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Welcoming Masahiko Inada as Investment VP at DNX Ventures

Masahiro Inada, Investment VP at DNX Ventures

From Entrepreneur to Investor

Akira Kurabayashi, Managing Director of DNX Ventures, was my mentor in the world of startups

I joined the DNX team in July 2019 because I wanted to work with my long-time mentor, Akira. He was an angel investor of Kabuku, a manufacturing startup that I founded, and was one of the valuable mentors who gave me valuable advice on startup finance and exit strategy. I joined DNX Ventures because I wanted to learn about startup companies from a venture capital point of view so that I can make the startup ecosystem even better and larger. With my entrepreneurial experience in the hardware and AI field, I was confident that I could provide a unique value to startup companies that I will be working with

From AI research to Advertising

Developed a smartphone application business 10 years ago, in the dawn of the app era.

During my university days, I worked on many things, AI research, media art, as well as being a professional DJ on weekends. This period just happened to be when

Googles and Facebooks of the world were founded in the digital advertising world, and movements using technologies such as big data, AI, data science, and neuroscience were emerging. That was why I joined Hakuhodo, one of the top 3 advertising companies in Japan.

There, I worked as part of a team spearheading the first company initiative at digitizing Hakuhodo. I also launched clients’ businesses with TV and print ads, handled events, websites and developed apps. Later, I was in charge of operating business alliances and company-wide entrepreneurship systems, business support and management for multiple subsidiaries companies.

My significant achievement was the smartphone app launch of pizza home delivery service, now called, “On-demand food delivery service using GPS”

It was released in 2009, just when Apple launched the iPhone3G, and only a few other apps were available. There were two reasons for the success of our app. One was that it allowed deliveries to outdoor venues, such as cherry blossom viewing spots, beaches, and parks. Another was the strategic PR campaigns such as Buzz measures. In the end, total sales exceeded 1 billion yen in just two years. In addition, I received numerous awards worldwide.

Entrepreneurship, M&A, and Venture Capital

I’d like to create new things and contribute to innovation in entrepreneurship

I then moved on from Hakuhodo, and founded Kabuku in 2013, that comprehensively supported on-demand digital manufacturing services and development utilizing 3D printing technology. We designed and manufactured EVs for major players such as Toyota and Honda, as well as startups which provided self-driving platforms I supported various manufacturers using these latest digital manufacturing technologies. In September of 2017, we became a consolidated subsidiary of a major manufacturer in the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. I retired in June 2019 and joined DNX Ventures.

My position has now changed from that of an entrepreneur to an investor. In the startup industry, I think entrepreneurs and investors should have various trajectories to encourage its ecosystem instead of having a single trajectory of entrepreneurs to investors. Because unlike hitherto businesses, where the separation of ownership and management was the norm, startups can move rapidly because ownership and management are one and the same.

On the other hand, in startups, managements are both shareholders and investors, which means they are managements as well as executives. That is why what is required is not a solo trajectory from management to investment, but rather, both entrepreneurs and investors should have multiple trajectories thus, opportunities. I also believe this will help accumulate knowledge and make the startup ecosystem even better and more significant. I would like to make a significant contribution to the startup ecosystem with this in mind.

That is why my keywords are “AI/machine learning,” “digital marketing,” “IoT,” and “manufacturing.” I hope to make use of my startup experience in this startup domain, accumulate and circulate knowledge, connect Japan and the US, create a broader ecosystem, and contribute to human innovation.

Masahiko focuses on investing in innovative startups in artificial intelligence, IoT, manufacturing, and digital marketing area. Before joining DNX Ventures, Masahiko founded Kabuku Inc. with a vision of ‘democratizing the manufacturing world.’ Using 3D Printing technology, Kabuku launched a digital manufacturing platform that attracted great attention from companies in the automobile industry and provided Toyota and Honda with customized car parts. In September 2017, Kabuku was acquired by Futaba Inc., a giant manufacturer, and distributor of electronic components and systems.

Masahiko holds an MS in Computer Science from the University of Tokyo, and he researched Artificial Intelligence. He joined Hakuhodo Inc., one of the major ad agencies in Japan, and was in charge of new business development and creativity developments at the firm. He received numerous awards, such as the Cannes, ADFEST, London International Awards, and TIAA.‍

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DNX Ventures

DNX Ventures

DNX Ventures is an early stage VC firm focusing on B2B Startups that are shaping industries and transforming the way we live and work. https://www.dnx.vc/