CNet Japan Startup Award nominees: Retty’s mobile advantage



This is part two of our CNET Japan Startup Awards nominee rundown. The rest can be found here.


Retty is a Japan-based restaurant recommendation site based on your Facebook social graph. It’s often compared with Tabelog, the Yelp of Japan, which has 25.77M desktop users and 22.97M users on mobile. But like Yelp, Tabelog has an outdated interface. Users are immediately overloaded with information from strangers. A lot of hunting and pecking is required to reach even the contact information of certain establishments, which is unfortunate. And yet it is also understandable for a site that has been around for so many years.

In contrast, Retty’s strength lies with its mobile app and clean PC interface. Familiar faces greet you there because it is Facebook reliant.

Tabelog may have millions of users but their text-based app is catered towards feature phone users. Smartphone users will find the gesture-based search and discovery of Retty far easier to use. Retty also maps of saved restaurants for a simple, visual search (see below).

It can be easy to underestimate the power of mobile and how easily it can disrupt. So even if Retty only has a fraction of Tabelog’s users, it could ride atop Japan’s astounding smartphone market growth to grow exponentially [1].

Retty is also experimenting with content marketing, most recently collaborating with a local service Tokyo Calendar, to publish a special magazine-like guidebook (similar to US-based Zagat). Retty tapped into their top users, including notable food bloggers, models, and business women to recommend bars and restaurants perfect for date spots. Obviously this is a pretty great marketing campaign to bring in new male users.

Retty also recently closed a $3.2 million series B round, having raised a total of $4.4M so far. With all this progress, I wouldn’t write them off just because they don’t have Tabelog’s user base. At least, not yet.

retty retty-map

  1. From April to September of 2013, 68.5% of users switched from a feature phone to a smart phone, according to research from Mobile Marketing Data Lab. Analysts also predict that by 2014, 60.2% of users will switch switch to smartphones — almost a 150% rate of change since 2011 (see eMarketer citing a July Hakuhodo survey).  ↩