Yahoo Japan and SoftBank Capital Are Investing $20M To Bring More US Startups To Japan



If there was any doubt that Japan is still a hot market for startups, this news should clear any doubts. Yahoo Japan and SoftBank Capital are joining forces to pump $20 million into helping early-stage mobile and social American companies expanding into Japan. This will certainly be good news for startups in the Valley who have been eyeing the Eight Islands.

Toshiaki Chiku, who is now heading the US operations via SoftBank’s office in New York, had this to say:

Yahoo Japan is making a big effort to expand our venture capital impact in the United States, and we are firmly committed to helping companies at all growth stages get into the Japanese market. Japan can be challenging for many U.S. companies, and given our scale and affiliation with SoftBank, we’re in a great position to help them grow and succeed.

SoftBank Capital is the venture branch of one of Japan’s largest telcos, SoftBank Corporation (TYO:9984), and thus has strong interests in promoting products and services that will be used on top of its wires. Yahoo Japan is set to report its Q4 earnings today and mobile advertising has long been its largest division, contributing to 20 percent of its earnings. Yahoo Japan is also Japan’s leading search engine and reaches over 80 percent of Japan’s Internet users through its many services. Yahoo Japan also went in with GREE Ventures to invest $2 million into social gaming just a few months ago.

SoftBank has been quite aggressive in expanding US startups in Japan. Not only did it invest early in Yahoo Japan in 1995 but also recently announced another $250 million to create the PrinceVille Fund aimed at getting US startups competing in Asia. SoftBank’s already got some considerable success with exiting companies. It sold Bluefin Labs to Twitter, BuddyMedia to Salesforce, HuffingtonPost to AOL, Hyperpublic to Groupon, and OMGPOP to Zynga. It’s looking to do the same in Japan.

Given the above interests, it makes sense for the two companies to double down on mobile and encourage innovation. Japan’s mobile consumers are also quite willing to pay for mobile services as evidenced by it being the top mobile ad market until late last year.

Full Press Release below:

SoftBank Capital and Yahoo! JAPAN Announce Partnership and $20M Fund Investment to Help Bring More U.S. Startups to the Japanese Market

Japan’s leading Internet company to fund early-stage companies via SoftBank Capital and help startups drive business in Japan

New York, NY & Tokyo, Japan – April 24, 2013 – Yahoo Japan Corp. (“Yahoo!JAPAN”), Japan’s largest web portal and one of the largest e-commerce platforms, and SoftBank Capital, a venture group affiliated with Japan’s SoftBank Corp. (“SoftBank”), today announced an investment and partnership designed to help U.S. startups of all sizes in everything from early-stage funding to later-stage expansion.

SoftBank Capital’s early-stage Technology Fund ’10 has been investing $100 million on behalf of SoftBank, which has anchored SoftBank Capital’s investing activities since 1995. Yahoo! JAPAN, a joint venture between U.S. Internet company Yahoo! Inc. and SoftBank, has invested $20 million into the early stage fund. This complements the $250 million PrinceVille Investments, L.P. fund (“PrinceVille Fund”) announced in February.

In addition to its investment, Yahoo! JAPAN is announcing Toshiaki Chiku as its head of U.S. operations, where he will oversee investments and partnerships while working out of Softbank Capital’s Manhattan office.

“Yahoo! JAPAN is making a big effort to expand our venture capital impact in the United States, and we are firmly committed to helping companies at all growth stages get into the Japanese market,” Chiku said. “Japan can be challenging for many U.S. companies, and given our scale and affiliation with SoftBank Corp., we’re in a great position to help them grow and succeed.”

Yahoo! JAPAN’s influence in the Japanese market allows its partners to fully harness the market’s opportunities. Every month, Yahoo! JAPAN reaches more than 80percent* of Japan’s Internet users through its services. Criteo, the global leader in performance display advertising, recently began an expansion into Asia after completing a Series D round with investors including SoftBank Capital and Yahoo! JAPAN.

“Our partnerships with SoftBank Capital and Yahoo! JAPAN have been crucial in helping us establish our presence in Asia, with Yahoo! JAPAN enabling us to rapidly scale our business by tapping into one of the largest sources of premium inventory on Japan’s leading Internet portal,” Criteo CEO JB Rudelle said.

Yahoo! JAPAN’s partnership with SoftBank Capital is one of many developments further cementing Softbank Capital’s reputation as the premier investment partner for U.S. companies looking to expand into Asia. The fund has been investing on behalf of SoftBank, which has brought many U.S. companies to the Japanese market starting with Yahoo! JAPAN in 1995. The investment firm recently announced its $250 million PrinceVille Fund designed to help growth-stage entrepreneurs and their businesses compete in and expand into Asia.

Yahoo! JAPAN and SoftBank Capital are looking to invest in companies in the mobile applications, social media, e-commerce, online advertising, gaming and cloud computing spaces. SoftBank Capital’s previous exits include Bluefin Labs acquired by Twitter, Buddy Media acquired by, Huffington Post acquired by AOL, Hyperpublic acquired by Groupon and OMGPOP acquired by Zynga.

“We like to say that our expertise and partnerships give our portfolio companies an ‘unfair advantage’ when it comes to growth opportunities in Asian markets,” said Ron Fisher, Managing Partner of SoftBank Capital. “Partners like Yahoo! JAPAN allow us to deliver on that message and become a preferred partner that can help our portfolio companies forge the relationships necessary to further expand their international presence.”

    Source: Nielsen (NetView JP), brand level data, access from home and office using PCs(excluding Internet application, February 2013
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