In 2018 and early 2019, the Japanese fintech market witnessed significant developments. Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) published a report in December 2018 which proposed new regulatory requirements for virtual currency exchange service providers and a new regulatory framework for initial coin offerings (ICOs).
The FSA has also announced its intention to ease restrictions on the types of activities in which banks can engage and launched in June 2018 a new regulatory sandbox regime to allow fintechs and financial companies to test innovative products.
As the Japanese fintech industry continues to grow, we look today at ten of the country’s top fintech startups.
BitFlyer is a Tokyo-based cryptocurrency exchange. The company claims to be the largest bitcoin exchange in the world by volume, transacting US$250 billion year-to-date. It also offers an API allowing clients to access and control their accounts, in addition to e-commerce payment services. Since it was founded in 2014, BitFlyer has grown to more than 2 million users and expanded into the US and Europe.
Founded in 2015, Folio offers an online security brokerage service in Japan, specializing in thematic investing. With the mission to make investing barrier-free, Folio has built a securities brokerage platform that enables users to compile a diversified portfolio, managing their assets through a robo-advisor, but also by choosing themes depending on what they are interested in or want to support. Folio was named one of 2018’s top 100 fintech innovators by KPMG and H2 Ventures.
Freee, formerly CFO K.K., offers cloud-based accounting and HR software and claims to have over one million business accounts. The technology syncs with bank accounts and automatically categorizes entries to create financial reports. The company has over 5,000 certified accountant advisors who help it reach new customers and also use it for their own work, and says that over 3,500 apps and services, including mainly financial products, are integrated with its software. Freee is the most well-funded fintech startup in Japan.
LinePay is Japan’s answer to WeChat Pay, a social messaging app-turned e-wallet solution in the predominantly cash-based Japan. Earlier this year, it injected US$182 million into its payments unit Line Pay Corp, following posted losses for the company. Line’s betting on building an ecosystem to drive users, which includes gaming, e-commerce, manga and job services. The Line chap app has an estimated 50 million registered users.
Founded in 2012, Moneytree KK develops and offers personal finance management applications on iPhone, iPad, and Apple watch. Moneytree LINK, its proprietary data aggregation platform, has almost twenty enterprise clients, including Japan’s two largest accounting software vendors, Mizuho Bank, SMBC (Mitsui Sumitomo) and multiple regional banks in Japan. The company has a strategic partnership with IBM and claims more than 1.3 million users.
Founded in 2013, Money Design provides automated investment management and online advisory services. Its main product, called Theo, uses algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) previously only available to professional investors. With Theo, people can invest in dozens of world currencies and thousands of different stocks from more than 60 countries. The application automatically balances customers’ account based on their investing goals.
One Tap BUY
One Tap BUY, formerly known as My banker, specializes in finance related application services. The company develops asset management applications. In particular, it provides a mobile app that allows users to easily choose then buy US-listed stocks and Japanese exchange traded funds rather than using conventional trading platforms. One Tap BUY is backed by SoftBank and Mizuho, among others.
Founded in 2012, Origami operates the Origami Pay service accepted at about 20,000 locations across Japan. The service lets users pay with their mobile phones by scanning QR codes at participating vendors. Money is deducted from registered bank accounts or credit cards. Origami has been building a presence in greater Asia including China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. In 2018, the company was named one of the top 250 fintech startups by CB Insights.
Founded in 2014, Quoine is a fintech company that provides trading, exchange, and next-generation financial services powered by blockchain technology. With offices in Singapore, Japan and Vietnam, Quoine operates the Liquid crypto platform which the company claims “is the world’s largest crypto-fiat platform by transaction volume, regulated in Japan.” It raised its Series C funding round earlier this month.
Founded in 2015, WealthNavi develops and delivers an online asset management and risk management platform. Its cloud-based platform provides robo-advisory services that enable users to locate diversified investments internationally. As of April 2019, approximately two years and eight months after its official launch, WealthNavi exceeded 140 billion yen of assets under management.
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Curious about what are the top fintech startups are in other Asian countries? Here’s a handy guide looking at the top fintech startups in Asia by country