PE giant Carlyle leads $312m funding in Japanese unicorn Spiber

Tokyo, Japan. Image by Philippsa from Pixabay.

Global private equity firm Carlyle said on Wednesday it led a $312 million funding round for Japanese biotech company Spiber Inc, joining other global investors in betting on a growing number of late-stage Japanese startup firms.

Carlyle‘s 10 billion yen ($91 million) stake in Spiber represents the group’s first non-buyout, minority investment in an unlisted startup in Japan, where startup funding is soaring.

The round, which also includes investments from fund managers Fidelity and Baillie Gifford, will be made through a combination of the allotment of new shares and a capital infusion at a valuation of about 135 billion yen ($1.22 billion).

Spiber makes plant-based protein polymers through microbial fermentation, which can be spun into animal- and plastic-free fibres for clothing, auto parts and other uses.

The 14-year-old company plans to use the proceeds to build a mass production facility in Iowa and to prepare itself for an initial public offering that it targets in several years, Spiber co-founder Kazuhide Sekiyama told Reuters in an interview.

Fuelled by excess global liquidity, funding raised by Japanese startups exceeded $3 billion in the first six months of the year, a half-year record, according to startup data provider INITIAL.

Some of the biggest funding deals this year involved global investors such as KKR and Sequoia Capital, helping expand the list of promising Japanese startups capable of raising large capital in the private markets.

Japan has less than a dozen unicorns – startups with a valuation in excess of $1 billion – partly because the relaxed listing criteria of the Tokyo bourse’s emerging market section allows startups to go public in early stages.

Carlyle, a cornerstone investor in Spiber, plans to allocate about 10% of its $2.5 billion Japan-focused buyout fund to similar funding deals for startups.

“We believe we can help them grow their businesses, through M&As and overseas expansions,” to an extent they are large enough to debut on the Tokyo bourse’s main board or overseas, Carlyle managing director Yusuke Watanabe said in the same interview.

Reuters

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.