Global Brain

Japan’s Base Food raises $880K seed funding to sell nutritionally complete pasta in US

CEO Shun Hashimoto (third person from left) and his co-founders / colleagues at Base FoodImage credit: Base Food

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Base Food, developing a nutritionally complete food product capable of becoming a staple food named Base Pasta, in late October announced it had raised 100 million yen (about $880,000) from Japanese VC firm Global Brain in its seed round. With this money, Base Food is going to prepare overseas expansion mainly targeting the U.S., to diversify their product range, as well as to create a community for repeat customers and to increase staffers for it.

Base Food is the food-tech startup founded in April of 2016 by Shun Hashimoto, formerly engaged in the autonomous driving business at DeNA and other activities. Most of its members are around thirty and with background in Internet ventures, and it is interesting that these members established a food product manufacturer. The firm started developing the product in July of said year and successively conducted a crowdfunding campaign in November. This year, it launched Base Pasta and commenced full-scale sales with the regular purchase model in February.

Package of Base PastaImage credit Base Food

As the number of people who are increasingly conscious about their health grows, Base Pasta targets those who do not know which nutrients to take, as a complete nutritious food allowing intake of 31 kinds of nutrients just in a single meal. Unlike other complete foods such as Soylent or Comp, Base Pasta does not only have functional immediacy, but also provides satisfaction with its delicious taste and can become a staple food. Hashimoto commented on the concept of Base Pasta.

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Hashimoto explained:

The idea of nutritiously complete foods like Soylent are excellent, but it may be difficult for some people to adopt because they are forced to change their eating habits into drink-based ones. I thought that improving conventional food itself would be better than serving something new.

The purpose of a meal is to take in nutrients, in addition to having a close relationship with others or to enable change in mental pace. At the Peperosso Italian restaurant in Setagaya, Tokyo Peperosso or the Odorumen Akira food truck, menus with Base Pasta have been already served.

Asked about its taste, they quickly cooked it in the office kitchen. Photo shows one with tomato sauce.Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

 

Although Base Pasta can be easily cooked with separately sold sauces, the firm is expending efforts to create recipes which offer higher levels of nutrition and satisfaction with support from many nutritionists and restaurants. Alex Ramirez, the manager of the professional baseball team DeNA Baystars, recommends Base Pasta to players who need to be aware of nutritional management while having tight schedules. Hashimoto noted about the business plan:

As gradually becoming recognized by the market while only a year having passed since foundation, the business balance is going into the black on a single month basis. Our speed of execution is highly evaluated by investors with this fundraising. I think the secured money can be used for future business positively without producing deficits.

To the US, the complete food’s birthplace

Base Food is going to advance into the US later this year and throughout next year. The firm expects Amazon or D2C (direct to consumer) with regular purchase model as its distribution channel as in Japan. Hashimoto thinks it is significantly meaningful to venture into the home of health consciousness since D2C has an affinity for healthcare.

Well, why was such a complete nutritious food with a good taste capable of being staple food born in Japan, not in the US?

Hashimoto said:

Yes, what we are doing may be “Columbus’s egg”. It is what anybody can do once heard the idea, but few people hit the idea and further few people actually do.

I think the reason why no product capable of being staple food exists in the US where complete nutritious food was first created is because they tended to focus on the increase of drink-style variation as seen in organic Soylent. Additionally, the idea of making staple food healthy may be easy for the Japanese to come up with. Well, the Japanese love tasty food.

Sometimes startups face language or culture barriers in overseas countries in their international development, but the Base Food team shows great eagerness to target global market with food. Following Kombucha which attracted New Yorker’s attention or Oi Ocha Tea which is favored in Silicon Valley, can Base Pasta penetrate into the new market as a health-conscious food from Japan.

 The Base Food team with investors from Global Brain. Global Brain has recently been focusing on food tech.Image credit: Base Food

Translated by Taijiro Takeda Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s BitStar, matchmaking engine for YouTuber stars and brands, secures $2.7M

L to R: Kazuhiko Miyama (Partner of Global Brain), Yasuhiko Yurimoto (CEO of Global Brain), Taku Watanabe (CEO of Bizcast), Nao Harada (COO of Bizcast), and Yuta Yamashita (CTO of Bizcast)

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Bizcast, the Japanese startup behind a matchmaking platform for YouTuber marketing called BitStar, announced on Monday that it has fundraised 300 million yen (about $2.7 million) from Japanese investment firm Global Brain. This round succeeds their seed round where they fundraised an undisclosed amount from East Ventures backed in 2014 followed by their series A round where they have raised an estimated amount of several million dollars from Japanese gaming company Colopl (TSE:3668) back in August last year. This is a actual series B round, but the secured amount scale and the investment conditions apparently correspond to a series A round.

Due to this funding, Kazuhiko Miyama (Partner of Global Brain) is appointed to Outside Director of Bizcast. Since this round has not closed yet, Bizcast implied the possibility of additional funding within the round from other companies having a potential of business synergies with it.

Founded back in July 2014, Bizcast launched the BitStar platform that matches YouTubers with their client companies in September 2015. Currently, the platform has more than 1,500 YouTubers who do not belong to specific MCNs (multi-channel networks) and have more than 80 million followers in all.

In typical MCNs, about 20% of monthly ad incomes from YouTube is charged as the commission fee; however, Bitstar aims acquisition of major YouTubers by allowing registration for free and by offering business matters, as well as accompanying services such as tax returns procedures or exposure support. According to the company, over 1,000 video clips are served via the platform while the repeat ratio of their clients reaches 51%.

Bizcast has developed unique tools on its own to crawl audience reactions on social media regarding YouTubers registered to the platform. By analyzing which YouTuber will have the most powerful effect for each topic, Bizcast brings the best matchmaking to satisfy with both YoutTuber and client companies.

Finding next YouTube stars and overseas expansion

Originally started as a matching platform for YouTube marketing, BitStar wants to enhance the functions of producing high-quality video content and managing its own media channels in order to expand the area of activities of YouTubers, seeking to collaborate with entertainment business companies having lots of artists or performers. The company’s vision can be seen in, for example, the “WEGO YouTube” channel jointly provided by WEGO, a popular Japanese apparel brand among the younger generation, as well as a recent partnership with China’s up-and-coming news app Toutiao which is now entering into the Japanese market.

Taku Watanabe (CEO of Bizcast) told that it will also focus on accelerating the cycle of finding talents, raising personnel, and monetization:

I think it is a great advantage that we already have a close relationship with clients since we started as an advertisement platform. We know which kind of needs clients have and which type of talents to raise.

Coincidentally with this funding, Bizcast also announced that it has tied up with Japanese travel agency giant JTB. There is a background factor to this tying-up that BitStar was used in the promotion of one of JTB’s travel product series. By enforced marketing efforts using BitStar-suggested YouTubers, the staying time of JTB website increased four-fold and the daily page view increased seven-fold at most; therefore, JTB evaluates BitStar highly for driving a new traffic of young customers.

JTB, also being a LP (limited partner) of the Global Brain’s 6th fund in 20 billion yen ($180 million)-scale, aims to push on business collaborations in attracting foreign visitors and overseas promotion support for the Japanese companies in anticipation of 2020 Tokyo Olympics, for example, the cooperation with Fun Japan Communications, a JTB-affiliated digital marketing company specifically targeting the Asian market.

As seen in cooperation with Toutiao, Bizcast seemingly attempt to advance into the Chinese influencer market as well. There is a possibility that the firm will expand into Taiwan within this year, and may become a competitor of AdAsia Holdings, the leading player in this field. As an aside, AdAsia Holdings announced last week that it appointed a new vice president to enhance the entry into the Taiwanese market.

The following is one of JTB’s video clips that promote travels to Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, made by a BitStar-suggested YouTuber.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy