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Japanese video tech startup Paronym secures funding from Thai telecom giant

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Tokyo-based Paronym, the Japanese startup behind the TIG interactive video technology, announced on Monday that it has secured an undisclosed sum from Intouch Holdings (BKK:INTUCH), the parent company of Thailand’s largest telecom operator AIS (BKK:ADVANC). Paronym has been raising a series B round since last year, and has so far secured approximately 230 million yen (about $2.1 million) from Japan Post Capital and NTT Docomo Ventures. The company says it has closed the latest round with the funding from Intouch Holdings. This entire round brought the startup’s funding sum up to date to 690 million yen ($6.4 million). Founded back in 2016, Paronym has developed the TIG interactive video solution that allows viewers to obtain necessary information by tapping an item in a video clip. Use cases include e-commerce sites selling interiors and fashion outfits, recipe sites (linking to foods and ingredients in the recipe), and online travel guides (linking to travel destinations). The platform offers tracking editing tool that allows content owners to associate objects in a clip with link destinations in addition to heat map tool showing them which part of the clip their viewers are tapping. The company offers a different line-up for each of six different…

Paronym CEO Michio Kobayashi presented at Rock Thailand in Bangkok in December.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Tokyo-based Paronym, the Japanese startup behind the TIG interactive video technology, announced on Monday that it has secured an undisclosed sum from Intouch Holdings (BKK:INTUCH), the parent company of Thailand’s largest telecom operator AIS (BKK:ADVANC).

Paronym has been raising a series B round since last year, and has so far secured approximately 230 million yen (about $2.1 million) from Japan Post Capital and NTT Docomo Ventures. The company says it has closed the latest round with the funding from Intouch Holdings. This entire round brought the startup’s funding sum up to date to 690 million yen ($6.4 million).

Founded back in 2016, Paronym has developed the TIG interactive video solution that allows viewers to obtain necessary information by tapping an item in a video clip. Use cases include e-commerce sites selling interiors and fashion outfits, recipe sites (linking to foods and ingredients in the recipe), and online travel guides (linking to travel destinations). The platform offers tracking editing tool that allows content owners to associate objects in a clip with link destinations in addition to heat map tool showing them which part of the clip their viewers are tapping.

Kobayashi shareed the development timeline of his company’s video technology service.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

The company offers a different line-up for each of six different verticals including movies splitting off into multiple case scenarios, magazines, digital signage, commerce, learning and live (performance). Due to its high interactivity, they claim that the platform can help e-commerce sites gain their conversion rate twice that of Instagram, three times that of YouTube.

In December, Paronym was qualified and invited to present at the second batch of Rock Thailand, a joint project by the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok and Thailand’s largest conglomerate CP Group with an aim to encourage business partnerships between the two countries, where Paronym CEO Michio Kobayashi explained his company has been seeking business alliances, series B funding, and potential sales partners in Thailand. So the latest funding means his efforts have paid off. Palonym plans to hold a joint press briefing with Intouch Holdings, and detailed plans are expected to be revealed at that time.

You can’t coach ambition

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This guest post is authored by Mark Bivens. Mark is a Silicon Valley native and former entrepreneur, having started three companies before “turning to the dark side of VC.” He is a venture capitalist that travels between Paris and Tokyo (aka the RudeVC). You can read more on his blog at http://rude.vc or follow him @markbivens. The Japanese translation of this article is available here. Red Auerbach — winning basketball coach of the Boston Celtics for 9 NBA championships in the 1950s and 60s, famously remarked that, “You can’t coach height.” He made the statement in response to a reporter‘s question on why he drafted somebody who turned out to be a fantastic player but didn’t possess much in the way of basketball skills other than being super tall. In other words, some favorable basketball attributes can be coached: passing, dribbling, shooting free throws, making plays, rebounding shots, etc. whereas other attributes can never be taught, namely a player’s height.  I think the equivalent of this expression for entrepreneurs would be, “You can’t coach ambition.” This expression came to mind again as I witness reverberations in the Silicon Valley echo chamber about the recent funding round of Clubhouse.  The brouhaha…

mark-bivens_portraitThis guest post is authored by Mark Bivens. Mark is a Silicon Valley native and former entrepreneur, having started three companies before “turning to the dark side of VC.” He is a venture capitalist that travels between Paris and Tokyo (aka the RudeVC). You can read more on his blog at http://rude.vc or follow him @markbivens. The Japanese translation of this article is available here.


Image credit: PhotoFond

Red Auerbach — winning basketball coach of the Boston Celtics for 9 NBA championships in the 1950s and 60s, famously remarked that, “You can’t coach height.” He made the statement in response to a reporter‘s question on why he drafted somebody who turned out to be a fantastic player but didn’t possess much in the way of basketball skills other than being super tall. In other words, some favorable basketball attributes can be coached: passing, dribbling, shooting free throws, making plays, rebounding shots, etc. whereas other attributes can never be taught, namely a player’s height. 
I think the equivalent of this expression for entrepreneurs would be, “You can’t coach ambition.”

This expression came to mind again as I witness reverberations in the Silicon Valley echo chamber about the recent funding round of Clubhouse. 

The brouhaha relates to Clubhouse’s Series A fundraising of $10 million from Andreessen Horowitz, which was accompanied by $2 million worth of secondary cash paid directly to the Clubhouse founders.

Perhaps it’s because I spent more of my investing career in Europe then in Silicon Valley, but for me, creative deal structures like this one — even if it looks egregious to some on the surface — do not strike me as eye-popping. 

Although I would not classify most European founders as underprivileged, very few come from positions of extreme wealth. Most of the entrepreneurs I have encountered had been toiling away for years with modest wages (especially on a net basis after significant taxes and social charges), and limited capital gains from other sources such as stock market appreciation. Functioning universal healthcare coverage provides a safety net on the downside, in contrast with the U.S., making entrepreneurship accessible to a wider range of economic classes.

For these and historically cultural reasons, the go-for-broke mentality is far less prevalent among European entrepreneurs.

So I’ve been no stranger to structuring deals with a secondary component for the founders who have been plugging away for years with relatively little concrete monetary value to show for it. No, I have not offered secondaries of $2 million — closer to an order of magnitude smaller — nor have I offered them on Series A rounds, only at later stages. However, I’ve done them on multiple occasions.

In some cases, the secondaries have worked out superbly well, removing obstacles for founders to strive for aggressive growth. On other occasions, they provided little or no improvement, and have sometimes even backfired by misaligning the interests in the cap table.

It was only after numerous experiences with these that I realized the importance of controlling for another variable: the intrinsic ambition of the founder.

If a founder’s self-imposed restraint stemmed from external factors, for instance family responsibilities, alleviating such burdens with a small secondary payout has proven wildly effective. If the risk aversion originated from within, on the other hand, the hoped-for benefits of a secondary structure never seemed to materialize.

Ambition is raw. It sits independently of the support I might provide to portfolio companies, either directly or by finding people who do. Company structuring, financial management, marketing, pitching, fundraising, negotiating, recruiting, exit positioning, etc. all of these skills can be fostered and encouraged.

Remonade launches global edition, helps employees work from home more easily

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Tokyo-based Queue has launched the English version of Remonade, a team management platform that visualizes the performance of employees working from home. This is the third product for the company, following blueprint finder Blue Assistant and global startup database Sunryse. More people not only in startups but also in enterprises started working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new problems managers may face include helping smooth communication between members working apart each other as well as motivating them to maintain loyalty to the company. The Remonade platform is focused on the gap that tools like Slack and Torello cannot fill in addition to eliminating the stress these employees may feel from being watched by colleagues all day long through Skype or other tools. Remonade provides three key features: Today – offering easy daily task management Progress Sharing and Stats – showing shows daily to-dos for each member Dashboard – helping managers collect and analyze duties, granularity, and achievement rates that each of their team members is responsible for as well as their mental changes. For overall task management, you can use existing management tools, Gantt charts, and WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). But the Remonade platform visualizes daily tasks…

Tokyo-based Queue has launched the English version of Remonade, a team management platform that visualizes the performance of employees working from home. This is the third product for the company, following blueprint finder Blue Assistant and global startup database Sunryse.

More people not only in startups but also in enterprises started working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new problems managers may face include helping smooth communication between members working apart each other as well as motivating them to maintain loyalty to the company. The Remonade platform is focused on the gap that tools like Slack and Torello cannot fill in addition to eliminating the stress these employees may feel from being watched by colleagues all day long through Skype or other tools.

Remonade provides three key features:

  • Today – offering easy daily task management
  • Progress Sharing and Stats – showing shows daily to-dos for each member
  • Dashboard – helping managers collect and analyze duties, granularity, and achievement rates that each of their team members is responsible for as well as their mental changes.

For overall task management, you can use existing management tools, Gantt charts, and WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). But the Remonade platform visualizes daily tasks and helps managers grab what each of their members is working on at a glance. That’s why managers will not need to ask each of their members individually: “what are you working on?” or “how much did you work today?”

Queue CEO Naoto Shibata explained.

We wanted to help users share their status quo with their managers and colleagues as non-verbal as possible. While the government is promoting the work style reform in Japan, managers need to have more tasks to help their members work from home, such as asking them to submit a daily report. We wanted to solve this kind of problem.

The platform also has the feature to share snapshots of participating employees every few minutes (the frequency can be set arbitrarily by the user) using their laptop’s built-in camera. You can make your picture into mosaics, or even you can replace it with just an emoji and an icon.

In the future, some ideas include capturing seating times from camera images to help managers analyze the work performance of their members as well as analyzing their facial expressions to get mental feedback of them, Shibata says.

The company came up with Remonade because many of its employees work from home now. The platform can be used in conjunction with a variety of other tools, and a video conferencing tool integration is expected coming soon.

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.

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.