Anime Is Far From Niche

But why doesn’t the business community take it seriously?

Anime has the engagement, cultural impact, and financial reach to make it a true powerhouse of a category, but likely due to a lack of understanding and access, it hasn’t been served by the business community. I believe if we can demystify anime a little and help firms access it, this can change.

Anime Dominates Global Pop Culture

Massive anime conventions like Anime Expo are everywhere (Photo: Henshin)

The Pundits Say It’s Bankable

Near-constant articles declaring anime as “big.” (Source: THR)

And The Data Does, Too

Overseas is bigger than Japan now, likely for good. (Source: AJA)

Visit my Why Anime? section on this website to dive into deeper details on what I believe make anime an exciting space for investment.

Anime Has a Problem: Friction

The ways in which anime is created and IP is treasured in Japan create friction to opportunity.

Intellectual property in Japan is considered “treasure” (takaramono, 宝物) in Japan. Because of this, the level of respect, care, consensus, and alignment to work with the IP creates certain frictions. Further, systemic issues in Japanese business culture (often the “Galapagos Effect” as Japanese call it) slow down Japan’s global business.

I don’t know about you, but that looks like a whole lot of friction just to make the shows, let alone monetize them. It’s no wonder we see bootlegs of famous IP still proliferate so heavily in 2024, both in digital and physical places.

We Need to Find New Entrants

Venture Capital

Systemic issues with existing IP powerhouses are not fixable; therefore, we must beget new players.

My investment thesis on the venture side is to identify new players in the anime space that reduce friction in the anime ecosystem through new IP, which thereby begets monetization. Just like in the movies, a good story can come from anywhere, and I believe this next generation of anime IP at scale comes from new players.

  • genAI
  • Community
  • Webtoons
  • Gaming
  • Video
  • Merchandise

Private Equity

Good companies monetizing Hollywood IP with strong cashflow are ripe for bringing anime IP (even if the friction is high)

My investment thesis on the private equity side is to identify existing businesses that already monetize non-anime IP well (such as Hollywood IP), and laser focus on creating value with high impact anime licenses. Because of high friction and steep learning curves, focusing on bigger licenses that make the highest impacts to cashflows rather than absolute volume of IPs.


I see the most activity happening in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Tokyo, but good new business can really appear anywhere, especially anime hot spots like Singapore and Paris, too.

Venture-backed Category POVs:

genAI: I’m interested in new players who use generative AI to beget IP at scale. Vertically (deep on one IP) or horizontally (massive amounts of bets) are both interesting. I’m really interested especially in players that can “do AI the right way” while still growing and innovating (I think it’s possible).

Community: Outside of Crunchyroll, MyAnimeList, and some early Web3 projects, there isn’t really a great business monetizing anime community itself well. Interested to explore.

Webtoons: I’m seeing more and more merchandise licensees get excited about webtoons as a source of IP, so this is a big signal. Overall, I’m interested to see how we can utilize webtoon platforms to drive the anime space in addition to IP plays.

Gaming: This is the most proven “anime investment” model, so I’m looking for players who try new things. Anime gaming-as-media (like Japan launches) is one example, but key is avoiding ultra hardcore with high UA costs.

Video: Is there a next-gen iteration of Crunchyroll out there? Likely, but probably “next generation” probably means something different for content. Really curious what people come up with!

Merchandise: Avoiding high COGS categories and focusing on strong margins as well as service upsells, I see this as a very interesting area since anime fans often use their “anime shelf” as a form of expression and validation (author’s note: Satsuki from Kill la Kill guards the outside of my shelf… don’t get too close).

Private Equity Category POV:

Overall PE: Identify categories that are ideally new or relatively new to anime rather than crowded spaces if you’re looking to acquire licenses for strong businesses. I — and licensors as well — get overjoyed when a new viable category for anime can get created.

Looking For Excellent Leadership

On the venture side, I find an excellent founder is the key to a good startup. For anime in particular, I look for three things:

  1. Love of Anime. I believe this is a MUST. They don’t have to be a hardcore otaku, but they have to love what they’re doing and not just be in it for a job.
  2. Taste for Product. I like to work with founders who have a real taste, a hard vision, for the product. Imagine Neo standing in the Matrix and seeing the code float by… that’s who I want (layered with vision for the anime consumer).
  3. Relentlessness. I admire founders who are relentless in trying to achieve their goals. It can mean working hard, unique problem-solving, whatnot, but their success comes from a fire. This one isn’t directly anime per se, but the anime business is so intense, I think this quality is needed.

On the private equity side, I find a strong CEO and ideally a product person who loves anime is the winning formula in this configuration:

  1. CEO Strength. This is one where I don’t need someone who even watches anime (but they shouldn’t hate it!); rather, someone who can run a business well and maturely work with an outside group on something as transformational as anime licenses is key.
  2. Love of Anime (Product Person). This is where I want to see someone who’s a fan, at the product level. Maybe they’ve cut their teeth on Hollywood IP and they’ve dreamed of doing something anime for years. Or maybe they never thought it was possible, and now there is an opportunity.
  3. IP Experience (Team): Having the successful experience of even just one license together makes a big different so there’s no starting from scratch on “What’s licensing?” when anime licensing starts.


The anime boom continues, and the entire sector is ripe for investment. Opportunities exist, both on the venture side, in circumventing friction by bypassing major players, and on the private equity side, through injecting successful businesses with major anime licenses. The irony is not lost on me that my theses each for venture and PE are pulling in opposite directions, but as more and more activity happens, one thing is clear: anime is going to be bigger than ever.

The content of this thesis is for informational purposes only and represents the views and analyses of the author, and does not reflect any affiliated entities or third parties. This document is not intended as investment advice nor should it be construed as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any investment. Information provided is derived from sources considered reliable; however, it is not guaranteed as to accuracy and does not purport to be complete. Readers should not place undue reliance on this content and are advised to seek independent professional advice before making any investment decisions. Any referenced investments or financial instruments are for example purposes only and do not suggest a recommendation to buy or sell.

Categories: Investing