Last week’s funding headlines in Japan were dominated by robots. One, a physical industrial robot and the other an invisible robo-advisor to manage your wealth. Also joining the fun were an education study app and two lifestyle startups for plant and animal lovers.
Check out the details below.
Clear, the flagship product from ed-tech #startup Arcterus, is targeting Japan’s US$10 billion cram school industry. Users upload their course notebooks from successfully completed classes for other users to review and study. New investors Z-Kai and Asahi (Japan’s second-largest newspaper company) put in US$1 million. Z-Kai will provide content related to math, physics, and chemistry. Asahi will do the same for entrance exams.
After two years in development, Money Design burst onto Japan’s fintech scene in December 2015 when it announced a US$15 million investment round. It added another US$8 million this past September and is now topping up further. Money Design’s main product, Theo, is a robo-advisor that requires US$1,000 and a five-question risk assessment to create a portfolio of approximately 40 exchange traded funds.
The size of the latest round is undisclosed, but it is adding leading firms like Recruit and Nihon Kotsu (the nation’s largest taxi service) to notable backers like Globis Capital Partners and Dentsu. As with the September raise, local financial institutions like Kyoto Bank joined the round. Such deals are common in Japan’s fintech world and help startups expand their reach outside of Tokyo.
Lovegreen, the botanical-themed online media operated by Strobolight, Inc., raised a new round of US$1.4 million. New investor Nissay Capital led the round. The fresh funds will go to strengthening and expanding its ecommerce offerings. It aims to be a one-stop shop for flower, plant, and green lovers to find the products that will brighten up their rooms.
Building on a US$4.4 million series A from March, LifeRobotics has added a further US$10 million series B to its war chest. Widely-respected investment firm Global Brain led the round, which included previous investor Mitsubishi UFJ Capital.
LifeRobotics produces industrial “cooperative” robots, which can be trained to work in tandem by companies with minimal coding ability. The main product, Coro, is a small robot that can work in tight spaces in order to complement human workers. Toyota started using it this past May. The new funds will go toward business development and scaling up production.
Vapes, a lifestyle startup for pet-owners, sold a little more than a third of its stock to Benesse Holdings. Benesse, better known for its education business, also operates two websites and applications targeting cat and dog lovers, respectively. Vapes, with its 20 million monthly page views and 1 million app downloads is a natural fit for this branch of the Benesse conglomerate.