Investing in Japan: Headline's Latest Investments in Asia in 2021
Since its founding, Headline has invested in more than 100 startups in Asia and produced nine initial public offerings. Through our global network, we are able to provide market insights, support global business as well as discover startups who are making an impact.
Recently, we invested in three Japanese startups who aim to solve major customer pain points, and we believe they are going to change our world.
Ad Fraud Prevention: Spider Labs
Spider Labs raises JPY $550 million in Series B.
Spider Labs is a cyber security company founded in Japan. Spider AF, the main service, is certified by the anti-fraud division of the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), the world’s highest level certification organization that has increased credibility in the digital advertising industry. It is the first TAG-certified company in Japan and APAC. Spider Labs continues to create wow moments for its clients as it strives to “Build a Safer and Happier Future With Automation.”
Spider Labs was discovered by Headline’s Partner, Akio Tanaka, and Principal, Toshiaki Shimakawa at LAUNCHPAD SaaS 2020, one of the largest startup pitching competitions in Japan. Amazed by how much energy the CEO has and how powerful the product can be, we quickly made the decision to support the business.
“I was impressed by her power to speak at LAUNCHPAD just a few days after giving birth.” — Toshiaki Shimakawa, Principal of Headline.”
Ad fraud is a big issue for the digital advertising industry. Approximately 20% to 30% of digital advertising costs are generated by ad fraud, which is expected to reach $87 billion by 2022.
“We have seen significant changes from companies that have applied SpiderAF in Japan and are confident that this service will greatly influence the world,” says Toshiaki Shimakawa, Principal of Headline. “When I met her for the first time in person, she was in her last month of pregnancy, and I was impressed by her power to speak at LAUNCHPAD just a few days after giving birth. It is also impressive how she balances between family and work while working with her three children and her husband, who is the CTO, together in the office. I myself recently had my first child, so there is a lot I can learn from Mrs. Otsuki.”
Spider AF provides ad fraud detection.
“We are going to establish a ‘data-driven improvement loop’ not only on the product side but also on marketing and sales sides, to provide safety to everyone through the new Spider AF (Anti Fraud). “ — Satoko Otsuki, CEO of Spider Labs.”
“At first, I was on the fence because the decision-making came way too effectively after Headline’s Mr. Tanaka and Mr. Shimakawa talked to me in the pitch contest of the IVS SaaS event last year,”CEO of Spider Labs Satoko Otsuki recalls. “I learned a lot in communicating with Headline later on and was able to apply my learnings to my business. I am very happy that it ended up leading to this fundraising.”
Otsuki is quoted in press release of their Series B saying: “In the future, we are going to establish a ‘data-driven improvement loop’ not only on the product side but also on the marketing and sales sides, to provide safety to everyone through the new Spider AF (Anti Fraud).”
The company raised JPY $550 million from Headline, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Darwin Venture Management, and Golden Asia Fund.
Solving Logistical Pain Points: 207
207 raised JPY $500 million in series A.
207 specializes in delivery efficiency improvement and works hard for DX in the logistics industry. Their services include:
TODOCU Supporter: The app helps couriers resolve redelivery problems. Couriers can use the service to collect recipient information by scanning delivery tickets, manage all addresses on the map, and contact recipients for scheduling delivery time.
TODOCU Cloud: A service that streamlines operations for e-commerce and logistics companies, providing real-time management of package status and dynamic management of couriers.
Sukimabin: This is a gig economy solution that delivers packages by people who want to work in their time gaps in response to the increase of delivery needs because of the growth of e-commerce.
At the end of 2021, after 207 won IVS2021 LAUNCHPAD Spring, one of the largest IT pitch competitions in Japan, it raises JPY $500 million in series A fundraising from Energy & Environment Investment, Logistics Innovation Fund, Headline, and DG Daiwa Ventures.
“Meanwhile, a pile of issues poses a threat to the logistics infrastructure that supports our daily lives, such as ‘redelivery’, ‘Individualized work arrangements’, and ‘lack of human resources’. By solving these problems, we will create the next generation of global logistics solutions. Headline has a strong global network, and we feel privileged to be able to work with them for the ongoing and future growth of 207,” Sinya Takayanagi, CEO of 207, commented in the investing announcement on October 6, 2021.
“We will create the next generation of global logistics solutions.” — Sinya Takayanagi, CEO of 207.”
It is said that the market size of the logistics industry is about 25 trillion yen, and the market size of last mile logistics alone is about three trillion yen. While home delivery continues to increase in recent years, the shortage of couriers and the pressure of logistics networks have accelerated the need for social infrastructures.
“We believe that 207’s services will be widely adopted around the world in the near future.” — Kohei Suzuki, Investor of Headline.”
“207 solves an essential problem in the area of last mile logistics,” says Kohei Suzuki, Headline Investor. “207 gathers Mr. Takayanagi, the representative who has knowledge and expertise in the logistics industry, and excellent members who have been working hard with couriers to improve the product. We believe that 207’s services will be widely adopted around the world in the near future.”
A New Workflow System: kickflow
kickflow raises JPY $200 million in seed funding
kickflow announced three big news in October 2021. First, it raised JPY $200 million in seed round fundraising from Headline, mint, and GREE Ventures. The second thing is its MBO from Smart HR. Third, it officially released the SaaS product, kickflow.
kickflow is a new cloud-based approval/workflow system for medium to large-scale companies. It allows you to make all kinds of approvals and decisions easily without paper or stamps. Based on interview results with hundreds of companies, it is featured by its flexibility in three areas: “forms and approval procedures,” “organization and authority,” and “external linkage (API)” to solve the problems that many companies face. It streamlines internal procedures and workflows, contributing to efficient management and growth for all businesses.
kickflow official website
“Approval and workflow systems, which have been digitalized since the 2000s, have a long history, earlier than systems in other fields. Meanwhile, many medium-scale or large-scale enterprises use on-premise products, therefore, there are only a few alternative cloud products,” says Taito Shigematsu, CEO of kickflow. “This issue has become especially apparent as people work remotely due to the pandemic. Based on the interview results from more than 300 companies, kickflow has identified the three challenges for approval and workflow nowadays and has developed an approval and workflow system specialized to solve these challenges. With the support from Headline, kickflow will continue to resolve issues in this field and contribute to the business efficiency in decision-making.”
“Based on the interview results from more than 300 companies, kickflow has identified the three challenges for approval and workflow nowadays, and has developed an approval and workflow system specialized to solve these challenges.” — Taito Shigematsu, CEO of kickflow.”
“The CEO of kickflow, Mr. Shigematsu, is a surfing friend of one of our employees. He was also involved in establishing the office in Japan for one of our portfolio companies from another country,” says Headline Principal Toshiaki Shimakawa. “We have a long-term relationship, and this is why we were able to initiate our conversation about this investment. While Mr. Shigematsu is very friendly and approachable, he also has a charming personality that pushes the business forward thoroughly, making us more certain to invest in kickflow.”
“While Mr. Shigematsu is very friendly and approachable, he also has a charming personality that he pushes the business forward thoroughly, this made us to invest in kickflow.” — Toshiaki Shimakawa, Principal of Headline.”
“The approval processes in Japanese companies are complex and existing services cannot resolve problems in many of these areas. In a journey of scaling a company from beginnings to hundreds of employees, I have seen many times how people got stuck in the approval process. In a society where even large corporations are accelerating DX, we believe that kickflow will become standard equipment for Japanese companies because of its flexibility to connect various tools and APIs and design the approval flow as desired,” Shimakawa comments.
Headline is proud to invest in Spider Labs, 207, and kickflow. We will leverage Headline’s global assets and support startups to grow their business from five aspects: Funding, Awareness, Recruitment, Sales, and Analysis. We’re Headline, and we’re committed to helping growing companies grow faster.
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