TOKYO -- Six companies including East Japan Railway and Dai-ichi Life Insurance have invested in a venture capital fund targeting technology startups, aiming to support innovation that could yield synergies with their own operations.
The group recently put 2 billion yen ($18.6 million) into the Realtech Fund managed by Euglena Investment, SMBC Nikko Securities and Leave a Nest. Companies such as textile maker Toyobo and Nihon Unisys have joined the project as well, bringing the fund's total investors to 23 and assets under management to 7.5 billion yen.
The Realtech Fund is among the largest venture capital funds in Japan involving only private-sector companies, Euglena Investment said. Investments are made in 10 fields including artificial intelligence, the "internet of things," big-data analysis and energy. The fund began operations in April 2015 with 2 billion yen, and so far has doled out between 20 million yen and 300 million yen each to nine companies, including one developing an automated cleaning robot for solar panels. The plan is to invest in 40 tech startups by 2020.
Sitting on the fund's investment committee and otherwise becoming involved in the effort helps companies discover startups whose projects could work beneficially with current operations. Companies reportedly have made direct investments in ventures they have come across, separate from the fund's own investment choices.