Japan’s Deepcore launches $55m AI fund, makes debut investment in VAAK

(From left, Katsumasa Niki, CEO of DEEPCORE Inc. and Ryo Tanaka, CEO of VAAK Inc. )

Deepcore, a Japanese artificial intelligence-focused incubator set up by SoftBank last year, on Thursday announced the launch of a JPY6 billion ($55 million) fund targeting seed and early-stage AI startups.

The company also announced that the fund, Deepcore Tokyo I, has made its maiden investment in Tokyp-based VAAK Inc, last month. VAAK uses image analysis for crime prevention.

Katsumasa Niki, CEO of DEEPCORE Inc. said, “There is a strong demand for crime prevention solutions in various sectors, such as the retail industry, and it is a field that is expected to make a major contribution to society. We believe VAAK’s action prediction AI-technology will have a major impact in this area.”

With the new fund, Deepcore will set up a co-working space “KERNEL” (in Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo) this summer, and seeks to build an AI technology-driven community that enables joint projects with companies and startups.

The fund will be open for additional LPs until December this year when its final closing is expected to be completed.

AI has drawn considerable interest from investors across the globe in the past few years. In April, Singapore’s Marvelstone Group launched a private equity fund to drive AI investment. A month prior, Andrew Ng, who was formerly a part of Google’s AI projects, launched a $175-million fund to support artificial intelligence startups.

According to government data, Japan’s private sector invests around 600 billion yen in AI annually.

In March, Tokyo-based Ascent Robotics, the startup developing AI training software for autonomous driving, announced that it has raised about $10.3 million in a series A round led by SBI Investment. In January, Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, drugmaker Otsuka Holdings and others invested a total of 3.7 billion yen in biotech venture Megakaryon. Last year in August, Toyota Motor invested a total of 11.5 billion yen in deep tech research firm Preferred Networks.

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