Made-in-Japan cycling/running app challenges Nike+, Runkeeper


See the original story in Japanese.

According to the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, there are about 3 million fitness enthusiasts in Japan, accounting for 2% of the entire population. But at the same time, most of us (unfortunately) do not like exercise so much.

Personal trainer apps like Nike+, Runkeeper, Road Bike all do various things to help you keep motivated. And yesterday a new Japan-made app, Lemonade, joined their ranks, launching at a cycling competition event in Japan’s Tohoku region.

Tokyo-based Lemonade Lab introduced a beta version of its running and cycling app for both iOS and Android platforms. It lets users track cycling routes, log records, share them with friends, and keep fitness resolutions.

The Lemonade app was unveiled at Tour de Tohoku, an event hosted by Yahoo Japan and other companies. The event is intended to support the area’s restoration, having been hit hardest by the earthquake back in March of 2011.

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To learn about how the app will work, I visited Ishinomaki City, where the start and end point of the competition was located. For participating cyclists, the event gives you a great view of local nature along the 160km course, and it also lets you learn about what’s happening in the area.

The Lemonade team started its race at 8am, and I checked the app to see their progress. Typical apps of this kind are focused on logging features, with record sharing features provided supplementary. But that’s not the case with Lemonade. Its main screen is a timeline, which shows you what you friends are doing and where they are now.

The entrepreneurs behind the app

The Lemonade team at Tour de Tohoku 2013
The Lemonade team at Tour de Tohoku 2013

The development of the Lemonade app was conducted by two high-profile entrepreneurs: Taizo Son and Kunihiko Kaji. They decided to develop this app since cycling was a common hobby for them both. They explain:

Conventional logging apps are well done, but they’re lacking something. You won’t have fun competing with a stranger using the app. Sports can be fun if you share your experience with someone. That’s why we decided to develop an app helping people run together.

If you share your training results or check out where your friends are running using the app, it helps you make more friends through competitions. The team told me that they want users to enjoy their experience more before, during, and after events.

At major sport opportunities like the Tokyo Marathon, spectators along the course can also post photos using the app, giving them another way to enjoy the experience.

The app is still in beta with some wrinkles to iron out yet. But I really enjoyed watching how my friends were progressing along the road.