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double jump.tokyo raises $23M to accelerate blockchain game development

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based double jump.tokyo, the Japanese startup developing blockchain games and NFT business, announced on Thursday that it has secured approximately 3 billion yen (about $23.1 million) to develop blockchain games and to strengthen human resources to develop games leveraging intellectual properties (IP). Investors participating in this round include: Access Ventures Amber Group Arriba Studio Circle Ventures Com2uS Group Dentsu Ventures Fenbushi Capital Infinity Ventures Crypto JAFCO Jump Crypto Next Web capital PKO Investments Polygon Ventures Protocol Labs Wemade Venture Capital Z Venture Capital The company is well known for its global smash-hit blockchain game title My Crypto Heroes. Since its launch back in April of 2018, the company has been promoting blockchain game development support programs, cross-sector projects with various domestic and international NFT-related businesses as well as leading discussions with regulatory authorities in Japan. In March, the company announced its investment in and business partnership with ForN, the company behind YGG Japan, the Japanese entity of the NFT (non-fungible token)-based global game guild DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) Yield Guild Games (YGG). Our readers may recall that the company successfully sold two street NFTs from Japanese comic title Eren the Southpaw for as much…

Hironobu Ueno, CEO of double.jump.tokyo

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based double jump.tokyo, the Japanese startup developing blockchain games and NFT business, announced on Thursday that it has secured approximately 3 billion yen (about $23.1 million) to develop blockchain games and to strengthen human resources to develop games leveraging intellectual properties (IP).

Investors participating in this round include:

  • Access Ventures
  • Amber Group
  • Arriba Studio
  • Circle Ventures
  • Com2uS Group
  • Dentsu Ventures
  • Fenbushi Capital
  • Infinity Ventures Crypto
  • JAFCO
  • Jump Crypto
  • Next Web capital
  • PKO Investments
  • Polygon Ventures
  • Protocol Labs
  • Wemade Venture Capital
  • Z Venture Capital

The company is well known for its global smash-hit blockchain game title My Crypto Heroes. Since its launch back in April of 2018, the company has been promoting blockchain game development support programs, cross-sector projects with various domestic and international NFT-related businesses as well as leading discussions with regulatory authorities in Japan.

In March, the company announced its investment in and business partnership with ForN, the company behind YGG Japan, the Japanese entity of the NFT (non-fungible token)-based global game guild DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) Yield Guild Games (YGG). Our readers may recall that the company successfully sold two street NFTs from Japanese comic title Eren the Southpaw for as much as 332,300 ASTR (approximately $64,000) last week.

Regarding the latest funding, their CEO Hironobu Ueno says in his company’s statement,

This funding is a manifestation of our investors’ appreciation and expectation for our steady accumulation of the large-scale achievement in blockchain games and IP-based NFT content since the dawn of time in this space.

To promote the joint development of IP-based blockchain games with major game companies, the funds will be used to invest in products, partners, and DAO projects, which help strengthen and grow our group in the upcoming mass adoption phase of the blockchain game market.

Japan’s virtual YouTuber management agency Anycolor files for IPO

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Tokyo-based Anycolor, the Japanese startup behind the VTubers (short for “Virtual YouTubers”) group Nijisanji, announced on Thursday that its IPO application to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange had been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Growth Market on June 8 with plans to offer 30,000 shares for public subscription and to sell 174,600 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 1,114,000 shares. The underwriting will be led by Daiwa Securities and Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities while Anycolor’s ticker code will be 5032. Based on the company’s estimated issue price is 1,490 yen (about $11.5) per share, its market cap is approximately 44.6 billion yen (about $344 million). Its share price range will be released on May 23 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on May 24 and pricing on May 30. The final public offering price will be determined on May 31. According to its consolidated statement as of April of 2021, the company posted revenue of 7.63 billion yen ($58.5 million) with an ordinary profit of 1.45 billion yen ($11.2 million). Anycolor was founded in 2017 by CEO Riku Tazumi under its previous name of Ichikara. After participating in a long-term internship at Tokyo-based…

Image credit: Anycolor

Tokyo-based Anycolor, the Japanese startup behind the VTubers (short for “Virtual YouTubers”) group Nijisanji, announced on Thursday that its IPO application to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange had been approved. The company will be listed on the TSE Growth Market on June 8 with plans to offer 30,000 shares for public subscription and to sell 174,600 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 1,114,000 shares. The underwriting will be led by Daiwa Securities and Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities while Anycolor’s ticker code will be 5032.

Based on the company’s estimated issue price is 1,490 yen (about $11.5) per share, its market cap is approximately 44.6 billion yen (about $344 million). Its share price range will be released on May 23 with bookbuilding scheduled to start on May 24 and pricing on May 30. The final public offering price will be determined on May 31. According to its consolidated statement as of April of 2021, the company posted revenue of 7.63 billion yen ($58.5 million) with an ordinary profit of 1.45 billion yen ($11.2 million).

Anycolor was founded in 2017 by CEO Riku Tazumi under its previous name of Ichikara. After participating in a long-term internship at Tokyo-based web solution provider GaiaX, he took a leave of absence of Waseda University to launch the company. Subsequently he launched Nijisanji in 2018 followed by rebranding the company into Anycolor in May of 2021.

According to Japanese web access analysis startup UserLocal, the Nijisanji group is comprised of over 110 VTubers who are followed by 39 million subscribing viewers on their YouTube channels. Anycolor’s expanded support for the VTubers has improved the quality of their video clips, which contributed to increasing viewing time and subscribing viewers on YouTube, eventually the revenue from live streaming. The company is also focused on merchandising fan goods as well as receiving orders for influencer marketing campaigns from companies.

Led by CEO Tazumi (43.11%), the company’s major shareholders include LC Fund (a fund of China’s Legend Capital, 10.29%), HODE HK (Hong Kong-based subsidiary of Chinese video giant Bilibili, 7.34%), Skyland Ventures (6.91%), Sony Music Entertainment (5.14%), Ken Honda (Founder of Freakout Holdings, 4.61%), Shinya Tsurui (Anycolor’s CFO, 3.00%), and Influencer Investment Holdings (subsidiary of Adways, 3.50%).

Japan’s Manabie raises $12M in series A round to build “ERP for schools”

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Japanese startup Manabie has been developing a digital transformation platform for teaching and administration tasks at educational institutions. The company announced on Wednesday that it has secured about 1.5 billion yen (about $12 million US) from Globis Capital Partners (GCP), Chiba Dojo Fund, and Genesia Ventures in a Series A round. This follows angel and seed rounds (raising $4.8 million in total) announced in April of 2020 and an extended seed round ($3 million) in March of 2021. The latest round brought the company’s funding sum up to date to about 2.2 billion yen (about $17 million). Manabie was founded in January 2020 by Takuya Homma (now CEO of Manabie), who previously founded UK startup Quipper, which was acquired by Recruit for 4.8 billion yen (about $39 million) in 2015, and had been involved in operating Recruit’s “Study Suppli” app in Japan through the PMI (Post-merger Integration) process. Manabie is focused on digitalizing educational institutions in contrast to Quipper which had been helping people gain access to education. Honma told us that there’s no major differences in teaching and school operations between countries or regions. While Quipper had been operating in Asian countries, Manabie is currently being used predominantly in…

Image credit: Manabie

Japanese startup Manabie has been developing a digital transformation platform for teaching and administration tasks at educational institutions. The company announced on Wednesday that it has secured about 1.5 billion yen (about $12 million US) from Globis Capital Partners (GCP), Chiba Dojo Fund, and Genesia Ventures in a Series A round.

This follows angel and seed rounds (raising $4.8 million in total) announced in April of 2020 and an extended seed round ($3 million) in March of 2021. The latest round brought the company’s funding sum up to date to about 2.2 billion yen (about $17 million).

Manabie was founded in January 2020 by Takuya Homma (now CEO of Manabie), who previously founded UK startup Quipper, which was acquired by Recruit for 4.8 billion yen (about $39 million) in 2015, and had been involved in operating Recruit’s “Study Suppli” app in Japan through the PMI (Post-merger Integration) process. Manabie is focused on digitalizing educational institutions in contrast to Quipper which had been helping people gain access to education.

Image credit: Manabie

Honma told us that there’s no major differences in teaching and school operations between countries or regions. While Quipper had been operating in Asian countries, Manabie is currently being used predominantly in Japan, in addition to Asia. In Japan, the government’s GIGA School Initiative has helped bring the digitalization to compulsory education schools to some extent, but there are still challenges for higher education and private cram schools, according to the company.

The Manabie system can be called ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system for educational institutions. More than 100 engineers in eight countries are engaged in the development. Honma expects to use the funds from the latest round to expand the engineering team to about twice as many. The COVID-19 pandemic pushes forward SaaS adoption in the education space, and the company intends to leverage this momentum for further growth.

AI Communis closes angel round, helps YouTubers reach different language audience

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Singapore-based AI Communis, the startup behind the platform integrating speech recognition and natural language processing technologies, announced on Monday that it has raised $300,000 US in an extended angel round. Participating investors are Tokyo-based VC The Seed, Chinese and Taiwanese multi-channel networks (agents managing influencers), Japanese angel investors who are familiar with YouTube-related businesses in addition to existing investors. This follows the 1st close of the company’s angel round back in September of 2021 when they secured $500,000 US. Keep raising funds, they expect to secure a seed round by the end of 2022. AI Communis was founded in April of 2020 by Nobuhiko Suzuki, who has been dealing with the business of translating, adding subtitles, and editing video clips. These multilingulization processes, especially needed for global marketing, had been handled manually for a long time, but the significantly improved accuracy of automation tools such as Amazon Transcribe, DeepL, Google Translate has recently made it possible to be mostly automated. The company launched a web app called Auris last year, which allows users to handle a series of tasks such as translation, subtitling, and video editing in a cloud environment. Leveraging the app, the company plans to launch a new…

Auris
Image credit: AI Communis

Singapore-based AI Communis, the startup behind the platform integrating speech recognition and natural language processing technologies, announced on Monday that it has raised $300,000 US in an extended angel round. Participating investors are Tokyo-based VC The Seed, Chinese and Taiwanese multi-channel networks (agents managing influencers), Japanese angel investors who are familiar with YouTube-related businesses in addition to existing investors.

This follows the 1st close of the company’s angel round back in September of 2021 when they secured $500,000 US. Keep raising funds, they expect to secure a seed round by the end of 2022.

AI Communis was founded in April of 2020 by Nobuhiko Suzuki, who has been dealing with the business of translating, adding subtitles, and editing video clips. These multilingulization processes, especially needed for global marketing, had been handled manually for a long time, but the significantly improved accuracy of automation tools such as Amazon Transcribe, DeepL, Google Translate has recently made it possible to be mostly automated.

The company launched a web app called Auris last year, which allows users to handle a series of tasks such as translation, subtitling, and video editing in a cloud environment. Leveraging the app, the company plans to launch a new business where crowdsourced gig workers help influencers and company marketers turn their video clips into any of 10 Asian languages.

Such video multilingualization is in great demand among YouTubers and companies who want to expand themselves and their products globally. The service is not yet fully operational and the demand is greater than the company originally expected, but it will take only about a week to deliver an output with adding translated subtitles after receiving the material source.

AI Communis has a wide range of delivery formats. Some YouTubers have asked the company to not only turn their clips into foreign languages, but also to manage different language channels under their YouTube account and to make efforts to increase viewership. The company raised investments from MCN and YouTuber businesses in the latest round to learn from them more about how to increase viewer engagement on social media.

The Auris platform currently supports 10 languages: English, Chinese (Mandarin), Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Tagalog, Indonesian, Hindu, and Malay. This means that in terms of population alone, Auris can streamline the development of content that can help YouTubers and marketers reach more than one-third of the world’s total population.

The platform had about 100 users in November, two months after the beta launch, but since then it has rapidly grown to 1,000 users in January 2022, 3,000 users in March, 8,000 users by the end of March, and now about 10,000 users. Perhaps it’s because of the demand from influencers, KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders), or even attracted potential gig workers using the tool.

AI Communis is based at BLOCK 71, a Singaporean startup hub where NUS (National University of Singapore), Singtel, and other organizations are running their accelerators respectively. The location attracts prospective entrepreneurs and interns from all over Southeast Asia, which is conducive to startups developing multilingual services. They will also perhaps contribute greatly to the development of AI Communis’ business.

Central prefecture of Aichi kicks off prep for Japan’s entrepreneurial superhub

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See the original story in Japanese. Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, located in the very center of the archipelago, held a kick-off event for PRE-STATION Ai, the preparation initiative for their startup hub and community STATION-Ai which will be totally rolled out in 2024 in Nagoya. Nagoya is the prefecture’s capital and most populous neighborhood, and also known as the country’s third largest city. This is based on the strategy which the prefecture formulated in 2018 to help bring more startups from the central Chubu Region. With a total floor area of approximately 23,000 square meters, the 7-story hub is scheduled to be completed in 2024 in south of Tsurumai Park of Nagoya. In reponse to the prefecture decision to entrust SoftBank for managing the facility and community, the telco and investment giant established a special-purpose subsidiary called STATION Ai last year. Until the official launch of the hub, the prefecture will have been conducting PRE-Station Ai, the preparation initiative, at WeWork Global Gate Nagoya for the next two years. Launched last year, it selected 85 startups (43 in-person and 42 work-from-home participating teams) its FY22 batch this year followed by letting 34 startups graduate from its previous FY21 batch last year….

Teams selected for PRE-STATION Ai’s FY22 batch with Hideaki Omura (Governor of Aichi Prefecture) on center right and Hirotaka Sahashi (CEO of STATION Ai) on center left). They took mask off for photo.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

See the original story in Japanese.

Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, located in the very center of the archipelago, held a kick-off event for PRE-STATION Ai, the preparation initiative for their startup hub and community STATION-Ai which will be totally rolled out in 2024 in Nagoya. Nagoya is the prefecture’s capital and most populous neighborhood, and also known as the country’s third largest city.

This is based on the strategy which the prefecture formulated in 2018 to help bring more startups from the central Chubu Region. With a total floor area of approximately 23,000 square meters, the 7-story hub is scheduled to be completed in 2024 in south of Tsurumai Park of Nagoya. In reponse to the prefecture decision to entrust SoftBank for managing the facility and community, the telco and investment giant established a special-purpose subsidiary called STATION Ai last year.

Until the official launch of the hub, the prefecture will have been conducting PRE-Station Ai, the preparation initiative, at WeWork Global Gate Nagoya for the next two years. Launched last year, it selected 85 startups (43 in-person and 42 work-from-home participating teams) its FY22 batch this year followed by letting 34 startups graduate from its previous FY21 batch last year. They expect to qualify 140 startups by the end of this year, aiming to have 1,000 startups be based in the hub by 2029, five years after its official launch.

(As a side note, Station F, the Paris-based entrepreneurial hub which STATION Ai is modeled after, has revealed that 1,034 startups consisting of 4,882 people had been resided there during its first year of 2017.)

This is an area reserved for selected teams for this year’s PRE-STATION Ai batch in WeWork Global Gate Nagoya. You can see Nagoya station skyscrapers through the windows.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

The prefecture says it’s offering over 200 startup support program centering on the aforementioned strategy, having partnered with Station F, the University of Texas at Austin, Tsinghua University-affiliated Tus Holdings for supporting global expansion, building cross-border community as well as sharing practices for better incubation. The initiative has appointed experienced entrepreneurs as supervisors / community managers to support budding startups and entrepreneurs.

The Japanese government has selected several cities in the central Chubu region as as “Global Hub Cities, including Aichi Prefecture, Nagoya City, and Hamamatsu City. The prefecture launched a local VC firm network to help investors and entrepreneurs better connect each others. Startup Guide, the global brand of startup local ecosystem guides, published its Nagoya edition last year in association with Nagoya City and the Chubu Region Innovation Promotion Organization, which made Nagoya become the second Japanese city covered by the publication after Tokyo. In the region, local universities has been jointly organizing an entrepreneurship program called Tongali to encourage their students to launch startups.

Conceptual drawing at completion of STATION-ai.
Image credit: Startup Promotion Section, Bureau of Economy and Industry, Aichi Prefectural Office

LA-based Tippsy raises $1.6M, operating subscription-based tasting club of Japanese sake

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Los Angeles-based startup Tippsy operates Tippsy Sake Club, offering a subscription-based tasting kit to Japanese sake fans in the US. The company announced on Thursday that it has secured about 200 million yen (about $1.6 million US) in a pre-series A round. This round was led by W ventures with participation from Deepcore, KSK Angel Fund (the investment vehicle of Japanese football player Keisuke Honda), Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron, and several unnamed Japanese angel investors. This follows their seed funding last year when the company secured $500,000 from DG Ventures, Silicon Valley-based deeptech-focused TSVC, San Francisco-based StratMinds, and others. DG Ventures operates Open Network Lab’s Seed Accelerator Program in Tokyo where Tippsy was selected and participated in the program’s 20th batch last year. The latest round brought the company’s funding sum up to date to 260 million yen (about $2.1 million). Tippsy was founded in 2018 by Genki Ito who has a 10-year experience of marketing Japanese sake products at a Japanese food importer in the US. Tippsy brings its members tasting kits of mini bottles from a selection of 400 varieties of sake for $99 for three months on a subscription basis. Japanese sake has been recently gaining popularity…

Tippsy’s tasting kit of mini bottles
Image credit: Tippsy

Los Angeles-based startup Tippsy operates Tippsy Sake Club, offering a subscription-based tasting kit to Japanese sake fans in the US. The company announced on Thursday that it has secured about 200 million yen (about $1.6 million US) in a pre-series A round. This round was led by W ventures with participation from Deepcore, KSK Angel Fund (the investment vehicle of Japanese football player Keisuke Honda), Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron, and several unnamed Japanese angel investors.

This follows their seed funding last year when the company secured $500,000 from DG Ventures, Silicon Valley-based deeptech-focused TSVC, San Francisco-based StratMinds, and others. DG Ventures operates Open Network Lab’s Seed Accelerator Program in Tokyo where Tippsy was selected and participated in the program’s 20th batch last year. The latest round brought the company’s funding sum up to date to 260 million yen (about $2.1 million).

Genki Ito
Image credit: Tippsy

Tippsy was founded in 2018 by Genki Ito who has a 10-year experience of marketing Japanese sake products at a Japanese food importer in the US. Tippsy brings its members tasting kits of mini bottles from a selection of 400 varieties of sake for $99 for three months on a subscription basis. Japanese sake has been recently gaining popularity in the US, especially among millennials, and 99% of the club’s members are Americans.

Despite the boom in sake, it has some challenges in sales and marketing. First, even if you find good sake at a restaurant, it’s hard to find the place to buy it in the US for drinking at home. Detailed descriptions on sake bottles and on the brewer’s website are written in Japanese, which the average Americans cannot read. Furthermore, there are also restrictions to sell sake products based on the direct-to-consumer model due to laws created during the Prohibition Era. In addition, because the supply chain of alcohol drinks is fragmented, there is no culture for sake brewers or manufacturers to educate their brands to retailers.

Tippsy’s website showcases a number of Japanese sake products with characteristics.
Image credit: Tippsy

Tippsy has been focusing on brand communication, including storytelling for each brewery, to introduce the differences in taste to American consumers who are less familiar with Japanese sake. It now introduces over 400 sake brands and has received over 5,000 product reviews from members and others. By sending a mini-bottle of different sake brands each time, the club allows members to discover new brands as well as a direct marketing channel for brewers allowing them to reach their potential fans.

Tippsy works with a logistics partner with a license to distribute alcohol drinks directly to consumers throughout the US, building close relationships with members consuming sake products. Having been collecting details from breweries and providing them to users, the company plans to provide feedback on members’ preferences to breweries for better marketing and product development in the future. The Tippsy team includes a graduate of Sake School of America, the largest sake tasting school in the US, aiming to strengthen its effort to help consumers more learn about Japanese sake.

In the space close to Tippsy’s business, our readers may recall Cool Japan has invested $10 million in Winc, a US-based e-retailer and wholesaler of wine products, aiming to help cultivate the demand of Japanese sake in North America. The company achieved a postponed IPO on the New York Stock Exchange last year, with a current market cap of just under $43 million.