Category: Business

JAS Asset acquires cafe chain Casa Lapin to set up joint venture Beans and Brown

Thai listed property developer JAS Asset Plc has bought over the trademark food and cafe chain Casa Lapin from Coffee Project Co Ltd for a price tag of 42 million baht (about US$1.27 million).

The company concluded the agreement earlier last month, whereby the high-end coffee house chain will enter into a new joint venture – Beans & Brown Co Ltd. – with JAS Asset having 60 percent ownership while 40 percent is held by Coffee Project.

In other words, three of Casa Lapin current seven branches in Bangkok will belong to Beans and Brown while the remaining four will be jointly operated by the company and its partners on a revenue-sharing basis.

Additionally, Beans and Browns plans to open three more Casa Lapins in the central business districts this year and at least another 10 in 2018 including its first flagship store at a premium shopping complex in the heart of Bangkok which will cover at least 200 square meters.

“Coffee Project was very successful in building the Casa Lapin brand,” said Suphot Wanna, the Chief Executive Officer of JAS Asset Plc. “It is clearly different from other cafe franchises.”

“Casa Lapin is famous for its quality coffee beans, as well as neat coffee-making, and attention to every step from roasting to brewing and other stages of preparation.”

Moving forward, Casa Lapin is looking to expand its presence to Asian cities in the region such as Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore.

But ultimately, this move for JAS Asset is aimed at diversifying JAS Asset’s portfolio and springboard the firm to enter the food and cafe market that it has long expressed interest.

“We target our revenue will grow from 60 million baht this year to 180 million baht ($5.4 million) in 2018 and 360 million baht ($10.87 million) in 2020 and get it listed on the stock market in the same year,” Suphot said.

At present, 70 per cent of Casa Lapin’s revenue comes from coffee and beverage sales and the rest comes from food and bakery. It plans to generate more revenue from selling souvenirs in the future.

Myanmar’s search technology startup Bindez secures six-digit USD round from Vulpes Investment

Singapore’s Vulpes Investment Management Pte Ltd (VIMIC) has announced an investment in Bindez, a search engine and discovery platform based in Yangon.

Following this funding, VIMIC’s adviser Rita Nguyen will also join Bindez’s board.

For Vulpes, this will be the company’s third equity investment in Myanmar after sealing two seed investments in logistic startup Kargo and online freelance job platform Chate Sat using its tech-focused VC fund .

“The potential for harnessing the great technology which Bindehas already built is massive and will be transformative in Myanmar’s emerging technology story. We are very excited to be part of their future growth,” said VIMIC.

Providing a localized solution, Bindez uses natural language processing and machine learning technologies for easy access to data and content which are created in Burmese.

The search technology startup currently owns two products:

    – Bindez Thadin: a B2C content discovery platform where people can access the latest Burmese news
    – Bindez Insights: a social media monitoring product that helps understand market trends and insights

Launched in 2014, the startup is also the first Myanmar startup to have raised a seed and angel investments from international investor 500 Startup.

Yewint Ko, the Co-founder of Bindez said, “Bindez is a mix of linguistic data and machine learning capabilities. It is helping brands to overcome long-time Burmese language issues.”

This includes font compatibility to better understand their customers and how their brand is being perceived online.

“Because of this, we are seeing a real demand for our products more so than ever before. This investment from VIMIC will allow us to scale up the business to meet this growing demand.”

The startup also claims to be the only social media listening tool specific to the Myanmar market, with its news aggregation app reaching a million downloads and 2 million page views per month.

Japan’s fintech startup Money Forward gets IPO approval

Japan’s Money Forward, a leading SaaS (Software as a Service) accounting startup announced that its IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) board has been approved.

From 29th September onwards, the fintech startup will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market offering 1,617,700 shares for public subscription and to sell up to 382,000 shares in over-allotment options, for a total of 931,000 shares.

SMBC Nikko Securities is appointed as the lead underwriter and the company’s market capitalization is expected to be between 10 billion yen to 20 billion yen.

According to Money Forward, the capital raised from the IPO will be spent on boosting sales offices and its expanding operations.

Founded in May 2012, Money Forward was initially known as Money Book. The company has been providing an automated household account and asset management service platform.

Users can simply register their bank accounts, credit cards, and electric money – to check and easily manage their daily expenses and account balances. The service is also made available for businesses to file taxes and prepare financial statements.

To date, the app has gained enormous popularity with more than 5 million users.

In November 2016, the company lead by CEO Yosuke Tsuji logged sales of about 1.54 billion yen (US$14.1 million) and a net loss of about 880 million yen (US$8.1 million). Currently, the cost of opening sales offices and advertising are weighing on profits.

Aside from Money Forward, it is estimated that about 80 to 90 companies will go public this year. Flea market app operator Mercari is also expected to debut later in 2017.

Japanese startup Ambient Intelligence raises funding to develop submersible underwater drone

From aerial exploration used in construction sites to the commercial use of taking high-ground selfies, drones have been cited for its many applications up in the air until the arrival of this Japanese startup enter the drone scene.

Ambient Intelligence Technology, a startup developing and manufacturing submersible underwater drones, said that it has secured 190 million yen (about US$1.7 million) in its latest round led by Beyond Next Ventures.

The round which was intended to accelerate the company’s plan in developing business-use drones for maintaining and managing underwater infrastructure also saw participation from Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital, SMBC Venture Capital, and Freebit Investment.

Established in 2014 by Shohei Ito and Yasushi Nakauchi, Ambient Intelligence is focused on developing underwater drones, to solve the limitations for a human diving professional which can only reach the maximum depth of 40 meters. Any depths more than 40 meters and it will be required to use the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) which can be complex and expensive.

To solve this, Ambient Intelligence looks to release Spider – an underwater drone product from the company next spring. It has eight thrusters and can be connected to a terminal on a mother vessel by a single tether cable.

Users can simply operate a gamepad for the drone to go down to a maximum depth of 300 meters. Its battery life last 4 hours and it has altitude control and computer vision-based position holding functions for the drone body which will allow users to easily monitor and research environment even in a strong water current area.

Despite there being little petroleum production in the country, the technology will become useful in Japan for the maintenance and management of underwater infrastructures such as dams and harbors.

It will also be easier to conduct surveys in environments where there is are tidal currents which have been difficult until now.

“Currently we are concentrating on expanding the underwater drone submerging to a depth of 300 meters with high market needs,” said Ambient Intelligence. “But in the future, we will develop products that can withstand the water depth of 1000 meters which will allow further exploration of the deep sea.”

GliaCloud is raising US$500K seed funding to create video from text

GliaCloud, an AI video creation startup based in Taiwan said it has secured a US$500,000 seed funding. The round was led by Infinity Venture Partners (IVP) with participation from several unnamed angel investors.

The startup’s product, GliaStudio uses natural language processing, data analytics, and artificial intelligence to automatically create video via text.

Users simply need to provide their content in text, and the platform will automatically edit relevant images and video clips, as well as dubbing over it to create a video.

GliaStudio is available in English, Chinese, and Japanese as it targets e-commerce platforms and merchants as well as media companies in Greater China and Japan.

So far, the startup has partnered with 10 media companies in the Greater China region including Toutiao, the Chinese news curating app and BusinessNext, the Taiwanese leading tech news media to generate more than 1000 video clips each day.

Founded in July 2015 by Taiwanese Canadian entrepreneur David Chen, GliaCloud aims to corner the market on the new necessity in media and content development which uses video.

With video content being prevalent to dominate mobile and social media traffic, GliaStudio plays a significant role in helping online publishers to reach their audiences without making huge investments.

Moreover, with this funding having Japan-based IVP participate in as an investor, further massive expansion into the Japanese market is to be expected.

Last year, the company won the Aliyun Award at the Tech in Asia Singapore startup competition.

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