Sozo Ventures

Backing pioneers to navigate
breakthrough markets

Sozo Means

Sozo Ventures was formed in 2012 to invest in and support IT ventures with their global expansion.
We invest in category leaders in advanced data technologies, ecommerce, enterprise cloud,
fintech, ...Read MoreIOT and healthcare IT, among other emerging sectors.
We are structured to connect the most ambitious entrepreneurial teams with
the world's most advanced and respected customers and distributors.
We are at our best when we can share our expertise well before expansion strategies are set.

Features of Our Support

  • Jananese market

    access to the
    Japanese Market

  • business development team

    A Dedicated
    Business Development

  • Strategic partners

    Strategic partners
    Bridging Japanese Corporation
    with US Ventures

  • Venture-backed company

    An invitation to invest
    in the Best Venture-Backed

Customer Testimonials


    Alexander Karp, CEO

    “Sozo Ventures has helped make our mission possible in Japan. Not only by introducing us to top management of key customers in our requested domains, but also providing incredible support that any company would desire when entering a new market. We are very grateful to have Sozo as a partner. ”


    Jack Dorsey, CEO

    “Sozo introduced and assisted in securing our largest international distribution deal before they invested. Sozo has also played a key role in introducing our local team to strategic partners and key executives that helped define our growth strategy.”


    Dan Yates, CEO

    "Sozo has helped us understand how to navigate the business environment in Japan … Since we began our relationship with the Sozo, we've increased headcount of our Japan team by 4x, and Japan has become one of Opower's largest growth markets in the world.”

Our Team

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Phil Wickham

Managing Director

Phil Wickham is a Founder and General Partner of Sozo Ventures. In addition to Sozo, Mr. Wickham serves as the Executive Chairman of the Kauffman Fellows in Palo Alto, California.

Mr. Wickham is a veteran venture investor and startup entrepreneur. Early in his career he co-founded Reference Media in Tokyo, Japan, grew it to scale and sold it to the Princeton Review. Later, Mr. Wickham served as General Partner at JAFCO America Ventures. At JAFCO, he led the creation of portfolio strategic services with more than 40 corporate LPs. Mr. Wickham went on to become a partner and run U.S. operations for Copan, a European venture fund based in Munich, Germany. He has shepherded more than 40 investments, including Ikanos, Web Methods, Com21, Square, Twitter, Palantir, ServiceMax, Coinbase, Fastly, Flexport, Neurotrack, CircleUp, MongoDB, Zoom, One Concern, Chainalysis and Revinate. Mr. Wickham currently serves as an advisor to Angular Ventures (London), MaC Ventures (LA) and Taro Ventures (Tokyo). He is an emeritus advisor to the Creandum Fund in Stockholm.

In his new role as Executive Chairman at the Kauffman Fellows, Mr. Wickham supports the leadership team in their ongoing development of the next generation of leaders in venture capital. From 2008-2016 he served as the organization’s CEO, and expanded the program into more than 40 countries and quadrupled both its operating budget and membership of the Kauffman Fellows Society. The network now numbers more 1000 Fellows, Mentors and Faculty, and over $250 billion in aggregate capital under management. He launched a multi-lingual book publishing arm, an annual research journal and the online Kauffman Fellows Academy. He also helped to conceive, staff and seed-fund TrueBridge Capital Partners, a $1.5 billion family of strategic fund-of-funds based in North Carolina. In 2012, he co-launched the CPIN collaboration between Japan’s Ministry of Economy and the Kauffman Fellows Program with endorsement by the US Embassy.

Mr. Wickham is a lecturer at Stanford’s Graduate School of Engineering and a Visiting Professor at Waseda University’s School of Commerce, where he teaches original courses on innovation and capital formation. He was the lead Faculty for the Development Bank of Canada’s GP Academy Charter Class. He is also a regular columnist for the Nihon Keizai Shinbun and has written for Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, CNBC and the Straits Times.

Mr. Wickham holds a BS from the Aerospace Mechanical Engineering School at the University of Arizona, and an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was a Charter Class member of the Kauffman Fellows Program at Flagship Ventures in Boston.

Koichiro Nakamura

Koichiro Nakamura

Managing Director

Koichiro Nakamura is a Founder and General Partner of Sozo Ventures. Prior to founding Sozo, Mr. Nakamura spent over 20 years founding and building technology companies. At Mitsubishi Corporation, he created relationships with large Japanese conglomerates, providing the credibility needed for portfolio start-ups to find alpha and beta customers. Mr. Nakamura launched the Innovation Kitchen, a Mitsubishi Corporation subsidiary, which incubated seed-stage ventures in Japan. At Innovation Kitchen, he invested in university technology and served on the boards including Scigineer (Japan’s leading discovery engine company went to public (TSE) 2014).

Before Innovation Kitchen, Mr. Nakamura worked in the telecommunications division and led multiple startup companies at Mitsubishi Corporation. He created Japan’s first Application Service Provider (ASP), Datastations (acquired by ValueCommerce). Before Mitsubishi, Mr. Nakamura worked on many start-ups including being a founding member of Yahoo! Japan.

Mr. Nakamura received an MBA from the University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business and also graduated from Waseda University, holding a Bachelor of Law. He is a member of Kauffman Fellows Class 12 and the recipient of the Jeff Timmons Memorial Award, given to only one Fellow per year, which recognizes his outstanding contributions to the program.

Martin Garcia


Martin Garcia has many duties at Sozo from investing activities to leading all of Sozo’s operational activities including all financial and operating responsibilities. His international background and knowledge are key to ensure that Sozo maximizes its efforts on investing and supporting portfolio companies’ growth.

Mr. Garcia’s professional experience includes working for large consulting firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers where he performed financial due diligence on both large and small transactions in many different geographies. He also performed post integration work to ensure that companies were able to merge seamlessly and could keep growing. These assignments emphasized financial and accounting analysis, as well as clear and precise reporting. Additionally, Mr. Garcia has analyzed a multitude of businesses in many different industries and markets.

Mr. Garcia worked with Mr. Nakamura and Mr. Kartia at Innovation Kitchen. He managed all U.S. operations and ensured that portfolio companies received U.S. exposure in order to secure U.S. market presence and financing. Most recently, Mr. Garcia was a Senior Manager at Accuracy (a consulting firm) where he performed a variety of financial consulting roles, from being an expert witness for international arbitration litigation, to doing corporate valuations and joint venture reviews.

Mr. Garcia received an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Tampa and an MBA from the University of Chicago and has a Certified Public Accountant license. He is a member of Kauffman Fellows Class 19 and serves his fellowship at Sozo Ventures under the mentorship of Koichiro Nakamura (Class 12).

Noah Jones

Noah Jones


A West Coast native, Noah joined the Sozo team in January of 2016. Having a technical background, he supplies IT and backend support for the US team and assists in upgrading and maintaining the team’s technological infrastructure. He built Sozo’s first website from the ground up and continues to utilize his programming skills whenever projects call for it.

His other responsibilities include researching for and compiling presentations and creating detailed reports, as well as taking the lead in planning the many events and meetings the team hosts locally. Having experience in customer service, he also coordinates dealings with outside vendors and guests, as well as supports internal office communication between Japan and the US.

Masayuki Fujii

Masayuki Fujii

Senior Director

Masayuki Fujii joined Sozo Ventures in July 2016. His main role is Sozo’s Investors Relationship Management in Japan, including various client services with financial investors.

Before joining Sozo Ventures, Mr. Fujii spent more than 37 years at Nomura Securities. In the Asset Management Division of Nomura Holdings, he was responsible for client services with Japanese public pension funds, such as GPIF, the largest pension fund in the world, as Managing Director of Public Fund Marketing Department at Nomura Asset Management. And then at Nomura Private Equity Capital, he was Managing Director in charge of Client Service Department, promoting many top-tier global private equity funds, which included several venture capital funds, in Japanese institutional investors market.

Prior to the AM Division, Mr. Fujii was engaged in the commercial banking start up project. He spent 9 years in London, and in the last 2 years of that period, he headed the European Banking Division and ran the core commercial banking entity in Nomura, Nomura Bank International in London, as Chief Executive Officer.

Mr. Fujii graduated from Waseda University and received BA in Political Science. He is also a Chartered Member of the Security Analysts Association of Japan.

Hiroki Matsuda


Hiroki Matsuda joined Sozo Ventures in July 2015. His responsibilities include maintaining investor relationships in the U.S, supporting portfolio companies before and after post investment to add value, analyzing data to select portfolio candidates, and analyzing industry conditions.

Before joining Sozo Ventures, Mr. Matsuda worked for Accenture as a management consultant. In nearly five years in Accenture, Mr. Matsuda participated in over 10 consulting projects for Fortune 500 organizations in various industries such as IT, manufacturing, consumer goods, utilities or public services. Mr. Matsuda developed transformation blueprints of control departments and he contributed to transforming organizations.

Mr. Matsuda received a Master of International Affairs from the University of California, San Diego, School of Global Policy and Strategy and also graduated from Keio University with a BA in Business and Commerce and a minor in International Relations.

Spencer Foust


Spencer Foust joined Sozo Ventures in June of 2016. His responsibilities include sourcing companies in the U.S., performing due diligence on potential investments, conducting industry analyses, and supporting portfolio companies after investment.

Before joining Sozo Ventures, Mr. Foust previously worked with Apple in iPhone Operations as a Program Manager, helped to coordinate a startup/investor conference in San Francisco, and worked on the B61 Nuclear Weapon program at Sandia National Labs as a Systems Engineer.

Mr. Foust received a Master’s in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University, and also graduated from the University of Arkansas with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Mr. Foust was heavily involved in leadership positions for on-campus organizations, and serves as a mentor for the Stanford GP2A program.

Ray Hatoyama

Venture Partner

Ray Hatoyama is a Venture Partner of Sozo Venture. Mr. Hatoyama is highly experienced in corporate strategy for globalization and corporate governance.

Until recently, Mr. Hatoyama was the Managing Director of Sanrio Co., Ltd (owner of the wildly popular Hello Kitty brand), and he had executed Sanrio’s global expansion strategy. He not only made Hello Kitty a global iconic brand, but also succeeded in acquisition of a UK brand named Mr. Men Little Miss and bringing the franchise to Hollywood. As a global strategist, he’s seen the market cap rise from $500 million to $3.5 billion in seven years after he joined the company in 2008.

Mr. Hatoyama serves as the independent director for various listed companies such as LINE Corp. (largest SNS in Japan), Pigeon Corp. (the leading childcare and nursing products company), and Transcosmos Inc. (the leading provider for Business Process Outsourcing). Previously, Mr. Hatoyama also served on the board of DeNA Co., Ltd (the leading mobile gaming company in Japan). Mr. Hatoyama is also the CEO of Hatoyama-Soken, his own research and consulting arm.

Before Sanrio, he was part of Mitsubishi Corporation’s content division. There, he also handled media content business operations at the Avex Group, Lawson, Inc., and other companies.

Mr. Hatoyama graduated from Aoyama Gakuin University’s School of International Politics, Economics, and Communication in 1997. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 2008. Mr. Hatoyama earned his IDP-C, a Certificate in Corporate Governance from INSEAD in 2016. He is currently a Visiting Scholar of Stanford University. He has produced various publications including the article in Diamond Harvard Business Review, “How Sanrio Turned Hello Kitty into a Global Brand” (ASIN: B010LBF840).

At Sozo, Mr. Hatoyama helps portfolio companies execute global expansion and strengthen corporate governance with his various global and operational experience.

Elena Winefeld

Director of Finance

Elena brings to Sozo over 15 years of diverse experience in finance: public and private, VC and corporate, accounting and tax. Prior to joining Sozo, Elena served as a Controller at Nokia Growth Partners (NGP), a global venture capital firm with $700 AUM across 4 funds. She also served as a Financial Analysis Manager, owning portfolio analysis and reporting process of 40+ portfolio companies as well as the Fund Of Funds program. Prior to NGP, Elena held various operational accounting positions with technology companies and a tax position with a local CPA firm.

Elena has a Software Engineering background. She holds a B.S. degree in Economics and Management from Technion (Israeli Institute of Technology), with a concentration in Accounting, Finance and Information Systems.

Yoshihiro Kohara


Yoshihiro Kohara joined Sozo Ventures in February of 2017.

His main role is assisting Sozo’s portfolio companies in creating business development opportunities in Japan, understanding the portfolio companies’ technology and analyzing industry conditions.

Before joining Sozo Ventures, Mr. Kohara managed a fast growing Japanese gaming app and organized all of the administrative activities that facilitate the smooth running of an office as an office manager at a startup.Before the startup, he worked with Digital Garage’s payment division. There, He worked on implementing a online payment system for eCommerce Companies both in Japan and overseas and making sales strategies to prospect new revenue flow.

Mr. Kohara graduated from Meiji University, where he received a B.A in Commerce.

Kazuhiro Kobayashi

Senior Director

Kazuhiro Kobayashi joined the Sozo Ventures team in April 2017. His main role is to assist portfolio companies in creating business development opportunities in global markets.

Mr.Kobayashi graduated from Tokyo Computer Institute of Technology then joined a general trading company, was assigned to a computer vocational school operated by the company, in charge of “computer logic circuit” “Z80 Assembler Language” and “Microcomputer Production Experiment” as a lecturer of computer science department.

From 1986 until 1989, Mr.Kobayashi was stayed in Los Angeles, California. He was support sales division of Handy Terminal system which is its own product. Using the Big Boy Restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan as an experiment store, He designed a Restaurants POS system by using handy terminal instead of an order slips.

While in the U.S., Mr.Kobayashi studied Electrical Engineering Technology at Devry University.
He dropped out of Devry University and joined NCR Corporation after returning Japan.

Mr.Kobayashi proposed single item management as a sales representative, to manage products using barcodes, and was responsible for selling, building and introducing the POS system for apparel specialty stores and select shop.

After that, Mr.Kobayashi joined IT Frontier, a joint venture between Mitsubishi Corporation and IBM Japan, launched a business to outsource the BASIS operation of the SAP R / 3 system, It has grown into a highly profitable business in the IT services division.

In addition, by planning the rationalization of the global system operation and using information technology services company of the U.S., Germany, Brazil and China as a collaboration destination, in each country, the global shift operation with only the Japan-China Zone working hours, the operation service covering 24/7 to promote commercialization.

Recently Mr.Kobayashi is responsible for the design, construction and operation of ITIL-compliant system operation management process in e-commerce site operation and omni-channel service operation developed by major distribution retailer as general project manager.

Neha Atreya

Assistant Controller

Neha joined Sozo Ventures in 2018 and is involved in the firm’s fund operations and administration. She has over six years of experience in the venture capital industry. Previously, she was at 5AM Ventures, a leading life sciences venture capital firm, where she was responsible for the firm’s fund management, operations, and reporting. Prior to joining 5AM Ventures, she was Controller at Asset Management Ventures, and an Accounting Associate at Stanford University.

Neha has a bachelor’s degree in Economics, Finance, and Business Administration from Notre Dame de Namur University.


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