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10 rising startups in Japan

This week, one company raised over US$60 million and announced a partnership with LINE. Read on for the details, plus news about  the latest in food, money, travel, and more.


Folio is a robo-advisor financial tech startup focused on theme-segmented investment. From US$900 and higher, you can invest in any or several  of Folio’s different themes like drones, cybersecurity, genetic drugs, etc.

The company just raised US$63 million from some Japanese and American investors including Line, Goldman Sachs, Dentsu Ventures, Mitsui, SMBC Capital, DCM Ventures, and Draper Nexus Ventures.

Line also  announced a new partnership with Folio. The Japanese chat app  is expanding its platform through partnerships that include bike-sharing, food delivery, and now fintech. Meanwhile, Folio is looking to integrate seamlessly into Line and operate as an independent service.


Dely created Kurashiru, a website that features short cooking videos similar to Buzzfeed’s Tasty. Dely just raised US$30 million, bringing its total funding to over US$63.2 million. Investors include Softbank, YJ Capital, Akatsuki, and United.

While Kurashiru just received a sizeable amount of cash, it is isn’t the only video recipe site gaining recognition and funding in Japan. Its competitor Delish Kitchen by Every just raised over US$18 million at the end of last year, bringing their total funding to over US$49 million.

Original Life Inc.

Original Life has developed Wedding News, an app that has 17 categories providing information on wedding planning, venues, budget, and more. It also has an Instagram account where its 120,000 followers can get inspiration.

The startup recently raised over US$1 million from F@N Communications as well as angel investor Kotaro Chiba.

Original Life has also hired  Nobusuke Tsunii, previously chief design officer (CDO) at Goodpatch, to take on the same role.


Bertrand was set up in Kyoto by French founder Thomas Bertrand. The company has been running a bento box sales site as well as stores called Bento&Co. It also has a beta version of Ship&Co, a service aimed at reducing the time and money companies spend on shipping items. Using just one interface, companies can manage all their shipments and find the most competitive shipment fees.

In its Series A, Ship&Co raised US$900,000 from Spiral Ventures.



Adish is an internet monitoring and support services company. It offers social app customer support services in 20 different languages and  can monitor postings for both inappropriate content and useful information for clients, plus provides front-end functions like attracting customers. In addition, Adish has also created “School Guardian,” an internet patrol system for educational institutions that enables students to safely use social media and the internet.

Startup Adish recently raised US$1.4 million from Mitsui Tsumitomo Capital, Freebit Investment, Mizuho Capital, and Payforward. With this money, the company is looking to use machine learning and AI to further develop and expand their services, expand globally, and diversify into new areas like ecommerce, sharing economy, and gaming applications.

Tokyo Otaku Mode

Japanese-founded and Portland-based Tokyo Otaku Mode just raised an undisclosed sum of money from Nissay Capital. The website offers the latest in Japanese pop culture news and products. Company founder Tomohide Kamei utilized a Facebook page to market the site, which has attracted over 20 million likes. Unlike the majority of Japanese founded startups, Tomohide focuses on targeting a foreign demographic. This allows for manga, anime, game and other Japanese culture enthusiasts to gain access to products and news in English.


Mebuku has created Pokke, an audio travel guide and contents app  similar to the American app Detour. Pokke has information on eight countries and 30 cities, including six  in Japan.  Offering more than 400 segments on travel sites, the app has a Japanese and English version. Each episode has a running time of around 30 minutes, and it can be downloaded beforehand so users can listen without internet connection. At present,  80 to 90 percent of their guides are international.

The company just raised an undisclosed sum of money worth hundreds of thousands in US dollars  from ANRI and Nomadic. With raised funds, Mebuku is looking to create more content targeted towards tourists in Japan.


Calna is an AI-based nutritional guide iOS app created by Meuron. For users looking to cook in, the app has an array of healthy recipes that take between five to 20 minutes to make. For those planning to eat out, Calna offers suggestions for healthy options collected from menus at convenience stores and chain restaurants. Based on current eating habits, the app can also calculate users’ projected weight loss or gain.

The company just raised approximately US$900,000 bringing the total funds raised to around US$2 million since its founding in October of 2014, according to TechCrunch Japan.


HeadWaters secured approximately US$1.8 million earlier this month  from companies including Evolvable Asia, IBJ, and TripleOne. The AI and robotics multiplatform company  integrates applications and services into Softbank’s humanoid robot, Pepper. HeadWaters also has multiple AI services that can work for a variety of business needs. Some applications include marketing optimization, web design, HR support, etc.

With this round of funding, the company is looking to leverage the money to further develop their robot applications to perform more advanced and practical tasks. HeadWaters also wants to strengthen its AI platform and expand into new services.


Early-stage startup RobotMarketer just released the beta version of its AI advertisement analytics tool, Roboma. While platforms such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter are already automated and accessible, the company wants to alleviate the pain point of having to create daily reports on the success of ads. Roboma links to advertising platforms and generates reports with metrics like cost and CPA (cost per acquisition) in digestible graphs and charts. According to the company, some test users have reported 20 percent improvement based on CPA metrics. RobotMaker offers different price plans based on the amount of advertisement accounts a client handles.

RobotMarketer raised US$360,000 from angel investors, including Eureka founder Yu Akasaka.


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