AnyMind Group, a Singapore-based startup that provides adtech, marketing and HR solutions, has raised US$13.5 million in a Series B round led by LINE Corporation and Mirai Creation Fund, a SPARX Group-operated fund backed by Japanese bank SMBC and Toyota Motors.
Existing investors JAFCO Asia and Dream Incubator also participated in the round.
The company has five subsidiaries under its umbrella: adtech company AdAsia Holdings, influencer marketing platform CastingAsia, recruitment platform TalentMind, and online publisher trading desks FourM and Acqua Media.
AnyMind Group said it will use the fresh funding to further develop its products, boost its market share in the advertising, marketing and HR industries, as well as bring on new staff.
One particular area of development it will focus on is integrating AI tech across its suite of products.
On the advertising front, AnyMind Group wants to strengthen its programmatic advertising marketplace (which lets media owners buy digital ads easily using software) by improving the ability of its machines to target users with ads based on context. It also wants to help companies reach audiences based on ‘mindsets’ compared to just their profiles.
CEO and Co-founder Kosuke Sogo explained this concept in plain terms to e27: “[This means], for example, showing the right ads to users who want to go on a holiday, rather than just stumbling upon, getting immersed or accidentally clicking on a piece of travel content,” he said.
For the its influencer marketing product, AnyMind Group wants to incorporate campaign performance and pricing predictions that are powered by machine learning algorithms. It also wants to develop more accurate recommendations using computer vision and NLP (Natural Language Processing) analysis on influencer profiles.
This essentially would allow companies to pick the most cost-effective microinfluencer for their campaigns.
For its publishing tools, AnyMind Group is looking into building BI (Business Intelligence) capabilities that will integrate additional streams of data, such as Google Analytics and quality measurement scores, to create more valuable insights for publishers.
Finally, the company intends to build out its AI-powered recruitment tools into a full stack product, which would not only allow HR professionals to manage job candidates, but also payroll, employee analysis and more.
“Ultimately, we want to package AI (and to a greater extent, technology), for professionals, businesses and industries to drive efficiency and growth. We see AI as an assistant, and not something that will replace jobs,” said Sogo.
A company on a hyper-growth trajectory
AnyMind Group began life as just AdAsia Holdings, which was founded in 2016. In just a year, the company was able to clinch a rather substantial US$12 million Series A funding.
The expanded war chest allowed the company to set its sights beyond the advertising and marketing sector. Sogo said that the company’s overarching goal is to “empower” businesses and professionals across industries with its “easy-to-use, all-in-one” solutions.
To that end, the company placed AdAsia Holdings under its newly-established umbrella AnyMind Group, and subsequently launched CastingAsia and TalentMind.
Sogo said that the diversification into the HR industry was a “natural progression” for the company; the team saw that it could apply CastingAsia’s matching engine outside the advertising sector.
“The engine leverages on machine learning, NLP & semantic analysis, and computer vision, to match brands to influencers, and now we’re using it to match businesses to job seekers,” he said.
Sogo said the acquisitions allowed AnyMind Group to “immediately” grow its market share in Japan and Greater China, adding expertise, and publisher relationships (and clients).
Today, the company is present in most of APAC, including Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Jakarta, Cambodia, Taipei, Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong. And to support its extensive operations, it grew its staff headcount to over 330 currently, spread out across 11 markets.
While AnyMind Group’s aggressive growth strategy allowed it to expand into multiple verticals and markets in a short time span, the journey was not without stumbling blocks or missteps.
“This rapid growth over two and a half years was a double-edged sword,” said Sogo. “There were not many examples of similar companies or founders that I could connect to, or similar models that we could learn from.”
“This is one of the reasons we focused this round on strategic partners and collaborations – we looked for firms that either had portfolio companies (and thus connections) that we can connect with, and also, for a large scale organization (with an expertise in our current markets).”
LINE Corporation will be working closely with AdAsia Holdings to bolster its digital advertising products, and Miral Creation Fund will help AnyMind Group’s accelerate its R&D in AI tech.
“Mirai Creation Fund supports the development and expansion of AI-driven business by utilizing knowledge gained from past investments in many AI companies,” said Shuhei Abe, CEO and the founder of SPARX Group, the Fund’s operator, in a official press release.
The rapid scaling of hires also posed a problem as the company soon discovered that some of them were ill fit for the company’s culture or role.
This is a common problem many managers or founders (particularly in the startup world) experience when their teams expand too quickly; it becomes a challenge to find out whether everyone is in-sync with the company’s values and goals.
Sogo said that AnyMind Group now has a a department for culture development, which focuses on developing and directing all staff towards the same direction.
“Additionally, we had to shift the mindsets of our staff; staff that joined us at the start, when there was a lot of freedom, had to grow their perspective with the business and either develop or adopt new processes and structures,” he said.
“One thing we learned, and we’re now actively looking for it in our hiring interviews, is that we want to bring in people who have an intrinsically-motivated growth mindset. Those who are passionate about growing together with the company, and ultimately, grow their own careers as well.”
AnyMind Group also conducts leadership bootcamps, which provides the company’s managers with workshops and motivational talks to ensure they are aligned with the business and so that they can better lead their teams.
These bootcamps are important because Sogo said the company’s hyper-growth trajectory means that he has had to delegate more responsibility to the management team, department heads and managers.
“This is why we’ve beefed up our management team in recent months, and provided opportunities for managers to grow their ownership of their team,” said Sogo.
“As a company, we want to provide as much value to our people — and that is why our company’s philosophy is ‘Growth for Everyone’: we want to provide growth for both internal and external stakeholders,” he said.
Image Credit: AnyMind Group