Nov 10, 2014

[The Bridge] KDDI invests $113M, partners with 11 internet companies to better engage smartphone users

Japan’s Nikkei reported earlier this morning that Japanese telco KDDI will partner with 11 internet companies to provide the former company’s subscribers with an integrated portal menu. By integrating a user base of 40 million monthly visitors in total using services provided by these companies, KDDI wants to compete against Yahoo Japan which has one of the largest user bases in the Japanese internet industry. 
The article says that partnering companies include Weathernews, iStyle (a company behind cosmetics buzz site @Cosme), and Navitime Japan (transit navigation and updates), AppBroadcast (a company behind game media site GameGift, Natasha (a company behind j-pop culture site Natalie, acquired by KDDI in August), Hatena (social bookmark service), and Luxa (funraised from KDDI in October last year). ... 
In a series of these partnering efforts, KDDI also announced that it has acquired Nanapi (lifehack site operator, we learned that it has been acquired for about $72.6 million through our recent interview.) and BitSeller (mobile app developer). Furthermore, KDDI said it has invested in internet startups like Jorte (calendar app developer) and Vasily (a company behind fashion coordination app iQON)The total amount of these investments is worth 12 billion yen (about $113 million). ...
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The Bridge 10/16/2014 [en]

memo
  • Combining acquisition, minority investment, and partnership, KDDI seems to be trying to do un-heard of scale of experiment to create an ecosystem for mobile apps. It is really interesting how the concept will bring value to the telco and evolve in the near future. 

Nov 6, 2014

[Tech In Asia] Softbank announces partnership with ad tech startup Geniee

Softbank, Japan’s robot-loving telco, today announced a business tie-up with Tokyo-based ad tech startup Geniee. Starting next month, Softbank will launch a supply-side advertising platform (SSP), in collaboration with Geniee, which the wireless carrier hopes will give a boost to its internet advertising business. As part of the deal, Softbank will purchase a minority stake in Geniee that accounts for 32.9 percent of the startup’s outstanding shares. ... 
Geniee’s RTB network facilitates 20 to 30 billion impressions per month – by processing a mind-boggling one trillion monthly bid requests. ...
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Tech In Asia 10/14/2014 [en]

memo
  • Existing investors who have invested from 2011 to 2013 include Gree Ventures, Yahoo Japan, and Opt, an online ad agency. Geniee seems to have a clear strategy to have a capital alliance with Internet related companies who could bring clear business synergy.
  • http://en.geniee.co.jp/

[Tech In Asia] Japanese messaging app developer Quan closes series A funding for further ASEAN expansion

Quan, a Tokyo-based messaging app developer that makes games and stickers for a variety of popular chat apps, announced the closure of its series A round earlier today. The funding – rumored to be in the millions of dollars – comes from existing benefactors Daiwa Corporate Investment and East Ventures, who are also joined by Dentsu Digital Holdings, IMJ Investment Partners, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital, and Senshu Ikeda Capital. ... 
Mizuno says that Quan’s stickers have been downloaded more than 100 million times. Between its apps and localized games, the startup has seen more than 15 million downloads. ...
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Tech In Asia 10/20/2014 [en]

memo
  • LINE opens sticker shops for third party developers. And, it is one of the important revenue source for LINE. For other chat apps or SNS apps, stickers will become more important too. Quan has already been well positioned in the competition in not only Japan but also Thailand. Since the business may not be easy to differentiate, speed to enter into other South East Asian market would be key for the startup.
  • http://quan-inc.jp/

[The Bridge] Japan’s home recommendation platform Ietty raises $1.9 million

Ietty is a Japanese startup that provides an alternative to conventional house hunting. The startup announced today that it has fundraised about 200 million yen ($1.86 million) from YJ Capital and Incubate Fund. Coinciding with this, YJ Capital CEO Takao Ozawa and Incubate Fund partner Keisuke Wada will join the management board of the company. ... 
When a user submits criteria for a home and a preferred date to visit candidates on the platform, they will receive a selection of property options from real-estate agencies. A user who then visits a property will receive a reward of 1,000 yen ($9.30) from the platform. ...
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The Bridge 10/20/2014 [en]

memo
  • Ietty raised around US$ 500k in October 2013 from mixi's VC arm, I Mercury. It is interesting to see how the startup can compete in the crowded house search services.
  • https://ietty.me/

Oct 20, 2014

[Tech In Asia] SpaceMarket gets $930,000 to let you rent any space, on sea or land

SpaceMarket, a Japanese startup which connects users and open spaces, has just confirmed to Tech in Asia that it has raised JPY 100 million (US$930,000) in its first funding round. 
The new cash comes from CyberAgent Ventures and Mizuho Capital, two familiar names in Japan’s startup ecosystem. The company will use the funds to strengthen its development and sales corps while expanding the service. ...
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Tech In Asia 10/14/2014 [en]

memo
  • The raised amount is not so large considering recent active situation of venture investment in general and the fact that the startup have won some prizes at pitch competitions. The main usage seems events such as parties or seminars. Unique venues are listed such as a sail boat or Blue Note Tokyo. It is a kind of AirBnB for event venues. One of the key point for the startups may be how to add extra value such as AirBnB provides borrowers with communication and networking opportunity with lenders. 
  • https://spacemarket.jp/

[The Bridge] Japanese photo collage app Papelook raises $1.1 million from Jafco

Tokyo-based Papelook, the company behind a photo collage app under the same name, announced today that it has raised 120 million yen (or $1.12 million) from Japanese investment firm Jafco. Since its launch of an iOS app in 2011 followed by an Android version in march of 2013, the company has acquired 13 million downloads in total to date worldwide. ...
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The Bridge 10/14/2014 [en]

memo
  • Photo apps are no more hot topic like a few years ago, however Papelook has been steadily growing to reach such a large number of users. As written in the article, Papelook will try to monetize the user base by implementing an online printing service.
  • http://www.papelook.co.jp/


[The Bridge] Japan’s Somewrite raises $1.1M from Gree and others, scaling up native advertising platform

Japanese “owned media” marketing company Somewrite fundraised 120 million yen (about $1.1 million) from Gree Ventures and other undisclosed investors. 
In May of 2013, Somewrite won the fifth batch of Incubate Camp, an intensive two-day business development program for entrepreneurs organized by Japan’s Incubate Fund. In July of 2014, the company announced a set of comprehensive “owned media” marketing services called Somewrite Networks, which provides content marketing, owned media distribution, and native advertising platform services. 
Somewrite Ad, the company’s native advertising network platform, picks up advertorial articles from owned media sites and distributes them to other partnering news media sites as a native ad so that these articles match the form with other regular articles in which they are placed. The platform has a tracking engine which learns the preference of users in real time. ...
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The Bridge 10/10/2014 [en]

memo
  • Native ad is becoming important for mobile apps like social media or news curation apps. Somewrite Ad seems to have very interesting feature for companies having owned media.
  • http://somewrite.jp/

[The Bridge] Japanese quiz app BrainWars snags $2.8 million in funding from Line and others

Tokyo-based TransLimit, the startup that develops social quiz app BrainWars, announced on Thursday that it has fundraised 300 million yen (approximately $2.8 million) form Line Ventures, United, East Ventures, Skyland Ventures, and Genuine Startups. Line Ventures is a subsidiary of messaging company Line, focused on managing a $10 million investment fund called ‘Line Game Global Gateway.’ After start-up in August, the fund has already invested in Japanese gaming company Gumi as its first portfolio company. 
...
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The Bridge 10/10/2014 [en]

memo
  • BrainWars has over 5 million downloads with 95% coming from overseas. It took only 5 months to achieve the figure. It is very impressive and so interesting to see how long the startup keep the rapid growth.
  • http://translimit.co.jp/

Oct 10, 2014

[Tech In Asia] Mercari nets an unexpected $21M windfall. Will its new fortune spell success overseas?

There should be no more doubt that investors are convinced that Mercari is the next big thing for ecommerce in Japan. Following a US$14 million round in March, Mercari confirmed today that it had raised a further JPY 2.36 billion (US$21.8 million). 
Many repeat investors, like Global Brain, Globis Capital Partners, GMO Venture Partners, and East Ventures*, participated. But the most notable new investor is the World Innovation Lab (WiL). Founded by Gen Isayama, WiL describes itself as a “change agent bridging the US and Japan, startups and enterprises.” Mercari’s ability to secure WiL as an investor shows the company is ready to make an aggressive, determined push into America. 
Mercari’s app offers a digital resale market for users, which has caught on in Japan. As of last month, it recorded over five million total downloads and tens of millions of dollars of goods sold every month. The company launched an English-language app in America last month as well. ...
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Tech In Asia 10/9/2014 [en]

memo
  • One of Mercari's competitor, Fril announced a few weeks ago to raise $10 million. In terms of fundraising as well as number of users, Mercari is ahead in the C2C marketplace industry in Japan. But, Mercari looks to much more challenging target, US market. Several games from Japan have hit the market, but few Japanese services other than games have been successful. Mercari says it had a good start in the US market. In another popular mobile app category, news curation, SmartNews is ranked at the top at US App Store ranking in the category. We expect that 2014 will be recorded as the first year for Japanese mobile apps to seriously enter the US market outside of gaming. 
  • http://www.mercariapp.com/

[Tech In Asia] Line dives head first into payments, taxi hailing, and on-demand food delivery

Takeshi Idezawa, COO of Line, kicked off his presentation at Line Conference Tokyo 2014 today with a simple message. “The keyword of our future is ‘life’. Line is the smartphone gateway for your life.” Line’s push to bridge the gap between its users’ online and offline lives is crystallized in a bold new offering – Line Pay. 
Line Pay works like most next-generation payment applications. Items can be purchased on mobile or PC. It also has a personal aspect – users can transfer cash to each other without needing bank account information. ... 
Idezawa also announced Line Taxi, a taxi-hailing service hooked up to Line Pay. Users can call a taxi using that taxi’s official Line account. With GPS, they can call the cab to their specific location and see the waiting time. ... 
Finally, Line Pay will also tie up with Line Wow, a delivery service. Via a joint venture with Woowa Brothers, Line is stepping into the delivery logistics game starting this autumn. ...
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Tech In Asia 10/9/2014 [en]

memo
  • LINE also announced other new services such as music streaming and joint venture with Gree and CyberAgent for mobile games respectively. LINE is becoming to more focus on generating money utilizing its 170 million active users.

[The Bridge] Japan’s e-commerce company Locondo raises $4.6 million in series C round

Japanese footwear e-commerce company Locondo announced last week that it had raised 500 million yen (or $4.6 million) in a series C round from Japanese investment firm Jafco. The company uses the funds to fulfill their logistics needs and relocate their headquarters to Shibuya, Tokyo. 
Locondo was launched in October 2010 with 76 million yen ($760,000) funding from Rocket Internet. Since its launch in February 2011, their e-commerce site has acquired 600,000 users and over 40% of their users buy at least one pair of footwear a year via the platform. Annual shipping revenue reached 5 billion yen ($50 million) last year. ...
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The Bridge 10/6/2014 [en]

memo
  • The total amount raised by Locondo is over US$30 million. It is still making loss and seems to take some time to be profitable. The growth rate so far may not be fast enough as expected, however, overall EC market is still growing and the penetration of smart devices even accelerate the speed. So, Jafco probably thinks that the EC site will grow to reach exit.
  • http://www.locondo.jp/

Oct 9, 2014

[Tech In Asia] With investment from Fuji TV and Sega Networks, Goopa shifts gears to game-focused crowdfunding service

Earlier this week, Tokyo-based startup Goopa announced that it received an undisclosed amount of funding from Japanese television network Fuji TV and Sega’s mobile gaming-focused division Sega Networks. 
Until recently, Goopa was best known for Anipipo, a service that allows users to crowdfund independent anime from up-and-coming artists. The service was even backed by Hayao Miyazaki apprentice Kenji Itoso. The new investment, however, signals a shift away from Anipipo and toward Crowdrive – a crowdfunding platform for indie games that is scheduled to launch later this month. ...
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Tech In Asia 10/2/2014 [en]

memo
  • Crowdfunding services such as Kickstarter become very big in global market. However, even though several crowdfunding services have been launched in Japan since three or four years ago, they are still not so successful as in US or Europe. There maybe not many game development projects in these services so far. It is interesting to see if focusing on game development backed by two big names could change the status.
  • http://www.goopa.co.jp/ 

[Tech In Asia] How big is a zettabyte? This startup got funding from Japan’s biggest telco to find out.

A petabyte isn’t cool. An exabyte isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A zettabyte. Big data startup Preferred Networks wants to develop a technology that can do real-time analysis of the zettabytes of data coming from the Internet of Things. NTT, Japan’s largest telco, wants to see them do it and has pledged JPY 200 million (US$1.9M) in development support to see it happen. 
Preferred Networks is the Internet of Things-focused spin-off of Preferred Infrastructure, also a big data startup but known for its natural language processing technology. This is Preferred Networks’s first time accepting outside funding. NTT makes a logical business partner because the telco’s development team has been working with Preferred Infrastructure since 2011 when they jointly developed one of Preferred Infrastructure’s flagship services, Jubatus. Jubatus is an open-source data analytics tool design to be an alternative to the popular big data processor Hadoop. ...
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Tech In Asia 10/1/2014 [en]

memo
  • The startup also announced a joint R&D project with Toyota at the same day on self-driving cars. Its business model is not clear yet, but these big companies may see something special in the company's technology.
  • http://www.preferred-networks.jp/

[Tech In Asia] Shufti lands $5.75M to help Japanese housewives work from home

A website that helps Japanese housewives make money by working from home has just raised US$5.75 million from Minna no Wedding and Nissay Capital, reports The Bridge. 
Shufti, in operation since 2007, turns housewives into freelancers. It utilizes a crowdsourcing model for its various job listings. Projects include data entry, taking surveys, writing reviews, transcribing audio, and more. Entering business card data, for example, pays 20 yen (US$0.18) per card and transcribing a ten-minute recording earns the worker 500 yen (US$4.50). The service boasts more than 76,000 registered users. 
Shufti is one of six products offered by parent company Uluru – each of which focus on BPO (business process outsourcing) and crowdsourced data collection. ...
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Tech In Asia 10/1/2014 [en]

memo
  • Crowdsourcing is becoming literally crowded area. Shufti seems one of the oldest services among them. However, it may need to create competitive advantages rather than focusing on housewives. It is interesting to see how the startup take advantage of partnership with Minna no Wedding which also has a large volume of women users.
  • http://www.shufti.jp/ 

[Tech In Asia] Japan’s DeNA makes rare double acquisition for $50M in an effort to diversify

DeNA added new punch to its business today, announcing acquisitions of Iemo and Peroli. Total cost was not disclosed but a DeNA representative confirmed to Tech in Asia that the two deals are worth US$50 million. 
Both are news curation services. Iemo is focused on home-design whereas Peroli’s key product, Mery, targets ladies fashion. “[This is] part of DeNA’s previously-announced strategy to bring digital innovation to offline industries,” a company spokesperson told Tech in Asia. 
Both services are young. Mery launched in April 2013 and Iemo followed suit. Mery’s monthly active users exceed 12 million while Iemo is hitting a more modest 1.5 million. ...
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Tech In Asia 10/1/2014 [en]

memo
  • DeNA seems not doing so well in smartphone gaming market. The company needs to diversify its business and has launched several new services including Manga app or genetic testing service by its own. The acquisition of the two early stage startups shows that DeNA is even accelerating the strategy. It is a good sign for startups in general since they can expect acquisition as an exit more than ever.
  • http://iemo.jp/
  • http://mery.jp/

Oct 3, 2014

[The Bridge] Tokyo Otaku Mode secures up to $14M from Japan’s state-backed fund

Tokyo Otaku Mode, the startup behind the Japanese subculture site of the same name, announced today that it has fundraised from Cool Japan Fund, Japan’s state-backed fund for the promotion of the export of Japanese cultural products and services to the global market. The fund will execute an investment worth up to 1.5 billion yen ($13.7 million) in the startup in three years. In April, the company raised series A funding worth 270 million yen ($2.5 million) from several Japanese companies.
... 
Since its launch in the form of a Facebook fan page in 2011, the startup has acquired over 16 million likes. They registered a company in the state of Delaware in the US in December 2012, and subsequently joined Silicon valley accelerator 500 Startups. ...
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The Bridge 9/25/2014 [en]

memo
  • A current total amount of Cool Japan Fund is 38.5 billion yen which is from Japan government and some corporations. Along with the deal, it announced three other investments including cold chain logistics in Vietnam, shopping mall in Malaysia and China. Compared to these physical infrastructure, Tokyo Otaku Mode is quite unique, but considering the name of the fund, we would like to see investing in startups like Tokyo Otaku Mode more from the fund.
  • http://otakumode.com/

[The Bridge] Japanese flea market app Fril secures $10 million funding round

Nikkei’s Sept. 25 morning edition reported earlier today that Tokyo-based Fablic, the startup behind Japanese flea market app Fril, has fundraised about 1 billion yen (or $9.2 million) from Japanese online recipe site Cookpad, gaming company Colopl, and VC firm Jafco. Fablic is earmarking the funds to enhance promotional activities with TV commercials as well as to hire in new employees. 
Fablic, established in 2012, is a fourth batch graduate of Tokyo-based seed accelerator Open Network Lab. The company introduced a C2C (consumer to consumer) marketplace app in September 2012, an early entrant in the Japanese market which started its business about an year before Japan’s Mercari. ...
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The Bridge 9/25/2014 [en]

memo
  • Fril focuses on women by allowing only women to use the app. Its biggest competitor, Mercari is more widely used. Fril has 1.9 million downloads as of September, while Mercari already surpassed 5 million. Fril takes 10% margin from transactions, while Mercari has been free to use for both sellers and buyers. Mercari announced to start getting commission of the same ratio of 10% from October. It will become more interesting to see the competition of the two startups and also other big names including LINE MALL.
  • https://fril.jp/

Oct 2, 2014

[Tech in Asia] Accounting startup Freee adds $6 million in funding

Freee proved again today that accounting software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies can be a hot commodity by revealing a US$6 million series B2 round of funding. This round was led by Pavilion Capital and Recruit Strategic Partners. It comes after a series B1 round of US$8 million in April. At that time, DCM and Infinity Ventures Partners were providing the funding. 
Founded in 2012 by ex-Googler Daisuke Sasaki, the service is now used by over 120,000 small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in Japan. Freee is linked up with local banks and payment providers in order to make bookkeeping easy for business owners. It can also assist with other functions like tax filing and payroll management. ...
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Tech in Asia 9/25/2014 [en]

memo
  • A competition among SaaS accounting service is getting fierce. But, the market for SMB to be covered is still very large. The competition may last for many years.
  • http://www.freee.co.jp/

[The Bridge] Japan’s Orkney secures funding, strengthens tools development freeing up frontline salespeople

Yokohama-based Orkney, the company that provides fieldwork-focused customer relationship management tools called Orkney Upward, announced Tuesday that it has fundraised 90 million yen ($839,000) from CyberAgent Ventures and SMBC Venture Capital on August 29. Prior to this the company had obtained about $1 million in loans from Japan’s state-run loan company Japan Finance Corporation in June. They will use the funds and loans for sales force enhancement and for adding more features to the tools. 
Orkney Upward is a web-based platform that allows salespeople on the go to easily check the profiles of their customers via smart devices. The platform works with a mapping solution that the company has been developing since its launch, providing the best route for visiting clients in fragmented locations. Based on a partnership with Salesforce.com last year, Orkney Upward is now available on the Salesforce cloud environment as well. ...
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The Bridge 9/18/2014 [en]

memo
  • Only route mapping and checking the profiles does not seem to be so innovative, but integrating with Salesforce would bring greater value for customers as CRM solution 
  • http://www.orkney.co.jp/

[Tech in Asia] Education startup company Mana.bo nets $3.07M to enter B2C sales

Mana.bo, the company providing real-time tutoring help via a virtual whiteboard, today informed Tech in Asia that it has raised JPY 330 million (US$3.07 million) in series A funding from Benesse Holdings, Nissay Capital, and MUFJ Capital. The funding comes after a US$374,000 round, led by CyberAgent Ventures, in May last year. 
The startup’s new cash is earmarked for marketing, launching a business-to-consumer (B2C) division, and development on new features. ...
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Tech In Asia 9/18/2014 [en]

memo
  • Benesse has provided the service under its brand with "supported by mana.bo". B2C division will directly provide to students with own brand. The Benesse's service has 2 pricing plan, 12,475 yen or 24,750 yen per month depending on length of usage. Edtech has been featured in the past few years along with penetration of smartphone, but it seems taking longer time to grow than other categories of services. Starting with cooperation with large existing players like Benesse would be effective to accelerate the growth. 
  • https://mana.bo/ 

[The Bridge] Japan’s Crowd Cast fundraises from IMJ, looking to conquer expense management market with new app

Tokyo-based Crowd Cast, a startup developing cloud services and apps for expense management, launched a new iOS app called Staple today. Coinciding with this, the company also announced today that it has fundraised an undisclosed sum from IMJ Investment Partners to strengthen service expansions in Japan and Asia. 
Crowd Cast released late last year an expense processing app called BizNote Expense. This app allows users to input company expense records via smartphone, which then transmits the data to a company’s accounting system. But Crowd Cast learned from experience that users only need an expense record input app since most companies have legacy workflow systems for expense reimbursements. ...
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The Bridge 9/17/2014 [en]

memo
  • There are several startups who help consumers keep household accounts using smartphone. The app, Staple is a B2B version of these apps. Recording expenses for business has more clear needs than housekeeping, so the service could become popular if it will be integrated with existing accounting software or services.
  • http://crowdcast.jp/

Sep 30, 2014

Rewards Point Service, Moppy Operator Ceres Goes IPO On Mothers / Venture Now

Ceres was founded on January of 2005 and launched rewards point site for mobile, Moppy on May of the year. It started the service to PC in 2010 as well. The service has over 3.5 million users now. The company also runs recruiting media, Moppy Job.

continue reading in Japanese...
Venture Now 9/16/2014 [jp]

memo
  • Rewards point service would not be rapidly growing service. Ceres may plan to diversify its service using the capital.
  • http://ceres-inc.jp/index.html

[The Bridge] Japan’s weight-loss startup FiNC fundraises, appoints former Mixi and Opt CEOs as advisors

FiNC is a Tokyo startup that provides online weight loss and dietary advice based on a scientific approach such as genetic testing. The company announced today that it has raised a series A round of an undisclosed sum from Itochu Technology Ventures, Gree Ventures, Link and Motivation, MID Venture Capital, former Mixi CEO Yusuke Asakura and former Opt CEO Tomohito Ebine. The company also unveiled that it has obtained large loans from Mizuho Bank and other financial institutions. 
... 
The FiNC online diet coach service helps users achieve their weight-loss goals. When a user mails their genetic and blood samples along with their lifestyle and dietary information to FiNC, they will receive dietary and fitness advice from certified dietitians and fitness trainers via smartphone. ...
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The Bridge 9/12/2014 [en]

memo
  • Genetic samples based healthcare services are becoming booming recently. Other players include large corporations such as DeNA and Yahoo Japan. The competitors provides more general information, however FiNC focuses on diet which would be more appealing to some users who are not yet familiar with this kind of services.
  • https://www.finc.co.jp/

Sep 12, 2014

[The Bridge] Japan’s Relux raises $3.1 million, enhances hotel booking site to meet foreigner needs

Tokyo-based Loco partners, the startup that operates Japanese luxury inn and hotel booking site Relux, announced today that it has fundraised 330 million yen (about $3.1 million) from Recruit Holdings and others. Using the funds, the company plans to expand recruitment of business development representatives and system engineers. ...
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The Bridge 9/5/2014 [en]

memo
  • Relux focuses on in-bound tourists with 9 more languages than Japanese available. It is expected to have foreign tourists increasing towards Tokyo Olympic, so there will be great opportunity for Relux to grow. Interesting part of the investment is that Recruit also runs one of the largest hotel booking services in Japan. Do they complement each other?
  • https://rlx.jp/

[The Bridge] Japan’s food delivery startup Dely secures second round funding from Anri

Tokyo-based startup Dely, a food delivery service operating in Tokyo, announced today that it has fundraised an undisclosed sum from Japanese seed investor Anri. This follows their seed funding in July led by Beenos with participation from East Ventures and Party Factory. ...
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The Bridge 9/8/2014 [en]

memo
  • Food delivery services are becoming more and more popular recently. Lunch delivery Gochikuru operator, Star Festival raised $27 million back in July. Also several more startups have been launched in the past year or so. It is interesting to see how the competition of on-demand delivery services including other goods than foods will be like in the future. 
  • https://www.dely.jp/

[The Bridge] Japan’s nail art startup MiCHi fundraises from leading cosmetics review portal @Cosme

Tokyo-based iStyle (TSE:3360), the company behind Japan’s leading online cosmetics portal @Cosme, announced today that it has invested an undisclosed sum in MiCHi, a startup providing an e-commerce platform focused on handmade nail tips under the same name. ...
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The Bridge 9/8/2014 [en]

memo
  • Both companies are targeting female market. However, @Cosme mainly provides service in Japan and MiCHi sells made-in-Japan nail tips to foreign countries. There may be various types of synergies.
  • http://michimall.com/

[WSJ] Whill Raises $11 Million Series A for High-Performance ‘Wheelchair’

Don’t call it a wheelchair. It is an “omnidirectional four-wheel-drive mobility device” designed and built by veterans of the automotive industry. 
The company behind it, Whill Inc., has just raised an $11 million Series A round to ramp up production of the high-tech device, which cannot only roll uphill over rough terrain but can also turn on a dime, Chief Executive Satoshi Sugie said. 
The high-performance vehicle is meant to give wheelchair users a sleek alternative to standard chairs, which many believe reinforce stereotypes of weakness or helplessness. ...
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WSJ 9/2/2014 [en]

memo
  • Whill is based in San Francisco, but founders are Japanese who worked at Nissan, Sony or others. So, some Japanese investors such as Docomo Ventures or Innovation Network Corp are included in the round. Since the founders see much bigger market in the US than Japan, they relocated.
  • http://whill.us/

Sep 10, 2014

Opt Invest In Jimoty, Classified Site / MarkeZine

Opt invests in a classified site, Jimoty taking 45.4% share. Jimoty allows users to meet directly each other in their local to do deals such as selling and buyinh goods or recruiting. Monthly PV is about 25 million with 2.8 million monthly unique visitors as of July 2014. Since direct trading is expected to have large growth, Opt reached the investment.

MarkeZine 9/3/2014 [jp]

memo
  • Jimoty was founded by a venture capital firm, Infinity Venture Partners in 2011. KDDI and Fuji invested in 2012 and 2013 respectively. There is not more information than 45.4% share held by Opt, but it could be a part of an exit for IVP.
  • http://jmty.co.jp/

[The Bridge] Japan’s keyword linking tech developer Studio Ousia raises $1M for new app

Japan’s Studio Ousia, a startup developing keyword mining and linking solutions, announced Tuesday that it has fundraised 100 million yen ($1 million) from Tokyo-based system integration company NID (TSE:2349). According to NID, the investor has taken a 33.5% stake in Studio Ousia. Studio Ousia will use the funds to strengthen the development of new apps based on the Entity Linking technology. 
Studio Ousia is an standout graduate from Keio University SFC’s incubation program. In 2012, the company launched a smartphone browser add-on product called Phroni, and funraised 70 million yen (about $864,000) from Nissay Capital. ...
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The Bridge 9/3/2014 [en]

memo
  • Phroni automatically selects keywords which users would have interest and set link to Wikipedia and so on. It is expected to be particularly useful for smart devices, but at this moment it seems not widely used. For what kind of applications does the startup utilize the interesting technology using the new capital?
  • http://www.phroni.com/

[The Bridge] Japan’s content marketing agency Innova raises $2.1M from Salesforce and others

Tokyo-based SEO and content marketing agency Innova announced today that it has fundraised 220 million yen (about $2.1 million) from Salesforce.com, Draper Nexus, and Nippon Venture Capital. 
Since its 2011 launch, Innova has been providing content marketing solutions, helping companies market their products or services to consumers by assisting them in the management of owned media websites and by publishing SEO-optimized content and articles. As of April, the company had 72 clients from such notable Japanese companies as Yahoo Japan, Rakuten, Sony, DeNA, Opt, and Septeni Holdings. ...
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The Bridge 9/2/2014 [en]

memo
  • Innova has over 1,000 contents writers who passed test to be the writer. With only the service, it sounds like just a labor intensive consulting and outsourcing service. However, the startup plans to launch a new SaaS service focusing on contents marketing management which may be linked with Salesforce.com platform. It is very interesting startup targeting B2B market, particularly of growing area.
  • http://innova-jp.com/

Sep 1, 2014

[The Bridge] Japan’s Uzabase to announce $4.5M funding to boost curated news business

Japan’s Nikkei reported this morning that Tokyo-based Uzabase, the startup behind curated news app NewsPicks and company/industry database service Speeda, will announce on September 1st that it has fundraised 470 million yen (or about $4.5 million) in a round led by Itochu Techology Ventures. Other participating investors in this round are YJ Capital, Kodansha (publishing company), Globis Capital Partners, SMBC Venture Capital, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Shinsei Bank, GMO Venture Partners, and Monex Ventures (investment arm of Monex Securities). ...
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The Bridge  8/31/2014 [en]

memo
  • News curation apps are the hottest field this year with large amount of fundraising by Gunosy and SmartNews. Compared with the two, Uzabase's 470 million yen seems quite few regardless of many remarkable investors. Different from the two major apps, NewsPicks focuses on comments by users rather than even news itself. Also NewsPicks focuses on economic news. The differentiation could enable the app get a certain number of sticky users even though the number of users could be fewer than other popular news apps.
  • https://newspicks.com/

[The Bridge] Japan’s invoicing solution startup MakeLeaps secures $600K funding through AngelList

Tokyo-based MakeLeaps, the startup behind a cloud-based invoicing platform under the same name, announced today that it has raised $600,000 through AngelList. Participating investors in this round include Naval Ravikant (AngelList), Richard Chen (Hatena) and Dave McClure (500 Startups). 
Since its launch in October 2011 by Australian serial entrepreneur Jason Winder, MakeLeaps provides an invoicing platform that targets freelancers as well as small/medium-sized enterprises, having acquired over 15,000 users. According to the company, the service saw a 20% user revenue growth rate in three months from April to June. ...
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The Bridge 8/28/2014 [en]

memo
  • MakeLeaps does not only allow users to make invoice, but also take care of paperwork form printing, to inclusion to posting. It would be interesting if it links with other business applications such as Salesforce.com.
  • http://www.makeleaps.jp/

[The Bridge] Japan’s financial advisory startup Zuu secures $1 million in angel funding

Tokyo-based Zuu, the startup that operates financial advisor matching platform Zuu Advisors, announced today that it has fundraised 105 million yen (about $1 million) from four angel investors including Japan’s mobile i-mode web service inventor Takeshi Natsuno and listed-company owners. 
The company provides a dozen web services including Zoo Advisors Support, a website of marketing tips for brokers and salespersons of wealth management products. Other websites include Japanese property market trend news site Tokyo Premium Real Estate and wealth management-focused portal Zuu Online (US Edition), both are available in English. ...
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The Bridge 8/25/2014 [en]

memo
  • Financial advisor matching seems very niche market in Japan, but including sales persons of various financial sectors and related professional services such as lawyers and accountants, Zuu says the total number of financial advisors is around 1 million. In addition, since the target users are wealthy people, there would be many ways of monetization.
  • http://zuu.co.jp/

[The Bridge] Japan’s excursion buddy and destination discovery site Vivit raises $300,000

Tokyo-based startup Vivit launched an excursion buddy and destination discovery site under the same name last week. The startup participated in the sixth edition of Incubate Camp, an intensive two-day business development program for entrepreneurs organized by Japan’s Incubate Fund. Coinciding with service startup, Vivit announced that it had fundraised about 30 million yen (about $300,000) this spring from Venture United and Incubate Fund . 
Vivit lists outdoor activities, from rafting and buggy rides to sightseeing hotspots and seasonal events. By integrating with a Facebook account, users can express interest in an activity on the website and share it with friends by clicking on the “I-want-to-go” button. ...
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The Bridge 8/24/2014 [en]

memo
  • Another excursion discovery site, Asoview raised $2 million in this April. Asoview allows users to book a leisure activity, but Vivit focuses on finding friends to go to a leisure. Vivit seems more difficult to monetize, but it is interesting to see how these leisure portal site will evolve.
  • https://vivit.co.jp/

[Tech In Asia] Japanese market research startup gets $2.2 million in fresh funding

Research & Innovation, a Japanese startup which specializes in market research support, announced today that it has received JPY 220 million (US$2.12 million) in funding from Mizuho Capital, Jafco, and DBJ Capital. Mizuho Capital participated in both previous funding rounds from 2012 and 2013. 
Research & Innovation has two main products. Mycomment, a service that incentivizes users to rate and judge products via free trials or even cold hard cash. Companies then use these comments and ratings to improve their own products. Code, meanwhile, is an app that scans the barcodes of products. Users register those barcodes, add their reviews, and then get similar benefits as Mycomment users. 
continue reading ...
Tech In Asia 8/22/2014 [en]

memo
  • Online research services have quite long history as an Internet service, so it would not seem to be growing so much any more. However, Code allows users to review with their smartphone, which is much easier than using PC. The app may have a potential to expand the market.
  • http://r-n-i.jp/

[The Bridge] KDDI acquires J-pop culture and entertainment news site Natalie

Japan’s leading telco KDDI announced today that it has acquired a 90% stake in Natasha, the Tokyo-based company behind popular J-pop culture and entertainment news site Natalie. 
Since its launch back in 2007, Natalie has acquired about 31 million monthly page views and 6.6 million unique users. They used to have an English version with a plan to expand their reader base to the global market, but it seems like they have shifted to be focused on the Japanese market so the English version has been shut down.
The Bridge 8/22/2014 [en]

memo
  • KDDI is actively investing in Internet related startups, but do not acquire so often. It is interesting to see how the telco utilizes the entertainment news site for its business.
  • http://natalie.mu/

Aug 19, 2014

[The Bridge] Japan’s crowdsourcing/rewards platform operator Realworld files for IPO

Tokyo-based Realworld, the company that operates a crowdsourcing/rewards platform in Japan, has announced that it has been approved for an IPO on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers market on Friday. The company will be listed on September 18th with plans to offer 220,700 shares for public subscription and to sell 73,600 shares in over-allotment options for a total of 270,400 shares. The underwriting will be led by Daiwa Securities. ...
Since establishment in July 2005, the company has been operating several crowdsourcing/rewards platforms such as Crowd and Lifemile, the latter being acquired from CyberAgent in 2011. The combined total of users across these several platforms is 8.5 million. ...
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The Bridge 8/18/2014 [en]

memo
  • We see a lot of fundraising news of crowdsourcing service recently. Realworld is one of the earliest company providing crowdsourcing service in Japan. It is interesting to see if other crowdsourcing startups to follow for IPO in the near future.
  • http://company.realworld.jp/  

[The Bridge] Japan’s Quan invests in Thailand’s mobile game startup Magic Box Asia

Tokyo-based Quan, the Japanese startup behind mobile apps like MyStickerShop and Lounge, announced today that it has invested in Bangkok-based game startup Magic Box Asia. 
Magic Box Asia was founded by Vincent Setiwan, co-founder of Bangkok’s co-working space Launchpad and the co-founder of Japanese anime creation crowdfunding site Anipipo. The company provides a smartphone game platform and app localization service for the Southeast Asian region with an emphasis on the Thai market. ...
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The Bridge 8/18/2014 [en]

memo
  • Quan's apps are particularly popular in Thailand and it has a partnership with Thailand's largest telco, AIS. With the partnership, Quan aims to become an app publisher trading both Japanese and Thai developers' apps each other.
  • http://quan-inc.jp/

[The Bridge] Japan’s crowdsourced app development service Sekai Lab raises $1.2M

Tokyo-based Monstar Lab, the company that provides crowdsourced offshore app development service Sekai Lab, announced last week that it has fundraised 120 million yen (approximately $1.2 million) from East Ventures, SMBC Venture Capital, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital. 
The company launched Sekai Lab in March, where Japanese companies can crowdsource their app development tasks at affordable rates from over 300 teams comprising 3,000 crowdsourced engineers from 10 countries. ...
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The Bridge 8/14/2014 [en]

memo
  • Crowdsourcing services are booming. Among them, software development may be one of the most popular tasks. So, offshore development must have strong needs, however, it is also true that many of clients may have concern about communication with foreign developers. Sekai Lab probably have enough knowledge to provide appropriate support for the communication between clients and developers in order to run the service. 
  • http://www.sekai-lab.com/index

Mitsui & Co. Invests In Translation Startup, PIJIN / Nikkei

Mitsui & Co. partners with PIJIN to launch a service allowing foreign visitors to get tourist information with their own language using a smartphone. When reading QR code on billboards or magazines, explanations in own language are automatically displayed. It will be available on over 10 languages including English and Chinese. It aims to sell the service to retailers and tourist facilities with increasing tourists.

Mitsui also takes more than a dozen percent of shares of the startup with about 30 million yen. ...
continue reading in Japanese ...
Nikkei 8/13/2014 [jp]

memo
  • Foreign tourists to Japan are increasing recently particularly from Asia. There are competitors' apps translating texts directly with machine translation, which seem easier than QR code. But still the accuracy of machine translation is not good enough. Similar services would be increasing heading for Tokyo Olympics in 2020. 
  • https://www.qrtranslator.com/en

LOCKON Goes IPO On Mothers / Venture Now

Ecommerce development open source software, EC-CUBE developer, LOCKON had approval to be listed on Mothers market by Tokyo Stock Exchange. The planned date is September 17th. ...

LOCKON was founded in June 2001 and became incorporated in July 2003. It develops and provides AD EBiS, online advertisement effectiveness measurement tool, and EC-CUBE, open source EC development tool. ...

continue reading in Japanese ...
Venture Now 8/11/2014 [jp]

memo
  • IPO of Internet related companies are increasing this year. AD EBiS and EC-CUBE have been popular for many years and still may have room to grow, but It is also interesting to see the next hit product from LOCKON utlizing the capital.
  • http://www.lockon.co.jp/

IROYA Fundraises From Nissay Capital / Venture Now

IROYA, operating curation commerce service with colors as its concept, fundraised from Nissay Capital.

IROYA started the service in March 2014 to provide EC platform for matching color and items as its theme. ...

continue reading in Japanese ...
Venture Now 8/11/2014 [jp]

memo
  • IROYA also launched IROYA MAGAZINE, a blog focusing on color and something such as fashion, novels, music, and design.written by experts and writers, which may aim to create viral with social media. It would not be a mainstream, but is interesting challenge to take colors as its theme.
  • https://iroya.jp/

Aug 13, 2014

LINE Invests In gumi To Expand Games To The World / ITmedia

LINE announced capital and business partnership with gumi, Brave Frontier and other games developer. LINE invests in gumi which develops games for LINE platform. Both aims to sell made in Japan games to the global market taking advantage of LINE platform and gumi's capability in the global market.

The amount and the date are still in discussion, but the percentage will be under 10%. ...

continue reading in Japanese ...
ITmedia 8/6/2014 [jp]

memo
  • gumi's Brave Frontier is becoming popular in many countries. It also has several other hit games. The company has been spreading its branch offices to Asia and Europe. LINE would expand the coverage even more. On the other hand, LINE has a lot of successful casual games and the partnership would extend the line up to more serious games. It is exciting to see how big results the partnership will produce. 
  • http://gu3.co.jp/
  • http://line.me/en-US/

[The Bridge] Japanese women’s fashion media site 4meee raises $500,000

4meee! (pronounced “for me”) is an e-commerce and curated fashion site for young women. Tokyo-based Rocket Venture, the company behind the service, announced today that it has raised 50 million yen ($500,000) from Japanese investment firm Global Brain as well as Future Investment, the investment arm of Japanese system integrator Future Architect. 
The team was featured at a recent demo day event of Tokyo-based startup incubator Movida Japan. Since its April launch they have published more than 1,000 articles and surpassed 1 million monthly page views. ...
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The Bridge 8/11/2014 [en]

memo
  • Mobile focused curation media is a trendy service. There may be many competitors. But different from many of viral media, the service creates original contents by curators, which would be its advantage.
  • http://4meee.com/

Crowdworks Fundraises From Recruit Aiming Business Synergy / TechCrunch Japan

Crowd sourcing service operator, Crowdworks raised capital from RSP Fund V, investing arm of Recruit Holdings. The amount is not disclosed but considered to be several tens of million yen.

The startup has raised around 1.4 billion yen in total from CyberAgent, Dentsu, and venture capitals. This fundraising would be aiming business synergy rather than for finance needs.

Crowdworks has 198,000 registered members and around 36,000 companies in total has ordered. The total amount of works submitted surpasses 14.2 billion yen. ...

continue reading in Japanese...
TechCrunch Japan 8/8/2014 [jp]

memo
  • Crowdsourcing services are growing. Among them, Crowdworks is considered to be one of the largest sites. Crowdworks provides wide range of services from programming, design, to photo shooting, and marketing research. In order to increase a number of works, partnering with other services including existing real services may be a key. Its competitor, Lancers also establishes many partnerships.
  • http://crowdworks.jp/

Aug 12, 2014

[The Bridge] Japan’s news curation app SmartNews raises $35M from Gree, Atomico, and others

Tokyo-based SmartNews, the company behind the news curation app under the same name, announced today that it has raised about 3.6 billion yen (about $35.4 million) from several companies. This round was led by Gree and Atomico with participation from Mixi, Globis Capital Partners, former Ziff Davis Publishing president William Lohse, DeNA co-founder Shogo Kawada, and other investors. ...
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The Bridge 8/8/2014 [en]

memo
  • News app is the hottest area in mobile apps. SmartNews' rival, Gunosy raised about $24 million in total.from KDDI this year spending a lot for TV commercial to increase users. It seems also making a large amount of money with native advertisements. SmartNews seemed going ahead against Gunosy last year, but the competition may be almost even now. It is interesting to see how SmartNews use the capital. Of course, giants like LINE or Yahoo are also strong competitors for the startups. Who will dominate the market?
  • https://www.smartnews.be/

[The Bridge] Japan’s Ticket Street raises $3M from eBay, Gree Ventures

Ticket Street is a Tokyo startup providing a platform focused on the buying and selling of show tickets. The Nikkei reported that the startup has fundraised 300 million yen (or about $3 million) from US e-commerce giant eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and Japan’s Gree subsidiary Gree Ventures. 
Because eBay has online ticket marketplace StubHub under its wings, the Tokyo company plans to partner with the US counterpart to start selling tickets from this fall for MLB and NBA games in Japan. ...
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The Bridge 8/7/2014 [en]

memo
  • eBay entered Japan market long time ago, but withdrew soon failed against Yahoo Auction. So, it is very interesting move. The impact of the partnership would not be so sure because show tickets are basically domestic business, but it is interesting to see whether the eBay's strategy would work this time.
  • http://ticket.st/

[The Bridge] Online cram school startup Aoi.Co. raises $1.2 million from Jafco

Tokyo-based Aoi.Co., the startup that operates a live-streamed onine lecuture service for junior high students, announced today that it has fundraised 120 million yen ($1.2 million) from Japanese investment firm Jafco. Aoi.co. was born out of the fifth batch of KDDI’s incubation program Mugen Labo back in January. 
Aoi Zemi, their service, is focused on providing informative live programming as well as opportunities to interact with other users by sharing something they are calling ‘timelines’. Live-streaming is available for free, but you will be charged for watching recorded lecture programs. ...
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The Bridge 8/4/2014 [en]

memo
  • Edtech is one of the popular categories recently. IPO of Rarejob, Skype English lesson service may accelerate the trend. Even though the number of students are decreasing in Japan, there would be quite large market for startups to improve using technology.
  • https://www.aoi-zemi.com/

[The Bridge] Opt unveils $150M investment plan, wants more companies to go public with new businesses

Japanese newspaper Nikkei reports that Tokyo-based e-marketing company Opt will invest 15 billion yen ($146.2 million) in startups focused on cloud services for enterprise users, adtech, e-commerce, and edtech businesses. The company plans to invest amounts ranging from hundreds of thousand dollars to $3 million in each qualified startup and acquire over a 51% plus share in them. 
Opt has 17 group companies so far, and wants to have 100 within three years through the investment efforts. Besides the funding, Opt plans to help invested companies improve their back office operations in advertising, marketing, public relations, and hiring, with the aim to have an IPO within a few years after the investment. ...
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The Bridge 8/3/2014 [en]

memo
  • Investing in startups for large corporations is rapidly becoming a big trend this year. However, Opt looks quite different. According to the article, it will acquire over 51%, so it is not taking minor share like most of other corporate VCs. It is more like Opt aims to speed up its growth rate by acquisition.
  • http://www.opt.ne.jp/english/

[The Bridge] Japan’s state-run fund to invest $9 million in eyeglass e-commerce startup Oh My Glasses

NHK reported on August 2 that Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ), the Japanese state-run startup fund, will invest 900 million yen ($9 million) in Japanese eyeglasses-focused vertical e-commerce startup Oh My Glasses. This is part of the government’s aim to promote the optical industry in Sabae City, which has for centuries been a major supplier of eyeglasses. 
Since its start in 2011, Oh My Glasses has been providing an eyeglass e-commerce service that offers five sets of eyeglasses at a time upon order, and buy one if you can find any favorite among them. So customers can try them on before buying. ...
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The Bridge 8/2/2014 [en]

memo
  • There are many cheap glasses seller on both online and offline. It may be a challenge for Oh My Glasses how big it can grow by focusing on high-end market with Sabae-brand glasses. INCJ and the startup may consider selling the glasses to overseas market.
  • http://www.ohmyglasses.jp/

Aug 7, 2014

[The Bridge] Japan’s ExCo raises $3.3M, launches cardless online payments platform

Tokyo-based startup Exchange Corporation (ExCo for short) announced yesterday that it has launched a new payment solution called Paidy and raised about 330 million yen (or $3.3 million) from Arbor Ventures (Hong Kong), CyberAgent Ventures (Japan), Recruit Strategic Partners (Japan), 500 Startups (USA), and Cherubic Ventures (Taiwan). 
ExCo has developed various personal finance services including P2P loan market Aqush. Paidy allows you to complete an online payment without entering credit card numbers or login procedure. To buy something online with Paidy, all you need is to enter your name and e-mail address. You can also choose a lump-sum payment or installed payments up to 36 months. ...
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The Bridge 7/31/2014 [en]

memo
  • There are not much information about how it works, but it seems Paidy is innovative solution for both online shoppers and customers.
  • https://paidy.com/en

Game Publisher For Smartphone, 3rdKind Raises 100M Yen / Venture Now

3rdKind announced a total of 100 million yen of finance from Nippon Venture Capital, Global Brain, and Adways. 3rdKind was founded in 2011, publishing high quality games developed in North America and Europe. Currently, it runs 17 titles by culturizing.

Venture Now 7/30/2014 [jp]

memo
  • 3rdKind raised capital from KDDI's Open Innovation Fund, which is managed by Global Brain, in January 2013.  
  • http://www.3rdkind-inc.com/

[The Bridge] Photo sharing app Snapeee raises $4M series C funding from Global Brain and others

Tokyo-based Mind Palette, the startup behind photosharing app Snapeee, announced today it has fundraises 400 million yen (about $4 million) from Japanese investment firm Global Brain, publishing company Kodansha, and Energy and Environment Investment. 
...
Snapeee has acquired over 8 million users in Asia. Through the investment and tie-up with Kodansha which is well known for publishing popular fashion magazines like ViVi, Snapeee wants to strengthen delivering higher quality of content to consumers in the region. ...
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The Bridge 7/28/2014 [en]

memo
  • Photo decoration apps like Snapeee was featured a lot a few years ago successfully acquiring millions of users from not only in Japan but also in other Asian countries. However, news about the apps have been decreased recently. It seems Snapeee aims to become media rather than just photo sharing, which still no one establishes monetization model, taking advantage of the user base. It is interesting to see how they will achieve.
  • http://snape.ee/


Mobile Video Distributor, Breaker Fundraises From gumi / Venture Now

Breaker, which distributes video contest for mobile, announced fundraising from gumi ventures' fund. Along with it, it started discussion for business partnership with gumi.

Breaker was founded in September 2013 by Alan Swarts, former Vice President of MTV Japan and others, which produces and distributes video contents for social media. ...

continue reading in Japanese...
Venture Now 7/18/2014 [jp]

memo
  • gumi is one of the most successful mobile game developers in Japan expected to go IPO within this year. It is still not so popular in Japan, but sharing video of playing mobile games is getting very hot in US and other markets. Probably, gumi sees synergy with Breaker in the field.
  • http://brkr.jp
  • http://gu3.co.jp/


[The Bridge] Japan’s B Dash Ventures to form $60M second fund by yearend

At the reception party for the B Dash event, we heard from the organizer and B Dash Ventures CEO Hiroyuki Watanabe that they are currently forming a new fund. He told us it will be valued at around 6 billion yen (about $59 million) and has secured almost 50% of funding towards its planned closing by end of 2014. 
Their previous fund formed in September 2011 was worth 2 billion yen ($20 million) and attracted investment from big companies like Docomo Ventures, Gree, Septeni, Biglobe, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital. ...
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The Bridge 7/17/2014 [en]

memo
  • Several new funds have been established this year by venture capitals like B Dash and corporations. Most of them established a larger fund than previous one. Also several new comers joined particularly of CVC. It would be the biggest chance for startups this year than ever.
  • http://bdashventures.com/

[The Bridge] Japanese fish delivery startup Hachimenroppi secures $4.5 million funding

Tokyo-based startup Hachimenroppi, which operates a fish delivery service for restaurants, announced today that it has fundraised about 450 million yen (or $4.4 million) from Recruit Holdings, YJ Capital, DeNA co-founder Shogo Kawada, DeNA (TSE:2432), and Monex Ventures. This follows their previous funding worth $1.5 million in October. 
Since its launch in April 2011, the company has acquired over 1,000 restaurants as users. The company will use the funds to strengthen their teams in sales and system development as well as expanding logistics facilities. ...
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The Bridge 7/17/2014 [en]

memo
  • Fish delivery for restaurants seems to have a lot of rooms to improve by IT. Since there may be few competitors having experience and knowledge in the two very different areas, the startup would have great potential.
  • http://hachimenroppi.com/

Aug 6, 2014

[The Bridge] Japan’s job search startup LiB raises $700,000, offering more options for working women

Tokyo-baed LiB, an executive job search site for women, announced today that it has raised 70 million yen ($688,000) from CyberAgent Ventures and East Ventures. Since its launch two months ago, LiB will soon surpass 4,000 users, mainly women who earn an annual income of more than 4 million yen ($39,000). ...
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The Bridge 7/17/2014 [en]

memo
  • It may seem that 70 million yen would be large amount for a startup of only two-month operation with less than 4,000 users. But, in addition to the fact that job search site is relatively steady service in general, the service sets eyes on very good market because employment of women is one of the most important issues of the current government. 
  • https://libinc.jp/

[Tech in Asia] Japanese telco giant KDDI puts $8M into four American startups, launches new $50M fund

KDDI (TYO: 9433) revealed a flurry of investment plans today. First, the telecommunications firm announced the KDDI Open Innovations Fund (operated by Global Brain) deposited US$8 million into four American startups. Education firm Edmodo, digital media publishing platform Issuu, seat upgrade app Pogoseat, and TechCrunch competitor VentureBeat all received funding but individual terms were not disclosed. KDDI noted that a key reason for investing in these companies is their collective potential for trying to enter the Japanese market. 
It is unclear if that US$8 million was the last of the initial $50 million fund established in 2012, but, regardless, KDDI is reloading and launching a new innovation fund – again with a price tag of US$50 million. With KDDI’s latest move, it is starting to look like venture capital has become a new proxy battle for Japanese telecoms. Docomo has a US$109 million fund and Softbank is working on a US$250 million fund. ...
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Tech In Asia 7/14/2014 [en]

memo
  • CVC has been more and more increasing recently in Japan. Telecom companies have been definitely leading the trend. Media, advertising, and manufacturing companies are following.

[The Bridge] Japan’s ‘viral mills’ Curazy raises $1 million from three investment firms

Tokyo-based BitGather, the startup that operates viral content site Curazy, announced earlier this week that it has fundraised 100 million yen (approximately $1 million) from CyberAgent Ventures, DeNA, and Skyland Ventures. Coinciding with this announcement, the company rebranded its company name from BitGather to Laugh Tech. They will use the fund to hire new writers and editors, and are also planning to introduce a mobile app for iOS and Android in mid-August. 
Curazy has been focused on curating funny news topics from around the world. Since its launch in January, it has acquired over 5 million monthly unique users and over 19 million monthly page views. According to Laugh Tech’s co-founder and CEO Shinnosuke Ito, what’s unique about them is that they have a primary base of readers in their 30′s, and its male to female ratio is almost 50/50. ...
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The Bridge 7/12/2014 [en]

memo
  • Viral media is rapidly growing in the past several months. Many similar services have been appeared but Curazy may be one of the leading sites. It is interesting to see how long the site can keep the rapid growth.
  • http://curazy.com/ 

ABEJA Fundraises Analyzing Big Data To Produce Business / RBB Today

Image analytics and machine learning technology company, ABEJA announced fundraising on July 11th. In addition to existing share holder, Inspire Investment, the company raises capital from NTT Docomo Venture, Sakura Internet, Mizuho Capital, Archetype Ventures, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital. ...

continue reading in Japanese...
RBB Today 7/11/2014 [jp]

memo
  • Image analytics and machine learning is one of the hottest technology field recently in which many startups have been acquired by Internet giants like Google or Facebook. ABEJA currently focuses on retail market to provide camera censor based solutions. There must be much wider opportunities to utilize the core technology.
  • http://www.abeja.asia/

Jul 11, 2014

[Tech In Asia] Hybrid cloud storage firm Cloudian receives $24 million funding fueled by Japanese investors

Cloudian, a California-based company with a major presence in Japan, announced a US$24 million financing round today. The firm received funds from existing investors like Intel Capital as well as newcomers Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) and Fidelity Growth Partners Japan. The funding is earmarked for powering Cloudian’s global sales and marketing. Japan sales are already very healthy – seven of the 16 top clients listed on the company’s website are Japanese corporations. 
Cloudian calls its service “hybrid” because it facilitates the creation of private corporate clouds via third-party providers. The company often touts its compliance with Amazon Web Services’ Simple Storage System (Amazon S3). That compatibility means a private corporation can use Amazon S3 for general storage while preserving sensitive data on its own systems. ...
continue reading...
Tech In Asia 7/8/2014 [en]

memo
  • NTT group and ISP operator, Nifty are major customers of Cloudian. The market which Cloudian is targeting are very large from service providers including telecom to enterprises. It may be also true that there are many competitors. It is interesting to see how and when the startup choose its exit.
  • http://www.cloudian.com/

[The Bridge] Japan’s lunch delivery service Gochikuru.com raises $27M from office supply retailer Askul

Tokyo-based Star Festival, a startup behind bento box delivery and catering service Gochikuru.com, announced today that it has fundraised 2.8 billion yen (about $27.4 million) from and partnered with Japan’s largest office supply mail-order company Askul. 
Both companies serve corporate users, and will explore a synergy in this partnership by sharing their user bases and business resources. ...
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The Bridge 7/5/2014 [en]

memo
  • There must be huge synergy between both companies from sales on web site to delivery. This kind of investment or acquisition by large corporation would be very important to improve startup ecosystem in Japan. This is a very good sign.
  • http://gochikuru.com/

[The Bridge] Japanese gaming company Gumi raises $50M, partners with Sega Networks for US market

Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported earlier today that Tokyo-based gaming company Gumi has fundraised 5 billion yen (approximately $49 million) from Silicon Valley-based investment firm WiL (World Innovation Lab) and other investors. The report says the funding will be completed on July 4th, and Sega Networks, which participated in this round, partnered with Gumi to market service the service in the US. ...
continue reading ...
The Bridge 7/4/2014 [en]

memo
  • Gumi's mobile games are getting popular not only in Japan but also in many overseas markets. It is very rare or probably the first case for Internet related startup in Japan to raise about 50 million dollars before IPO. Gumi is said to go IPO within this year. There have been many successful exits of mobile game developers but Gumi will be the largest scale ever.
  • http://gu3.co.jp/

[Tech In Asia] Report: Japanese stealth investor ANRI announces new fund for young entrepreneurs, targets $20M

Anri Sama, a significant investor in the Japanese startup ecosystem, announced the opening of a new US$20 million fund today. The new fund will also focus on tech companies led by young entrepreneurs. It was reported that Anri will focus on seed and series A rounds. Companies can expect to receive between US$50,000 and US$1 million. ...
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Tech In Asia 7/3/2014 [en]

memo
  • Larger sized funds are increasing recently in Japan and most of them may be mainly looking at series A or later rounds. But seed round investors have not so increased. There will be great opportunities for Anri's fund since he has already invested in several promising startups including Crowdworks and Raksul at seed stage.
  • http://anri.vc/

[Tech Crunch] Japanese E-Commerce Giant Rakuten Launches $100M Global Investment Fund

June is barely over, but Rakuten has already had a busy year. In addition to purchasing messaging app Viber for $900 million, the Japanese consumer Internet conglomerate also made investments in several companies based in Southeast Asia or Japan, including Carousell, Visenze, Coda Payments, and Send Anywhere, from its $10 million fund dedicated to the region. 
Now Rakuten is eyeing companies in the rest of the world with the launch of its new $100 million global investment fund, which will focus on startups in Israel, the U.S., and the Asia Pacific region. ...
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TechCrunch 6/30/2014 [en]

memo
  • Rakuten has acquired many companies in the last several years. The new fund may enable it to find the targets broader and deeper. 

[The Bridge] Japan’s book abstract app Flier fundraises to enhance their web platform

Tokyo-based Flier, a startup that provides book abstract apps under the same name, announced yesterday that it has fundraised an undisclosed sum from East Ventures, Nishikawa Associates, and Nomad. 
Since its official launch back in October 2013, the company has acquired over 20,000 users, more than double the 9,000 users as of March 2014. According to the company’s CEO Yasushi Ohga (former CTO), Flier will use the funds to hire engineers and strengthen their in-house engineering capacity. ...
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The Bridge 7/3/2014 [en]

memo
  • Flier provides freemium plan to consumers. Free users can read 20 abstracts which replaces 1 or 2 books every month. Premium users can read more other books. Making abstract of business books seems quite labor intensive and not anyone can do the task. It is interesting to see how the startup scale up with the capital raised.
  • http://biz.flierinc.com/

Jul 7, 2014

Sophia Holdings Enters Gene Analysis Business By Acquiring GeneQuest / Venture Now

A system developer, Sophia Holdings announced acquisition of 100% ownership of gene analysis service, Genequest. The company starts to provide gene analysis kit through PC and smartphone for consumers.

Genequest was launched back in June of 2013 mainly be researchers of University of Tokyo. It provides gene analysis service by analyzing gene in saliva for individuals to judge around 200 items including disease risks like cancer, cerebral accident, or diabetes and constitutions. ...

continue reading in Japanese...
Venture Now 7/2/2014 [jp]

memo
  • Gene analysis service is getting popular recently. Internet giant like DeNA and Yahoo Japan also announced starting the service. Actually Yahoo partners with Genequest. It has been said that health care would be the next big area for Internet startups, but we have not seen the trend clearly yet. The acquisition may accelerate the trend?
  • https://genequest.jp/

[The Bridge] Japan’s e-commerce analytics startup Plaid raises $1.5M from Femto Growth Capital

Tokyo-based Plaid, a startup developing a real-time analytics platform for e-commerce sites, announced that it has raised 150 million yen (approximately $1.5 million) from Japanese investment funds Femto Growth Capital and Femto Startup. 
Corresponding with this announcement, Femto group’s general partner, Tetsuya Isozaki, joined the company’s management board. Plaid will use the funds to strengthen its engineering forces to accelerate system development. 
The company’s analytics platform is called Karte. By inserting a single line code into every page of an e-commerce site, users can gain insight into the demographics of typical e-commerce site customers by providing metrics, such as their conversion rates, number of visits, or category of products customers usually check out. ...
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The Bridge 7/2/2014 [en]

memo
  • The service is still in closed beta. It seems like that any EC sites can easily integrate Amazon-like recommendation engine in their sites. Since the data of customers are to be accumulated in the platform, customers could not stop using the service.
  • http://plaid.co.jp/

[The Bridge] Japanese business reporting tool Gamba fundraises $400,000

Yokohama-based Gamba, the startup that provides business reporting tool under the same name, announced today it has raised 40 million yen (about $400,000) from two Japanese investment firms; East Ventures and Skyland Ventures. This follows their previous funding of $200,000 from Skyland Ventures back in October 2013. 
Gamba was launched back in December 2012 by Masahiro Morita, who previously worked for Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten as a business development producer. Gamba recently partnered with Japanese internet company Nifty, where Gamba’s cloud-based reporting tool was added to the series of Nifty’s business software packages called Hakokura, which is sold at more than 17,000 computer stores nationwide in Japan with the aim to give internet-unfamiliar SME owners more opportunities to learn and try a variety of cloud-based services. Gamba is in talks with other companies to create more sales channels to users they have not yet reached. ...
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The Bridge 7/1/2014 [en]

memo
  • B2B applications generally need more time to grow than hit B2C apps. In addition, they sometimes have to deal with requests for features from large customers. But, it is also true that users keep using longer after adopted than consumer applications. There are several competitors in the field from startups to large software companies. It is interesting to see how Gamba will balance enhancing the product features and expanding customer base.
  • http://www.getgamba.com/top.html 

retro Fundraises 30M Yen From Incubate Fund And Others / Cnet Japan

retro, a used brand goods consignment service, announced 30 million yen of finance from Incubate Fund and others

retro.jp is a consignment site matching sellers and buyers of brand items. It connects users who want to sell goods with higher price and less effort if it takes some time and users who want to buy goods at ease with guarantee of genuine thing and returnable.  ...

continue reading in Japanese...
Cnet Japan 7/1/2014 [jp]

memo
  • C2C commerce is becoming hot recently as smartphones penetrate in people who are not willing to sell items on PC. retro.jp focuses on relatively premium brands such as Chanel, Lui Vuitton, or Hermes. For these high price goods, consignment would be important factor for users. 
  • https://retro.jp/

Panda Graphics Raises 140M Yen From East Ventures And Opt / Venture Now

Panda Graphics announced fundraising of 140 million yen from East Ventures and Opt to strengthen management as well as to launch US office to accelerate global expansion.

Panda Graphics was founded in February of 2013. It utilizes parntered creators around the world to provide crowdsourcing platform for 2D/3D computer graphics contents targeting for mobile games and promotion videos.

Venture Now 7/1/2014 [jp]

memo
  • We see finance news by crowdsourcing services almost every month. Panda Graphics targets vertical for graphics design in which MUGENUP may be a competitor. As mobile gaming continues growing, these two startups may be able to keep on the rapid growth for a while.
  • http://panda-graphics.net/

Jun 30, 2014

[The Bridge] Japan’s Moi fundraises $5 million for mobile live streaming app TwitCasting

Moi Corporation, the company behind Japanese mobile live streaming app TwitCasting, announced that it has fundraised $5 million from Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Group leading and Japanese seed investor East Ventures also participating. 
Our readers may recall that the company raised $634,000 from East Ventures back in May 2013. ...
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The Bridge 6/27/2014 [en]

memo
  • The most interesting thing about the service is that it has a large number of users in Brazil even though the company did not do any particular promotion in the country. TwitCasting may be one of few online services which have potential to go global market from Japan.
  • http://us.twitcasting.tv/

[The Bridge] Japan’s restaurant reservation platform company Toreta fundraises $2 million

Tokyo-based Toreta, the startup that provides the reservation management system for restaurants, announced today it has raised 200 million yen (about $2 million) from Silicon Valley-based investment company WiL (World Innovation Lab). 
... 
Since its launch in December, the company has acquired more than 1,000 restaurants as users. The service’s monthly charge is 9,000 yen (about $90) a restaurant, so its easy to figure out how much money they are making every month.
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The Bridge 6/27/2014 [en]

memo
  • As mentioned in the article, it would become interesting if the system integrates with restaurant search services like Tabelog. On the other hand, these services may be able to provide their own reservation system to thousands of restaurants which are already their customers. Solutions for restaurant industry are increasing along with smartphone (mainly for customer side) and tablet (mainly for restaurant side) penetration. It is very interesting to see who will win the fierce competition.
  • http://toreta.in/

[Tech In Asia] DeNA and Incubate Fund lead $500,000 investment into neighborhood crowdsourcing site

JPY 51 million (US$500,000) poured into social problem solving service Any+Times today. The startup announced the round of funding, noting that gaming giant DeNA (TSE:2432) and venture capital firm Incubate Fund led the financing. According to Entrepedia, This funding is the first for Any+Times. 
Any+Times allows users to crowdsource solutions to everyday problems from their neighbors. If you need someone to keep your goldfish alive while you sip bubbly in Rome or simply cannot figure out how to assemble the latest Snarfujor from Ikea, then you send out a request, name your price, and wait for one of your more enterprising neighbors to swing by to deliver a good deed. The service is currently accessible only via the web, but this new funding could finally bring the startup to smartphones. ...
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Tech In Asia 6/25/2014 [en]

memo
  • Crowd sourcing for business has became as large as establishing an association. Any+Times more focuses on household tasks such as cleaning or assembling of furniture. The service prepares request form by the categories in order to make as easy as possible for users to ask the tasks, which is different from other general crowd sourcing services.
  • https://anytimes.co.jp/

[The Bridge] Japan’s Airbnb for parking spaces ‘Akippa’ fundraises from DeNA and angel investors

Osaka-based Galaxy Agency, the startup that operates online peer-to-peer parking lot sharing platform Akippa and several online job sites, announced today it has fundraised from DeNA (TSE:2432) and several angel investors including Shokei Suda, co-founder of Japanese internet service company Enigmo (TSE:3665). Details of the investment have not yet been disclosed but it’s likely be several hundred thousand US dollars. This follows their previous funding of 65 million yen (about $650,000) from Japanese investment firm Jafco back in September 2012. 
Akippa helps customers find an available parking space online. When you book a time slot for it using your desktop or smartphone, you will be allowed to park your car there by paying up to 500 yen ($5) a day. It also allows parking lot owners to easily manage their venues via the platform as well. ...
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The Bridge 6/23/2014 [en]

memo
  • Online sharing services are expected to become huge business like Airbnb or Uber, but there are no such success story in Japan so far. One of the reasons that these services have difficulties may be due to regulation. Since there seems no such regulations for car parking, the service may be accepted easier.
  • https://www.akippa.com/

Jun 23, 2014

[The Bridge] News curation startup Gunosy secures $12M funding from three Japanese companies

Bloomberg reported earlier today that Tokyo-based Gunosy, the company behind the curation news app under the same name, has secured funds worth 1.2 billion yen ($12 million) from Japanese telco KDDI (TSE:9433), investment firm Jafco, and B Dash Ventures. This follows their previous funds worth $12 million from KDDI back in March. 
Regarding the money raised back in March, the company used over 80% of it to broadcast a TV commercial to increase penetration of their news app among Japanese consumers. They recently launched the app in the US and UK markets over the last few months, and it is told that they plan to use the funds raised at this time to intensify their global promotion efforts. ...
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The Bridge 6/23/2013 [en]

memo
  • Gunosy expects to reach 4 million downloads by the end of June thanks to advertisement including TV commercial. But still 4 million is far from a number to secure leading position in news curation apps. It is interesting to see how Gunosy uses the additional capital to increase the user base in addition to TV commercial .
  • http://gunosy.com/ 

Jun 20, 2014

[PRWeb] Metaps Establishes UK Subsidiary as Regional Headquarters for European Operations

Metaps Inc. (HQ: Tokyo, CEO: Katsuaki Sato, hereafter "Metaps") announced the establishment of a UK subsidiary as the regional headquarters for their European operations. 
Metaps is headquartered in Tokyo and now has offices throughout Asia and in San Francisco, in addition to London. Their app monetization platform ‘metaps’ has expanded globally and offers a “gateway to Asia” for developers looking to succeed in Asia. 
London was selected for their first European office due to the large presence of app developers in Western Europe. By establishing a regional hub, the intent is to strengthen their relationship with local developers and expand the breadth of services offered to European clients looking to expand into Asia. ...
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PRWeb 6/16/2014 [en]

memo
  • Metaps provides several solutions to support Android app developers to monetize such as reward ads, CPC ads, and traffic exchange among apps. Since Asia is the largest market for mobile apps, many of European developers probably think that they can increase sales there. The subsidiary would bring great value to them.
  • http://www.metaps.com/

Jun 19, 2014

[the Bridge] Japan’s crowdsourced housekeeping platform Casy fundraises from Beenos

Tokyo-based Casy, the startup offering crowdsourced housekeeping services under the same name, was officially launched today and also announced that it has raised an undisclosed sum of investment from Japanese startup incubator Beenos. 
Both husband and wife in more than 60% of all households in the country. This situation has led to an expansion of the Japanese housekeeping market, which surpassed $960 million in FY2012 and shows nearly a 20% annual growth. 
Despite the fact that more people think they have to keep a good balance between work and family, only high-income households are using housekeeping services since they can still be as expensive as $40 to $50 per hour. ...
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The Bridge 6/16/2014 [en]

memo
  • Crowdsorucing or matching services using Internet are growing in various areas. Housekeeping service sounds quite old and traditional, but It is surprising that the market has 20% growth. It may be a good viewpoint to streamline old but growing industry with Internet technology.
  • https://casy.co.jp/

[The Bridge] CyberAgent Ventures forms $50 million fund to invest in more startups

Japan’s startup-focused investment firm CyberAgent Ventures announced today that it has formed a new fund worth 5 billion yen (about $50 million) called CA Startup Internet Fund No.2. This is because of closing their previous fund CA Startup Internet Fund No.1. 
Comparing to the previous one worth about $24 million, the new fund is almost double in size and is planned for investment of an amount ranging from $100,000 to $1 million in every single startup they choose. ...
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The Bridge 6/16/2014 [en]

memo
  • 5 billion yen seems a standard size for early stage focused venture capital fund recently. Recruit and GREE also established the similar sized fund in May and April respectively. It is good to have more money for startups, but increasing number of startups or entrepreneurs takes more time than money. The gap makes venture capitals tougher to find good deals in the future.
  • http://www.cyberagentventures.com/en/

[The Bridge] Japan’s mobile app developer Ignis files for IPO

Tokyo-based mobile app developer Ignis announced yesterday that it has been approved for an IPO on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers Market. The company will be listed on July 15th. 
Since its launch back in May of 2010, the company has surpassed over 50 million downloads by attracting users with more than 75 apps for iOS and Android. Their best selling apps include ‘AKB48 virtual phone’ ( iOS / Android ) which delivers new voice messages from the members of Japanese pop singer group AKB48 every month and allows you to enjoy listening to their messages in a way like talking over the phone with someone.
The Bridge 6/11/2014 [en]

memo
  • The annual revenue ending September 2013 was about $9 million with $3 million operating profit. It looks relatively small IPO, but it may be a right timing to go listed this year.
  • http://1923.co.jp/