Coral Capital closes third fund with $128M for startups in Japan

Coral Capital, a Tokyo-based venture capital firm, announced today that it has closed its third fund, Coral Capital III, raising $128 million (14 billion yen). Coral Capital’s total assets under management (AUM) is now $275 million.

Limited partners in the vehicle include Mizuho Bank, Mitsubishi Estate, Shinsei Bank, Pavilion Capital, Founders Fund, Dai-ichi Life Insurance, GREE, and undisclosed domestic and international institutional investors.

Coral Capital, founded by two partners James Riney and Yohei Sawayama, will continue to invest in seed and early-stage companies in Japan, deploying first checks from $500,000 to $5 million, and follow-on funding, CEO and founding partner Riney told TechCrunch.

“We have made a few large follow-on investments – $20 million into SmartHR and $17 million into Graffer. we also allocated a significant portion of our latest fund for follow-on investment,” Riney said. About 30% of its third fund is from global investors including the US, Asia and Europe, and Coral Capital wants to be a bridge between its Japan-based portfolio companies and global venture capital community for reaching international scale, Riney continued.

What makes the latest fund unique is that it has a longer fund life that can be extended to 14 years, Riney said. “We want our founders to focus on building without the pressure of a VC looking for a quick exit,” Riney told TechCrunch. Its previous two funds had about 10 years of fund life, Riney noted.

Riney and Sawayama, who were co-founders of 500 Startups Japan, launched their first fund in partnership with 500 Startups in February 2016. Coral Capital has set up its $45 million second fund, Capital Fund II under their own brand name, in February 2019.

Coral Capital has invested in over 80 companies in Japan and exited 7 companies so far, according to Riney. It has made a raft of investments including SmartHR, Graffer, GITAI, and Kyoto Fusioneering.

The company will focus on investing digital transformation in areas including SaaS, insurance, fintech, healthcare, deep tech, fusion engineering companies, robotic companies, Riney told TechCrunch.

The Japanese startup ecosystem is striking its stride now compared to 9 years ago, Riney said. As Riney and Sawayama started investing in seed and early-stage startup companies back in 2012, the startup world was a black box in the country, according to Riney. There was less than a billion invested into startups every year and hardly any unicorns in Japan, and there was not enough information available in Japanese on building companies, he said.

Many startups in Japan are now forgoing an early IPO and raising larger amounts in later stage rounds, Riney said.

Japan’s annual startup investment is estimated at $5 billion, with six unicorns including Coral Capital’s portfolio company, up from just about $600 million in 2012. The $5 billion in annual startup investment is nothing when you consider that the U.S. and China attract tens of billions, and even neighboring country Korea attracts about $4 billion and produced Coupang, a decacorn, Riney said. “We can do better, and we will” and Coral Capital will continue to support and play an important role in driving the ecosystem forward in Japan, Riney added.

Coral Capital also plans to double down on its media outlet, Coral Insights, and recruit staff for building its community. Many startup founders, employees, and investors publish content on their learnings, raising the bar for everyone in the ecosystem and Japan is starting to look a lot more like Silicon Valley, Riney said.

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