Japanese social media promotion startup raises $1.5M

The Interest Marketing team. CEO Hikari Sakai is in front.
The Interest Marketing team. CEO Hikari Sakai is in front.

See the original story in Japanese.

Interest marketing is a Tokyo-based startup focused on social media marketing for brands. The startup announced today that it has raised 150 million yen (approximately $1.5 million) from Japanese investment firm Nissay Capital. The total amount of funds in this round is assumed to exceed 200 million yen ($2 million), as it expects to receive additional funding from other VC firms next month.

The startup introduced a social media promotion tool called Kolor back in March. Based on requests from advertisers, this service shows you ads in the form of missions to be completed. When you finish a mission, you will be able to receive a reward that can be later be redeemed for discounts or products at partnering merchants. In the six months since its launch in March, the startup has acquired 40 advertisers and the service’s iOS app has seen 40,000 downloads. According to the company, its main userbase is males in their 30s who are relatively familiar with digital services.

Kolor has two primary aspect: it is a tool to improve recognition for brands, and an O2O tool for merchants to invite potential customers to their physical tools. In the first sector, the service’s competitors include Monipla (by Allied Architects), Crocos (acquired by Yahoo Japan back in 2012), and Fantastics (by Gaiax).


So how can the startup expand its business in such a fiercely competitive arena? I asked Sakai about his future plan.

The more interesting missions (ads) we can present on Kolor, the more users we can acquire. So that it’s all about getting as many interesting missions as we can from our advertisers. We need to keep motivating advertisers to use the platform. When we offer a mission to our users on the platform, we pay attention to see what segments of the userbase the advertiser should specifically target.

The current version of Kolor is only integrated with Facebook, but the startup aspires to enhance the service further, developing a social media promotion tool that requires no social media integration.

On a related note, Interest Marketing acquired fellow startup company Appoi earlier this month. Appoi was founded by Hikari Sakai (also the head of Interest Marketing) and has been providing a calendar view service for sharing entertainment event updates with other users. He tells us why he merged these two companies prior to the funding.

Appoi was founded back in February of 2012 for [serving] the US market, and subsequently we started providing its white label service to major Japanese entertainment businesses such as E-plus (online box office) and Avex (music company). I’ve been running Interest Marketing as a startup focused on developing new services like Kolor. Coinciding this latest funding, we needed to focus our resources to a company. That’s why I had our two companies merge.

Transferring engineers over from Appoi, Interest Marketing is now about a 30-people team. Back in August, the startup partnered with Japanese credit card company Credit Saison and online reward program NetMile, which will help them accelerate user acquisition growth.

While B2C-focused social media tools are on the decline, the B2B2C field has great potential to expand further. In Sakai’s words, Japanese businesses’ usage of social media is not yet mature and still has much room to be cultivated.