Schaft Inc co-founder opens fund to invest in Japanese startups, universities

January 9
8:36 PM 2014

Takashi Kato has established a fund that would invest in technologies from Japanese startups and universities that investors fail to notice, Bloomberg News reported. Kato is the co-founder of Schaft Inc, the robot startup that search giant Google Inc acquired in November.

In an interview, Kato told Bloomberg that his fund, called 246 Capital, intends to raise JPY 2 billion or $19 million primarily from rich Japanese in the next six months. It will look for opportunities in the biotechnology and energy efficiency segments, the report said.

The 35-year old entrepreneur had difficulty getting funding for Schaft despite the fact that it featured some of the best humanoid technology in the world. This convinced him that similar opportunities could be found in Japan. The US government finally funded his innovation but before that happened, he was already snubbed by ten Japanese investment companies.

Kato said, "A slew of intelligent scientists and engineers are out there in Japan, thirsty for money to develop next-generation technologies that could make our lives easier." The report said 246 Capital is looking to gather up to JPY 10 billion for one more fund in the next five years.

Google bought seven firms for the robotics project spearheaded by Andy Rubin, the firm's former head of its Android software unit. Tokyo-based Schaft was part of that purchase which happened after Rubin stepped down from Android in March which he had put together into a leading operating system for smartphones.

Kato did not reveal the financial details of the sale of Schaft to Google. Schaft's 95 kilogram-two-legged robot was awarded first place in a contest by the research unit of the US Department of Defense held last month.

Kato said, "I want to invest in technologies hiding in Japanese college- and government-supported labs and startups. They could some day surprise big firms such as Google, like Schaft did."

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