7 rising startups in Japan
The tap of money flow into Japanese startups seems to be wide open as 2017 winds down. Get the lowdown on earlier-stage Japanese startups that received their seed funding and an investment update on fashion startup AirCloset.
Osaka-based PLEN Robotics is launching PLEN Cube, a carry-size personal robot for all your IoT needs. PLEN Cube’s features include panorama photography, weather and news updates, notification and reminders, and more. Funding for PLEN Cube was originally raised through two crowdfunding sources: Kickstarter and Japanese platform Makuake. PLEN Robotics recently announced a partnership with MX Mobiling that’s aimed at providing AI concierge services to apartments and other accommodation facilities.
Minden is an early-stage electric retail service startup that aims to decentralize the distribution of energy. It provides greater transparency about energy sources and gives customers more freedom to choose where to get their power supply. The company is also developing a sort of shared economy platform where people can create or buy energy.
In its series A, Minden raised US$1.6 million from major players including SMBC VC, Mizuho Capital, Yokohama Capital, and MT Partners. The startup plans to use this funding to develop its PTP platform to connect energy producers with consumers.
Flamingo connects foreigners living in Tokyo with Japanese people who are looking to learn English or one of 36 other languages that the sharing-economy service supports. Aspiring teachers can register through Flamingo’s iOS app, and then students can request a lesson. Prices are set by teachers, and the final rate includes a fee for Flamingo’s handling costs. Over 1,500 users have joined Flamingo, and the company estimates around 200 more people sign up each month.
Flamingo just raised US$1.5 million for its Series A from Globis Capital, Global Brain, among others. This round comes after the company secured an undisclosed investment from Mercari, Freakout President Yusuke Sata, former CTO of Nanapi Shuichi Wada, and CEO of Campfire Kazuma Ieiri, last June.
AirCloset, a personal styling fashion subscription startup, just secured a whopping US$8.5 million from Nakazono Holdings. This comes after the company raised its Series B of $US8 million from venture capital firm JAFCO, Terrada, White Kyubin, and Credit Saison, in January 2016.
Air Closet offers three services: AirCloset, AirCloset x ABLE, and pickss. AirCloset is a fashion rental service that sends subscribers three items of clothing chosen by experts that they can rent for as long as they like. Meanwhile, AirCloset x ABLE is the in-store experience of AirCloset, based in Tokyo’s Omotesando area. Finally, pickss is an online service launched in October 2017 that gives customers access to a personal stylist, who then sends them five fashion pieces to consider. Customers can choose to buy or return any of those five items.
For this round of funding, airCloset is working to use AI and data science to strengthen their business.
Girasol, which began at the prestigious University of Tokyo, is developing an solar internet-of-things platform. The technology can detect and locate abnormalities on a single panel via data-gathering sensors and Girasol’s AI engine. By enabling solar energy producers to detect and fix defects earlier, it allows for greater yield.
According toTechCrunch Japan, Girasol recently secured an undisclosed amount of funding from ANRI, as well as the CEO and CFO of PopIn, a University of Tokyo-backed venture. This round comes after Girasol raised venture capital money in October 2017 and got its pre-seed funding in March 2017 from University of Tokyo’s IPC Entrepreneur Support Program.
Created by Market Drive, EveEve is a subscription-based dating app that focuses on safety for its users. To use the app, people must go through a double-review system consisting of the company itself and existing users. EveEve does the first review, and then new joiners must be approved by majority of existing users in order to move forward.
Another unique feature of the service allows users to set up a trial date of sorts with their matches: they can do a call every Friday, between the hours of 9 p.m. to midnight JST. EveEve may have features that are special, but it’s entering a dense market with domestic rivals like Pairs, Tapple.me, Omiai, as well as foreign competitors like Tinder.
The startup just received approximately US$1.5 million from United Managers Japan Inc., East Ventures, Newton, among others.
Developed by Appdate, Med Plus is a database software designed to digitize medical information and promote the decentralization of healthcare to localities. At present, many medical institutions in Japan are still on analog mode when it comes to sharing information, relying on email, fax, and phones to communicate.
Med Plus also allows people to search for information about local providers as well as their condition or disease, giving them access to clinics and hospitals better suited to their needs. The beta version of this search engine was recently released to several hospitals in Tokyo, but the technology is still patent pending. They plan to roll out the full version next spring.
The company just raised US$440,000 in its seed round. Investors include Genesia Ventures, other undisclosed public financial institutions.
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