Today I’m thrilled to announce that we have reached our final fund close, with $35m committed. This exceeds our fund target of $30m.
Anyone who has raised money before knows that being able to say that you’ve closed is a very proud moment. Of course, it is nothing but a milestone on the long journey ahead, but it is an important milestone nonetheless.
What makes this milestone particularly important, however, is who came in for the final close. Cool Japan Fund, a public-private fund dedicated to promoting Japanese products and services abroad, committed $10m.
This was an obvious fit for us because our goals are so aligned. We started 500 Startups Japan to serve as a bridge between Japanese entrepreneurs and the world. We felt that despite the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Japan, much of the startup activity was almost completely off the radar to a global audience.
Japan is a big market. Local startup founders don’t necessarily need to look outside of it to build a significant company. But to build an iconic company –one that has massive scale, impact, and a brand recognized all over the world–founders need to have global ambition. Whether it is Masayoshi Son of Softbank, or Shintaro Yamada of Mercari who is well on his way, the one thing they have in common is that ambition. That insatiable desire to conquer the world.
Our partnership with the Cool Japan Fund equips founders like these with the tools to succeed at that level. We bring the 500 brand, global network, and Silicon Valley know-how to empower local entrepreneurs to compete on a global scale. But conquering the world costs money! Cool Japan Fund provides the growth capital needed for our companies to scale quickly when the time comes.
A great example of this marriage in action is Tokyo Otaku Mode, an investment made long before our partnership. The team started out with a simple idea to introduce manga and anime themed products in English on Facebook. In 2012, they participated in our US accelerator program to get a crash course on growing their global fan base. Today they have almost 20 million followers from all over the world on Facebook, and have evolved into the number 1 e-commerce destination for all things “otaku.” Cool Japan Fund led their $13m Series B right at the cusp of this evolution. Our goal is to help create many more of these success stories.
There was a time when Japanese companies were at the forefront of innovation and the global economy. But after the bubble burst in the eighties, perceptions changed. The constant narrative over the lost decades insisted that Japan’s best days were behind it. As if somehow the hardworking, brilliant minds that built Japan from the ashes of WWII to the world’s second largest economy had somehow vanished. They didn’t vanish. Optimism vanished.
However, there is a growing group of brilliant optimists in Japan, and they’re called entrepreneurs. They represent the future of Japan, and it is our mission to give them the tools to reignite that optimism Japan once had. With fresh funds and the support of Cool Japan Fund, we can’t wait to get started. Ganbarimasu!