Civic startups, or startups that try to achieve some social good, are especially rare in Japan. But at the Infinity Ventures Summit LaunchPad event last week, we saw a pitch from Trapro proposing a sort of Wikipedia for social issues.
The startup is an interesting one that plans and organizes tours around important social issues, and helps people interested in those issues to participate in a tour related to that issue. So that could mean a 10-person tour of a local NPO, where each person pays 5000 yen, or about $50. So if an NPO were to conduct such a tour several times a month, it could represent a significant revenue stream for them. The tours will take place on the weekend so as to not interrupt the NPO’s business.
Of course the big knock against civic startups is that they don’t often make much money. Trapro hopes to give 70% of the your earnings to the NPO, so there’s still a decent chunk left for them. Whether or not it enough to be sustainable remains to be seen. Founder Toshiki Abe explains:
This is something that people have trouble finding out about, so I want to make a system that makes it easier. There are some things you can’t understand unless you go in person. When you come back from a trip, you can write your impressions and add photos, thus raising awareness of that issue. ¶
So far Trapro has had over 60 such social issue tours with more than 2000 participants. They hope to involve public schools as well. Currently Tokyo University students can earn credit by planning these trips. The startup plans to have people go on issue-related tours around the world and have fun learning about them.
Trapro tied for fifth place at the LaunchPad pitch event, but it was one of my favorites as founder Toshiki Abe gave an enthusiastic and convincing pitch. We’ve often spoke about how difficult it is to be an entrepreneur in risk-averse Japan, and I think it requires an extra large pair to do a idealistic, socially-minded startup like this one. I sincerely hope it does well.