Asia-focused fintech startup Opn becomes Japan’s 5th unicorn after $120M
Piccoma mobile comic app, Minto Characters
Image credit: Kakao Piccoma, Minto
Our readers may recall that Japanese sticker character production Quan has merged with cartoonist agency Wwwaap to launch a new company called Minto. We reported that this merger will allow Quan to distribute Wwwaap’s creators’ works and third-party content through Quan’s vast region-wide network in Asia while Wwwaap will be able to expand its sales channels. In addition to their own characters, Quon will be able to play a trader role in the distribution of third-party content.
We wrote that the wave of webtoons originating in Korea had spread to the Japanese market, and that Kakao Japan (rebranded into Kakao Piccoma in November of 2021), the company behind the Piccoma digital comics platform, has surpassed 800 billion yen valuation (over $6 billion US) based on the success seizing that trend. It wasn’t clear whether Kakao Piccoma was a competitor or a friend for Minto as of that writing, but now it appears that the two companies have decided to join forces.
Minto annoounced today that it has raised secured 660 million yen (over $500 million US) from Kakao Piccoma in addition to existing investors like Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Capital, Mizuho Capital, and OLM Ventures (the investment arm of Imagica Group). This follows Minto’s previous round (probably a Series B round) back in February of 2010, and brought their funding sum up to date to 1.46 billion yen ($11.2 million US).
When Minto was born after the acquisition, some readers may have sensed the possibility that the company would expand into the Web3 business from their new brand. In February, the company appointed Minoru Yanai, who has been involved in several Web3 businesses, as a business development manager. For Minto, the funding will allow them to more closely work with Kakao Piccoma not only in webtoon but also many Web3 business development because the latter’s parent company has more than a few web3 subsidiaries in Korea such as Meta Bora (developing Web3 protocol Bora) and Ground X (developing the Klaytn blockchain).
Minto started collaborating with Kakao Piccoma five years ago to distribute Minto’s stickers on the KakaoTalk messaging app, which later led to the great success of Minto’s characters in Korea. Minto has also begun co-producing webtoons with Kakao Piccoma. Also, in advertising and marketing using webtoons, Minto’s former wwwaap team’s ability to use comics for social networking marketing will be well served.
Minto has been selling original NFTs, collaborating with the company’s CryptoCrystal NFT project, and exhibiting NFTs created from the company’s creator network on the Sandbox metaverse platform since last year. In April, the company also started selling NFTs featuring their original characters as well as other content from popular creators on the LINE NFT marketplace.
In this particular space, some of our readers may recall Tokyo-based Rocket Staff, acquired by anime retail giant Animate last year, has been developing webtoon businesses in the Japanese market.