“The company aims to find promising companies and nurture the next generation of up-and-comers, en route to addressing Japan’s deficit of global AI firms,” Bloomberg reported.
SoftBank began the startup incubation business in February 2018 by forming Deepcore, which went on to set up an AI fund that SoftBank, Yahoo Japan Corp., Dentsu Inc., and soccer player Keisuke Honda invested in. That fund has since invested in 18 early-stage startups as of May.
Deepcore’s picks include Vaak Inc., which operates a crime prevention business using image analysis. It’s one of just several AI startups in the country, alongside unicorn Preferred Networks and smaller publicly traded concerns such as Heroz Inc.
“Deepcore Inc. is preparing to form a new AI investment fund in two to three years as it expands its core startup incubation business,” Deepcore’s Chief Executive Officer Katsumasa Niki said in an interview. “The company aims to find promising companies and nurture the next generation of up-and-comers, en route to addressing Japan’s deficit of global AI firms. Deepcore’s second fund will surpass the 6 billion yen ($55 million) raised for the first,” Niki said without elaborating.
“I wish an enterprise which can be like a GAFA will start its life in Japan,” he added, invoking the acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. “The number of startups here is fewer than the U.S. and Europe, and we need to increase it by providing such environment that engineers can open up a business.”
SoftBank’s billionaire founder Masayoshi Son says what unifies the investments made from these funds is the way they will use AI, redefining every industry and creating new ones. This month, the Japanese investment conglomerate named renowned AI expert and Deepcore advisor Yutaka Matsuo to its board, enlisting a specialist in the field for the first time.
Deepcore, which has some 250 people at its base in Tokyo, intends to open two more locations there. Its headquarters are close to the University of Tokyo, which has yielded about 70% of the entrepreneurs in Deepcore’s various startup incubation programs.