We raised $30M to develop nature-inspired AI in Japan

Sakana AI is a new AI research company based in Tokyo, Japan. Our founding team have proven track records of developing breakthroughs in AI, where we take pride in setting the trend in AI development. We aim to develop transformative AI that will bring us into the next paradigm. The main focus of our research and development of new kinds of foundation models based on nature-inspired intelligence.

The name sakana is derived from the Japanese word さかな (sa-ka-na) which means fish. Our logo is meant to invoke the idea of a school of fish coming together and forming a coherent entity from simple rules as we want to make use of ideas from nature such as evolution and collective intelligence in our research. The red fish swimming away represents our desire to not simply do what everyone else does, but to pursue what we believe is coming next!

Seed Funding Round

We are thrilled to announce that we have raised $30M in a seed funding round, led by Lux Capital, with strong backing from Khosla Ventures. Both of these VC firms have a strong history and culture of backing long term R&D-focused companies, especially in AI. Lux is known for their early support for companies like Hugging Face and Runway and Khosla is the earliest institutional investor of OpenAI. To our knowledge, Sakana AI is the first AI startup founded in Japan (or almost the first in any industry in Japan) backed by top Silicon Valley VCs at the seed stage.

We also have strong backing from the Japan tech ecosystem, with investments from NTT Group, KDDI CVC and Sony Group. We already announced a research partnership with NTT.

We’re supported by prominent angel investors like Jeff Dean, Clem Delangue (Hugging Face) and Alex Wang (Scale AI).

Finally, other prominent Global and Japan investment firms also participated in our seed funding round, including 500 Global, Miyako Capital, Basis Set Ventures, JAFCO, July Fund, Geodesic Capital and Learn Capital.

Why did Global VCs invest in Sakana AI?

“Everyone in AI is chasing yesterday’s transformer architectures, and trying to push the boundaries of scaling laws. Lux is always on the quest for what’s next, from where and from whom. We found the answer in new foundation models inspired by evolution and complex adaptive systems that the team at Sakana AI is developing. Sakana AI being based in Japan with a first focus on Asian markets is unique and important. Lux is very bullish on Japan having one of the largest economies, a giant enterprise software market, and a tech-forward culture. In an increasingly complex world, Asia needs and will have an influential new AI trailblazer, and Japan, a powerful democratic nation and a great ally of the US, is poised to be that leader.”

Josh Wolfe, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Lux Capital

“Most sovereign nations will want their own native foundational models, both for national security reasons and to better interact with regional dialects, cultures, and values. We have been supportive of this effort in India, now in Japan. Further, AI talent is globally distributed, and there’s no shortage of the need to deploy it for world-class projects such as Sakana AI. Sakana AI is poised to leverage regional talent to harness the potential that this talent has.”

Vinod Khosla, Founder of Khosla Ventures

“As one of the earliest Silicon Valley venture firms to invest outside the US, we have long believed in the power of talent and markets around the world. Sakana AI not only epitomizes the strength of founders with a global mindset, but they also represent the next step in that the strongest companies will attract the best AI talent from anywhere in the world, including from the US. David and Llion’s ability to attract the world’s top AI talent in such a short period of time has been staggering. We believe Sakana AI has the opportunity to create a massive impact on the market as we enter this first phase of the AI technology shift and we’re proud to support their growth.”

Tony Wang, Managing Partner at 500 Global

Founding Team

With this funding and support from top investors and companies, we’re now building a world-class AI lab in Japan! Our founding team members are from institutions such as Google and other unicorn AI Startups (Preferred Networks, Mercari):

(*) Makoto Shing will start in February 2024.

We’re Hiring!

Interested in joining us? Please see our career opportunities for more information.