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Daiz, Japan’s answer to Impossible Foods, secures $6M series A round

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Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced today that it has secured about 650 million yen (about $6 million) in a series A round. Investors participating in this round are: A-FIVE: Agriculture, forestry and fisheries Fund corporation for Innovation, Value-chain and Expansion Japan (Japan’s state-backed fund) Mitsubishi UFJ Capital Okasan Capital Partners Nichirei Foods (One of major brands of pre-cooked frozen foods in Japan) Kajitsudo (former parent company and current major share holder of Daiz, supplying organically-grown salad greens and leafy vegetables) Details of Daiz’s fundraising so far are unclear, but this follows the company’s previous three funding announcements: 100 million yen from Nishi-Nippon City Bank and QB Capital in September of 2018, 100 million yen from Kagoshima Bank in December of 2018, and 50 million yen from Nichirei Foods in February this year. The latest round brought their total funding sum up to about $11.2 million. The company says it will use the funds to expand its production capacity for soybean-based plant meat raw material called Miracle Chip up to 3,000 tons per year in addition to strengthen R&D efforts to get the taste of plant meat much closer to the real one. The…

Image credit: Daiz

Kumamoto-based Daiz, the Japanese startup developing plant-based substitutes for meat products, announced today that it has secured about 650 million yen (about $6 million) in a series A round.

Investors participating in this round are:

  • A-FIVE: Agriculture, forestry and fisheries Fund corporation for Innovation, Value-chain and Expansion Japan (Japan’s state-backed fund)
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Capital
  • Okasan Capital Partners
  • Nichirei Foods (One of major brands of pre-cooked frozen foods in Japan)
  • Kajitsudo (former parent company and current major share holder of Daiz, supplying organically-grown salad greens and leafy vegetables)

Details of Daiz’s fundraising so far are unclear, but this follows the company’s previous three funding announcements: 100 million yen from Nishi-Nippon City Bank and QB Capital in September of 2018, 100 million yen from Kagoshima Bank in December of 2018, and 50 million yen from Nichirei Foods in February this year.

The latest round brought their total funding sum up to about $11.2 million. The company says it will use the funds to expand its production capacity for soybean-based plant meat raw material called Miracle Chip up to 3,000 tons per year in addition to strengthen R&D efforts to get the taste of plant meat much closer to the real one.

Miracle Chip, Daiz’s soybean-based material for meat substitutes
Image credit: Daiz

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

In this space, we’ve recently seen updates like Impossible Foods raising $500 million to launch the sales of plant-based meat at 1,700 Kroger Co stores across the US in addition to Canada’s Livekindly (previously known as FoodsUnited) raising $200 million to invest in plant-based chicken substitutes. In April, Singapore-based Growthwell raised $8 million while Beyond Meat started offering food items using meat substitutes at over 3,300 Starbucks stores all across Mainland China.

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One Visa, Wovn join forces to keep foreign workers updated with relief efforts over COVID-19

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Two Tokyo startups – One Visa and Wovn Technologies – announced today that they are joining forces to help foreign workers in Japan keep updated with relief efforts and support measures over COVID-19. The will translate and organize notices and advisories from the government and private sectors into English, Chinese, Korean, and “Easy Japanese” so that non-native Japanese speakers can learn the latest developments. Translated updates are expected to reach more than hundreds of thousand foreign workers in Japan through the partnership with Tokyo-based foreign workers-focused recruiting agency Global Power in addition to 150 member companies belonging to Japan Shopping Tourism Organizatioin (JSTO). According to Japan’s Immigration Services Agency, over 2.8 million foreign passport holders are residing in Japan as of June 2019. One Visa has developed an online visa applications management platform, allowing Japanese companies to submit visa applications for their employees and manage when their visas will become expired and must apply for a new one. Wovn has developed an SDK (software developer kit) that allows mobile developers to easily multilingulize their websites and apps.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #4814.

Two Tokyo startups – One Visa and Wovn Technologies – announced today that they are joining forces to help foreign workers in Japan keep updated with relief efforts and support measures over COVID-19. The will translate and organize notices and advisories from the government and private sectors into English, Chinese, Korean, and “Easy Japanese” so that non-native Japanese speakers can learn the latest developments.

Translated updates are expected to reach more than hundreds of thousand foreign workers in Japan through the partnership with Tokyo-based foreign workers-focused recruiting agency Global Power in addition to 150 member companies belonging to Japan Shopping Tourism Organizatioin (JSTO). According to Japan’s Immigration Services Agency, over 2.8 million foreign passport holders are residing in Japan as of June 2019.

One Visa has developed an online visa applications management platform, allowing Japanese companies to submit visa applications for their employees and manage when their visas will become expired and must apply for a new one. Wovn has developed an SDK (software developer kit) that allows mobile developers to easily multilingulize their websites and apps.

Japan virtual YouTuber management agency raises $6.6 million to expand globally

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Cover, the startup offering management production services of VTubers (short for “virtual YouTubers”), announced on Thursday that it has raised 700 million yen (about $6.6 million US) in the latest round. The series of the round has not been specified yet. The funding comes from Hakuhodo DY Ventures, i-nest capital, Chiba Dojo, Dimension, SMBC Venture Capital, angel investors in addition to existing investors including Strive (previously known as GREE Ventures). The amount also includes loans from Mizuho Bank. For the startup, this follows their seed round funding back in August of 2017 (approx. 30 million yen from Mizuho Capital, TLM, and angel investors) and their series A round back in June of 2018 (approx. 200 million yen from GREE Ventures, OLM Ventures, and Mizuho Capital). The latest rounds brought their total funding sum up to about 1 billion yen (about $940 million). The company runs a VTuber agency business called Hololive Production which allows entertainers to perform a fictitious character using VR-based 3D avatars. In the agency, nearly 50 VTubers in Japan and overseas are attrarcting a total of more than 15 million fans through these performers’ livestreaming channels on YouTube and China’s…

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Cover, the startup offering management production services of VTubers (short for “virtual YouTubers”), announced on Thursday that it has raised 700 million yen (about $6.6 million US) in the latest round. The series of the round has not been specified yet.

The funding comes from Hakuhodo DY Ventures, i-nest capital, Chiba Dojo, Dimension, SMBC Venture Capital, angel investors in addition to existing investors including Strive (previously known as GREE Ventures). The amount also includes loans from Mizuho Bank.

For the startup, this follows their seed round funding back in August of 2017 (approx. 30 million yen from Mizuho Capital, TLM, and angel investors) and their series A round back in June of 2018 (approx. 200 million yen from GREE Ventures, OLM Ventures, and Mizuho Capital). The latest rounds brought their total funding sum up to about 1 billion yen (about $940 million).

The company runs a VTuber agency business called Hololive Production which allows entertainers to perform a fictitious character using VR-based 3D avatars. In the agency, nearly 50 VTubers in Japan and overseas are attrarcting a total of more than 15 million fans through these performers’ livestreaming channels on YouTube and China’s Bilibili.

In recent years, the company has been helping the VTubers expand their activities beyond streaming channels. Vtuber Tokino Sora successfully debuted with a Japanese major label last year while another Vtubers, such as Hoshimachi Suisei, Shirakami Fubuki, and Houshou Marine, started their radio shows earlier this year.

The company says it will use the funds to strengthen VTuber management business in Japan and overseas, promote virtual live performances, and develop other Extended Reality-based services. The company has already started offering VTuber management production services in China and Indonesia as well as rolling out auditions in several English-speaking countries.

Founded back in 2016 by Motoaki Tanigo who previously ran the restaurant curation app 30min. (pronounced ‘sun zero minute’), the company was graduated from notable startup accelerators like Incubate Camp 8th, TECH LAB PAAK’s 7th batch, and Tokyo VR Startups’ 2nd batch.

Japan’s Smartround raises from Peter Thiel-led fund to help startups manage equity

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Tokyo-based Smartround, a Japanese startup helping startups and investors manage their funding and investments respectively, announced today that it has secured 100 million yen (about $933,000) in a pre-series A round based on J-KISS, a simple term sheet framework for a convertible instrument for early startups to obtain initial financing. Participating investors in this round include FF APAC Scout, Justin Waldron, and Matias de Tezanos. FF APAC Scout is Peter Thiel-led Founders Fund’s APAC region-focused scout fund, which allows serial entrepreneurs / angel investors to back new entrepreneurs, similarly to Japan Angel Fund and Sequoia Capital’s scout fund in terms of the scheme. Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron is well known in Japan for having invested in language learning startup Lang-8 while Matias de Tezanos is a serial entrepreneur and has experienced seven exits as an investor. Since the company secured over $513,000 from more than 20 Japanese angel investors in a seed round back in March last year, the latest round suggests another massive backing from angel investors but is centered on the Inner Circle in Silicon Valley this time around. Jeff Lonsdale, who’s in charge of the investment at FF APAC Scout, said in a statement: Japan is one…

Image credit: Smartround

Tokyo-based Smartround, a Japanese startup helping startups and investors manage their funding and investments respectively, announced today that it has secured 100 million yen (about $933,000) in a pre-series A round based on J-KISS, a simple term sheet framework for a convertible instrument for early startups to obtain initial financing. Participating investors in this round include FF APAC Scout, Justin Waldron, and Matias de Tezanos.

FF APAC Scout is Peter Thiel-led Founders Fund’s APAC region-focused scout fund, which allows serial entrepreneurs / angel investors to back new entrepreneurs, similarly to Japan Angel Fund and Sequoia Capital’s scout fund in terms of the scheme. Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron is well known in Japan for having invested in language learning startup Lang-8 while Matias de Tezanos is a serial entrepreneur and has experienced seven exits as an investor.

Since the company secured over $513,000 from more than 20 Japanese angel investors in a seed round back in March last year, the latest round suggests another massive backing from angel investors but is centered on the Inner Circle in Silicon Valley this time around.

Jeff Lonsdale, who’s in charge of the investment at FF APAC Scout, said in a statement:

Japan is one of the largest economies in the world with some of the most productive and innovative workers. We should expect many more strong companies to emerge from this ecosystem and Smartround is well positioned to help create this future.

Some of our readers may recall that Lonsdale expressed his extraordinary expectations for the globalization of Japanese startups in the future at Tech in Asia Tokyo 2018.

Smartround is a cloud-based platform serving startups and their backer VCs. It offers entrepreneurs with comprehensive resources for managing their businesses such as capital policy, business management, company introduction, library, and other functions while it enables investors to track their portfolio performance online. The Smartround team appears to consider US startups like Carta and Pully as the benchmark in their growth strategy.

Smartround was founded back in May of 2018. Prior to Smartround, Masaru Sunny Sunagawa, the startup’s founder and CEO, previously worked at a trading company and a VC firm followed by launching Location Value which was later acquired by NTT Docomo back in 2014.

Regarding what the latest funds is used for, Sunagawa said in a statement:

In the midst of the ongoing turmoil caused by COVID-19, Japanese startups leading the next generation are forced to navigate a difficult path. […]

We are grateful to all of our investors who share our philosophy and ideals and are willing to back us under this circumstance, and we will continue to improve our services and expand our business globally. In particular, we would like to take advantage of this funding experience to evolve our service so that Japanese startups can raise funds from overseas investors.

Plimes secures $1.4M seed round, helps hospitals monitor swallowing ability of elderly patients

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See the original story in Japanese. Plimes, a healthcare startup spun-off from the University of Tsukuba in Japan, announced in late March that it has raised nearly $1.4 million US in a seed round from robotics venture Cyberdyne (TSE: 7779), a fellow University of Tsukuba native for the startup. Plimes is also allying with Cyberdyne to accelerate the development and market expansion of their product. In general, people’s swallowing ability decreases with age, which puts the elderly at risk of aspiration and in turn increases the chance of pneumonia and/or death. Physicians may choose to alter the diet of patients with the decreased ability to swallow by switching them from solid food to mashed pastes, or in some cases patients may require gastrostomy for direct nutrients. Gokuri, the startup’s product, is a medical support device designed to improve the quality of life (QoL) for such eldery people. The device routinely measures whether or not swallowing is normal from the sound picked up using a microphone attached to a user’s neck, and it aims to improve the efficiency of user rehabilitation. The ability to accuratly monitor swallowing increases the possibility that the user can regain the power to eat and enjoy…

Plimes founders – From left: CCO Atsushi Nitasaka, COO Tomoya Shimokakimoto, CEO Kenji Suzuki, CTO Dushyantha Jayatilake
Image credit: Plimes

See the original story in Japanese.

Plimes, a healthcare startup spun-off from the University of Tsukuba in Japan, announced in late March that it has raised nearly $1.4 million US in a seed round from robotics venture Cyberdyne (TSE: 7779), a fellow University of Tsukuba native for the startup. Plimes is also allying with Cyberdyne to accelerate the development and market expansion of their product.

In general, people’s swallowing ability decreases with age, which puts the elderly at risk of aspiration and in turn increases the chance of pneumonia and/or death. Physicians may choose to alter the diet of patients with the decreased ability to swallow by switching them from solid food to mashed pastes, or in some cases patients may require gastrostomy for direct nutrients.

Gokuri, the startup’s product, is a medical support device designed to improve the quality of life (QoL) for such eldery people. The device routinely measures whether or not swallowing is normal from the sound picked up using a microphone attached to a user’s neck, and it aims to improve the efficiency of user rehabilitation. The ability to accuratly monitor swallowing increases the possibility that the user can regain the power to eat and enjoy tasty solid foods.

The Gokuri swallowing monitoring device
Image credit: Plimes

This is seed funding for the Plimes team after 10 years since they started basic research at the University of Tsukuba and the University Hospital of Tsukuba back in 2010 (not yet incorporated at that time). Funding was made possible by Gokuri’s high level of accuracy, 97.3% or more, with regards to measuring normal and abnormal swallowing conditions, and the establishment of a business model using hospitals as sales channels. The current business model assumes that hospitals will adopt the solution to improve medical services for patients.

Plimes COO/Co-founder Atsushi Nitasaka says,

For example, hospitals don’t want to see any patient with a brain tumor is cured by surgery but goes on to die of aspiration pneumonia the first time he ate. […]

During the process of starting development and advancing the product market fit, we realized that there is a need for doctors to monitor the patients’ diet. However, doctors cannot be continuously looking after them. This is where our solution can help. Our business model supports hospitals with their goal of discharging patients quickly.

In collaboration with Kyotango City in Kyoto, Tarumizu City in Kagoshima, and Fukuoka Prefecture, and other local governments, the company has been conducting practical tests with elderly participants at local medical facilities. Plimes feels that Japanese startups are uniquely skilled at developing solutions for aging societies, and since aging is a social issue common to developed countries, they have started global business expansion. Plimes is currently conducting demo tests in the US, Germany, and Denmark.

The Gokuri swallowing monitoring device
Image credit: Plimes

In line with the latest funding, Plimes will begin recruitment of skilled team members for each speciality: testing for swallowing, monitoring studies, medical device development, business development, speech therapy, cloud application development, and AI technology. Cyberdene, one of the investors in thiis round, has its hands in health and medical related business, so we can expect to see emerging synergy. Plimes will receive widespread support from Cyberdyne for engineering, back office functions, and the development of sales channels.

Plimes was adopted into the Japan Science and Technology Agency’s startup business “JST Start” initiative back in 2015 followed by being incorporated in 2018. Additionally, the company has had excellent results at numerous startup events and initiatives, including receiving the IP Bridge Award at the Asian Entrepreneurship Award 2018 and winning the 2nd “Startup Accelerator Tsukuba” Demo Day.

Translated by Amanda Lynn
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Bangkok-based mobility data startup Flare raises $1.4M series A from Japanese investors

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Bangkok-based Flare, offering an ad-wrapping service for car owners as well as mobility data management and analytics services, announced today that it has raised 150 million yen (about $1.4 million) in a series A round from Spiral Ventures Asia, Chiba Dojo, Sun Asterisk, and Voyage Ventures. Sun Asterisk (previously called Framgia at the time) follows their participation in a seed round funding back in 2018 while Voyage Ventures follows a series A round back in 2019. Flare was launched back in August of 2017 by Japanese serial entrepreneur Kazuki Kamiya who moved to Thailand in November of 2013. Prior to Flare, he established a Skype-based Thai language school in May of 2014 and subsequently engaged in managing crowdsourced translation / interpretation and business portal website. Following the Flare ad-wrapping service, his company launched Flare Analytics and Flare Dash last year. Flare Analytics is a device-free cloud based platform analyzing driving data which can be applied for fleet management and telematics insurance while Flash Dash visualizes driver behavior so that their operation management can easily understand where their employee drivers are running and working. Flare says the new fund will be used to invest in further developing the aforementioned three services…

The Flare team. CEO Kazuki Kamiya stands second from the left.
Image credit: Flare

Bangkok-based Flare, offering an ad-wrapping service for car owners as well as mobility data management and analytics services, announced today that it has raised 150 million yen (about $1.4 million) in a series A round from Spiral Ventures Asia, Chiba Dojo, Sun Asterisk, and Voyage Ventures.

Sun Asterisk (previously called Framgia at the time) follows their participation in a seed round funding back in 2018 while Voyage Ventures follows a series A round back in 2019.

Flare was launched back in August of 2017 by Japanese serial entrepreneur Kazuki Kamiya who moved to Thailand in November of 2013. Prior to Flare, he established a Skype-based Thai language school in May of 2014 and subsequently engaged in managing crowdsourced translation / interpretation and business portal website.

Flare Analytics
Image credit: Flare

Following the Flare ad-wrapping service, his company launched Flare Analytics and Flare Dash last year. Flare Analytics is a device-free cloud based platform analyzing driving data which can be applied for fleet management and telematics insurance while Flash Dash visualizes driver behavior so that their operation management can easily understand where their employee drivers are running and working.

Flare says the new fund will be used to invest in further developing the aforementioned three services by strengthening hiring sales and engineering positions. Flare Ad serves 15,000 registered users as of April last year, is aimed to hit 100,000 user milestone in the future. The company recently partnered with Renet Japan Group (TSE:3556), microfinance and other solution provider serving Cambodia, to launch the Flare ad-wrapping service in the Indochina market earlier this year. Flare Dash was also recently launched in Myanmar after Thailand.

As part of Open Innovation Columbus (OIC) through which the Japanese government and Thai conglomerates encourage strategic alliances between innovative Japanese startups and the Thai conglomerates, Flare partnered with Toyota Tsusho (Thailand) to jointly conduct a proof-of-concept and develop a safety driving-focused product using Fire Analytics last year. Since the platform can also be provided in the form of an SDK (software development kit), it can be more easily integrated with other software so that it can target corporate users who are running their existing systems.