This week’s roundup has something for everyone. Fintech, medtech, edtech, natural language processing, and pet-tech startups all scored funding.
Full details below.
Coiney should be a familiar name to long-time readers of Tech in Asia. Founded in 2012, the service has been best known as a homegrown credit card payment device that rivals Square and Rakuten SmartPay. Its latest funding round totals US$7 million. The Innovation Network Corporation of Japan returned as an investor. Joining the round were SBI Investment, Dentsu Digital Holdings, and Seibu Shinkin Bank.
Coiney now sports a suite of services – Coiney Terminal, Coiney Page, and Coiney Engine. Terminal is the card reader and Engine is an analytics program. Page allows users to create a temporary online payment request page that can be sent to clients.
MJI manufactures a lifestyle support robot and closed a US$5 million round. Sparx Group, which manages the Future Creation Fund, was the primary investor. That fund is best known for having Toyota and Mizuho Sumitomo Bank at the top of its LP list.
The robot – known as Tapia – is another option in an increasingly crowded vertical. Like its Japanese competitors, Tapia is a more personable Alexa or Cortana. Tapia differs from other recently funded robots in that it ostensibly has professional and international use cases as well. MJI says the robot can also work in restaurants and hotels, and that international businesses have made inquiries into using it. With develop centers in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea, the startup is definitely looking at the global market.
Hachitama is an IoT solution for your pets. Users can feed and watch their pets through a smart feeder equipped with a camera and an app. People who really want to show love to their furry friends can take advantage of the startup’s distribution deal with an Australian producer of organic pet food.
The startup closed a seed round led by Morinaga, a leading food and beverage firm in Japan. Also joining the round were Kanshin Future Fund (an investment vehicle from financial services firm Dai-ichi Kanshin), real estate firm Act Call, and corporate accelerator 01Booster. Hachitama also took an investment loan from the Japan Finance Corporation. The total amount comes to approximately US$360,000 according to TechCrunch Japan.
An alumnus of Tech in Asia’s first-ever Arena pitch battle, the company helps companies improve customer targeting and recommendation. It can also power automated help desks. Its natural language processing abilities are highly rated. The firm’s entity linking engine – the program that can determine the difference between “Xerox / company” and “xerox / verb” in a block of text – won the top prize two consecutive years from the international Association of Computational Linguistics.
A nice tweak to the standard model is that users specify what kind of haircut they want in advance. The hairstylists then take the appointments on the basis of their schedule and also ability (and likely interest) in fulfilling the wishes of potential clients. In conjunction with the funding announcement, Requpo announced it had secured a patent for the business model. The service is currently available in Tokyo’s fashion district – Shibuya, Harajuku, and Omotesando. It will expand to more trendy spots like Ebisu, Daikanyama, and Nakameguro in February.
Susmed – short for “Sustainable Medicine” – is on a quest to solve insomnia. Beyond Next Ventures is doing its part by fronting a US$880,000 funding round. Like most medical apps, Susmed’s takes user data, puts it through an algorithm, and then provides advice for fixing their insomnia. The stylishly-titled Yawn app is available for iPhone users.
Susmed’s founder, Taro Ueno, is a doctor and researcher at Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science. Though the app stops short of replacing medical professionals, it is looking to increase adoption by doctors. Susmed is currently in clinical trials and angling for widespread acceptance by the medical community.
Aromabit develops odor imaging sensors. A likely use case is for smart devices which are often limited to perceptions of sound and sight to react to their environment. The series A round is for US$1.3 million and led by Innovations and Future Creation Inc.
Progate provides a structured environment and lessons to help people learn how to code. With a tidy US$880,000 million series A round, the startup provides programming education for individuals, schools, and businesses.
Originally a student project, the startup quickly caught the eye of Japan’s startup ecosystem leaders. Its US$270,000 seed round in October 2015 was backed by East Ventures as well as the founders of Mercari, Nanapi and FreakOut. The latest round continues that trend and is led by FreakOut Group and DeNA. An international version is expected in 2017.
One Tap Buy
One Tap Buy brings stock trading to your smartphone. Users can try their luck with stocks listed on American exchanges or ETFs (exchange traded funds) listed in Japan. It has added US$13.3 million to its war chest thanks to a round led by Mizuho Securities. Previous investors Softbank, Mizuho Capital, and Mobile Internet Capital all joined as well.
Since launching nine months ago, it has garnered 150,000 downloads with 70 percent of users being new to the world of stock trading. Users can start trading from 1,000 JPY (about US$9) via an interface that takes only three taps to find the stock you want.
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