VC Money -- Nippon Angels Forum

Back to Contents of Issue: August 2000

by Daniel Scuka

Yukio Iura is founder and president of Nippon Angels Forum (, a grass-roots effort to connect young turk entrepreneurs with angel capital through email and monthly pitching sessions. "Most of our angels run their own companies, and 40 percent of those are IT related, while another 40 percent come from other areas but want to get into the IT field," he says.

Iura says more than 450 people are on the Forum's mailing list, which started last November, and that 120 usually show up at the Shibuya-based pitching sessions.

"Our sessions usually comprise five 20-minute pitches, and a dozen or more 5-minute pitches. Our judges vet the applicants beforehand, and offer advice -- for free -- on how to improve both the pitch and the plan. Our members are then free to invest in the entrepreneurs that they like. A typical investment is ¥1 million, often more."

Yoshitaro Kumagai, a Japanese angel who spends most of his time in Silicon Valley, says, "The quality of business plans that we see in Japan vs. those from the US is still poor -- and same goes for pitching skills."

Iura agrees, and says that's where the Forum can help. "Brushing up business plans is the best type of investment -- and that's what our consultants offer. It's free for the entrepreneurs. We'll also help them practice their pitches."

Nippon Angels Forum has just opened a new office in Gaien-mae, co-located with Nippon Angel Investment, the organization's commercial alter-ego, which Iura also heads as CEO. "Angel Investment provides seed- to mezzanine-level funding in concert with other VCs," he says.

Has he had any problems? "Actually, about one-third of or angel members don't use computers or email -- but they're very interested in investing in Net startups. This has been difficult, because, to keep costs down, we do all our communicating via the Internet -- no snail mail."

Any problems getting people to attend the pitching sessions? "We ask everyone to remit their attendance fee to us in advance," he says. "It's a small amount, but we don't have problems with no-shows."

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