Japan’s SBI Investment to raise $451m for new fund focused on AI, blockchain

Photo: Reuters

Japanese venture capital (VC) firm SBI Investment, a subsidiary of Tokyo-listed SBI Holdings Inc., has established a new fund to invest in the artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain firms, with a target corpus of JPY 50 billion ($451.5 million).

The venture fund, called SBI AI & Blockchain Fund, will invest in a broad range of AI and blockchain businesses, including fintech, IoT, robotics and sharing economy startups.

The new fund is a successor to the company’s FinTech Fund, which is managed by SBI Investment, the core company in SBI Group’s Asset Management Business. The fintech fund was closed in December 2015 with commitments of JPY 30 billion ($270.9 million).

“SBI Investment has been considering launching the (AI and blockchain) Fund since around October 2017 and decided to start making investments reaching about JPY 20 billion in January 2018 to meet strong requests from the existing FinTech Fund investors, domestic and overseas financial institutions, corporations, and institutional investors,” the company said in its official statement.

SBI Investment said it plans to solicit additional investments from regional financial institutions, including regional banks and credit associations, and institutional investors such as life and non-life insurers and pension funds. It noted that regional financial institutions had, in particular, expressed their intentions to make investments in the latest fund.

The SBI Group, as a whole, currently invests in 61 companies – approximately JPY 32 billion ($288.96 million) – including investments by SBI Holdings and its affiliates.

In November 2017, Tokyo-based Xenodata Lab, which leverages AI to provide financial data analytics products to financial services companies, secured a JPY 250 million investment from Japanese financial majors such as Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc, SMBC, Mizuho, and Okasan Securities.

In December 2016, Mitsui & Co Ltd invested in Preferred Networks Inc. (PFN), which specialises in AI technology development and provision and a focus being on deep learning.

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