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Meet 4 startups that pitched at Global Brain annual portfolio showcase in Tokyo

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See the original story in Japanese. Japanese VC firm Global Brain held the its annual event called Global Brain Alliance Forum 2018 last month in Tokyo. In the pitch competition even, 10 participant startups from Japan and the rest of Japan gave excellent pitches in front of a big audience. This article introduces four award-winning teams from among them. The judges for the Pitch Battle were as follows: Yusuke Asakura (Co-founder, Signifiant) Nobuhiro Ariyasu (Entrepreneur / Angel Investor) Kiyo Kobayashi (Cofounder / CEO, Chomp) Masaki Sugiyama (Outside Director, Nikkatsu) Kotaro Chiba (Angel investor / Partner, Drone Fund) Pitch Panel Award winner: MeicalCare Station by Embrace Embrace develops a social network for physicians and nurses, named MedicalCare Station. Regarding medical practice, FAX or other methods had been conventionally used in communication between core hospitals and staffers. MedicalCare Station is a communication platform to digitalize this process where nurses can post clinical updates of each patient they are taking care of as a timeline and share them with other staffers. The platform is available for free for physicians and nurses but it’s not easy to introduce such a new tool to the medical front lines. That’s why the company has been focusing…

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese VC firm Global Brain held the its annual event called Global Brain Alliance Forum 2018 last month in Tokyo. In the pitch competition even, 10 participant startups from Japan and the rest of Japan gave excellent pitches in front of a big audience. This article introduces four award-winning teams from among them.

The judges for the Pitch Battle were as follows:

  • Yusuke Asakura (Co-founder, Signifiant)
  • Nobuhiro Ariyasu (Entrepreneur / Angel Investor)
  • Kiyo Kobayashi (Cofounder / CEO, Chomp)
  • Masaki Sugiyama (Outside Director, Nikkatsu)
  • Kotaro Chiba (Angel investor / Partner, Drone Fund)

Pitch Panel Award winner: MeicalCare Station by Embrace

Embrace develops a social network for physicians and nurses, named MedicalCare Station. Regarding medical practice, FAX or other methods had been conventionally used in communication between core hospitals and staffers. MedicalCare Station is a communication platform to digitalize this process where nurses can post clinical updates of each patient they are taking care of as a timeline and share them with other staffers.

The platform is available for free for physicians and nurses but it’s not easy to introduce such a new tool to the medical front lines. That’s why the company has been focusing on promoting it through lobbying medical associations across the country for five years since its launch. Their efforts paid off, and 214 medical associations (one in four of all 891 medical associations in Japan) have agreed to introduce the platform for their use. It’s also used at 34,000 nursing facilities in Japan. Based on its user base, the firm has been monetizing their business by offering a SaaS (Software as a Service) for healthcare app development to medical device / pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Audience Award winner: Fermented products utilizing unused resources by Fermenstation

Some of our readers may recall Fermenstation, the fermentation technology-focused startup based out of Japan’s northern city of Iwate, won the Aomori Mayor’s Award at the Demo Day of JR East Startup Program’s 2nd batch. The firm asks local farmers to grow rice in fallow or abandoned rice fields, refines it into rice-derived fermented ethanol, and produces cosmetic products from them. The strained lees obtained in refining process are eventually returned to rice field and thereby the firm realized a sustainable business model.

This story of fermented products utilizing unused resources attracted the Japanese market and the firm has been receiving many OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) offers from major retail dealers. For example, Akomeya Tokyo is manufactured by Fermenstation but sold as one of Sazaby League’s beauty-care product lineups under their brand. The firm also utilizes strained lees of rice in various ways; the firm sells it as distiller as it is, uses it as cattle raising feed and sells the beef from them in crowdfunding, or uses it as poultry feed for chicken and returns their fowl droppings to rice fields as fertilizer. In addition, the firm started inspection tours for consumers after receiving the attention from them, resulting in contributing to the local economy.

GBAF Award winner: Visualization of hygiene factor by Okan

Some of our readers may also recall this startup. Okan provides special refrigerators with vacuum-packaged side dishes stocked to offices and allows employees there to purchase any of them for 100 yen (about $0.91) for each. This service has been introduced in more than 1,300 offices in total, and charges monthly fees from user companies according to the number of employees. For these companies, it works as a company benefit for employees.

The team had paid attention to Herzberg’s Two-factor Theory on job satisfaction caused by motivator factors and hygiene factors, in anticipation of future decline in the labor force population which may cause bankruptcy. Of the two factors, there are few approaches to reduce turnover rates by improving the hygiene factors. The firm plans to launch a beta service that visualizes assessment or problems of hygiene factors.

GBAF Award winner: Computer vision for autonomous driving by StradVision

Korea / the U.S.-based StradVision develops the SVNet computer vision engine for autonomous driving, enabling an accurate environment recognition. SVNet is able to perform effective processing in real-time even on low-specification chipsets and to detect objects using deep learning. Since the engine does not require higher specification for chipsets, users can introduce it into autos which they already own without replacing hardware.

StradVision takes mainly on sales of the product by OEM and has been providing its service in the U.S. and China. The firm had secured funds from HDTP Technology, Hyundai Motor, LGE, and Global Brain. In May of last year, it fundraised about 8 billion won (about $7 million US) from Hyundai Mobis, Korea’s leading auto parts manufacturer.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Omise secures series B++ round funding from Global Brain, Mitsui Fudosan, SMDV

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  See the original story in Japanese. Bangkok- and Tokyo-based Omise Holdings, providing the Omise online payment services as well as the OmiseGo (OMG) token economy-powered initiative, announced today it has raised an undisclosed sum in a series B++ round from Global Brain, 31 Ventures (the investment arm of Mitsui Fudosan), and Sinar Mas Digital Ventures (SMDV for short, the investment arm of Indonesia’s leading conglomerate). With the latest funding, Omise wants to deliver their financial infrastructure services under development to more people through strategic partnerships with the participating investors. Omise’s previous equity based funding was a series B+ round back in October of 2017. As far as disclosed, the company has raised more than $45 million US including $25 million US funding via ICO (initial coin offering) as well as equity financing. Omise has been in cooperation with Global Brain, especially in managing Ethereum Community Fund (ECF) and the Neutrino blockchain-focused co-working space network. 31 Ventures currently runs a $270 million fund named 31 Ventures Global Brain Growth I, jointly managed by Global Brain and Mitsui Fudosan. SMDV participated in a series B round back in July of 2016, and will play a significant role in marketing OmiseGO in…

 

omise-global-brain-mitsui-fudosan
From the left in the back row: Takashi Sano (Partner in charge of Blockchain, Global Brain), Yasuhiko Yurimoto (CEO, Global Brain), Jun Hasegawa (CEO / Founder, Omise Holdings), Takeshi Matsuoka (Executive Manager, Mitsui Fudosan)
From the left in the front row: Shohei Ichimiya (Principal, Global Brain), Takeshi Kodama (Project Manager, Mitsui Fudosan), Masaharu Uno (Country Manager, Omise Japan)
Image credit: Omise Holdings

See the original story in Japanese.

Bangkok- and Tokyo-based Omise Holdings, providing the Omise online payment services as well as the OmiseGo (OMG) token economy-powered initiative, announced today it has raised an undisclosed sum in a series B++ round from Global Brain, 31 Ventures (the investment arm of Mitsui Fudosan), and Sinar Mas Digital Ventures (SMDV for short, the investment arm of Indonesia’s leading conglomerate).

With the latest funding, Omise wants to deliver their financial infrastructure services under development to more people through strategic partnerships with the participating investors.

Omise’s previous equity based funding was a series B+ round back in October of 2017. As far as disclosed, the company has raised more than $45 million US including $25 million US funding via ICO (initial coin offering) as well as equity financing.

Omise has been in cooperation with Global Brain, especially in managing Ethereum Community Fund (ECF) and the Neutrino blockchain-focused co-working space network. 31 Ventures currently runs a $270 million fund named 31 Ventures Global Brain Growth I, jointly managed by Global Brain and Mitsui Fudosan. SMDV participated in a series B round back in July of 2016, and will play a significant role in marketing OmiseGO in the Southeast Asian market. Omise is expected to launch within this year.

Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Omise, Global Brain to build global network of co-working spaces for blockchain startups

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See the original story in Japanese. OmiseGo (abbreviated as OMG), the token economy-centric initiative by Bangkok-headquartered payment startup Omise and Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain, held a joint press briefing/meetup in Tokyo today and announced that they will start building a global network of blockchain-focused co-working spaces called Neutrino (named after a fermion) together. The first venue will be set up in Shibuya of Tokyo (with a seating capacity of 40 developers), the largest startup hub in Japan, followed by other locations in Bangkok and Singapore. Jun Hasegawa, OMG CEO, gave his presentation at Global Brain Alliance Forum held in December in Tokyo and emphasized that Ethereum-related business is in the earliest stage and overwhelmingly lacks information plus engineers to build up the ecosystem. To cover for this, Omise has revealed it would build co-working spaces in several cities around the world to gather blockchain startups, foster engineers and create open innovation opportunities including encouraging enterprises to discover blockchain use cases in their business. Global Brain also revealed last year that it would establish a fund focusing on blockchain tech in partnership with Omise, the amount of which is estimated to be several tens of billions of yen (several hundred…

From left: OmiseGO CEO Jun Hasegawa, Ethereum Founder Vitalik Buterin, Global Brain CEO Yasuhiko Yurimoto
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

See the original story in Japanese.

OmiseGo (abbreviated as OMG), the token economy-centric initiative by Bangkok-headquartered payment startup Omise and Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain, held a joint press briefing/meetup in Tokyo today and announced that they will start building a global network of blockchain-focused co-working spaces called Neutrino (named after a fermion) together. The first venue will be set up in Shibuya of Tokyo (with a seating capacity of 40 developers), the largest startup hub in Japan, followed by other locations in Bangkok and Singapore.

Jun Hasegawa, OMG CEO, gave his presentation at Global Brain Alliance Forum held in December in Tokyo and emphasized that Ethereum-related business is in the earliest stage and overwhelmingly lacks information plus engineers to build up the ecosystem. To cover for this, Omise has revealed it would build co-working spaces in several cities around the world to gather blockchain startups, foster engineers and create open innovation opportunities including encouraging enterprises to discover blockchain use cases in their business.

Global Brain also revealed last year that it would establish a fund focusing on blockchain tech in partnership with Omise, the amount of which is estimated to be several tens of billions of yen (several hundred millions of dollars).

In addition, OMG and Global Brain Blockchain Labs (GBBL), the blockchain-focused initiative of the Tokyo VC firm, have announced the launch of Ethereum Community Fund (ECF) in partnership with Cosmos, Golem, Maker and Raiden, aiming to help developers improve Ethereum infrastructure and build dApps (decentralized apps).

In a recent post of Coinsquare, a crypto-centric news website in Canada, OMG’s Hasegawa was introduced as one of the most influential people behind leading digital currencies, alongside with Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin.

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Neutrino co-working space in Shibuya (For illustrative purposes only, may differ from the actual photoshoot.)
© TRAILHEADS

This is a developing story and may be updated for further details.

Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s Global Brain establishing fund to invest in blockchain tech, jointly with Omise

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See the original story in Japanese. This article is part of the coverage of Global Brain Alliance Forum 2017 held in Tokyo Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain held its annual conference called Global Brain Alliance Forum (GBAF) 2017 earlier this month. At a press conference at GBAF, the firm announced that it would establish a fund focusing on blockchain tech in partnership with Omise, the Bangkok-based fintech startup providing the OmiseGo cryptocurrency. The amount of investments is estimated to be several tens of billions of yen (several hundred millions of dollars). This September, Global Brain had established a new subsidiary called GB Blockchain Labs (GBBL) with the aim of fostering the blockchain ecosystem along with Jun Hasegawa (Founder / CEO, OmiseGo) and Thomas Greco (Special Advisor to OmiseGo / ex-advisor to Ethereum Foundation). Omise had raised $25 million by ICO (Initial Coin Offering) this July, exceeding the $20 million total invested from VCs. At the press conference, Yasuhiko Yurimoto (CEO, Global Brain) commented on the current status of its funds under operation. He explained that KDDI Open Innovation Fund, jointly operated by KDDI, has been strengthening investment into Korean startups while 31 VENTURES Global Venture Fund, jointly operated by Mitsui…

L to R: Sayoko Kaji (Venture Partner, Global Brain), Ayako Miyaguchi (Advisor, OmiseGo / ex-Managing Director Japan, Kraken), Yasuhiko Yurimoto (CEO, Global Brain), Jun Hasegawa (Founder / CEO, Omise / OmiseGo), Thomas Greco (Special Advisor, OmiseGo / ex-Advisor, Ethereum Foundation), Hisashi Sano (Venture Partner, Global Brain)
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

See the original story in Japanese.

This article is part of the coverage of Global Brain Alliance Forum 2017 held in Tokyo

Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain held its annual conference called Global Brain Alliance Forum (GBAF) 2017 earlier this month. At a press conference at GBAF, the firm announced that it would establish a fund focusing on blockchain tech in partnership with Omise, the Bangkok-based fintech startup providing the OmiseGo cryptocurrency. The amount of investments is estimated to be several tens of billions of yen (several hundred millions of dollars).

This September, Global Brain had established a new subsidiary called GB Blockchain Labs (GBBL) with the aim of fostering the blockchain ecosystem along with Jun Hasegawa (Founder / CEO, OmiseGo) and Thomas Greco (Special Advisor to OmiseGo / ex-advisor to Ethereum Foundation). Omise had raised $25 million by ICO (Initial Coin Offering) this July, exceeding the $20 million total invested from VCs.

Hidetaka Aoki (Global Brain; left) and Kan Notoya (Venture Co-creation Dept. of Mitsui Fudosan; right) speaks about PoC (proof of concept) for drone platform developed by Israeli startup SiteAware at Nihombashi, Tokyo
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

At the press conference, Yasuhiko Yurimoto (CEO, Global Brain) commented on the current status of its funds under operation. He explained that KDDI Open Innovation Fund, jointly operated by KDDI, has been strengthening investment into Korean startups while 31 VENTURES Global Venture Fund, jointly operated by Mitsui Fudosan, had invested into Israel-based SiteAware (previously nown as Dronomy), developing drone software for the construction industry. Regarding GB-VI Fund formed last year, he said it had secured 20 billion yen (about $177 million US) in total from 12 limited partners (LPs) and closed funding this June.

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Among their past portfolio companies, 11 firms including Loco Partners (acquired by KDDI), Kabuku (acquired by Futaba), Fluenty (acquired by Samsung) and August (purchased by Assa Abloy) succeeded in exiting during 2017. The cumulative exit success rate of Global Brain since its foundation reached 42% including IPO (initial public offering) and M&A (merger and acquisition).

Global Brain’s fund update 2017
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

During a presentation in the same day given by Hasegawa who is also involved in managing GBBL, he emphasized that Ethereum-related business is in the earliest stage and overwhelmingly lacks information plus engineers to construct the ecosystem. To make up for this, Omise will focus on incubation in this field and revealed it will develop co-working space business for blockchain technology jointly with Global Brain. The first co-working space will be established next spring in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Hasegawa said:

We want to make it the place where top global experts can meet up. […]

Of course, we welcome support from major enterprises, but we really want them to use blockchain for business positively themselves. We intend to bring Japan-born projects to the world, such as Berlin or Poland as well as to Bangkok.

Hasegawa’s presentation implied that the purpose of the co-working space is not only co-working but also a context of open innovation which intends to promote blockchain usein large companies.

Hasegawa emphasizes the firm is aiming to make OmiseGo’s performance to be at 1 million transactions per sec.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

The story about how Hasegawa became motivated to incorporate Ethereum into business is detailed in his recent blog post. As a side note, we will have him at The Bridge’s conference The Coin, to be held in Tokyo next January, as a keynote speaker.

Global Brain’s blockchain-related portfolio companies include Bluzelle, Coins.ph, Digix and Korea-based Dunamu dealing with mobile stock trading services.

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Details of blockchain-focused co-working space business
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Looking at the global trend of blockchain tech-focused VCs, NextBlock Global, the Toronto-based VC investing in blockchain technology, founded by Alex Tapscott (who is the son of prominent futurologist Don Tapscott and is co-author of ‘Blockchain Revolution’ as well), plans an IPO on Toronto Stock Exchange within this year. New York-based ConsenSys, the startup studio that focuses on Ethereum, announced earlier this month that it had established a $50 million fund. Mark Cuban, the investor also known as a millionaire, revealed he has invested into 1confirmation, the $20 million-scale cryptocurrency tech-focused fund established by Nick Tomaino who formerly served Coinbase as Business Development Manager. Furthermore, San Francisco-based Pantera Capital set up a $100 million-scale ICO fund this June.

Within Japan, B Dash Ventures recently launched an ICO-focused fund called B Cryptos jointly with Quoine, the blockchain startup which had raised about $15 million by ICO. Further announcement of fund formation related to cryptocurrency, ICO or blockchain from VCs in and out of Japan can be expected.

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Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s Base Food raises $880K seed funding to sell nutritionally complete pasta in US

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Base Food, developing a nutritionally complete food product capable of becoming a staple food named Base Pasta, in late October announced it had raised 100 million yen (about $880,000) from Japanese VC firm Global Brain in its seed round. With this money, Base Food is going to prepare overseas expansion mainly targeting the U.S., to diversify their product range, as well as to create a community for repeat customers and to increase staffers for it. Base Food is the food-tech startup founded in April of 2016 by Shun Hashimoto, formerly engaged in the autonomous driving business at DeNA and other activities. Most of its members are around thirty and with background in Internet ventures, and it is interesting that these members established a food product manufacturer. The firm started developing the product in July of said year and successively conducted a crowdfunding campaign in November. This year, it launched Base Pasta and commenced full-scale sales with the regular purchase model in February. As the number of people who are increasingly conscious about their health grows, Base Pasta targets those who do not know which nutrients to take, as a complete nutritious food allowing…

CEO Shun Hashimoto (third person from left) and his co-founders / colleagues at Base Food
Image credit: Base Food

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Base Food, developing a nutritionally complete food product capable of becoming a staple food named Base Pasta, in late October announced it had raised 100 million yen (about $880,000) from Japanese VC firm Global Brain in its seed round. With this money, Base Food is going to prepare overseas expansion mainly targeting the U.S., to diversify their product range, as well as to create a community for repeat customers and to increase staffers for it.

Base Food is the food-tech startup founded in April of 2016 by Shun Hashimoto, formerly engaged in the autonomous driving business at DeNA and other activities. Most of its members are around thirty and with background in Internet ventures, and it is interesting that these members established a food product manufacturer. The firm started developing the product in July of said year and successively conducted a crowdfunding campaign in November. This year, it launched Base Pasta and commenced full-scale sales with the regular purchase model in February.

Package of Base Pasta
Image credit Base Food

As the number of people who are increasingly conscious about their health grows, Base Pasta targets those who do not know which nutrients to take, as a complete nutritious food allowing intake of 31 kinds of nutrients just in a single meal. Unlike other complete foods such as Soylent or Comp, Base Pasta does not only have functional immediacy, but also provides satisfaction with its delicious taste and can become a staple food. Hashimoto commented on the concept of Base Pasta.

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Hashimoto explained:

The idea of nutritiously complete foods like Soylent are excellent, but it may be difficult for some people to adopt because they are forced to change their eating habits into drink-based ones. I thought that improving conventional food itself would be better than serving something new.

The purpose of a meal is to take in nutrients, in addition to having a close relationship with others or to enable change in mental pace. At the Peperosso Italian restaurant in Setagaya, Tokyo Peperosso or the Odorumen Akira food truck, menus with Base Pasta have been already served.

Asked about its taste, they quickly cooked it in the office kitchen. Photo shows one with tomato sauce.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

 

Although Base Pasta can be easily cooked with separately sold sauces, the firm is expending efforts to create recipes which offer higher levels of nutrition and satisfaction with support from many nutritionists and restaurants. Alex Ramirez, the manager of the professional baseball team DeNA Baystars, recommends Base Pasta to players who need to be aware of nutritional management while having tight schedules. Hashimoto noted about the business plan:

As gradually becoming recognized by the market while only a year having passed since foundation, the business balance is going into the black on a single month basis. Our speed of execution is highly evaluated by investors with this fundraising. I think the secured money can be used for future business positively without producing deficits.

To the US, the complete food’s birthplace

Base Food is going to advance into the US later this year and throughout next year. The firm expects Amazon or D2C (direct to consumer) with regular purchase model as its distribution channel as in Japan. Hashimoto thinks it is significantly meaningful to venture into the home of health consciousness since D2C has an affinity for healthcare.

Well, why was such a complete nutritious food with a good taste capable of being staple food born in Japan, not in the US?

Hashimoto said:

Yes, what we are doing may be “Columbus’s egg”. It is what anybody can do once heard the idea, but few people hit the idea and further few people actually do.

I think the reason why no product capable of being staple food exists in the US where complete nutritious food was first created is because they tended to focus on the increase of drink-style variation as seen in organic Soylent. Additionally, the idea of making staple food healthy may be easy for the Japanese to come up with. Well, the Japanese love tasty food.

Sometimes startups face language or culture barriers in overseas countries in their international development, but the Base Food team shows great eagerness to target global market with food. Following Kombucha which attracted New Yorker’s attention or Oi Ocha Tea which is favored in Silicon Valley, can Base Pasta penetrate into the new market as a health-conscious food from Japan.

 The Base Food team with investors from Global Brain. Global Brain has recently been focusing on food tech.
Image credit: Base Food

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s BitStar, matchmaking engine for YouTuber stars and brands, secures $2.7M

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Bizcast, the Japanese startup behind a matchmaking platform for YouTuber marketing called BitStar, announced on Monday that it has fundraised 300 million yen (about $2.7 million) from Japanese investment firm Global Brain. This round succeeds their seed round where they fundraised an undisclosed amount from East Ventures backed in 2014 followed by their series A round where they have raised an estimated amount of several million dollars from Japanese gaming company Colopl (TSE:3668) back in August last year. This is a actual series B round, but the secured amount scale and the investment conditions apparently correspond to a series A round. Due to this funding, Kazuhiko Miyama (Partner of Global Brain) is appointed to Outside Director of Bizcast. Since this round has not closed yet, Bizcast implied the possibility of additional funding within the round from other companies having a potential of business synergies with it. Founded back in July 2014, Bizcast launched the BitStar platform that matches YouTubers with their client companies in September 2015. Currently, the platform has more than 1,500 YouTubers who do not belong to specific MCNs (multi-channel networks) and have more than 80 million followers in all. In…

L to R: Kazuhiko Miyama (Partner of Global Brain), Yasuhiko Yurimoto (CEO of Global Brain), Taku Watanabe (CEO of Bizcast), Nao Harada (COO of Bizcast), and Yuta Yamashita (CTO of Bizcast)

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Bizcast, the Japanese startup behind a matchmaking platform for YouTuber marketing called BitStar, announced on Monday that it has fundraised 300 million yen (about $2.7 million) from Japanese investment firm Global Brain. This round succeeds their seed round where they fundraised an undisclosed amount from East Ventures backed in 2014 followed by their series A round where they have raised an estimated amount of several million dollars from Japanese gaming company Colopl (TSE:3668) back in August last year. This is a actual series B round, but the secured amount scale and the investment conditions apparently correspond to a series A round.

Due to this funding, Kazuhiko Miyama (Partner of Global Brain) is appointed to Outside Director of Bizcast. Since this round has not closed yet, Bizcast implied the possibility of additional funding within the round from other companies having a potential of business synergies with it.

Founded back in July 2014, Bizcast launched the BitStar platform that matches YouTubers with their client companies in September 2015. Currently, the platform has more than 1,500 YouTubers who do not belong to specific MCNs (multi-channel networks) and have more than 80 million followers in all.

In typical MCNs, about 20% of monthly ad incomes from YouTube is charged as the commission fee; however, Bitstar aims acquisition of major YouTubers by allowing registration for free and by offering business matters, as well as accompanying services such as tax returns procedures or exposure support. According to the company, over 1,000 video clips are served via the platform while the repeat ratio of their clients reaches 51%.

Bizcast has developed unique tools on its own to crawl audience reactions on social media regarding YouTubers registered to the platform. By analyzing which YouTuber will have the most powerful effect for each topic, Bizcast brings the best matchmaking to satisfy with both YoutTuber and client companies.

Finding next YouTube stars and overseas expansion

Originally started as a matching platform for YouTube marketing, BitStar wants to enhance the functions of producing high-quality video content and managing its own media channels in order to expand the area of activities of YouTubers, seeking to collaborate with entertainment business companies having lots of artists or performers. The company’s vision can be seen in, for example, the “WEGO YouTube” channel jointly provided by WEGO, a popular Japanese apparel brand among the younger generation, as well as a recent partnership with China’s up-and-coming news app Toutiao which is now entering into the Japanese market.

Taku Watanabe (CEO of Bizcast) told that it will also focus on accelerating the cycle of finding talents, raising personnel, and monetization:

I think it is a great advantage that we already have a close relationship with clients since we started as an advertisement platform. We know which kind of needs clients have and which type of talents to raise.

Coincidentally with this funding, Bizcast also announced that it has tied up with Japanese travel agency giant JTB. There is a background factor to this tying-up that BitStar was used in the promotion of one of JTB’s travel product series. By enforced marketing efforts using BitStar-suggested YouTubers, the staying time of JTB website increased four-fold and the daily page view increased seven-fold at most; therefore, JTB evaluates BitStar highly for driving a new traffic of young customers.

JTB, also being a LP (limited partner) of the Global Brain’s 6th fund in 20 billion yen ($180 million)-scale, aims to push on business collaborations in attracting foreign visitors and overseas promotion support for the Japanese companies in anticipation of 2020 Tokyo Olympics, for example, the cooperation with Fun Japan Communications, a JTB-affiliated digital marketing company specifically targeting the Asian market.

As seen in cooperation with Toutiao, Bizcast seemingly attempt to advance into the Chinese influencer market as well. There is a possibility that the firm will expand into Taiwan within this year, and may become a competitor of AdAsia Holdings, the leading player in this field. As an aside, AdAsia Holdings announced last week that it appointed a new vice president to enhance the entry into the Taiwanese market.

The following is one of JTB’s video clips that promote travels to Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, made by a BitStar-suggested YouTuber.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s in-car security startup Trillium secures series A funding from Global Brain

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See the original story in Japanese. Nagoya-based Trillium, the Japanese startup providing security solutions for connected cars and autonomous motives, announced today that it has fundraised in a series A round led by Japanese investment firm Global Brain. Financial details of the deals have not been disclosed but the size of the funding this time is supposed to be multi-million dollars. Since this round is not closed, the company is exploring additional funding from other VC firms or businesses. The company was launched in September 2014 by David Michael Uze who previously served as Japan country manager of leading semiconductor companies, for both AMD and Freescale Semiconductor (acquired by NXP Semiconductors in 2015). Its board of directors include notable names like Nobuhiko Koyama, the head of the company behind the APR Racing Team participating in the Super GT 300 championship, as well as Sachio Senmoto who has founded well-known Japanese companies DDI (now a part of Japanese leading telco KDDI) and eAccess (now known as Y! Mobile, the mobile carrier unit under Yahoo Japan). Last year, two American hackers conducted test hacking attacks to a Uconnect-installed Jeep Cherokee driven by a reporter of Wired Magazine, which stunned IoT and connected…

global-brain-trillium-team
L to R: Hidetaka Aoki (venture partner, Global Brain), Naoki Kamimaeda (venture partner, Global Brain), Yasuhiko Yurimoto (CEO, Global Brain), David Michael Uze (CEO, Trillium), Nobuhiko Koyama (managing director, Trillium), Aaron Benedek (chief architect, Trillium)

See the original story in Japanese.

Nagoya-based Trillium, the Japanese startup providing security solutions for connected cars and autonomous motives, announced today that it has fundraised in a series A round led by Japanese investment firm Global Brain. Financial details of the deals have not been disclosed but the size of the funding this time is supposed to be multi-million dollars. Since this round is not closed, the company is exploring additional funding from other VC firms or businesses.

The company was launched in September 2014 by David Michael Uze who previously served as Japan country manager of leading semiconductor companies, for both AMD and Freescale Semiconductor (acquired by NXP Semiconductors in 2015). Its board of directors include notable names like Nobuhiko Koyama, the head of the company behind the APR Racing Team participating in the Super GT 300 championship, as well as Sachio Senmoto who has founded well-known Japanese companies DDI (now a part of Japanese leading telco KDDI) and eAccess (now known as Y! Mobile, the mobile carrier unit under Yahoo Japan).

Last year, two American hackers conducted test hacking attacks to a Uconnect-installed Jeep Cherokee driven by a reporter of Wired Magazine, which stunned IoT and connected car addicts around the world by revealing the vulnerability of in-car control systems.

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Thanks to the spread of IoT-optimized SIM cards such as Soracom, connected cars can become more convenient but also more vulnerable against attacks from hackers regardless of how far the targets are located from them. Security countermeasures against these attacks can be categorized into three layers: V2I (vehicle to infrastructure), smart firewall and IVN (in-vehicle networks). Trillium is focused on offering security solutions on the IVN layer.

trillium-automotive-security-three-areas

According to Trillium CEO Uze, since IVN has followed an old standard based on a 16-bit core technology developed more than 20 years ago, it’s quite difficult to implement security solutions on an unresourceful chipset environment.

About 50 to 130 ECUs (electronic control units) are installed on an automobile. It’s possible to add a security chip to each of them but it would be costly and wouldn’t support OTA (over-the-air) software updates on an ECU scale. By writing codes in sizes of less than 10 kilobytes to chipsets in an ECU, we made software-based security implementation fully possible.

Similar to the SSL (secure sockets layer) technology for website integration, Trillium has succeeded in implementing a completely software-based security solution (SecureCAN) for an in-vehicle control area network connecting ECUs, which supports end-to-end encryption, authentication and key management. The company has also secured interoperability by offering appropriate security programs for different chipsets by various ECU developers.

One of the company’s value propositions is that they can offer not only security software for CAN but also one-stop solutions including multiple security countermeasures and program update technology for LIN (local interconnect network), which controls actuators of various in-car devices, as well as for OTA, FlexRay and Ethernet. It would be possible to develop an integration set of solutions by partnering with other companies, but the company has persisted in creating a series of solutions from scratch using their own technologies because they want to avoid a possible extinction of rights to use third party’s solutions in the automotive tech industry where mergers and acquisitions occur frequently.

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The automotive security market is valued at $3 billion but is expected to grow up to $20 billion by 2020 when connected cars will account for 75% of all vehicles shipped annually. According to Business Insider, there will be more than 220 million connected cars traveling on roads around the world as of that year. These predictions are probably enough for us to find out why we have recently seen a flurry of M&A and funding announcements in the automotive security industry, such as Cruise Automation acquired by GM for $1 billion, as well as Harman’s continuous acquisitions of RedBend Software ($170 million), St Symphony Teleca ($780 million) and TowerSec ($70 to 75 million).

Using the funds raised this time, Trillium will strengthen engineering efforts to complete solutions undergoing development like SecureLIN, SecureMOST and SecureFLEX, in addition to enhancing already-available solutions like SecureCAN and SecureETHER. The company claims that they want to start offering subscription-based security services including OTA program update function to connected-car users through car insurance companies, wireless data carriers, security providers and others by 2019.

Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s Mitsui Fudosan launches $45 million investment fund for startups worldwide

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See the original story in Japanese. Japan’s leading property company Mitsui Fudosan (TSE:8801), also known for its Venture Co-Creation Project, or 31 Ventures, announced at a news briefing today in Tokyo the launch of their first strategic investment fund in association with Tokyo-based investment firm Global Brain, and it is expected to be valued at 5 billion yen ($45 million). Redeemable in ten years, the fund targets seed-, early-, and middle-stage startups in Japan, North America, Europe, Israel, and Asian countries in all sectors, but excluding biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, with a focus on real-estate, IoT (Internet of Things), security, environment, energy, sharing economy, e-commerce, fintech, robotics, and life sciences. Mitsui Fudosan plans to invest in 500 Startups and Draper Nexus Ventures through the fund, so we see it has a so-called ‘fund of funds’ structure. To support the global expansion of startups, Mitsui Fudosan has partnered with Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in New York as well as NUS Enterprise, the startup incubation arm of National University of Singapore. Mitsui Fudosan has been primarily conducting their open innovation efforts at their startup hubs, such as Kashiwa-no-ha Open Innovation Lab, or KOIL, in a suburb of Tokyo. In addition to having invested in…

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L to R: Yasuhiko Yurimoto (CEO, Global Brain), Yoshikazu Kitahara (Executive Managing Director, Mitsui Fudosan), Akira Sugawara (General Manager, Venture Co-creation Project by Mitsui Fudosan)

See the original story in Japanese.

Japan’s leading property company Mitsui Fudosan (TSE:8801), also known for its Venture Co-Creation Project, or 31 Ventures, announced at a news briefing today in Tokyo the launch of their first strategic investment fund in association with Tokyo-based investment firm Global Brain, and it is expected to be valued at 5 billion yen ($45 million).

Redeemable in ten years, the fund targets seed-, early-, and middle-stage startups in Japan, North America, Europe, Israel, and Asian countries in all sectors, but excluding biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, with a focus on real-estate, IoT (Internet of Things), security, environment, energy, sharing economy, e-commerce, fintech, robotics, and life sciences.

Mitsui Fudosan plans to invest in 500 Startups and Draper Nexus Ventures through the fund, so we see it has a so-called ‘fund of funds’ structure. To support the global expansion of startups, Mitsui Fudosan has partnered with Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in New York as well as NUS Enterprise, the startup incubation arm of National University of Singapore.

Mitsui Fudosan has been primarily conducting their open innovation efforts at their startup hubs, such as Kashiwa-no-ha Open Innovation Lab, or KOIL, in a suburb of Tokyo. In addition to having invested in a “real-tech” fund led by Japanese biotech company Euglena, the company annually organizes the Asian Entrepreneurship Award to support startup ecosystems in Japan and the rest of the world.

The company says it will form a community called 31 Ventures Club, allowing participating startups to use four co-working spaces at various locations in Tokyo with a single membership. Furthermore, the company will also establish new startup hubs in two locations in Tokyo, planning to curate life science-focused startups in Nihonbashi near Tokyo Station.

See also:

Edited by Kurt Hanson

Japan’s Stellasia LED wins pitch competition at Global Brain Alliance Forum in Tokyo

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See the original story in Japanese.This is part of our coverage of Global Brain Alliance Forum 2015. Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain this month held an annual startup conference event called Global Brain Alliance Forum (GBAF) in Tokyo. As a part of GBAF, a startup pitch event called the Global Startups Pitch Battle was held, where 10 startups from Japan and the other Asian countries competed. Japan’s Stellasia LED won the top award. The judges were: Shigeyuki Tsuchida, Senior Executive Officer, Innovation Network Corporation of Japan Ken Matsui, Project Manager, Mitsui Fudosan Venture Co-Creation Project, a.k.a. 31 Ventures Takashi Shibayama, Director of Content and Media Business, Furyu Chester Jungseok Roh, CSO, Reality Reflection The top prize winner: Stellasia LED (Japan) Stellasia LED is developing an AC-driven LED lamp for industrial use, in contrast to typical LED lamps driven by AC. Stellasia LED’s design eliminates the use of easily malfunctioning electric components, such as aluminum electrolytic capacitors in AC-driven LED, thus reducing failure rates, energy consumption, and noise. Although voltage differs by country, the AC-driven LED will enable standardizing circuits in products and unified production lines, thus reducing manufacturing costs. The team is planning to start new businesses, such as smart…

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See the original story in Japanese.
This is part of our coverage of Global Brain Alliance Forum 2015.

Tokyo-based VC firm Global Brain this month held an annual startup conference event called Global Brain Alliance Forum (GBAF) in Tokyo.

As a part of GBAF, a startup pitch event called the Global Startups Pitch Battle was held, where 10 startups from Japan and the other Asian countries competed. Japan’s Stellasia LED won the top award.

The judges were:

The top prize winner: Stellasia LED (Japan)

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Stellasia CEO Richard Matsuura (left) receives the award from judge Ken Matsui.

Stellasia LED is developing an AC-driven LED lamp for industrial use, in contrast to typical LED lamps driven by AC. Stellasia LED’s design eliminates the use of easily malfunctioning electric components, such as aluminum electrolytic capacitors in AC-driven LED, thus reducing failure rates, energy consumption, and noise.

Although voltage differs by country, the AC-driven LED will enable standardizing circuits in products and unified production lines, thus reducing manufacturing costs. The team is planning to start new businesses, such as smart lighting.

gbaf-pitch-stellasia-led

The Global Brain award winner: Kacific (Singapore)

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Singapore-based Kacific aims to use communication satellites to provide broadband Internet service to isolated islands of countries in the Asia-Pacific region such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Leveraging existing technologies, it plans to provide an internet connection service of 50Mbps at cheaper rates than other services.

The satellites will be ordered in 2016 and launches will commence in 2018. The total investment is estimated to be $182 million. Fees will be collected by the wholesaling of the service to ISP or the government in each country. The control center for the satellites and the service will be in Japan.

See also:

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Kacific CEO Christian Patouraux

The Global Brain award winner: Eatigo (Thailand)

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Thailand-based Eatigo offers a mobile app for dining deals and restaurant reservations under the same name, attracting customers by providing discount information in off-peak hours. It launched domestically in June 2014, and is being developed for Singapore.

In comparison with typical customer services such as hotels or airlines having 73% and 74% of the usage rate for each, that for restaurants is only 35%. To lower vacancy rates of restaurants, this service supports user restaurants to shape their customer traffic.

Eatigo is developing a mobile app for Japan and India. Also, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Indonesia are targeted as future markets.

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Eatigo CEO Michael Cluzel

The audience award winner: Axelspace (Japan)

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Axelspace CEO Yuya Nakamura (right) receives the award from judge Takashi Shibayama.

Japan’s Axelspace was established as a spin-off from the University of Tokyo in 2008. The team developed a micro-satellite only 50 centimeters square and 60 kilograms in weight. It will launch satellites for Japan’s weather information service Weathernews (TSE:4825). Starting from three satellites in 2017, it will launch ten satellites every year from 2018, to construct a system of 50 low-earth orbit satellites for data collection of weather or topography. The data will be sold to public agencies or private companies. The launch of a typical satellite can cost several tens of millions dollars, however, the micro-satellite can be launched for about $8 million.

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gbaf-pitch-axelspace

Japan’s LifeRobotics opens series A round with $2.2 million in funding

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based LifeRobotics, the Japanese startup behind a cooperative working robot called Coro, announced today that it has fundraised about 270 million yen (about $2.2 million) in a series A funding round. This round is led by Global Brain (GB) with participation from Nippon Technology Venture Partners (NTVP), and Lead Capital Management (LCM), anticipating additional funds from other investors to secure the final total of 400 million yen ($3.3 million). Coinciding with this funding, Takashi Kato, NTVP CEO Kazutaka Muraguchi and GB venture partner Hidetaka Aoki will join the board of directors while GB CEO Yasuhiko Yurimoto will be appointed as an outside auditor. Kato is renowned as the co-founder of Japanese robotics company Schaft which was acquired by Google in 2013. See also: Japanese robotics entrepreneur forms $20M fund for bio and energy startups Google’s newly acquired robotics company wins DARPA Challenge Trials LifeRobotics was founded in December of 2007 by Dr. Woo-Keun Yoon who has been studying livelihood-support robot arms at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and other research institutions for over 15 years. His team have been developing cooperative working robots which allow users to let the…

liferobotics_featuredimage

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based LifeRobotics, the Japanese startup behind a cooperative working robot called Coro, announced today that it has fundraised about 270 million yen (about $2.2 million) in a series A funding round. This round is led by Global Brain (GB) with participation from Nippon Technology Venture Partners (NTVP), and Lead Capital Management (LCM), anticipating additional funds from other investors to secure the final total of 400 million yen ($3.3 million).

Coinciding with this funding, Takashi Kato, NTVP CEO Kazutaka Muraguchi and GB venture partner Hidetaka Aoki will join the board of directors while GB CEO Yasuhiko Yurimoto will be appointed as an outside auditor. Kato is renowned as the co-founder of Japanese robotics company Schaft which was acquired by Google in 2013.

See also:

LifeRobotics was founded in December of 2007 by Dr. Woo-Keun Yoon who has been studying livelihood-support robot arms at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and other research institutions for over 15 years. His team have been developing cooperative working robots which allow users to let the robot learn motions using a 3D mouse or a game pad without complicated programming skills.

Along with the funding announcement, the company just unveiled a co-robot for picking work called Coro, which will be showcased at International Robot Exhibition 2015 taking place in Tokyo from December 2nd to 5th. Its sales will start in January 2016. Coro uses the company’s patent-pending Transpander technology, allowing placement of the co-robot in small manufacturing spaces where conventional-type robots are difficult to locate. In this way, this brand new robot will help people improve their productivity as well as automate processes in manufacturing.

Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy