World Innovation Lab (WiL), a Palo Alto and Tokyo-based venture capital firm, said Tuesday that it has raised more than $1 billion.
It’s a huge fund for the team, relatively speaking. The latest funding, to be deployed across WiL’s multiple funds, including WiL Ventures III, WiL’s strategic partner funds and its corporate venture capital funds, brings the firm’s total committed capital to more than $1.9 billion. .
WiL co-founder and CEO Gen Isayama previously worked at DCM Ventures in Silicon Valley for about a decade before co-founding WiL in 2014, he told TechCrunch in an interview. It was there that he saw the Asian tech boom in the early 2000s, starting in China (and now India and Southeast Asia). He was fascinated by the way technological innovation ecosystems suddenly spring up from different countries.
When he launched WiL’s debut fund in 2014, Isayama told TechCrunch that the agenda Japanese corporations used to discuss centered around how to digitize the way they work and how to make better use of software technology. He added that many government officials and large corporations used spreadsheets or paper and pencil to do their jobs eight years ago.
They knew that they had fallen behind the innovation that was happening in other parts of the world. WiL’s CEO saw Japan lose its technological competitiveness after 2000 when the Internet emerged because all of the country’s industries relied heavily on hardware, which is still essential, with little focus on software, Isayama explained.
WiL wanted to address the pain points of large corporations by uniting Japanese corporations and the business world and harnessing the talents and resources of corporations, such as money, technology, and networks. In fact, WiL’s limited partners were, and still are, mostly Japanese corporations, Isayama said, and they work very symbiotically, he suggested.
For example, WiL, which today has 22 employees in Palo Alto and 20 in Tokyo, also makes it available to its investors. WiL invites you to use the space because these strategic limited partners are “tech experts and advisors in every industry, such as automotive, airline, and consumer electronics… They love to get involved and help WiL members WiL to be successful”.
Isayama noted that “typical venture capitalists would hire these experts, but we don’t need to do that. This is how I structure this venture capital firm so that it is very differentiated [from others].”
Just as important, WiL LPs become casual users of WiL portfolio companies, Isayama continued, saying it’s like a win-win situation, where WiL, LPs and their portfolio companies benefit.
Currently, most of WiL’s portfolio has been focused on the US and Japan, but WiL is open to supporting great entrepreneurs wherever they are and is increasingly looking to other markets such as LATAM and Europe, Isayama said, adding that the company does not expect to change its geographic focus significantly.
On the investment stage, WiL will continue to focus on the late-stage, growth market in the US, with Japan remaining multi-stage oriented. The team is particularly interested in cloud infrastructure, financial technology, healthcare and cybersecurity, although, with its most recent fund, WiL also plans to focus more on making the world sustainable. To that end, it intends to prioritize startups that focus on sustainability, energy technology, water technology, environmental technology, and climate technology. (Those pain points the company sees emerging not just in its limited partner base, but in society as a whole, Isayama said.)
WiL has seen several of his portfolio companies go public since his first and second funds, including Asana, Mercari, Raksul, Wise. Okta acquired another holding company, Auth0. Meanwhile, WiL says that it currently has a total of 15 unicorns in its portfolio, including Aiven, Algolia, Automation Anywhere, DataRobot, Kong, Sendbird, SmartHR, Rippling, UnQork, and Wise.
WiL now manages seven funds in total: three major funds for direct investment (WiL Fund I, WiL Fund II and Venture III), two WiL strategic partner funds (fund of funds) and two corporate venture capital funds (Tokio Marine Fund and Fujiyama Bridge Laboratory Fund).
Isaysma did not disclose the individual fund breakdown, but said investors in the newer fund include Brother Global, Panasonic, Japan Investment Corporation and Subaru. WiL launched its first $360 million fund, or WiL Venture I, in January 2014 and $521 million WiL Venture II in June 2017.
WiL Limited Partners include Sony, Square Enix, Jvckenwood, Panasonic, NTT Docomo Ventures, KDDI, Osaka Gas, ANA, Suzuki Motor, Nissan Motor, Suzuyo, 7&i Holdings, Isetan Mitsukoshi, Mori Building, KAJIMA, ITOCHU and Japan Investment Corporation .