Japanese mobile moguls on how to succeed with smartphone content

United’s Hiroki Teshima; Shin Murakami, Yahoo Japan; Eiji Takahashi. Alim; Shinji Kimura, Gunosy

This is a part of our coverage of B Dash Camp Osaka 2013.

On day one of B Dash Camp 2013 in Osaka, we heard an all-star panel speak on the many issues surrounding mobile content in Japan. The moderator was Katsuaki Sato, the CEO of Metaps, and the lineup of speakers included:

  • Shinji Kimura, from news reader app Gunosy.
  • Shin Murakami, operating officer and chief mobil office of Yahoo Japan
  • Eiji Takahashi the president and CEO of Alim
  • Hiroki Teshima, director and executive officer at United Inc (maker of CocoPPa).

On the factors that lead to success

Gunosy’s Kimura-san explained a little about their news reader application. He notes that they have a general news section, but also a new features that they released today called a content partners channel. Regarding how to succeed with mobile content, he explained:

I think it’s really timing that matters. SmartNews Gunosy came out when I think many people were feeling fatigue from Twitter and Facebook. We had an image of how to solve that, with our app confronting that issue head on. In a way, were were meeting a demand, serving news via email. It just worked out to be the right timing.

In terms of montetization, he added:

If you are taking about tens of millions of users, you need to work on satisfying them, and you can work out the business model at a later stage.

Eiji Takahashi, Alim president

Takahashi started off by introducing Alim’s recently launched game Brave Frontier, noting that they ‘respect’ the structure of Puzzle & Dragons and trying to combine familiar content that Japanese users can enjoy. He disclosed some figures about Brave Frontier, which are as follows, noting that these are pretty high for an RPG:

  • 520,000 user accounts
  • 340,000 monthly active users
  • 120,000 daily active users
  • monthly PU rate of 10% and monthly ARPPU of 5,000 yen

Takahashi also spoke a little on the use of ads vs viral marketings in promoting a mobile game:

When we started on iOS, we had an affiliation with the Famitsu app, but beyond that it was word of mouth. We had a pre-launch registration. But before our first 100,000 users, there were no ads at all. But when you reach a ceiling, you’ll need to consider investing in ads. (Moderator asks, “TV?”) I can’t say too much more (laughs).

He also acknowledge that the fate of a mobile business can be somewhat beyond your control, especially in the early days.

I think it’s complete luck, because we didn’t expecxt this at all. We had to suspend our service a few days after launch because we couldn’t quite handle the demand. We thought that we can attract a number of users, but we had no idea how much it would be. It was completely beyond our expectation.

Hiroki Teshima, United; Shin Murakami, Yahoo Japan

Murakami of Yahoo Japan said that their company has over 95 million downloads across iOS and Android. Community Factory, which they bought, has over 25 million downloads in total across their apps. Noted that Kakaotalk was also doing well in Japan with 10 million downloads, even though Line is the leader here.

He appeared to envy the position of up-and-comping startups, which show more agility than an entity than Yahoo Japan ever could:

In order to get the timing right, I think if you are in a venture company you need to look at the market size of your sector. Becoming number one in a niche industry is possible, and you can catch a wave without too much hesitation.

Teshima-san from United gave a brief intro to CocoPPa, which just surpasses 15 million users worldwide. He was wearing a Mercari shirt as well, showing his support the e-commerce app that they recently poured $3 million into.

Things never go as expected, but if you have many ways to attract users, you should be ok. I think there should be a plan B and C, not just a plan A.

From the beginning I we prepared a Chinese and Korean version. We used Conyac, and it was a very simple translation, but it was good enough to help us go global. I would advise that if you think your app can go global, then don’t skimp on translation costs.

He noted that they might try expanding into the browser to offer their service on the web. He explained that collecting valuable information from people is a good way to hedge risk in business.