Womenomics advocate Kathy Matsui launches Japanese VC Fund - MPower

Launched this week, Japanese VC fund – MPower has an all-female leadership helmed by Ex- Goldman Sachs Executive, general partner Kathy Matsui, a “womenomics” advocate.

The other two general partners of MPower are Yumiko Murakami, former head of the Tokyo office of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and Miwa Seki, former portfolio manager for Japanese equities at New York-based asset manager Clay Finlay. Eriko Suzuki, a venture-capital veteran who has worked at Fresco Capital and Mistletoe Inc., is the managing director of the fund.

The fund is planning to invest in growth-stage and established startups in Japan and early-stage startups overseas. The ticket size of investment is proposed to be from US$ 4.55 million to US$ 13.7 million per startup. The women-led US$ 150 million venture-capital funds will focus on good governance, an unusual undertaking in Japan’s undersized and male-dominated startup market.

MPower Partners Fund LP received money from investors including Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co., Sompo Holdings Inc. and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Group. It will work with the startups it invests in to ensure that they are meeting governance standards.

“Integrating good-governance practices early is one of the keys to revitalizing or revolutionizing Japan’s venture ecosystem. Japan has plenty of money and talent, but its startup industry is being held back partly because there are not enough global ambition, perspective, diverse views.” — Kathy Matsui.

Even though Japan’s venture industry has been growing at a significant rate, it is still undersized compared to the size of the country’s economy or the venture powerhouses in the U.S. and China. In 2020, the Japanese venture investment was less than 1% that of the U.S. and 5% that of China.

The all-female leadership team of MPower’s is rare for Japan as women are severely underrepresented in the business and finance sectors of the company, especially in the upper level of hierarchy. Female economic participation and political empowerment are also pretty low in the country.

“Many Japanese startups are light on female board members and managers, which could hamper the companies as they prepare to go public and engage more broadly with investors and other businesses internationally,” said Kathy Matsui.

MPower will primarily target later-stage Japanese startups that aim to solve societal challenges, such as healthcare. It will invest about one-third of the fund in overseas earlier-stage companies in the U.S.

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