54 startups flew all the way to Fukuoka from all around Japan and the rest of the world to compete at the pitch arena session of B Dash Camp 2015 Spring in Fukuoka. A dozen of these were shortlisted as finalists by a panel of esteemed judges during the preliminary pitch sessions on Thursday.
Judges at the finals were 13 notable people from the tech industry as follows:
- Tatsuhei Asanuma, SVP, Life Innovation Department, Gree
- Nobuhiro Ariyasu, CEO/Founder, Coach United
- Tomohiro Ebata, Director, Global Business Development and Investment Department Head, KDDI
- Tomohito Ebine, Supreme Advisor for Office of President and Director, Mobcast
- Shinichiro Isago, Technical Evangelist Manager, Emerging Technology Evangelism, Microsoft Japan
- Shunsuke Konno, CEO, IREP
- Makoto Kubo, President, Biglobe Capital
- Yusuke Mitsumoto, CEO, Bracket
- Gen Miyazawa, Executive Vice President, Media Service Company, Yahoo Japan
- Yoshichika Sakamoto CEO/Executive Producer, ORSO
- Yoshiro Taneda, Game Creation & Business Incubation, Fuji Television Network
- Kohei Terada, CEO, Bit-isle
- Choon Yang, CY, Startup Advocate (Asia Pacific), PayPal
Each of the finalists delivered a five-minute pitch followed by a Q&A session with judges.
Pitch arena winner: Sefuri (Japan)
- Kindle Fire HDX 7、Kindle Wi-Fi White (presented by Amazon Data Services Japan)
- Complimentary ticket for staying at Myojinkan, a Japanese-inn at Tobira hot spring resort, Nagano prefecture (presented by Loco Partners)
- Complimentary 50,000 mileages and JAL Entrepreneur Card for 3 persons (presented by Japan Airlines)
Fukuoka-based startup Sefuri provides Yamap, a mobile map and social network for mountain climbers, allowing users to know one’s location using GPS singals from satellites regardless of whether outside of cellphone service coverage area or not. It also forms an online community for mountain climbers and outdoors fans, which is planning to launch a price comparison site focused on mountain-use and outdoor gears, called Yamap Gears.
Paypal award winner: Crevo (Japan)
- Credits for up to $1.5 million transaction using PayPal (presented by PayPal)
Originally launched as a service by PurpleCow (now known as Crevo) in Tokyo, Crevo is a crowdsourced platform focused on producing online movies that require no camera shooting, allowing movie creators to introduce their portfolios of movie clips as well as matchmaking them with clients. They have acquired 1,000 crowdsourced creators to date, with 70% of them coming from outside Japan. Now the platform can split the entire movie production process into several roles and assign each of them to different crowdsourced creators according to roles such as director and illustrator.
Pocket Supernova (Japan)
- Complimentary 50,000 mileages and JAL Entrepreneur Card for 2 persons (presented by Japan Airlines)
Tokyo-based Pocket Supernova has a mobile app called VideoSelfie, allowing users to add effects such as animated stickers, filters, and sound effects while taking a selfie video using mobile. It is also capable of real-time facial recognition as well as adding decorated stickers on video clips in motion. They have fundraised over $1.2 million from East Ventures, KLab Ventures, CyberAgent Ventures, 500 Startups and others to date.
Since its launch back in November 2014, they have acquired 500,000 downloads, boasting 75,000 monthly active users or 15,000 weekly active users so far. Following the iOS version available since the launch, the company launched an Android version a couple of weeks ago in view of the higher penetration rate of Android smartphones in the Asian market. The team has developed an Apple Watch app called Watch Me which will be available very shortly.
The following startups did not win but gave interesting pitches.
Makeleaps is a cloud-based platform that allows users to outsource their invoicing. The company raised $750,000 from 500 Startups, AngelList, Kissmetrics, and others last year. They launched in 2011, followed by acquiring a competitor in 2012 and surpassing a user base of 15,000 people in June 2014. Starting with a partnership with Yayoi Smart Connect, an integration with Japan’s major accounting system, Makeleaps plans to integrate with third-party systems such as customer relation management and payments solutions this year.
- Japan’s invoicing solution startup MakeLeaps secures $600K funding through AngelList
- Responding to Japanese customer demand, MakeLeaps now does delivery slips
Booktrack allows users to add a synchronized soundtracks on ebooks. Peter Thiel is one of their early-stage investors. The team focused on the fact that books have no soundtrack unlike other entertainment media such as movies, TV shows, and games.
According to clinical surveys conducted universities in New Zealand and New York, it is proved that adding sound tracks contributes to book readers in gaining their engagement. They have Booktrack and Booktrack Classroom in their menu now, monetizing by selling soundtrack-enabled e-books online and offering an API (application programming interface) that allows existing e-book stores to sell soundtracks for e-books.
Taiwan-based Zillians has developed a smart cat feeder called CatFi (previously known as Bistro). They successfully raised over $240,000 on an Indiegogo campaign last year, exceeding the original target of $100,000. By integrating the device with a mobile app, Zillians is aiming to form a social network platform for people having a cat. Monetization will come from selling hardware products and driving traffic of users to pet food commerce sites. The platform can tell users the most appropriate pet food according to several criteria such as the age and weight of their cat.
- The cat facial recognition startup is real, and they’re totally serious about reading cat faces (Tech in Asia)
PopUp Immo (France)
PopUp Immo is a vacation rentals service for retailers. The company offers short-term rentals to fashion retailers leveraging vacant stores in shopping districts, responding to the need of pop-up stores by luxury and indies fashion brands while giveing landlords with untenanted properties a money-making opportunity. Now available only in France, but one-third of their clients are brands and users from outside the country. They will expand the service to another 15 cities this year.
Sellsuki is an e-commerce platform allowing allows retailers to sell their items on Facebook. The team focused on 80% of e-commerce transactions are exchanged via e-mail or chat in Thailand. The platform allows retailers to build a data pool required for customer relation management through chat-based interactions with customers. It helps retailers manage interactions with customers in a list, showing which inquiries are already responded or otherwise taken care. That team was born in 2013 out of the first batch of True Incube, a startup accelerator by a leading Thai telco.
- We should pay attention to how LINE is turning Instagram into an ecommerce app in Thailand (Rude Baguette)
ChattingCat is a platform that corrects written English, helping office workers gain their productivity and students accelerate the speed of learning. The platform marks a month-over-month user growth of more than 25%. While a user acquisition cost is as little as $5, a lifetime value per user exceeds $50.
Eatme Catering Consulting (Taiwan)
Eatme is Taiwan’s largest reward-based social network focused on restaurants, boasting partnerships with more than 2,000 restaurants on the island. About 100,000 Taiwanese people visited restaurants using the Eatme app just in 2015 Q1 alone. While restaurants can promote themselves by publishing their profiles on the platform, users can receive discount rewards by presenting a Eatme card at these restaurants.
The platform also allows users to share their reviews on restaurants with each others, as well as restaurant owners to obtain analytics based on the profiles of customers who visited using the app. Eatme charges a restaurant a commission from 6 to 10% on the sales driven by the channel.
Fandora was established in May 2012 with an aim to be a community-based A2C (artist to consumer) platform in Taiwan, allowing graphic artists to exhibit and share their works online. Fandora Shop, the platform’s e-commerce section, enables artists to print their illustrations on physical items on-demand for selling to consumers online.
While participating 1,253 artists are currently exhibiting 21,263 items, the company offers 11 different product lines such as iPhone/iPad cases and T-shirts. They fundraised a total of $1.3 million in the past two rounds, planning to expand beyond Taiwan to mainland China, Japan, and Southeast Asia.
Socket provides a revenue optimization platform for mobile commerce owners called Flipdesk. It allows retailers to distribute direct messages and discount coupons to their customers based on behavioral analytics if they were enjoying shopping at real stores. The platform has been adopted by many retailers including Tokyu Hands department store.
To provide user acquisition and web-based promotion features en messe, Socket has integrated the platform with other systems including Line Business Connect, a variety of demand-side platforms, and mobile ad production platforms such as AdFlow.
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy