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This week 500 Startups went from seed funding to investing US$13 million in one company’s series B. Other news includes the latest in surfing, smartphones, and robots.


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Founder Hideyuki Okada headed the app business at Excite before quitting to start his own venture. He decided to create a startup based on his passion for surfing. His company, Reblue, created the free surfing video site, Nobodysurf.

Nobodysurf is at a very early stage with only six members, but it’s already the top free-suring video app with 9 million views a month. The app and site attracts a global audience, with 80 percent of viewers coming from outside of Japan, including 190 countries.

While still fledgling, Reblue recently raised US$2.1 million mainly from Globis Capital, but also from Adways as well as some angel investors.  


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Carely monitors the health and wellness of a company’s employees. The service offers consultations for employees to check their stress levels and consult with professionals about maintaining their physical and mental health. Carely streamlines files on to their digital platform to make sure data is properly accounted for, reviewed, and evaluated. The service fee is about US$2.75 per month per employee. Carley is being used by 80 companies that have 15,000 employees.

In its latest round of funding, iCARE received US$1.4 million from Beyond Next Ventures, Incubate Fund, Mizuho Capital, and SMBC Venture Capital.


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Zeals has created Fanp, an advertising tool that directs clickers from Facebook ads to a Messenger chatbot to discuss more details about the product or service. This leads to a conversion rate of 5.7 percent, compared to 0.8 percent when clickers are sent to a homepage.

Zeals recently raised US$3.9 million from JAFCO and FreakOut.


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SpotSale helps businesses raise money and attract new customers, allowing the customers to find and trade within the site to get the deals they want. Businesses can utilize the platform to offer sales of memberships, discounts, and coupons, which allows for the issuer to raise cash. From there, if the purchaser chooses to not keep the item, they can trade or sell it to other people on SpotSale.

IJGN is planning to release SpotSale in February, but already has 2,000 users and 50 shops registered. Recently, IJGN raised US$570,000 from ANRI, Infcurion, Mobile Create, and ValuePress.


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Amegumi has created Sunblaze OS to help develop smartphones with basic features. These phones will be about US$45. Basic capabilities like search and the ability to browse social media will be supported, but gaming and other things will be omitted. In December, Amegumi rolled out the prototype of its Sunblaze OS smartphone.

Amegumi pocketed about US$183,000 from DeNA co-founder Shogo Kawada and FreakOut founder Yuzuru Honda.

Connected Robotics

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Connected Robotics is planning to debut its first robot this spring. Called OctoChef, it’ll help make Takoyaki, a type of Japanese street food that traditionally requires someone to constantly move and turn around those little octopus pancake balls.

Connected Robotics has raised US$580,000 from 500 Startups Japan, Draper Nexus, aSTART, and multiple angel investors.


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Linough develops hardware and software to make real estate smarter – like smart locks, security monitoring systems, voice recognition software, and tech for office spaces.

Connected home technologies are trending right now, like Amazon Alexa and Amazon Key.

The startup just announced it raised over US$3 million series B from Itochu Technology Ventures, Haseko Anesis Group, Sumitomo Corporation, FFG, and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital.


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Xica Magellan, a cloud-based marketing analysis tool, weighs up the potential of different marketing campaigns to help optimize results complete with budgets. Clients include Fujitsu, SMBC Consumer Finance, and dTV.

Xica recently received over US$4 million from INTAGE Open Innovation Fund, NTT Docomo Ventures, Mixi, and Draper Nexus Ventures.


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SmartHR just raised US$13 million series B from 500 Startups, an unlikely investor considering its usual focus on seed investing. Since this is big compared to 500’s typical investments, it created an SPV (special purpose vehicle) to satisfy its limited partners.

SmartHR’s subscription-based software is helping Japanese companies move from paper to digital. Traditionally Japan has relied on paper for all workplace procedures from on-boarding to pensions. There are now 7,000 companies using it.

See our recent SmartHR profile here.

This post 9 rising startups in Japan appeared first on Tech in Asia.

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