The largest provider of services designed to help small businesses succeed on-line has won a $39 million vote of confidence from SOFTBANK CAPITAL PARTNERS LP. San Francisco's SMARTAGE.COM will use the money to build its brand, develop its infrastructure and continue its growth. The company's expansion plans include joint ventures in Japan, the United Kingdom and France as well as more U.S. business. SmartAge.com already is helping 700,000-plus small firms build Web sites, access free e-mail, promote and advertise their services, and track how often their sites are visited. Softbank Capital Partners, which raised $1.25 billion for late-stage, pre-initial public offering and post-IPO financing, has made at least four other major investments since it was formed in June.
Prior to filing for an IPO, EMBARK.COM raised $24 million in financing from a number of venture capital funds and companies, including ITOCHU CORP. and RECRUIT CO., LTD. The San Francisco firm's Web site targets the higher-education market. Students can research colleges and graduate schools and apply on-line. The site also helps guidance counselors provide better college and career advice. At the same time, academic institutions can use the Embark.com system to recruit students, handle inquiries and process applications from students around the world.
Some of the biggest American names in the Internet and communications fields participated in a $40 million round of financing for NUANCE COMMUNICATIONS. They were joined by NTT SOFTWARE CORP., OMRON CORP. and TRANS COSMOS INC. Menlo Park, California-based Nuance specializes in natural speech interface software for communications, enterprise and Web-based systems. Its newest product is the Voyager voice browser. Omron, a Nuance distributor, has deployed several speech-recognition systems in Japan based on the American company's technology (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 358, July 1999, p. 31).
ANDOR CO., LTD., an up-and-coming Kobe developer of computer-aided design and manufacturing systems, has now committed more than $5 million to APPLIED 3D SCIENCE, INC. The latest transaction included a $1.2 million investment in the Merrimack, New Hampshire venture, which is working on 3D design technology and products for the mechanical engineering marketplace. Andor also will pay nearly $1.4 million in licensing fees to Applied 3D Science. Its first commercially available OEM toolkit had a November release date. A suite of end-user 3D modeling tools will come out in the first quarter of 2000.
The development of cutting-edge computer-aided engineering technologies is the ambitious goal of a technical alliance between FUJITSU, LTD. and the huge Visteon Automotive Systems unit of FORD MOTOR CO. Using its computational analysis capabilities, the Japanese company will develop exclusive hardware and software applications for the world's second-biggest manufacturer of automotive parts to enable it to optimize the use of CAE modeling in the design process. That, in turn, should shorten development cycles. Visteon will employ Fujitsu hardware and software in two of its major simulation technologies: the unified parametric vehicle system and the interior climate comfort engineering system. UPV is used to optimize front-end airflow and to perform exterior aerodynamics analysis. ICCE allows engineers to design interior climate control systems that deliver the best in passenger comfort. In return for Fujitsu's help, Visteon will provide detailed feedback on the developed applications. It also will work with Fujitsu on simulation-based design systems for nonrelated automotive programs.
To help big corporations handle unpredictable surges in electronic-transaction volumes, HITACHI DATA SYSTEMS CORP. launched Hitachi iSuite. This set of integrated solutions is designed to optimize enterprise-class infrastructures in such areas as e- business, enterprise resource planning, availability management and server consolidation. The Santa Clara, California company will backstop Hitachi iSuite by offering four major services: e-business infrastructure optimization, high-availability continuum, enterprise server consolidation and software portfolio management.
The developer of the popular Dragon Quest series of role-playing video-game software is ready to try again to make a go of it in the big North American market. In December, ENIX CORP. will establish a wholly owned subsidiary in Seattle. That new company is expected to launch sales in April 2000 of seven titles for SONY COMPUTER, INC.'s PlayStation video-game console and NINTENDO CO., LTD.'s portable Game Boy machine. Enix moved into the North American market in 1989, but poor sales forced it out in 1995.
An exchange rate of ¥106=$1.00 was used in this report. aaaaa