On Friday, Japan’s CyberAgent Ventures held its annual Rising Expo 2013 event which showcased up-and-coming 15 startups to a crowd of local investors and entrepreneurs . Last year smartphone-based credit card payment provider Coiney won the top prize of 2 million yen (about $20,000), and the startup subsequently raised 100 million yen ($1 million) from CyberAgent Ventures, East Ventures, and an individual angel investor. Among the 15 participating startups this time around, TwitCasting was chosen as the audience favorite by way of voting.
TwitCasting is a mobile live-broadcasting application that was launched back in February of 2010. Its userbase is currently around 3 million, a larger total than Ustream currently has in Japan. Almost 20% of it user base comes from the overseas, and it is getting more and more popular in places like Brazil and the Middle East. It raised 64.8 million yen (approximately $648,000) from East Ventures and Japanese entrepreneur Masao Ito (who runs User Local).
TwitCasting was pitched by Yosuke Akamatsu (@Yoski) of Moi Corp. For this competition, every single finalist had 10 minutes for their pitch, longer than most other startup events. This gave Akamatsu a chance to explain the app’s user experience by showing a live online chat being broadcast by some high school girls. In a response to his question “Why you are TwitCasting”, the girls answered “Because its fun”. This impressed the audience a lot, possibly because typical middle-aged men usually have no chance to talk with young girls!
Like Coiney, which won the grand prize award at last year’s event, TwitCasting is expected to accelerate its global expansion and user acquisition moving forward.
To learn about all the other startups that pitched at Rising Expo, check out our overview below.
15 Startups from Rising Expo ¶
1. Kosodate Share (co-operative childcare), pitched by Keiko Koda (Asmama)
This service allows you to ask other users in your neighborhood to take care of your children. Available tasks vary from babysitting to taking them to schools or kindergartens when you can’t manage. For parents, when you ask someone for a nursery task using the service, it will charge 500 yen (about $5) as a usage fee. The fee covers insurance in case of emergency, and which will ease your concerns about your child’s safety. To date the service has acquired more than 3,000 users.
2. Conyac.cc, pitched by Naoki Yamada (Anydoor)
3. Cafetalk, pitched by Kohtaro Hashizume (Small Bridge)
Cafetalk is a C2C marketplace focused on learning foreign languages online. The service itself does not provide any learning service but rather it connects teachers with students. To date it has acquired 15,000 students and 2,000 teachers who have posted more than 1,000 available lessons. The company has recently seen more than a few teachers who can make a living through this marketplace only. According to a Searchina interview with CEO Hashizume with, the service is in high demand among females in their 30s, who typically want to learn foreign languages as a hobby.
4. Factelier, pitched by Toshio Yamada (Life Style Accent)
This startup claims to enable fashion enthusiasts buy Louis Vuitton-class fashions for prices as reasonable as Uniqlo. By eliminating the middleman between fashion retailers and clothing factories, the startup succeeded in bringing low-priced but high-quality Japan-made clothes to consumers worldwide. Prior to launching this startup, CEO Toshio Yamada worked at Gucci Paris when attending university, and he subsequently worked at Fashionwalker.com, one of Japan’s leading fashion e-commerce sites and the host of Tokyo Girls Collection. Readers may recall that my colleague Yukari Mitsuhashi previously spoke with him about how the company plans to change the industry.
5. Kawaii Museum JPN, pitched by Taketo Tanaka
Kawaii Museum is a global platform for distributing Japanese character franchises. To date it has acquired more than 4 million likes on Facebook and several tens of thousand users for its Pinterest-like curation website. The startup is currently being developed by Ruby programmer Taketo Tanaka (below) who previously worked with DeNA. It was chosen back in March to be included in the fouth batch of KDDI Mugen Labo’s incubation program.
6. Relux, pitched by Takaya Shinozuka (Loco Partners)
Relux is a satisfaction-guaranteed marketplace for Japanese inns. Every month its user number grows by 1.5 times, and the company expects to see more traffic from all around the world. To date the startup has received investments worth 60 million yen ($600,000) from CyberAgent Ventures and Recruit Incubation Partners. You can also check out our previous interview with Shinozuka.
7. Base, pitched by Yuta Tsuruoka (Base)
Base is a Shopify-like instant e-commerce platform developed by Project Liverty, a tech savvy team led by entrepreneur Kazuma Ieiri. Since its launch back in November of 2012, the company has acquired more than 40,000 merchants. It raised 23 million yen ($230,000) back in January, and is aiming to transact 100 million yen ($1 million) in deals by the end of this year.
8. Event Regist, pitched by Kosuke Hirayama (Event Regist)
Event Regist provides a platform for event organizers to market their events and issue tickets online. The service is available in Japanese, English, Indonesian, Thai, and traditional Chinese. Many players are fiercely competing in C2C-based ticket deals (e.g. Ticket Street or Ticket Camp), and its B2C business is dominated by box office companies (e.g. Ticket Pia). So the startup has decided to focus on the B2B business model. It raised seed investment from East Ventures, Skyland Ventures, and Shinwa Agency back in June, and has exclusively handled ticket issuing for events like the Tokyo Game Show 2013 and CEATEC 2013 Japan.
9. Ubiregi, pitched by Keita Kido
Ubiregi is a cloud-based POS (point of sales) system that uses an iPad at storefronts. Compared to conventional systems, it can be eailsy deployed and maintained, especially for individual merchants like small restaurants, standing bars, and accessory shops. The startup was launched by Keita Kido in August of 2010, and raised around 20 million yen (over $200,000) from Voyage Ventures and Kronos Fund. It also has a capital tie-up with SalesForce.com. To date it has acquired 7,000 merchants nationwide, with the expectation of reaching 20,000. That would account for 1% of the Japanese cash register market.
10. WebPay, pitched by Kei Kubo (FluxFlex)
WebPay is an easy-to-install, API-based card payment solution for Japanese e-commerce companies. In order to give developers an easy interface for payments, the startup partnered with GMO Payment Gateway, one of the oldest and biggest payment processing companies in Japan. Upon its official launch, the company also received an undisclosed amount of funding from CyberAgent Ventures, Architype, and GMO Payment Gateway.
11. SLASH 7, pitched by Nobuhiro Hayashi (pLucky)
Slash–7 aims to gives website owners sophisticated data analysis for reasonable rates. Many executives at Japanese companies are becoming increasingly interested in making the most of big data analysis to improve their business. This company’s CEO believes it has an advantage over similar services (like Mixpanel) in terms of offering a variety of features for a cost. The company previously raised 20 million ($200,000) from CyberAgent Ventures and Incubate Fund.
12. planBCD, pitched by Kenji Sudo (KAIZEN platform)
PlanBCD is a platform that helps developers improve the user interface of their web services. It provides developers with an A/B testing environment, especially useful for improving web content and interfaces. Using the service, you can also crowdsource the UI and UX improvement process. It raised seed funding worth $800,000 from Gree Ventures, GMO Venture Partners, and CyberAgent Ventures back in August.
13. Seconds, pitched by Miku Hirano (Spicy Cinnamon)
Seconds is a mobile app for sharing photos between intimate friends or family members. You just take a photo, and choose your desired album for upload. Photos added are immediately visible to members who have access to that album, and those members can also upload pictures as well. The app was launched back in April, and it has acquired more than 40,000 users from three Asian countries in two months. It was incorporated in Singapore back in October and has engineers in HoChi Minh City (Vietnam) and Bangkok (Thailand). It received seed funding back in December from CyberAgent Ventures and other angel investors.
14. TwitCasting (see above)
15. Candy, pitched by Yosuke Fukada (Yoyo Holdings)
Incorporated in Singapore, this company plans to form a mobile economic ecosystem in emerging markets such as the Philippines. Since very few people pay with credit cards in these upcoming Southeast Asian markets, the company believes there are huge opportunities to cultivate business around monetary needs over there. Candy is a platform that gives users rewards which can be used to pay their cellphone bills in return for completing ‘microtasks’ such as participating in an online survey.
Disclaimer: I was involved in a preliminary screening process at the competition to choose the finalists with the other judges. ↩