Japan: Spectee’s Series B; Lifestyle Design’s fundraise; Money Forward’s IPO

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Mount Fuji and buildings in the Shinjuku district are reflected on a table at an observation deck in Tokyo, Japan. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Startup ventures Spectee and Lifestyle Design have closed new rounds of growth capital investment, while fintech venture Money Forward has listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Spectee raises $2.3m Series B

Tokyo-based Spectee, which offers an artificial intelligence (AI) powered platform that aggregates news materials based on social media analytics, has closed a JPY 260 million ($2.3 million) Series B round led by YJ Capital.

Other participants included Kyodo News Images, Mizuho Capital, Arco Partners, advertising agency Quaras, Makoto Naruke (former president of Microsoft Japan, angel investor now), and an unnamed angel investor.

It secured an undisclosed Series A round in July 2016 led by Fuji Startup Ventures that also saw backing from Mizuho Capital and the CBC Group.

Founded in February 2014 as Euclid Lab, the startup curates images and video clips of live events from social media and offers copyright clearance for use by broadcasters and news organizations. It uses proprietary AI technology for analysing the curated image and video clips.

It currently serves nearly 100 firms, including 86 TV broadcasters and four newspaper publishers, such as Nippon TV, TV Asahi, TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System), Fuji TV, and the Yomiuri Shimbun.

In June, it launched news video distribution via Associated Press’ Video Hub that targets the global market and has secured a subscription contract with The New York Times through its partnership with the Associated Press.

Lifestyle Design closes $6.55m round

Tokyo-based Lifestyle Design, which operates the LaFabric online store that concentrates on made-to-measure shirts and custom business suits for men, has secured JPY 740 million yen ($6.55 million) in funding from Globis Partners, Nissay Capital, and Spiral Ventures Japan.

It has also secured loans from the Japan Finance Corporation. It had raised JPY 400 million in January 2017. It launched LaFabric in February 2014 and raised JPY 100 million from Nissay Capital in 2015.

The investment has also seen former CFO Kenichiro Mishima appointed as a managing director and Globis Capital Partners’ Yuki Watanabe and Nissay Capital’s Kenko Nagai join its management board.

Following the launch of its online fashion store in February 2014, it grew and eventually launched a flagship store in Shibuya in 2016, while operating occasional pop-up stores.

Investment proceeds from this round will be used to further strengthen its direct-to-consumer model through improvement of its user experience across its online platform and offline stores, as well as to expand its lineup of original fashion products.

Money Forward becomes first fintech startup to list in Tokyo

Japan’s fintech startup Money Forward, which offers personal finance and cloud-based accounting software, has become the first financial technology venture to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).

The initial public offer (IPO) raised JPY 2.8 billion ($24.7 million) which will be invested in brand development, advertising, subsidiaries and other working capital needs of the firm.

According to a report by Nikkei Asian Review, its prices surged on the first day of trading, opening at JPY 3000 per share, 94 per cent higher than its offer price of JPY 1550 and closing at JPY 3085, placing its market value at an estimated JPY 56 billion ($500 million).

It claims that its personal finance app helps more than 5 million users track their various transactions, while its cloud-based software is utilised by more than 2400 accounting firms.

According to co-founder and CEO Yosuke Tsuji, Money Forward’s growth strategy includes both expanding the customer base for existing services and launching new ones. Among the plans is a service that would help small and midsize enterprises handle invoicing and collecting. “We will offer a service so that SMEs that lack personnel can concentrate on their core work,” he said.

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