Category: Investment

Darma Tech Labs, operator behind Makers Boot Camp accelerator to launch US$17.5 million investment fund with Kyoto Bank

Darma Tech Labs, the Kyoto-based operator behind the Makers Boot Camp (MBC) hardware startup-focused accelerator, announced on Tuesday that it is forming an investment fund worth 2 billion yen (about US$18 million) with Kyoto Bank as an anchor limited partner.

The fund is known as MBC Shisaku No. 1 Investment LP and its redemption period extends through a period of 10 years. The fund will mainly support the trial production and investment of domestic and international IoT startups as they did in the accelerator program Makers Boot Camp which has supported the trial production of IoT startup Monozukuri.

Additionally, the fund will intensively invest in early stage hardware startups in Japan, North America, and Europe. While looking at priority investment areas including IoT, robotics, sensing, networking, big data analysis, medical devices, nursing care, lifestyle, environment, and energy.

The Makers Boot Camp, previously being initiated in August 2015 by Darma Tech Labs in cooperation with Shimogyoku-based Kyoto Prototype Net has previously aided the prototyping efforts in more than 10 startups including wearable AI Bonbouton, smart digital window Atmoph, and e-money reader Coban, among some.

Along with the formation of this fund, Mikuni Kimura, the former chief investment officer for Future Venture Capital and the certified public accountant, Manabu Kuwahara will participate as managing directors at Darma Tech Labs.

At the same time, the company will also expand their alliance partnership with New York-based FabFoundry, in addition to appointing CEO Nobuhiro Seki as a director of Darma Tech Labs, in order to prepare for investments in startups which are centered on the East coast of New York, Boston, Pittsburgh etc.

Ultimately, this fund will also serve as a further investment to strengthen and accelerate the growth of Kyoto as a manufacturing city of IoT.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Baidu said to make US$100 million investment in Chinese electric car startup NextEV

Chinese Internet firm Baidu Inc. reportedly plans to invest US$100 million in smart electric vehicle technology maker NextEV as part of a Series C funding. Details of the deal have not been made public.

Baidu is now betting big on artificial intelligence to spur its future development. As the alliance is an effort intended to boost Baidu’s faltering autonomous driving business that has been witnessing falling profits.

Previously, the internet giant has set up an Institute of Deep learning in 2013, marking the beginnings of its research and development on unmanned driving technology.

However, Baidu has failed to yield concrete results despite its tie-ups with car makers such as BMW and Chery Automobile over the past three years. The exit of its core team members including senior vice president Wang Jin, who was in charge of the autonomous car division, worsened the already muddy prospects.

As the first company tapping into unmanned vehicles in China, Baidu claims that it has no intention to build cars but instead will focus on unmanned driving technology-related software, providing sensor modules and self-driving car brain to its partners. The collaboration with NextEV is in line with such strategy.

It recently established a business unit to focus on self-driving technology and appointed its newly hired chief operation officer Lu Qi as the head of the unit, signaling the importance Baidu is placing on the sector.

Founded in 2014 by Chinese automobile web portal Bitauto’s chairman William Li, NextEV is committed to the research, development, and production of high-performance electric sports cars. The Shanghai-headquartered company has offices in Europe and the United States, with more than 2,500 employees around the world. Last year, it launched the first electric car – the NIO EP9 in London.

The super racing car EP9 was said to be the world’s fastest electric car and the company plans to produce only six vehicles for some of the company’s early backers, including company founder Li, Tencent founder Pony Ma, Xiaomi founder Lei Jun, JD.com founder Liu Qiangdong and two others.

Prior to this, the electric vehicle startup has raised more than US$600 million via three funding rounds since June 2015, having backed by top global investors including Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, private equity giant TPG, China’s Lenovo Group and Sequoia Capital among some.

Following this tie-up with Baidu, NextEV would be able to utilize Baidu’s autonomous driving technology in its mass market electric vehicles. In the near future, the startup plans to launch a mass market electric vehicle priced at about half of Tesla’s Model S, which will start it at RMB620,000 (about US$90,000) in China.

As electric vehicles and unmanned driving technologies have been changing industry rules and profit distribution patterns in the automobile manufacturing sector, an increasing number of startups are joining the commercially viable market said to worth US$87 billion by 2030, according to research and advisory firm Lux Research.

By Vivian Foo, Next Unicorn

Formation Group raised US$357 million for debut fund to invest in early and growth stage companies

Formation Group has launched its debut fund worth US$357 million of commitments in partnership with former Facebook chief financial officer and San Francisco 49ers co-owner Gideon Yu serving on the investment team, according to filings with the SEC.

The maiden fund is set up to bridge innovation between Silicon Valley and Asia, whereby it will focus its investments on a number of early and growth stage companies.

In addition to providing capital, Formation Group will also provide operational support and relationships to bring these opportunities to fruition.

“Our investment in Bowers & Wilkins is a prime example of this strategy, in which we enabled a small Silicon Valley startup (EVA Automation) to execute an unprecedented acquisition of an established, profitable, 50-year old iconic brands in Bowers & Wilkins,” according to a spokesperson from Formation Group.

Besides, the firm’s founding managing partner Brian Koo was a former founding partner of Formation 8 and a founder of InnovationHub. He currently serves on several boards including NextVR, Memebox, and YelloMobile.

While Gideon Yu is the chairman and chief executive officer of Bowers & Wilkins. Previously, he was also a General Partner at Khosla Ventures and Treasurer and SVP of Finance at Yahoo.

The company’s offices are located in Palo Alto, Korea, and Singapore. The portfolio also includes on-demand delivery Honestbee, and ride-hailing service Go-Jek and South Korea’s Dayli Financial Group.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

IFM Investors to acquire minority stakes in Australian fashion handbag and accessories retailer Colette by Colette Hayman

IFM Investors‘ private equity arm has recently invested an undisclosed sum for a minority stake in Colette by Colette Hayman, a leading fashion handbags and accessories retailer based in Australia.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but IFM Investors Executive Director Stuart Wardman-Browne announced that IFM’s partnership with the company’s founders and senior management would help the business continue its growth path.

“We are excited to partner with Colette as it seeks to further expand in Australia and offshore. With the strong experience of its leadership team, niche value proposition, on-trend products and proven retail nous, we believe Colette is well positioned to execute on its next phase of growth,” Wardman-Browne said.

Founded in 2010 by Mark and Colette Hayman, Collete by Collete Hayman has grown to a network of over 130 company-owned stores across Australia and New Zealand as well as several franchise locations across South Africa and the Middle East.

“We feel there are opportunities to add stores to that footprint both here and in New Zealand,” Mr. Wardman-Browne said. “They’ve been quite successful in a refit program in a number of stores which has helped them increase sales.”

Owned by 28 super funds including the country’s biggest funds AustralianSuper, IFM Investors has a well-established presence in private equity and provides institutional investors with a flexible and transparent platform to access private equity investments.

Its private equity model benefits investee companies through an openness to taking minority or majority stakes, flexible investment horizons, and the ability to continue committing follow-on capital as required for growth.

“This transaction is a perfect example of how our private equity approach can benefit companies through long-term investment coupled with a partnership-style approach including pro-active support on strategic initiatives to help the continued growth of the business,” said Wardman-Browne. “It also benefits our investors as they have greater involvement in, and transparency of, their private equity investment.”

As an investor-owned global fund manager, IFM Investors has A$75 billion under management. IFM Investors’ private equity team seeks to invest in growing businesses in Australia and New Zealand with a value of between $50 million to $300 million. This transaction follows the acquisition of 50 per cent of leading contractor group ISGM in June.

Commenting on the investment, Mark Hayman, the CEO of Colette by Colette Hayman said, “The partnership with IFM represents an exciting development for us as we embark on our next phase of growth in Australasia and internationally. We look forward to working closely with IFM to realise our vision for the Colette by Colette Hayman brand.”

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Temasek unit Heliconia launches US$422 million International Partnership Fund to help Singaporean firms expand globally

Heliconia Capital Management, a unit of Temasek Holdings, has announced the launch of a S$600 million (about US$422 million) International Partnership Fund (IPF) in government capital.

The new fund will be used to co-invest with Singapore-based enterprises, helping local enterprises to internationalise their business operations and expanding into oversea markets via acquisitions.

Its joint investment policy focuses on Asian markets, encouraging local firms to partner with other Asian companies to engage in activities such as extending product lines, brands or value chains, in addition to gaining access to markets, channels, and technologies.

Specifically, the fund will support firms that intend to grow by acquiring their regional peers, but which may not have sufficient capital to proceed with its acquisition.

In this way, the fund will hold opportunities for smaller local firms by allowing them to link up with Heliconia as a consortium partner that is able to co-invest in the target company alongside the Singapore acquirer.

Heliconia will come in purely as a financial investor and will not compete over the acquisition’s ownership. Firms that have not identified an acquisition target can also opt for Heliconia’s help to source deals by tapping its extended networks, which only large private equity funds can maintain.

However, to draw on the funds, firms must meet the criteria of being headquartered in the city-state and to have post annual revenues no higher than S$800 million ($564 million). These conditions place their investment focus firmly on middle market enterprises.

“The creation of the fund is part of an effort to develop a smart financing ecosystem here, in Singapore,” said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat. “More funding support is also being targeted at infrastructure developers to help them undertake more oversea projects.”

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

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