World Innovation Lab celebrates record fundraising haul

The firm raised more than $1bn in fresh capital that it will deploy across multiple vehicles, including its third growth fund.

World Inovation Lab's US team. Photo: Business Wire

World Innovation Lab has raised more than $1 billion in fresh capital to further its mission of helping US start-ups expand into Japan and Asia and helping Japanese entrepreneurs build companies that grow into the US.

The capital will be spread across WiL Ventures III, its third growth fund; WiL Strategic Partners, the platform it uses to back other VC funds; and corporate venture capital funds, the firm said in a statement.

“We thank our LPs for fueling WiL’s ongoing growth and empowering us to invest in the next generation of disruptive companies,” said Gen Isayama, WiL co-founder and CEO.

Investors in the latest fundraise include Brother Global, Panasonic, Japan Investment Corporation and Subaru, Isayama told TechCrunch. WiL’s other limited partners include 7&i Holdings, ANA, Isetan Mitsukoshi, Itochu, JVCKenwood, Kajima, KDDI, Mori Building, Nissan Motor, NTT Docomo Ventures, Osaka Gas, Panasonic, Sony, Suzuki Motor, Suzuyo and Square Enix, TechCrunch reported.

Since its founding in 2014, WiL has secured capital commitments of more than $1.9 billion. It previously raised $521 million for WiL Fund II in 2018 and $360 million for WiL Fund I in 2015, according to PitchBook.

Gen Isayama, World Innovation Lab, Japan
Gen Isayama, CEO, WiL

Isayama said in an April interview with Venture Capital Journal that he wants to help improve innovation in Japan and encourage more start-ups to grow outside of the traditional mega-corporations.

“I realized that innovation in the United States and China was led by these ambitious entrepreneurs who want to be rich, want to be famous and are willing to take the risk,” Isayama told VCJ. “Whereas in Japan, innovation seems to be happening in a very different way, which is not led by these individuals or entrepreneurs.”

Based in Palo Alto and Tokyo, WiL helps its portfolio companies by setting up corporate partnerships that allow US and European start-ups to expand in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. WiL also supports Japanese start-ups in their globalization efforts. A new area of focus for WiL is collaboration with LPs and operating corporate venture capital funds.

WiL’s first two funds focused on digital transformation in the sectors of fintech, insurance tech, automation/productivity, cybersecurity, cloud infrastructure and developer tools. In the US, the funds have targeted mainly later-stage rounds. In Japan, the capital has also been deployed to early-stage companies in the same sectors.

WiL Ventures III brings in new areas of investment for the firm, including sustainability, climate tech, health tech, web3 and other emerging technologies.

Through WiL’s Strategic Partners funds, the firm has also invested in established and emerging venture capital funds.

To date, WiL’s portfolio includes 15 companies that have reached unicorn status, the firm said. Its unicorns include Automation Anywhere, DataRobot and Wise.

Fund I and II companies that have exited via global stock exchanges include Asana, Mercari, Raksul and Wise.

Lawrence Aragon contributed to this story