Category: Funding Rounds

Chinese employee training platform YunXueTang secures US$22 million round led by SIG

YunXueTang, an employee training platform announced on Tuesday that it had raised US$22 million in a series B funding led by venture capital firm SIG, with participation from Chinese investor Li Qi.

This follows the startup’s previous funding round in 2014 from China’s Everest Venture which was worth RMB 80 million (about US$11 million).

YunXueTang is a learning management system (LMS) for employees.

The platform provides a range of services from exams to learning materials for medium and large size companies, including fields from real estate, banking, insurance, and retail.

Its products also include a learning platform for companies to create their own teaching materials, in addition to a video conferencing mobile app.

The company was founded in December 2011 by Lu Ruize, operating on a BaaS (Business-as-a-Service) model which places emphasis on content and consulting services for enterprises.

At present, the company has over 1 200 lecturers providing more than 2 000 courses for over 300 000 companies. Its customers include China Mobile Ltd, Lenovo Group Ltd., and traditional Chinese pharmaceutical company TongRenTang.

The company also claims to have recorded a revenue of RMB 100 million (about US$14 million) last year.

“Currently, a dozen of European and U.S. employee training companies have issued IPOs,” said Guo Lu, a partner at SIG. “In Europe and US, the industry is well-developed and highly penetrated, but in China, despite a 15 percent annual growth rate, the industry still focuses on providing offline services while online services are in the early stage.”

The reason for this investment, Guo Lu further adds is that YunXueTang presents the opportunity to integrate online and offline resources.

It operates on a forward-looking mindset, market accumulation, as well as an elite team which makes him believes that the company has what it takes to make it in the subversive training industry.

Meanwhile, the startup plans to use the fresh capital to improve the platform’s content, enhance consultancy services and build a sales team.

“The next step for YunXueTang is to compile its own accumulated data, and to develop in the direction of high-quality knowledge content providers,” said Lu Ruize.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Fashion AI startup Omnious reveals an investment of US$885K from Korea Investment Partners

Transforming the fashion industry by using AI, Omnious – a Korean fashion image recognition startup recently revealed that it has received a total of 1 billion won (about US$885K) in investments from Korea Investment Partners on January 9th.

This investment comes in as a Series A funding. As last year, Omnious has received a 300 million won (about US$265K) in seed investment from Mashup Angels and Big Basin Capital.

Jeong Hwa-Mok, the Head of Korea Investment Partners which led this fundraising round said, “Omnious has the highest level of technical expertise in the Deep-learning based image recognition field and a good teamwork. We expect the company to further develop its value chain in the industry after this investment.”

But apart from machine learning which is gradually expanding into more industries, Omnious is also leveraging on two other trends which include the rise of mobile commerce and the influence of social media on fashion and culture.

Riding on these waves, the startup has developed a fashion tech app that lets users shop an outfit by simply uploading an image from a social media post, newsfeed or photos they have taken on their phone.

Their proprietary algorithm then uses visual search and image recognition technology to analyse various fashion attributes ranging from images to items, colors, forms, shapes, details, prints, and materials etc., to search for similarities between different product images and return the precise match or similar options based on the user’s catalog.

At present, Omnious’s database has accumulated more than 2.8 million fashion images. In which it plans to use 800,000 fashion images as training datasets to develop an image recognition solution that automatically tags and classifies fashion images. Ultimately, it aims to create an image search engine that enables users to find similar product information quickly and accurately.

“As consumers needs are increasingly personalized, we will provide better customer experience and customized solutions through establishing strong connections with fashion and commerce companies that are interested in using the AI technology,” said Omnious CEO Jeon Jae-Young.

Omnious also aims to become a global image recognition AI solution company, to bring the benefits of image recognition, or computer vision not only into the world of fashion, but various industries. Additionally, the company said that it plans to flip the commercialization switch for their service later this year.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Bed-in-a-box startup Ronas secures seed investment from Mashup Angels, Big Basin Capital

Korea’s mattress manufacturer Ronas made an announcement on Tuesday that it has secured an undisclosed seed investment round from Big Basin Capital and Mashup Angels, according to local media reports.

The startup is known for its operations in Cork Bear. In which it is one of the new rafts of mattress makers that are benefitting from the compression technology which allows them to ship mattresses in a box.

The fact is, this bed-in-a-box proposition has been trending since 2015 led by a ballooning number of vendors including U.S-based Casper and other dot-com startups which introduced beds that are ship compressed, folded and rolled – changing the entire mattress-buying business model which was previously tedious and outdated.

In South Korea, Ronas has followed suit – introducing the box-bed presence to the local market through its Cork Bear delivery service which is designed to serve consumers a new option for a straight-to-go product. Where they can purchase mattresses that can be delivered – or taken home – in the size of a golf bag.

This compression packaging system has also allowed the company to conform to standards set by parcel carriers, and thus deliver their mattresses to the customer at little cost, as well as reaching locations that were once considered unreachable such as Jeju Island or other rural areas.

All Cork Bear manufacturing plants are located in Korea and consist of on-site mattress experts supervising the process. Additionally, the mattresses are packaged in an antibacterial fashion, which guarantees sanitary products. Even with such quality assurance, the prices are kept at 1/3 of the conventional mattress retailers as the mattresses are sold directly from the factories.

The CEO of Ronas commented, “This seed round will help reconstruct the manufacturing and operational system and allow Ronas to produce customized mattresses for each individual. We look forward to providing consumers with a good sleep by expanding the business into bed frames and other bed-related products.”

Also speaking on the investment, an investor from MashUp Angel said, “The Korean mattress market grew by an average of 9% annually, from US$500 million in 2005 to US$1.2 billion in 2015. Cork Bear will be the leader in the industry through its unprecedented strategy which makes high-quality mattresses affordable to everyone.”

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Japan’s Triple W gets US$610K grant from NEDO to fund clinical research of DFree healthcare wearable

Triple W, a Tokyo-based startup developing a wearable device designed for those who worries about unpredictable bowel movements, announced last Tuesday that it was handpicked by NEDO to participate in their Corporate Alliance Programme.

This is the second time NEDO has provided such support to Triple W as previously in February 2016, the startup has acquired a subsidy from NEDO’s other R&D venture support project, the STS grant project.

The startup will be receiving a similar amount of up to 70 million yen (about US$610K) this time around in which they plan to use for joint research with major companies to miniaturize and optimize the performance of their technology known as DFree.

Worn on the stomach, the DFree device predicts the timing of bowel movements by using an ultrasonic sensor to scan activity in the bowels. Data is sent via Bluetooth to the mobile phone app, which then notifies the users before they even get an urge to use the bathroom.

The clinical research of the app will involve five major companies including Accenture, Itochu Chemical Frontier, Itochu Techno Solutions, Paramount Head, and Revamp. The contents of collaborative research with each of the companies are as follows:

1. Accenture: To collaboratively research on nursing care packages, combining various sensors and nursing care record data, joint development of algorithms and software, support for Euro-centric overseas development, etc.

2. Itochu Chemical Frontier: To develop a high precision ultrasonic sensor, high accuracy paired with algorithm development, etc.

3. Itochu Techno Solution: To conduct feasibility studies, joint development of a software, etc.

4. Paramount Head: To improve accuracy through the combination of various sensors, joint solution development, etc.

5. Revamp: To conduct a feasibility study at nursing care facilities, sales support, etc.

Among these companies, Revamp is a participant of the Series A funding round by Triple W conducted last July.

Speaking on the direction of DFree, Triple W’s CEO Atsushi Nakanishi said: “We’ve first begun introducing our technology in European countries since the structure of nursing care there has already been well-established.”

DFree is currently being used in French nursing homes as well as in Kawasaki City, where it has gained the Kawasaki Innovation Standard certification with the city subsidizing expenses for its use in nursing care facilities.

“Regarding areas where nursing care is not easy, I’d like to consider making rehabilitation models and home care support tools and packages, partnering with insurance companies,” Nakanishi further adds.

But for now, the startup will continue to promote trials for a full-scale introduction in addition to closing a contract with a German company.

On March 3rd, the startup had won the Grand Prize at the “Japan Healthcare Business Contest” – a contest launched by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry to support companies and individuals making bold efforts to create new businesses in the healthcare industry.

Additionally, the startup has also piqued global interest. As in Europe, DFree was exhibited as a use case of Soracom, an IoT-focused mobile network service from Japan, which announced its advance into Europe at the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona earlier this month.

Besides that, DFree has also been scheduled to represent Japan in the Netherlands’ startup conference competition ‘Get in the Ring’ from May 17th to 19th.

By Vivian Foo, Next Unicorn

An application to browse apps, AppBrowzer secures US$500K led by Deepak Gurnani

Bangalore-based Roid Technologies Pvt Ltd, which operates instant mobile app store AppBrowzer, has raised US$500K led by Deepak Gurnani, a member of Singapore Angel Network with participation from a group of angel investors.

Deepak Gurnani is a distributor and producer of Indian movies and has invested in more than 50 companies across the globe, holding stocks in Singtel and HSBC. This round of investment in AppBrowzer is his first investment in India.

Founded in 2015 by Sunny Gurnami and Venkatesh Rao, AppBrowzer is an application that allows users to search, discover and use various apps without any download or installation. This helps users in saving storage space on their mobile devices and data costs used for the installation and update of apps.

Last month, the company had a soft launch of its business-to-consumer (B2C) offering, that is a marketplace of mobile applications housing over 150 popular apps from various segments, including shopping apps Flipkart and Amazon, news apps CNN and TechCrunch, as well as education app Khan Academy where users can instantly access any of these apps without installation.

The startup also plans to launch its business-to-business (B2B) platform soon where developers and businesses can build and host their own instant apps. In this platform, the process of making apps is made easier whereby a developer can build an instant app in less than a day or two.

“We are looking to achieve at least 25,000 downloads before launching our B2B platform,” the co-founder and chief executive of AppBrowzer, Sunny Gurnani said. “We have also taken and merged the best bits of the web and native app technologies to create this platform. When a developer builds an app, it’s a web app but it gives a native experience to the users.”

The company also claims that the soon-to-be-launched B2B platform will be its main monetisation window, although the B2C platform would also contribute to a smaller portion of its revenues, primarily from advertisements and sponsored apps.

AppBrowzer competes with Tapzo, which was earlier known as Helpchat, a personal assistant platform. While Tapzo ties up with companies like Uber, Ola, Freecharge, Zomato and Swiggy to integrate their APIs to build apps within the platform, AppBrowzer keeps the builder platform open for developers and businesses to build and host their apps on the platform.

“A significant amount of the capital will be invested in building and launching the product, as well as the for talent acquisition. We haven’t done any marketing so far. Now, the focus will be on expanding the team and marketing the product to initiate good traction,” Sunny adds.

By Vivian Foo, Next Unicorn

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