Ustream Eyes Asia With Major Funding Round

Ustream has nabbed a major strategic investment by Japan’s Softbank that could be worth $75 million over the next 18 months. With the new funding, Ustream will look to expand in Japan, China, Korea, and India, opening offices and hiring employees to tap dramatic mobile phone usage in those countries.

Japanese mobile phone and Internet operator Softbank made an initial investment of $20 million in Ustream, with the option to acquire additional shares by July 2011 that could bring its total investment in the live and mobile streaming startup to $75 million. With its initial investment, Softbank currently owns 13.7 percent of Ustream, valuing the company at around $150 million. If Softbank chooses to exercise its warrants, the additional $55 million investment would make it the company’s top shareholder.

Ustream specializes in live and mobile video streaming, so an investment by a mobile operator makes sense. And expanding into Asia presents a huge opportunity for Ustream. Although the startup had 50 million unique users in January, China alone has more than 700 million mobile subscribers, according to Bloomberg.

Ustream has built live streaming applications for a number of mobile devices, including Apple’s (s AAPL) iPhone and Google (s GOOG) Android mobile phones. The startup also has built a fairly lucrative live streaming business that’s been used for a number of live events, including the red carpet premieres of Avatar and The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Ustream also recently introduced a pay-per-view service that will allow its customers to begin charging users to view streams of live events.

Ustream had previously raised about $13 million, including $11.1 million in Series A funding from Doll Capital Management and Band of Angels, as well as an additional $2 million it picked up last summer.