26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Harumi Kato and Yuichi Kawakami, partners at Innovative Venture Fund, NEC Capital Solutions

Harumi Kato and Yuichi Kawakami oversee the investment activities for Innovative Venture Fund (IVF), an investment vehicle for Japan-based IT and electronics equipment provider NEC Corporation (formerly Nippon Electric Company)’s NEC Capital Solutions subsidiary.

IVF, which is co-run by NEC’s innovative venture fund business department and financial services firm Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation’s SMBC Venture Capital unit, strives to contribute to Japan’s industrial competitiveness through investments and partnerships with both Japanese and overseas technology companies that have the potential to shift the market paradigms through innovation.

The IVF vehicle leverages SMBC Group’s capacities to provide financial know-how and NEC Group’s technical expertise. It supports the portfolio companies’ growth including decision-making on innovative technologies by the NEC Central Research Laboratories, and the activities based on the in-depth knowledge and business experiences of the former NEC staff’s network.

SMBC Group offices around Japan identifies investment opportunities and introduces the entrepreneurs to the IVF vehicle, leveraging SMBC Venture Capital’s innovative ecosystem experience over the years.

Apart from IVF, NEC Capital Solutions also runs a sister unit dubbed CSV Venture Fund (CVF), which is jointly run by VC firm Venture Labo Investment and targets startups developing emerging service and integration that concentrate on a series of co-creative initiatives to the current and future social problems.

The CVF vehicle backs high-growth companies specialising in methods, technologies and services with the potential to provide substantial value to social innovation. It seeks to establish business collaboration within the NEC Group.

The unit’s most recent deals were backed by CVF, including funding for small-scale industrial drone developer Liberaware, crypto asset trading system developer Tecotec and digital asset management platform WealthNavi.

CVF’s other portfolio companies include robotic exoskeleton developer Innophys, digital fabrication and artificial intelligence technology developer Pixie Dust Technologies and Glint Pay, the operator of a payment system.

The unit has also made investments through IVF in deep learning system developer LeapMind, molecular diagnostics system developer Atonarp and Tiem Factory, the producer of a lightweight aerogel insulator called Sufa.

IVF’s former portfolio companies connected driving assistant technology developer Drivemode and analogue semiconductor technology provider SiTime Corporation were respectively acquired by the R&D division of carmaker Honda in October 2019 and by semiconductor producer MegaChips Corporation in 2014, enabling NEC to exit.

In December 2019, NEC Capital Solutions also made a limited partner (LP) commitment to Singaporean state-owned VC fund manager Vertex Ventures which closed its Vertex Master Fund at $730m with backing from multiple Japan-based corporate LPs including trading group Marubeni, SMBC and Aozora Bank.

Kato joined NEC in 1974 and is concurrently an adjunct researcher at Tokyo University’s Industry-Academia Collaboration Centre. Kawakami, on the other hand, joined the corporate in 1975 and serves as an adviser to portfolio companies.

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF