In Q1 of 2021, investments in UK companies reached its highest level since 1996 with a total of 9,000 investments made, demonstrating a surge in interest post-Brexit.
When it comes to Japanese investors, they can be very cautious regarding where they choose to direct their money. As a result, they tend to invest in domestic ventures. During the past year, however, Japan’s top investors in UK start-ups have been SBI Investment and Sony Innovation Fund.
Here’s an overview of 6 recent Japanese investments in UK tech companies from cultural insights agency Tokyoesque.
Sector(s): Mobility / Big Data
Company overview: WhereIsMyTransport is a mobility data platform that maps public transport systems in cities and enables users to access detailed and centralised information about what’s happening at any given time.
Japanese investors: Global Brain Corporation invested in WhereIsMyTransport through the KDDI Open Innovation Fund III (KOIF) to strengthen the platform’s partnerships in Asia. SBI Investment also participated in the same Series A Extension funding round worth £10.4 million GBP in June 2021.
Sector(s): Communications / Satellite
Company Overview: A global communications company comprising a network of 650 LEO satellites. These technologies will further enable the progression of IoT and 5G services. Having been testing new technologies throughout 2021, OneWeb is looking to be completely global by 2022 and is one of the key rivals to Elon Musk’s Starlink.
Japanese investors: In January 2021, following significant investment this year, Softbank Capital has become one of OneWeb’s primary investors alongside Hughes Network Group. The funding round was worth £287.5 million GBP.
Sector(s): Retail Finance
Company Overview: Divido is a platform designed to enable retailers and lenders to have a more seamless experience and develop longer-lasting relationships.
Japanese investors: There were 4 Japanese investors in Divido’s most recent funding round. These were; SBI Investment, DG Daiwa Ventures, Sony Innovation Fund, and Global Brain Corporation, in June 2021. The Series C funding round was worth £21.6 million GBP.
Company Overview: Token is an open banking platform with a mission to shift payments from traditional methods towards bank payments. It was named Hottest Fintech in 2021 by The Europas and received several finalist nominations.
Japanese investors: Sony Innovation Fund and SBI Investment led a funding round worth £12.4 million GBP in January 2021.
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Company Overview: Inspired by the Japanese word sensei to mean ‘teacher’ or ‘master’, Senseye is a predictive maintenance solutions provider, ensuring that machinery and systems can flow as smoothly as possible.
Japanese investors: Senseye received investment from NTT Docomo Ventures and Sony Innovation Fund in October 2020, with their joint investments totalling £2.5 million GBP.
Sector(s): Healthtech / Big Data
Company Overview: Huma uses real-time patient and hospital data to power its decentralised predictive healthcare platform, helping people to lead longer and healthier lives.
Japanese investors: Huma procured investment from Sony Innovation Fund and Hitachi in May 2021 as part of a £93.4 million GBP Series C funding round.
What’s The Trend When It Comes To Interest From Japanese Investors In UK Tech Companies?
During the past year, investors in Japan have been looking primarily at B2B services that use predictive technologies to create more streamlined business processes. The areas of fintech, big data and mobility remain to be of particular interest, and this pattern is likely to continue.
We can see that, overall, there’s little interest in B2C businesses; these tend to be focused on Asia or the US. Investments in the UK have been more about facilitating improved business operations and infrastructure. In terms of funding stage, generally Japanese investors are looking for established concepts and rarely take risks by investing in Seed or Series A rounds launched by foreign companies.