Twitter-backer Sozo Ventures secures first close of new fund at $164m

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

Sozo Ventures, a US- and Japan-based cross-border venture capital firm, has made the first close of its latest fund at $164 million, its filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission shows.

The new VC fund — Sozo Ventures III — received commitments from seven investors since its launch in April this year. Sozo Ventures seeks to raise $500 million for the fund.

Founded in 2011 by Koichiro Nakamura and Phil Wickham, Sozo invests primarily in the US and Japan, with a focus on technology startups in sectors such as fintech, IoT, healthtech, and cloud.

It raised $100 million in 2013 and another $134 million in 2017.

Its portfolio includes notable global tech firms such as Twitter, video conferencing app Zoom, software firm Palantir, mobile payment company Square, digital writing assistant Grammarly, and cryptocurrency platform Coinbase.

“We look for companies that are at the ‘Readiness’ Stage — a term coined internally that details companies that have a strong management team and culture, stable long-term investors, credible and recognisable customers, and traction, and appropriate organisational structures for target international customers,” the firm said on its website.

Sozo said it dives in at all stages of company building from seed to pre-IPO and supports businesses across multiple stages of financing.

Wickham, one of the firm’s co-founders, was a general partner at JAFCO America Ventures, where he led the creation of portfolio strategic services with more than 40 corporate LPs.

He went on to become a partner and ran the US operations for Copan, a European venture fund based in Munich, Germany. Nakamura, on the other hand, was a member of the founding team of Yahoo! Japan and launched Innovation Kitchen, which incubated seed-stage ventures in the country.

Sozo Ventures joins a list of Japan-focused venture investors that have recently raised money for their funds. In April, TDK Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Japanese electronics company TDK Corporation, closed its second fund at $150 million.

Tokyo-based CyberAgent Capital also announced the closing of its CA Startups Internet Fund III at about $55.5 million in May. Japanese buyout firm Nippon Sangyo Suishin Kiko (NSSK) also raised about $69.2 million for a feeder fund of its third investment vehicle.

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.