Education Network and Sprix. Educatiional Network is a subsidiary of aforementioned Zoshinkai Publishing.
  • Shinro Erabi (career choice) – helps high school students find their best career path with resources on universities, jointly operated with Shoei Koho, a subsidiary of after-mentioned CHIeru.

Arai says the partnership with these companies will continue even after his company was acquired.

In March of last year, Clear partnered with CHIeru (TSE:3933), the classroom management solutions provider for schools. CHIeru has a subsidiary focused on helping universities promote, and the partnership helps universities market their entrance exam briefing even in a virtual format during the pandemic with the help of Clear.

Clear won the second prize at Startup Asia Jakarta 2014, while also being selected as a finalist at ASIABEAT 2016 in Xiamen, obtaining international spotlight. They won the Japan preliminary round of The Global EdTech Startup Awards (GESA), and then won the global finals in London in 2018.

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Japanese skills marketplace Coconala files for IPO valued at over $207M

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Coconala, the startup behind an online platform under the same name where you can buy and sell knowledge, skills and, experience from users who are willing to teach, announced on Wedneday that that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on March 19 of 2021 with plans to offer 100,000 shares for public subscription and to sell 1,813,000 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 11,092,900 shares. The underwriting will be co-led by Mizuho Securities and Credit Suisse while Coconala’s ticker code will be 4176. Based on the estimated issue price of 1,000 yen (about $9.56) and total number of issued shares (21,474,000), the company will be valued at 21.7 billion yen (about $207 million). Its share price range will be released on March 3 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on march 4 and pricing on March 10. According to the consolidated statement as of August 2020, they posted revenue of 1,775.6 million yen ($17 million) with an ordinary loss of 83.8 million yen ($800,000). Coconala was established under its previous name of Welself in February 2012 by…

Image credit: Coconala

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Coconala, the startup behind an online platform under the same name where you can buy and sell knowledge, skills and, experience from users who are willing to teach, announced on Wedneday that that IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) has been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market on March 19 of 2021 with plans to offer 100,000 shares for public subscription and to sell 1,813,000 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 11,092,900 shares. The underwriting will be co-led by Mizuho Securities and Credit Suisse while Coconala’s ticker code will be 4176.

Based on the estimated issue price of 1,000 yen (about $9.56) and total number of issued shares (21,474,000), the company will be valued at 21.7 billion yen (about $207 million). Its share price range will be released on March 3 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on march 4 and pricing on March 10. According to the consolidated statement as of August 2020, they posted revenue of 1,775.6 million yen ($17 million) with an ordinary loss of 83.8 million yen ($800,000).

Coconala was established under its previous name of Welself in February 2012 by Akiyuki Minami who formerly worked at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank and Japanese private equity fund Advantage Partners. Our readers may recall that he shared his story behind launching the startup at a lecture event for entrepreneurs we previously covered. After graduating from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, he was involved in launchiing two NPOs in Japan, which led him to the experience that offering his skills and abilities to someone else can lead to self-confidence and growth for himself as well.

More than 1.8 million users have been registered by last year while the number is likely to hit 2 million some time this year. With the increase in the number of registered users, the percentage of paying users has been gradually decreasing to around 5-6% for the past one to two years. Their Average Revenue Per Paying User (ARPPU) is on the rise, indicating that users who recognize the value of Coconala are paying more than before. Aiming to upsell, the company launched derivative services such as Coconala Legal Advice in 2016 and Coconala Meets in 2019.

Led by Jafco (15.34%), the company’s main shareholders include Jafco (15.34%), CEO Akiyuki Minami (13.13%), co-founder and director Sato Shinmyo (11.70%), Nissay Capital (11.39% from multiple funds combined), Fidelity (9.72% from multiple funds combined), Mistletoe Japan (7.72%), ImproVista (4.18%), COO Ayumu Suzuki (3.82%), employee Akie Sawayama (2.70%), Environment and Energy Investment (2.34%), and DBJ Capital (2.34%).

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Japanese car subscription startup Nyle secures up to $50M via equity and loans

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Nyle, the company behind a car subscription service called Carmo, announced on Monday that it has secured about 3.7 billion yen (about $35.7 million) in the latest funding round. Participating investors are Dimension (investment arm of Dream Incubator), JIC Venture Growth Investments (JIC-VGI), Environmental Energy Investment, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, SBI Group, Nippon Venture Capital, Gree Ventures, Digital Advertising Consortium, and unnamed individual investors. The company also announced that it has signed loan agreements with several financial institutions for a total of up to 1.3 billion yen (about $12.5 million). Prior to this round, the company raised about 1.5 billion yen from several investors including Sparks Group (TSE:8739), SBI Group, and Aoki Group back in April of 2019. The latest round raied the company’s cum of funding (without loans) to date up to 5.57 billion yen (about $53.7 million) Carmo is completely offered online and allows users to use a new car for as little as the 10,000 yen-range (starting at $96 approx.) per month. It has received 45,000 applications from users for three years since its launch back in January of 2018. Using the funds, Nile plans to strengthen its marketing activities,…

Image credit: Nyle

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Nyle, the company behind a car subscription service called Carmo, announced on Monday that it has secured about 3.7 billion yen (about $35.7 million) in the latest funding round.

Participating investors are Dimension (investment arm of Dream Incubator), JIC Venture Growth Investments (JIC-VGI), Environmental Energy Investment, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, SBI Group, Nippon Venture Capital, Gree Ventures, Digital Advertising Consortium, and unnamed individual investors. The company also announced that it has signed loan agreements with several financial institutions for a total of up to 1.3 billion yen (about $12.5 million).

Prior to this round, the company raised about 1.5 billion yen from several investors including Sparks Group (TSE:8739), SBI Group, and Aoki Group back in April of 2019. The latest round raied the company’s cum of funding (without loans) to date up to 5.57 billion yen (about $53.7 million)

Carmo is completely offered online and allows users to use a new car for as little as the 10,000 yen-range (starting at $96 approx.) per month. It has received 45,000 applications from users for three years since its launch back in January of 2018.

Using the funds, Nile plans to strengthen its marketing activities, strengthen alliances with auto repair shops, auto dealers, and gas stations while considering merge and acquire companies with potential synergies.

via PR Times

Rocket Staff, startup behind free manga apps, acquired by Japan’s largest anime retailer

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Rocket Staff, known for its “all-you-can-read for free manga” app called Manga King ( iOS / Android ), was confirmed that it has been acquired by Japanese largest anime retail chain Animate. The amount of the acquisition has not been disclosed but we learned that Animate will take a 70% stake of Rocket Staff’s Japanese and South Korean business entities, making Rocket Staff a consolidated subsidiary of Animate. Following this acquisition, Animate CEO Ryu Takahashi and several of its directors are expected to join the board of directors at Rocket Staff’s Japanese and South Korean companies. Kou Youngwook, the founder of Rocket Staff, will continue serving his company as the CEO, and there will be no major changes in their business. Animate made 65 billion yen in an annual group sales and accounted for a third of the entire Japanese anime market which is estimated to be worth 240 billion yen. Having about 30 group companies under their wing, the anime giant is considered active in corporate acquisitions. As one residing in the Japanese startup community, it is still fresh in our minds that Pixiv, the Japanese startup behind a social illustration service…

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons / Rocket Staff

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Rocket Staff, known for its “all-you-can-read for free manga” app called Manga King ( iOS / Android ), was confirmed that it has been acquired by Japanese largest anime retail chain Animate. The amount of the acquisition has not been disclosed but we learned that Animate will take a 70% stake of Rocket Staff’s Japanese and South Korean business entities, making Rocket Staff a consolidated subsidiary of Animate.

Following this acquisition, Animate CEO Ryu Takahashi and several of its directors are expected to join the board of directors at Rocket Staff’s Japanese and South Korean companies. Kou Youngwook, the founder of Rocket Staff, will continue serving his company as the CEO, and there will be no major changes in their business.

Animate made 65 billion yen in an annual group sales and accounted for a third of the entire Japanese anime market which is estimated to be worth 240 billion yen. Having about 30 group companies under their wing, the anime giant is considered active in corporate acquisitions. As one residing in the Japanese startup community, it is still fresh in our minds that Pixiv, the Japanese startup behind a social illustration service under the same name, was acquired by the Animate group in 2015.

CEO and Founder Kou Yongwook (left and front) and some of his team at Rocket Staff.
Image credit: Rocket Staff

Kou came to Japan alone from South Korea 20 years ago at his age of 20. After working at a TV station based out of Tokyo, he established Rocket Staff in November of 2010. Making the most of his Korean background, he developed apps across Japan and South Korea, coordinated app marketing for both markets, and served as a correspondent reporting on the state of technology in Japan for an IT-focused TV channel in South Korea. Some of his notable apps include Peppermeet, which allows users to chat and share photos with others nearby, and Ad&Joy, which allows users to earn points by watching ads.

In 2018, Rocket Staff launched a blockchain-powered decentralized ad network called ACA Network, but this did not work out and was subsequently forced to shut down. The company’s core business is currently Manga King, which turns manga titles published in a printed form in the past into the mobile app format so that they can share revenue from ads placed alongside manga episodes with manga publishers. There are more than 50,000 manga episodes available on the mobile app now, and users have downloaded these episodes over 300 million times to date.

Rocket Staff’s joining the Animate group is expected to help accelerate the latter’s digital transformation initiative. In our previous interview with Kou, he revealed his vision such as partnering with popular manga artist teams in Taiwan and South Korea, building a new distribution system for manga using blockchain, and working with publishers and other organizations to create a unique ecosystem where fans’ evaluations can lead to creators’ motivation and income.

Stay tuned for our further coverage reporting their business development details after the acquisition.