KDDI (TYO: 9433) revealed a flurry of investment plans today. First, the telecommunications firm announced the KDDI Open Innovations Fund (operated by Global Brain) deposited US$8 million into four American startups. Education firm Edmodo, digital media publishing platform Issuu, seat upgrade app Pogoseat, and TechCrunch competitor VentureBeat all received funding but individual terms were not disclosed. KDDI noted that a key reason for investing in these companies is their collective potential for trying to enter the Japanese market.
It is unclear if that US$8 million was the last of the initial $50 million fund established in 2012, but, regardless, KDDI is reloading and launching a new innovation fund – again with a price tag of US$50 million. With KDDI’s latest move, it is starting to look like venture capital has become a new proxy battle for Japanese telecoms. Docomo has a US$109 million fund and Softbank is working on a US$250 million fund.
The first KDDI fund mirrored the fashionable tech trends of the day, emphasizing ecommerce, media, and gaming startups. The next US$50 million will have a broader scope, targeting companies that are able to bridge the digital and real worlds. Internet-of-things companies, you may pop the champagne now.