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Wakaze, bringing Japanese sake from Paris brewery, nabs $3M for Europe, US expansion

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See the original story in Japanese. Japanese sake brewing startup Wakaze announced on Wednesday that it has secured 330 million yen (about $3 million US) in a series A round. Participating investors in this round are Jafco Group (TSE:8595), Nissay Capital, Makuake (TSE:4479), and Makoto Capital. This follows a pre-series A round in June 2019 (which we reported as a series A round at the time). For Makuake, one of Japan’s leading crowdfunding platform, this follows their second investment followed by their previous investment in Tokyo-based chocolate direct-to-consumer startup Bace earlier this year. Wakaze aims to bring the wave of craft sake and D2C to the world of sake. Prior to founding the company back in 2016, CEO Takuma Inagawa studied at the École Centrale Paris as a French government scholarship student and then worked as a business strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. In addition to developing new sake brewing recipes in Tokyo and Japan’s eastern prefecture of Yamagata, the company established a sake brewery called Kura Grand Paris in Suburban Paris back in November of 2019 to offer locally brewed Japanese sake for the French market. Since its launch in France back in February of 2020, the…

Wakaze sake bottles
Image credit: Wakaze

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese sake brewing startup Wakaze announced on Wednesday that it has secured 330 million yen (about $3 million US) in a series A round. Participating investors in this round are Jafco Group (TSE:8595), Nissay Capital, Makuake (TSE:4479), and Makoto Capital. This follows a pre-series A round in June 2019 (which we reported as a series A round at the time). For Makuake, one of Japan’s leading crowdfunding platform, this follows their second investment followed by their previous investment in Tokyo-based chocolate direct-to-consumer startup Bace earlier this year.

Wakaze aims to bring the wave of craft sake and D2C to the world of sake. Prior to founding the company back in 2016, CEO Takuma Inagawa studied at the École Centrale Paris as a French government scholarship student and then worked as a business strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. In addition to developing new sake brewing recipes in Tokyo and Japan’s eastern prefecture of Yamagata, the company established a sake brewery called Kura Grand Paris in Suburban Paris back in November of 2019 to offer locally brewed Japanese sake for the French market.

Wakaze CEO Takuma Inagawa
Image credit: Wakaze

Since its launch in France back in February of 2020, the sake brand had been distributed to 50 restaurants in the country but demand suddenly plummeted to almost zero due to the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, sales got back to growing steadily as they could rebrand their products to fit the demand for the direct-to-consumer model rather than offering through restaurants. The company has recently partnered with Nicolas, one of the largest wine store chain with 500 locations in France and 7 countries. The funding is expected to contribute to expanding production capacity to meet the increasing demand.

In an interview with Bridge, Inagawa told us how much French people loves the locally brewed Japanese sake brand,

In view of its local production for local consumption, Wakaze has succeeded to attract eco-conscious consumers at Nicolas. To meet the demand, we’ll increase our production capacity to about three times by fall. Our marketing strategy is working well, which grabs first-time customers with a variety of popular products and increases repeat customers with rare ones.

Sake brewing at Kura Grand Paris
Image credit: Wakaze

Going forward, Wakaze hopes to expand its sales and marketing area beyond France to the UK and Germany, as well as to the US where the company hopes to target early adopters and the Asian population on the West Coast. The company also plans to use the funds to strengthen hiring its human resources in both France and Japan, including sake brewers, marketers, customer support representatives, and business managers.

Among the investors in the latest round, Makoto Capital is focused on investing in startups and entrepreneurs from Japan’s northerneastern region of Tohoku. Headquartered there, Wakaze met Makoto Capital at the Sendai for Startups (SFS) startup event, which led to the latest funding. Makuake (then known as CyberAgent Crowdfunding) participated in SFS in 2017, and it is believed that Wakaze’s encounter with Makuake’s CEO Ryotaro Nakayama led to the subsequent launch of the crowdfunding campaign and the latest investment.

Japan’s Wakaze secures $1.4M series A funding to launch sake brewery in Paris

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See the original story in Japanese. Japanese sake brewing startup Wakaze announced today that it has secured 150 million yen (about $1.4 million US) in a series A round. Participating investors are Spiral Ventures、Nissay Capital, Nakashimato (the family office of Japanese mayonnaise maker Kewpie’s founder family) as well as four angel investors: Yo Nagami (CFO, Raksul), Takashi Mitachi (Senior Advisor, Boston Consulting Group), Takashi Nagao (Pro Commit Partners Law Office), and an unnamed person. The latest round is the first funding opportunity from investors for Wakaze since the company has been running on a bootstrap mode to date. They will use the funds to set up a brewery in the Greater Paris Area to develop original Japanese sake brands, aiming to sell them to France and other European countries as well as the Japanese market. They also succeeded in raising funds in the recent crowdfunding campaign on Makuake, especially for garnering fan support for the European expansion. Wakaze was founded by CEO Takuma Inagawa who was previously granted by the French government as a scholarship student to study at École Centrale Paris followed by working at Boston Consulting Group as a management strategy consultant. In contrast with typical breweries developing…

wakaze-team
The Wakaze team members come in a body in front of their restaurant / brewery in Tokyo.
Image credit: Wakaze

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese sake brewing startup Wakaze announced today that it has secured 150 million yen (about $1.4 million US) in a series A round. Participating investors are Spiral Ventures、Nissay Capital, Nakashimato (the family office of Japanese mayonnaise maker Kewpie’s founder family) as well as four angel investors: Yo Nagami (CFO, Raksul), Takashi Mitachi (Senior Advisor, Boston Consulting Group), Takashi Nagao (Pro Commit Partners Law Office), and an unnamed person.

The latest round is the first funding opportunity from investors for Wakaze since the company has been running on a bootstrap mode to date. They will use the funds to set up a brewery in the Greater Paris Area to develop original Japanese sake brands, aiming to sell them to France and other European countries as well as the Japanese market. They also succeeded in raising funds in the recent crowdfunding campaign on Makuake, especially for garnering fan support for the European expansion.

Wakaze was founded by CEO Takuma Inagawa who was previously granted by the French government as a scholarship student to study at École Centrale Paris followed by working at Boston Consulting Group as a management strategy consultant. In contrast with typical breweries developing a new brand in a year at best, the Tokyo startup can do it on a weekly basis through a Lean Startup attitude for product development. The production on a certain scale is usually made in their brewery in Yamagata, three hours north of Tokyo by bullet train, while new product development efforts are mainly conducted in a small brewery in central Tokyo which is attached to their casual restaurant.

wakaze-lineup
Wakaze’s Japanese sake line-up
Image credit: Wakaze

Wakaze’s Japanese sake line-up
Image credit: Wakaze

Inspired by the trend of craft beers, the company aims to set off the waves of craft products or the direct-to-consumer model in the Japanese sake industry. Expanding into the European market where demand for Japanese sake is increasing, they plan to brew affordable but high-quality products to serve them to local consumers. Shoma Imai will be appointed as the sake brewer chief for the Paris brewery which is expected to start operations this summer. Born and raised as a son of the family of a sake brewing factory, Imai graduated from the agricultural school of the University of Tokyo and then worked for Oisix, the Japanese food distribution company that directly delivers foods from farms to home kitchens.

According to Inagawa, in Europe, wine consumption is declining while new categories of liquor, especially the market of Japanese sake, are expanding. Nowadays it’s less uncommon for Japanese sake being served not only at Japanese-style restaurants but also at general ones. However the issue here is pricing. Since many of Japanese sake products are imported from Japan, a glass of them at the restaurant usually costs more than 10 euros due to customs duties. If it can be served for around 5 euros as much as offering a glass of wine at bistros, it would accelerate helping people adopt more Japanese sake. Wakaze wants to make it possible by local production and direct distribution models.

It is also interesting that Nakajimato has participated in this round. In addition to owning a wine factory in France through their local subsidiary, the company has been dealing with many restaurants there, which is expected to greatly contribute to Wakaze’s effort cultivating sales channels in the world’s culinary capital.