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Finance

'Womenomics' advocate Kathy Matsui debuts venture capital fund

Former Goldman Japan vice chair aims to promote diversity from startup stage

From left: Eriko Suzuki, Kathy Matsui, Miwa Seki and Yumiko Murakami will lead the new fund. (Photo by Kenjiro Suzuki)

TOKYO -- Kathy Matsui, an early Japanese proponent of empowering women in the workplace, has established a $150 million venture capital fund focusing on environmental, social and governance investing.

The former vice chair and chief Japan equity strategist of Goldman Sachs Japan announced the launch of the MPower Partners Fund on Monday. Japan's Sompo Holdings, Dai-ichi Life Insurance and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings are major investors. 

In the male-dominated venture capital sector, the new fund is expected to be one of the top players worldwide founded by women.

Matsui is one of the fund's three general partners. She is joined by Yumiko Murakami, former head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Tokyo Center, and Miwa Seki, who worked in investment banking at Morgan Stanley and has translated numerous business publications. Eriko Suzuki, former general partner at Fresco Capital, serves as managing director.

The MPower fund will put money into startups with promising growth prospects that use technology to tackle social challenges, with an emphasis on fields such as health care, financial technology, education and the environment. It plans to target growth-stage and more established Japanese startups, as well as earlier-stage companies abroad, spending around 500 million yen to 1.5 billion yen ($4.55 million to $13.7 million) per target.

ESG principles will be incorporated in the investment process. The fund will help companies choose outside directors and establish management and organizational practices with diversity in mind, from about two to three years before they go public.

Matsui has been an advocate of "womenomics" -- the idea that the advancement of women and economic development are closely linked -- for more than two decades. She influenced many businesses and investors with analyses related to diversity and corporate governance. Murakami was involved in ESG policy recommendations at the OECD.

The fund anticipates using this expertise to help up-and-coming entrepreneurs build a foundation for sustainable growth.

Matsui's next steps have been a subject of speculation after her departure from Goldman last year. Based on her years of experience as an analyst of public businesses, "changing the behavior of large companies is quite difficult," she said. "I want to promote ESG and diversity by providing support from the startup stage."

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