SoftBank’s Deepcore and accelerator Zeroth team up to hunt early stage AI opportunities

Two early stage AI programs are joining forces because, even in the world of artificial intelligence, two heads are better than one. Hong Kong-based accelerator Zeroth — which recently grabbed a majority investment from Animoca Brands — and Deepcore, a Japanese incubator and fund that is part of the SoftBank group, are pairing up to use […]

Two early stage AI programs are joining forces because, even in the world of artificial intelligence, two heads are better than one.

Hong Kong-based accelerator Zerothwhich recently grabbed a majority investment from Animoca Brands — and Deepcore, a Japanese incubator and fund that is part of the SoftBank group, are pairing up to use their resources on deal sourcing and other collaboration around artificial intelligence.

The two seem complementary, with Deepcore focused on starting new ventures and investing in AI companies more generally, while Zeroth operates Asia’s first accelerator program targeted at AI and machine learning startups. It recently bagged $3 million through a deal that sees Animoca Brands take a 67 percent share stake in Deepcore’s operating business and provide a check for its investment arm.

SoftBank launched Deepcore earlier this year to give the organization a foothold in early AI projects. The company operates a co-working/incubation/R&D facility — Kernel Hongo — in addition to an investment arm called Deepcore Tokyo.

Zeroth was founded two years ago and it has graduated 33 companies from three batches to date, taking an average of six percent equity. Some of those graduates have gone on to raise from other investors, including Fano Labs (which is now Accosys) which took money from Horizons Ventures, the VC firm founded by Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-Shing, and Japan’s Laboratik. It has also made eight investments in blockchain startups.

“It’s very excited to see the Zeroth ecosystem grow,” founder Tak Lo told TechCrunch in a statement. “Ultimately, this ecosystem is about building more and more opportunities for our founders to build great companies.”

AI accelerator Zeroth bags investment from digital media firm Animoca

Asia-based accelerator program Zeroth is getting a major infusion of capital after digital media company Animoca Brands agreed to invest over $3 million into its businesses. Animoca is listed on the ASX with a market cap of around $40 million. It is best known for its range of mobile games which include the Doraemon and Garfield […]

Asia-based accelerator program Zeroth is getting a major infusion of capital after digital media company Animoca Brands agreed to invest over $3 million into its businesses.

Animoca is listed on the ASX with a market cap of around $40 million. It is best known for its range of mobile games which include the Doraemon and Garfield brands but it has been pushing to broaden its focus into artificial intelligence, blockchain and more.

The relationship is not new. Animoca previously invested US$1 million (A$1.39 million) in Hong Kong-based Zeroth last December, and now it is following up to take a majority stake in Zeroth’s operational business and also joining its fund as an LP.

According to an announcement, Animoca is paying up to US$1.08 million (A$1.5 million) for a 67 percent share of Venture Classic Limited — Zeroth’s operational business — in addition to a $2 million commitment to Zeroth’s fund, which it will join as an LP.

Zeroth founder Tak Lo played down suggestions that the deal constitutes an acquisition, telling TechCrunch that the deal represents an important addition of capital and know-how for the business.

He added that the program will continue to operate independently and there are plans to expand its scope and geographical focus, although he declined to provide more details. He added that the Zeroth fund remains wholly owned.

Zeroth has graduated 33 companies from three batches to date, taking an average of 6 percent equity. Some has gone on to raise from other investors, including Fano Labs (which is now Accosys) which raised from Horizons Ventures, the VC firm founded by Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-Shing.

Animoca has also been a part of the program. Its OliveX health and fitness spinout graduated Zeroth before going on to raise funding of its own.

“We were impressed by Zeroth’s rise to one of the most influential AI accelerators in Asia as well as a major investor in blockchain,” Yat Siu, co-founder and chairman of Animoca Brands said in a statement. “As Animoca Brands continues to expand its AI and blockchain initiatives, Zeroth provides us with an excellent strategic match, invaluable resources, and access to high-potential ventures and technologies.”

It’ll certainly be interesting to observe how Zeroth, which was founded 18 months ago, will continue with a third-party closely involved. Animoca has been a part of the business for some time, and TechCrunch understands that Lo and his team are talking to other prospective LPs who are likely to come on board soon to give more balance and capital.