KDDI invests $5M in educational apps maker Fuhu

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KDDI's Open Innovation Fund invested $5 million in Fuhu, a developer of children's educational apps and devices. This is the first investment for the fund, which launched last February and has $60 million to invest in companies in the Silicon Valley area.

In an interview with FierceMobileContent, Kazuhiko Masuda, chief strategy officer of advanced business development at KDDI, said the operator decided to invest in Fuhu because of its devices and services dedicated to children's education. The company plans to bring Fuhu's innovations to the Japanese market. "Good quality content is very interesting to KDDI," Masuda said.

Fuhu last November launched an Android tablet and platform made especially for kids that is sold exclusively at Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores. It also received $15 million in funding last year from Foxconn Technology Group and Kingston Digital.

KDDI has two employees in San Francisco working on the Open Innovation Fund and evaluating companies for potential investment. "We want to bring new services to our customers," Masuda said. "We can help developers here monetize their apps and services. We can provide distribution to high ARPU customers that want new experiences."

KDDI is one of the largest Japanese operators. The company has more than 35 million wireless subscribers. Besides educational apps, Masuda said KDDI is interested in investing in e-commerce and mobile payment firms as well as mobile game developers and healthcare app developers.

KDDI was an early innovator in the mobile content space. The company offers the GREE mobile gaming platform to its subscribers. It was also one of the first to partner with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) on mobile search. In addition, it has worked closely to integrate the Skype mobile VOIP app so it comes preloaded on its devices.

The U.S. wireless industry has been closely watching Japanese operators, particularly since last month's news that KDDI rival Softbank is investing $20.1 billion for a 70 percent ownership of Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S).

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