Stealth m-commerce startup Origami raises $5M from KDDI and DAC



See the original story in Japanese.

On Tuesday Tokyo-based startup Origami held a press briefing where they finally unveiled what they had been working on. The company has developed a mobile app (also called Origami) which allows you to follow updates from the accounts of your favorite brands or merchants. When you find something you like, you can also easily purchase using the app. It also has ‘like’ features for items, and you can check-in at both real and virtual retailers if you want to share your shopping experience with friends.


The press briefing was held in Tokyo’s fashion district of Omotesando. Brands and retailers using the mobile commerce app for their promotion efforts include names like: Beams, Mori Museum, MoMA Design Store, Hysteric Glamour, Bang & Olufsen, Mizuma Art Gallery, as well as some department stores and art galleries.


At the press briefing, Origami’s CEO Yoshiki Yasui introduced their goals:

Mobile commerce solves many problems faced by retailers in e-commerce, both online and offline. The gap between of e-commerce and offline retailing is disappearing, and mobile commerce enables merchants to take advantage of both market opportunities.

Giving users the ability to follow their favorite brands, the app helps them encounter an item of interest in a way other than conventional search process. Through integration with social media, you can share your shopping experience with your friends so that they will be easily encouraged to buy something if they like it, even if you didn’t actually buy it.

On the Origami platform, every merchant has both a real and virtual store. Right now many users have visited the real store, checked in there, and shared using social media. These actions used just not to help merchants with promotion. With our solutions, it allows users gain an access to a brand or a retailer’s website by just clicking on a picture that another user has posted. In other words, every single piece of consumer-generated content will become a sort of billboard ad for brands or retailers.

The startup received funds from Japanese telco KDDI and digital ad agency Digital Advertising Consortium (DAC), and according to some news sources, it amounted to 500 million yen (about $5 million). KDDI’s SVP Makoto Takahashi and DAC’s CEO Hiroki Yajima were in attendance as special guests at the briefing. The telco provides not only financial support but also technical integration with their mobile platform for a better user experience. DAC and its subsidiaries will provide technology solutions for the startup.

They have also partnered with Condé Nast Group, the publisher of magazine brands like Vogue Japan, GQ Japan, and Wired. Condé Nast will give users the latest trends on fashion and gadgets through the app.

The Origami app is still only available only for iOS, but an Android app will follow in two or three months. They also considered developing a desktop version in the future, but they intend to focus on the iOS app for the time being. In the future they hope to expand globally as well.

Founder Yasui previously worked at Lehman Brothers and Silicon Valley-based VC firm DCM. The startup also announced that DCM’s partner Gen Isayama has joined its board of directors.

A recent study by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications shows the Japanese mobile commerce to be worth of $11.7 billion, 16% more than what it was a year ago. In nearby China, the mobile commerce market is expected to reach $27.1 billion, surpassing the United States by 2014.

From the left: Takashi Nozawa (VP of Technology), Yoshiki Yasui (Founder and CEO), and Max Mackee (VP of Business Development)