October 5, 2015
Kaz Shimizu is an investor in San Francisco at KDDI Open Innovation Fund. Prior to that, he was based in Japan at KDDI where he was in charge of mobile content business with Google. KDDI is Japan’s second largest mobile carrier with 43 million smartphones subscribers. KDDI launched its fund back in March 2012 and Shimizu is its managing director in San Francisco. KDDI is investing in tech companies with the potential to scale into international markets.
When was the last time you made an investment?
The last investment we made was in Jibo a startup based in Boston. Jibo is the world’s first social robotics company monitoring adults, children, teens or even seniors. Jibo is the best help you can get at home. Their project was really successful; they raised more than $3 million on Indiegogo. We invested because they were looking for strategic investors in the Asia region and we are fortunate that in Japan we’ll be at KDDI the ones helping them enter the market.
What is your typical investment size?
We are stage agnostic; we value mainly three aspects before making an investment:
— Does the team has what it takes to stand out?
— Can you grow big enough in the United States?
— How can we work together in the future?
Typically we invest between $100K and $5M depending on the Series.
What is your process like? How do you make a decision?
When a company fits the criteria I mention below I prepare a quick brief and share few points with KDDI headquarters about what do I think we should get involved with this particular company. It takes a month before we write a check.
Do you lead investment or co-invest?
Which startup(s) if you can name or sector(s) you’re excited about?
I’m really excited about everything Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. That is in part why we funded Jibo; it has both characteristics. We have made so far eleven investments including August, the smartlock company.
For the entrepreneurs out there, what is the best way to get funded by you?
The basics meaning the team are they able to succeed by themselves but also the market potential, which is the company’s ability to scale. To be funded by KDDI founders must have a global DNA at the core of their products or services.
How do you interact with founders after investing?
When we invest in a company we give them directly a 43 Million people canal as a distribution channel for their products or services in Japan. We have deep knowledge and expertise of our market, we can handle anything from staffing to market positioning. More than investors KDDI is a business unit and is something we understand well, if you’re building global companies today, get in touch with me.
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