Day: April 28, 2021

Startups In The Land Of Gold: The Japanese Ecosystem Unveiled, Part 1

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It goes with the saying of “Zipangu – the Land of Gold” in The Travels of Marco Polo. It is difficult to understand the startup ecosystem in Japan. This article focuses on the third-largest GDP country in the world to understand more about Japanese startups, the investing opportunities, and the differences by region, mainly focusing on four areas: Tokyo, Chubu, Kansai and Fukuoka.

*About the startups in this article: The startups were selected by the local consortium and accelerators in charge of support programs. They are not the only ones that represent each region.


A ripe opportunity for startups

What are your perceptions of Japan? Delicious food, cleanliness and safety? All true, but overall, Japan is a “super-aged” nation, meaning more than 20 percent of its population is older than 65 years old. The total population stood at 126 million in 2019, but by the year 2036, one-third of the population will be over 65. 

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the unemployment rate remained at 2.9 percent, very low relative to other countries. With the country’s large percentage of older residents, digital transformation is critical for the (Read more...)

Mapped: The State of Small Business Recovery in America

This post is by Iman Ghosh from Visual Capitalist

Small Business Recovery

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Mapped: The State of Small Business Recovery in America

In the business news cycle, headlines are often dominated by large corporations, macroeconomic news, or government action.

While mom and pop might not always be in focus, collectively small businesses are a powerful and influential piece of the economy. In fact, 99.9% of all businesses in the U.S. qualify as small businesses, collectively employing almost half (47.3%) of the nation’s private workforce.

Unfortunately, they’ve also been one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy amid the pandemic. From the CARES Act to the new budget proposal, billions of dollars have been allocated towards helping small businesses to get back on their feet.

Small Business Recovery in 50 Metro Areas

During the pandemic, many small businesses have either swiftly pivoted to survive, or struggled to stay afloat. This map pulls data from Opportunity Insights to examine the small business recovery rate in 50 metro areas across America.

So, has the situation improved since the last time we examined this data? The short answer is no—on a (Read more...)

Science Expands Our Vision of Reality

This post is by naval from Naval

The multiverse is another step in this direction

Brett: Many scientists and philosophers have talked about the concept of a multiverse. But we’re talking about a very strict, very sober understanding of what a multiverse is. 

All of these universes in this multiverse obey the same laws of physics. We’re not talking about universes where there are other laws of physics.

We used to think that everything in our universe—other planets, stars, the sun, the moon—orbited around us. We existed on this tiny planet.

Then our vision of reality got expanded a little bit. We realized that, in fact, we were not the center of the universe—the sun was the center. We also realized the sun and some of the other planets—Jupiter, Saturn and the other gas giants—were bigger than our planet. So our universe became larger.

Then we realized that we were just one star system among many in a huge galaxy of hundreds of billions of stars. Later we realized that this galaxy is one of hundreds of billions of galaxies.

The history of ideas and science is a history of us broadening our vision of exactly how large physical reality is.

The multiverse is another step in that general trend, and we should expect it to continue. It shouldn’t be that hard for people to accept that this is the way to understand things.

Do we know everything about quantum theory and how this multiverse works? No. We haven’t united the multiverse with general relativity. We (Read more...)

Solar For Outdoor Devices

This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC

A trend I’ve been watching for a while now is the use of solar for devices that live outside away from electrical outlets.

Last summer, I bought an inexpensive device that keeps snakes away from our yard. It vibrates into the ground like the animals that hunt snakes and scares them away. I don’t really know if it works but we have not seen any snakes since we got it. The device is powered by a small solar device that is on top of it. Installation was basically pushing it into the ground.

This morning on my way back from getting coffee, I passsed this Citibike station.

I have noticed that most (all?) Citibike stations are now powered by solar. I imagine they also have a battery of some sort that stores solar energy for use at night.

Solar is slowly but surely making its way into all of our lives. It is a great way to power homes and offices, cars and buses, and, it turns out, all sorts of devices that live outdoors away from the electrical grid.


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Splitwise raises $20M Series A to help everyone in the world divvy expenses

This morning Splitwise, a Providence, Rhode Island-based startup announced that it has closed a $20 million Series A.

The company builds consumer fintech software that helps users split expenses. But Splitwise isn’t a Venmo or Paytm clone. Instead of helping users wire money to their pals, the company leaves the transference of money to others. Splitwise simply wants to help reduce the stress and awkwardness that money puts on relationships of all sorts, CEO Jon Bittner told TechCrunch in an interview.

Roommates, partners, married couples with distinct finances, or just friends going on skiing trips all have to deal with shared expenses. And tracking down your friends or spouse or roomie for their cut of a cost is zero fun. Splitwise’s software makes it easier to track and come to terms with shared expenses. By keeping those costs in the open, and whom owes who, the app wants to keep debts clear so that folks don’t have to trip over each other when it comes to money.

The product concept has found a global audience. Per Bittner, Splitwise has attracted tens of millions of registered user who have shared or managed what it calculates to be $90 billion since 2011. The startup declined to share active user numbers, but as it is merely raising a Series A we gave it an early-stage pass on more concrete usage metrics.

Since Splitwise leaves the transference of monies amongst its users to others, it doesn’t make money off of transaction fees or (Read more...)

Alchemy raises $80M at a $505M valuation to be the ‘AWS for blockchain’

Blockchain developer platform Alchemy announced today it has raised $80 million in a Series B round of funding led by Coatue and Addition, Lee Fixel’s new fund. The company previously raised a total of $15.5 million, so the latest financing brings its total raised to $95.5 million since it launched in 2017.

The latest round caught our attention for a few reasons.

First, the company, which describes itself as the backend technology behind the blockchain industry, went from public launch to a $505 million valuation in a matter of just eight months. During that time, Alchemy says it powered over $30 billion in transactions for tens of millions of users all over the world. Second, the startup says it also already powering the majority of the NFT industry.

And finally, its investors in the round include a high-profile mix of institutions and individuals such as DFJ Growth, K5 Global, the Chainsmokers, actor Jared Leto and the Glazer family (owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Manchester United). They joined existing backers including Yahoo co-founder and former CEO Jerry Yang, Pantera Capital, Coinbase, SignalFire, Samsung, Stanford University, Google chairman and Stanford University President John L. Hennessy, Charles Schwab, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and others.

Sources with inside knowledge of Alchemy’s operations tell TechCrunch that the company has already grown its business more than eightfold since it signed the Series B term sheet. They also said Alchemy had over $300 million of investor demand wanting to enter the round and (Read more...)

In a room with no smart speaker, Alexa can’t hear you scream

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

For this week’s deep dive Natasha and Alex and Danny and Chris dove into the world of audio. Sure, you’ve heard of Clubhouse, but there’s lots more going on than just a single app’s cultural rise. So from the biggest companies to niche startups, we compiled all the recent audio news into a single show for all our delectation.

Here’s the rundown:

  • Facebook is building a number of audio products, including a Clubhouse clone and a short-form audio service that we think could be neat.
  • Reddit is also building a Clubhouse-like service, and Alex is excited about it.
  • It’s not just the established social networks that are trying out live audio. Peanut, a social networking app for women, added live audio “Pods” to its platform. It kicked off a conversation on what it takes to win this market, and what’s a smart versus silly bet.
  • While a drop in downloads doesn’t necessarily mean a drop in active users, it’s worth pointing out that Clubhouse’s monthly downloads dropped 72% in March. Where is that gosh darn Android app?
  • And Alex explained why the Clubhouse-NFL deal matters for the company, as it could molt into something more akin to a platform over time.
  • Danny explained how Apple and Spotify are building paid podcast services — more here, and here, respectively — and we have thoughts about which service is (Read more...)

Kaia Health grabs $75M on surging interest in its virtual therapies for chronic pain and COPD

New York headquartered Kaia Health, which offers AI-assisted digital therapies via a mobile app for chronic pain related to musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders and for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), has raised a $75 million Series C.

The round was led by an unnamed leading growth equity fund with support from existing investors, including Optum Ventures, Eurazeo, 3VC, Balderton Capital, Heartcore Capital, Symphony Ventures (golfer Rory McIlroy’s investment vehicle), and A Round Capital.

The funding fast-follows a $26M Series B closed last summer. The pandemic has accelerated the uptake of telemedicine, generally — and Kaia has, unsurprisingly, seen a particular surge of interest in its virtual treatments.

After all, DIY home working set-ups are unlikely to have done much good for the average information worker’s back in the pandemic-struck year. Kaia’s real-time feedback generating motion coach is also able to offer treatment for neck, hip, knee, shoulder, hand/wrist, and foot/ankle pain.

A digital health solution may have been the only lockdown-friendly option for treating conditions considered ‘elective care’ during COVID-19 — meaning suffers of chronic pain may have faced restrictions on accessing physical healthcare provision like in-person physiotherapy. Kaia says it grew its business book 600% in 2020.

Given the U.S. healthcare sales cycle is heavily focused on January onboarding of new medical benefits by employers — who are key customers for Kaia in the market, where it now has around 50 employer and health plan clients — it’s expecting another big onboarding bump next January. And while it hadn’t (Read more...)