Japan’s U-note raises funds, aims to be intelligence hub for businesses

From the left: Anri Samata (general partner, The Anri fund), Yuto Koide (CEO, U-note), and Satoshi Maruyama (chief venture capitalist, Venture United)

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based startup U-note announced on Thursday that it has received investments from Venture United and Anri. Details were not disclosed, but the amount is thought to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Prior to this funding, the startup raised 11 million yen (approximately $130,000 [1]) from Party Factory, Voyage Ventures, and Movida Japan about a year ago.

U-note is an collaborative event summary platform, providing text overviews of presentations, lectures or events. Typical topics could be notable business success stories, secrets for better sales, or useful tips for your work. Their users are mainly business people in their 20s and 30s.

When the service was launched in July of 2012, they envisioned the it as a real-time note sharing service rather than an event summarization platform. But according to the company’s co-founder and CEO, Yuto Koide, his team made a change to their service during the last year. The result has been an acceleration in growth. Now they’re positioning U-note as an intelligence hub for business people, and their adjustment has resulted in constant monthly growth of over 140% in pageviews and unique users.


Koide tells us a little more about their change in strategy:

We changed direction about half a year ago. Until then, we had been focusing on providing reports about speaking events, since we thought that kind of content had great value. Subsequently we found that many business people were looking for such useful tips. So we decided to make the platform serve that need.

We’ve recently seen a rise in media sites curating vertical content, such as Iemo (interior-focused) and Mery (girls interest). U-note is yet another that can be added to that list. Koide hopes to keep running it more as a web service instead of a media site. He explained:

We’d aiming to be somewhat like Cookpad, but for business. Cookpad helps housewives figure out what they’ll cook for a dinner. Similarly we are hoping to help business people with their business decisions. Currently our team creates the content, but we expect to get our users involved in creating content too. We hope our site will have more consumer-generated content.

The platform is publishing almost 20 to 30 articles a day, with the goal of increasing it to 100 articles a day within three months. These articles will be more focused on topics that offer value at all times (so-called ‘evergreen’ content) rather than news tips that lose freshness right away. Their current monetization streams are banner ads and branded content (advertorial articles). But they’re seeking other revenue streams as well.

The company aspires to accumulate 100,000 articles by the end of 2015. Using the funds raised this time, they plan to hire more engineers, enrich their content, and develop a mobile app.

We had a chance to speak with Venture United’s chief venture capitalist Satoshi Maruyama and Anri’s general partner Anri Samata about U-Note. Here’s a little of what they had to say:

Maruyama: When I met with them for the first time, they were still running as a note sharing service. But when I met again last summer, they’d already pivoted. I thought the idea – creating a platform for sharing business intelligence – was interesting.

Samata: It was almost a half year ago when I met with Koide for the first time. The more I meet and talk with him, the more I feel that he is strong-minded. He is a workaholic. Rather than giving his product a good valuation, I thought his attitude at this age will definitely bring a market-disrupting product sooner or later. That’s why I invested in the company.

Maruyama: Through trial and error, Koide has grown up as an entrepreneur. Seeing how fast he has developed, I think he still has much room to grow further.

Koide: Maruyama told me he’s willing to work with us to develop better products. He was the only person who offered to do that. Samata believed in me rather than my product. That’s why I decided to ask them to invest.

Maruyama: This type of service will usually take a while to find success. But I think his team can keep ahead of the curve. From an investor’s perspective, I’ll try to help him make the most of his potential.

  1. Using the currency conversion rate at that time.