TOKYO -- Japanese soccer player Keisuke Honda is launching a venture fund with American movie star Will Smith this month, aiming to raise about $100 million from Japanese investors seeking inroads in budding U.S. startups.
Honda, fresh from Japan's run at the World Cup, and Smith will use their personal connections to find so-called unicorns -- unlisted companies worth $1 billion or more -- for Japanese institutional and deep-pocketed individual investors. Nomura Holdings plans to get on board to solicit investors.
Valuations of unicorns tend to skyrocket just before they go public as investors pile in, limiting the potential return after the initial public offering. The celebrity pair hope to help Japanese investors get the kind of information that is crucial for getting in on the ground floor.
Smith owns an asset management company and has experience in investing in startups. Honda, as an angel investor, has poured money into education, drone and other businesses. He wants to "build bridges between Japanese investors and overseas businesses" with Smith's cooperation, the athlete said.
Potential investment targets reach beyond the realms of sports and movies to a broad range of businesses that offer consumer products and services. Honda and Smith are expected to personally interview some of the candidates.