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Robot startup co-founder eyes hidden local talent

Bloomberg

Takashi Kato, co-founder of the robot venture Schaft Inc. bought by Google Inc. in November, has opened a fund to invest in technologies from Japanese startups and universities that have been overlooked by investors.

Kato’s 246 Capital plans to raise about ¥2 billion in the next six months mostly from wealthy Japanese, he said during an interview Thursday in Tokyo. The fund will focus on biotechnology and energy efficiency.

Kato, 35, struggled to get funding for Schaft even though it had some of the best humanoid robot technology in the world, which persuaded him there are other similar opportunities in Japan. He was turned down by 10 Japanese investment firms and ultimately got funding from the U.S. government.

“A slew of intelligent scientists and engineers is out there in Japan, thirsty for money to develop next-generation technologies that could make our lives easier,” said Kato.

Kato’s 246 Capital may seek to raise as much as ¥10 billion for an additional fund in the next five years.

U.S.-based Google acquired seven companies for a robotics project led by Andy Rubin, former head of the Android software unit, as the world’s largest online search provider pushes beyond its roots. The effort, which included the purchase of Tokyo-based Schaft, came after Rubin stepped down in March from Android, which he built into a leading smartphone operating system.