A fund started by Takashi Kato, co-founder of Schaft Inc. which was bought by Google Inc. last November, aims to invest in technologies by Japanese startups and universities that have been ignored by investors. Called 246 Capital, the fund plans to raise around 2 billion yen ($19 million) in the next six months from rich Japanese investors and will be used on projects that tackle biotechnology and energy efficiency.
The 35-year old Kato had a difficult time getting funding for Schaft even if it used excellent humanoid robot technology. He was turned down by ten Japanese investment firms and got his funding ironically, from the U.S. government. His memory of that struggle convinced him that there might be other people or companies in Japan experiencing the same thing. “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,” he said.
Kato’s project from Schaft, a two-legged robot which weighs 95 kilograms (209 pounds), took home the first place in a competition organized by the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency unit of the U.S. Department of Defense. The startup, founded in May 2012 was in response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster when two engineers from the Tokyo University approached him for help in creating disaster response robots. Kato said that he, “wants to invest in technologies hiding in Japanese college – and government-supported labs and startups” as he believes that they have the potential to surprise big companies like what “Schaft did” to Google.