Japanese Virtual Reality (VR) startup HoloEyes, which develops surgical simulation content for doctors, announced recently that it has raised 150 million yen (about US$1.3 million) in a Series A round from Nissay Capital.
This follows a 10 million yen (about US$89K) seed round the company has secured from Japanese VR-focused acceleration program Tokyo VR Startups (TVS) after graduating from its 2nd batch. The investment proceeds from the round have been used for product and business development.
Founded in October 2016, HoloEyes was set up by app developer Naoji Taniguchi, surgeon and visiting associate professor Dr. Maki Sugimoto, and Kenichi Shinjo who has previously worked as the producer of AllAbout and COO of Appliya.
Developed for medical use, the startup’s VR content solution known as HoloEyes VR is designed to provide 3-dimensional images for surgeons and other medical staff to understand the surgical procedure more intuitively.
The technology is based on cloud services that can convert a specific patient’s medical diagnoses, such as CT scans, MRIs, and X-rays into polygons for the medical staffs to freely view then in 3D space using VR devices.
Collecting and accumulating the data from CT scans, HoloEyes eventually plans to form 3D human body models based on its medical VR database. Moving forward, the startup may assume a business model based on a search database to retrieve 3D images based on certain keywords.
For example, it could be possible to search “60s male prostate cancer” and retrieve the 3D images for a similar case which can be used by a doctor for diagnosis or surgery training. The possible use cases could also include sharing surgical plans and easier explanation for patients.
In December 2016, the team won the Tech Lab Paak award at the event’s 6th Demo Day, while in January 2017 they were awarded the Amazon AWS prize at the Demo Day of the 1st batch of Brave – the acceleration program by Tokyo-based life science-focused startup VC/ accelerator Beyond Next Ventures.
With the proceeds from Series A, HoloEyes plans to build the system and business base for HoloEyes VR and expand its staff.
Myanmar Online Creations (MOC), one of the country’s first online publishers which provides local content recently announced that venture capital firm BOD Tech has joined its six-digit Series A round closed earlier this month.
The deal was finalized in mid-June, and others who participated in the round include Yangon-based financial advisory firm Trust Venture Partners, and Thaung Su Nyein, the CEO of Information Matrix which produces the 7 Day Journal.
MOC said that the capital from the Series A is intended for its plan to launch up to 10 applications and to set up a broader business plan for 2018.
In fact, the startup already owns five local platforms and applications launched to date since February 2017. These include Onlyinburma.com, a Burmese content portal for the locals in Yangon and Lolburma.com, a social media content platform which allows users to upload funny videos and pictures.
The remaining three sites are Langyaung.com, a business directory listing page which includes accurate GPS mapping for all local businesses; serious dating site Phoosar.com; and ezdin-gar.com, a billing payment system based on QR codes.
“We feel a great synergy and opportunity between the current content and technology of the properties within the BOD portfolio and MOC’s current 5 online sites,” said Win Ohn, the Founder and CEO of Myanmar Online Creations.
Meanwhile, BOD Tech owns flymya.com – a one-stop platform for flight and travel bookings. Aside from MOC, the company has also backed a number of tech-based startups including shopmyar.com, Yangondoor2door, Laundary.com.mm and Star Ticket.
Mike Than Tun Win, the Founder of BOD Technology Company said, “We will be contributing our content and do cross products partnership with MOC products.”
VR entertainment technology startup Havson Group has closed funding from Silicon Valley-based venture capital seed fund and accelerator, 500 Startups. Producing unique VR content and using advanced VR technology that solves problems of motion sickness and latency, Havson Group has recognised the booming virtual reality industry in Southeast Asia and generated early interest from global players.
Pioneering the introduction of VR in the region, Havson Group recently launched EXA Outpost, a first of its kind hyper-reality development studio based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where players leave reality behind and immerse themselves in a first-person experience that puts players in the middle of a dimension exploration.
EXA Outpost 1 located at SetiaWalk Puchong
EXA Outpost: Mission Room
EXA Outpost: Angkas Zone
Backed by a team that has deep-seated knowledge of the industry, Havson Group has been no stranger to the world of gaming. Starting off as Mediasoft, the team has developed some of the top mobile games in the world including the badminton game Jump Smash and the world’s first sepak takraw game Roll Spike that saw more than 10 million downloads.
The founders of Havson Group of companies (Left) Rayson Wong; (Right) Havene Liew
Cementing its track record to date, Havson Group participated and subsequently won the Alibaba CACSC competition held in Singapore in August 2016 emerging as a Champion against 12 other startups from the region. And becomes Merit winner of global final in Hangzhou, China. Havson Group’s unique advantage comes from its VR solution enabling players to move freely in a large space without motion sickness.
Havson Group – Champion of Singapore Division, CACSC 2016
“Through the Alibaba CACSC competition, we managed to prove to the world that we are an emerging global tech company solving real gaming problems.” said Kee Saik Meng, Founding Partner of Havson Group.
Havson Group – Merit Winner of Global Final, CACSC 2016
Havson Group was also the first Malaysian startup showcasing their VR content at the Silicon Valley VR Expo in San Jose.
Even though well known on the international gaming scene, the problems Havson Group sought to address with their tech solutions were more regional. Bringing the VR industry to Southeast Asia, Havson Group saw its many advantages for the market including drawing traffic to dying malls.
“Our VR Parks provides a solution for mall operators wanting to attract footfall, especially from millennials, and provides a gaming experience unlike any other VR multiplayer has done.” said Havene Liew, Founder of Havson Group.
A burning passion for improving and growing the Malaysian games industry drove former film director and game design lecturer Havene to initially kickstart Mediasoft Entertainment in 2012 together with another founder Rayson Wong. During his time as a lecturer, Havene saw numerous young talented individuals leaving the country to seek opportunities overseas or quit the gaming industry altogether due to a lack of opportunities.
Taking matters into their own hands, Havene and Rayson wanted to create those very opportunities, develop those talents and contribute back to the local gaming ecosystem. This passion for talent development saw Mediasoft winning the best employer award in 2015 awarded by KWSP Malaysia.
No stranger to virtual worlds, Kee who has extensive experience in film and games, elaborates on Havson’s insights, “We see this market growing very rapidly in the next few quarters. Besides the growing consumer demand for richer VR experience via malls, we see Hollywood studios and big game companies with IPs entering this space, and, naturally, they are looking for strategic partners to work with.”
This market demand sees Havson Group joining other major competitive players around the world in capturing the global market share. These competitors include The Void, a Hyper-Reality experience gaming centre based in Utah, New York and Dubai. Zero Latency is another immersive VR studio based in Melbourne, Australia which received a total of USD9.5M to date in seed and venture funding from Carthona Capital.
Other players include Dreamscape Immersive which plans to open a VR Multiplex in Los Angeles later this year. Dreamscape has raised USD11M in funding in a round led by Bold Capital. Imax too, has said it plans to open six VR centers in partnership with AMC Theaters and Regal Entertainment, and additional centers planned for Britain and China as well as projects in Japan, the Middle East and Western Europe.
With competition mounting globally in the US, Australia and other parts of Asia, Havson Group’s years of gaming experience and understanding of the Southeast Asian and other regional markets is what they see as their first movers competitive edge.
Others have seen it too with demands for partnerships increasing. Havson Group has already signed partnerships in Pakistan and ShenZhen, China and are currently in discussion with numerous major theme parks and resorts across the region. With interest in VR mounting, Havson Group plans to cement its hold within the region, ahead of the competition.
Managing Partner of 500 Startups, Khailee Ng said that investing in Havson Group was not only in line with their goal to recognize promising startups in Southeast Asia and assist them in growing on a global level, Khailee injects that Havson Group is one of the corporations that has the potential of fast pace growth with the help of technology.
“Having invested in 1,700 Startups in over 60 countries, we’ve built an international platform for startups like Havson to rapidly enter multiple markets at speed. Their business model involves malls paying upfront for rollouts, and generates ongoing profit share. It’s a very capital efficient way to build a global business. Just the kind of business we like!” said Khailee.
With future plans involving Southeast Asia, China and the US, Havson Group of companies is strongly focused on the booming VR market.
“We have the right talented individuals who are brave for new challenges, we can have the right technology along with the skilled software to create a product on par, we have the resources that can push us far, it is undeniable that Havson has the track record that can create another new height,” added Rayson Wong, Founding Partner of Havson Group.
About Havson Group: Havson Group builds VR contents and provides VR tech solutions to FEC, theme parks and shopping malls.
Children’s storytelling startup Kaishu Story, otherwise known as Kaishu Jianggushi in Chinese has raised RMB 90 million (about US$13 million) for its Series B funding round.
New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc., one of the largest private educational services in China led the investment.
The round also saw the participation from Chinese growth capital firm Trustbridge Partners, Shanghai-listed Zhejiang Daily Digital Culture Group and iResearch Capital.
Kaishu Story was launched by former CCTV host Wang Kai and represents a children’s content brand focusing on children’s stories, with additional products such as audio series and online parenting courses.
To date, the platform has expanded to a total of 2,033 audiobooks which amounts to 23,363 minutes played over 1.5 billion times. Some of the titles include “Kaishu’s Journey to the West”, “Little Prince”, and “Kaishu’s 365 nights”, to name a few.
The startup claims that it has six million users on its content platform through a WeChat public account, a mobile app and audio shows. It targets to generate the revenue of RMB200 million (about US$29 million) in 2017.
Kaishu will use the latest capital to build a national children’s brand, investing in a wider range of product development related to children’s content and moving on to the parenting industry.
“We are making memories, memories of the people,” said Wang Kai. “We hope that through us, every little kid from the age of two can start building on happy childhood memories.”
This funding round comes in lieu with the emergence of a new generation of content and knowledge-sharing platforms in China that have sparked investor enthusiasm.
In January, Q&A knowledge sharing platform Zhihu has raised US$100 million in a Series D round. While Shanghai Bajiulin, a new media and knowledge sharing startup founded by well-known Chinese financial writer Wu Xiaobo also raised RMB 160 million (about US$23 million) in the same month.
Online media startup Boombastis has recently secured an undisclosed pre-Series A funding from Unistellar, a venture development and advisory firm which pulls funds from Southeast Asian high-net-worth individuals and institutions.
Based in Jakarta, Unistellar help entrepreneurs to take their businesses to the next level by providing practice knowledge, strategic direction, talent management, and relevant business network to accelerate the growth of their business partners.
Boombastis is Unistellar’s first media company that was successfully launched in 2014. Since its site went live, the startup has accumulated a total of 16.9 million page views and a proclaimed 4 million users per month.
The online media platform grew the traffic on the basis of creating viral content which targets the Indonesian Alay market, that is in reference to the audiences in the middle to lower tier of the market which has a size of over 30 million.
Besides viral content, the site also delivers informative content as well including lifestyle tips.
The startup has also been operating on a very lean cost. According to Pascal Sembel, the managing partner of Unistellar, “the editorial team consists of only four full-time employees. The rest are freelancing contributors whom we are paying per article.”
“Barrier to entry in this sector is very low. It’s so easy to become a media entrepreneur these days,” said Nendra Rengganis, the CEO of Boombastis. “But only content business is not profitable, you need to come up with different revenue streams.”
Rengganis further explained, “some have started to create their own communities, launching their own product or setting up merchandise stores. That is one of the ways to maintain independence.”
In this aspect, Boombastis will introduce a string of new features, including what it calls a new kind of news, infotainment, and Youth Muslim Media. Moreover, with the fresh capital, the startup expects to reach a break-even point in the next three to six months.
Boombastis currently competes with Kumparan, Brillo, Hipwee, IDNtimes, Malesbanget.com, Baca, and many others in the attempt to dominate the pop-culture driven millennial market segment in Indonesia.
By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media