A California- and Tokyo-headquartered venture capital firm has announced a new funding round of more than $1 billion that will bring the firm’s total committed capital to more than $1.9 billion.
The firm focuses on investing in tech innovation across Asia, specifically assisting Japanese companies with digitizing their corporate operations. This most recent funding will allow the venture capital firm to better invest in sustainable startups in energy, water, and climate technology.
According to Co-founder and CEO of WiL, Gen Isayama, “Japan lost its technology competitiveness after 2000 as the internet emerged because the country’s entire industries heavily dependent on hardware — which is still essential — and it focused too little on software.”
The new funding will propel the venture capital firm into better connecting Japanese corporations with investments, in a symbiotic relationship, noted the CEO. The firm claims that it is seeking to merge the interests of its investors and its employees, “ leveraging the corporations’ talents and resources like money, technology and networks.”
What does this symbiotic relationship look like?
WiL plans on making its in-person offices in Palo Alto and Tokyo available to both its employees and its investors in a cohesive partnership between the two branches of the venture capital firm’s interests.
“WiL invites them to use the space because these strategic limited partners are “technology experts and advisors in each sector like automotive, airline and consumer electronics … They love to be involved, helping WiL members to be successful,.” said the CEO in an interview with TechCrunch.
This setup differs drastically from other venture capital firms, as most outsource and hire experts while WiL keeps its experts in-house. In WiL’s case, LPs are positioned to become users themselves of the portfolio companies, further integrating the symbiotic relationship that the firm has set up.
What are the numbers?
WiL has 15 unicorns in its portfolio and manages seven funds in total – three funds for direct investiture, two strategic partner funds, and two corporate venture capital funds. The firm, though fairly new – only launching its first fund in 2014 – has partnered with the likes of Sony, Panasonic, Nissan, Mitsukoshi, and the Japanese Investment Corporation.
This most recent round of funding is WiL’s third growth fund, and the CEO foresees the money as going toward “bridging the innovation gap between the United States and Japan.” Isayama suggests that the gap is a product of Japan’s difficult-to-enter market in tandem with its laggard response to an ever-digitizing business environment.
United States investors have struggled to enter the Japanese market, and mending this disconnect will both benefit US investors while funneling new technologies into Japanese corporations.
According to Business Wire, WiL’s investment thesis is centered around this digital transformation, specifically focusing investments into health tech, sustainability tech, Web3, and emerging technologies that will benefit both Japanese investors and those in the United States.
Though the core thesis of the firm is focused on the gap between the US and Japan, it is not opposed to expanding its investments into other global markets. WiL claims that it will back “great entrepreneurs wherever they are based,” and thus could easily move into the LATAM and European markets in the future. However, they do remain focused on connecting US and Japanese investment opportunities.
Ultimately, WiL is in an excellent position to innovate within the Japanese market, propelling their hardware-focused operations into software-focused operations, a strategy that will streamline many Japanese companies. The venture capital firm’s environmental focus will additionally assist it in growing its portfolio, as now more than ever, climate change is at the top of many executives’ minds.
Investing in clean technology is a keen strategy for any corporation that seeks to be future-focused.