Docomo Ventures, the investment arm of Japan’s leading mobile telecom, held a demo event this week, where they showcased six startups from the second batch of their incubation program. Recipe suggestion app ‘Me:new’ won the top award and was the audience favorite at the event. Here’s a quick rundown about on how these startups have cultivated their ideas over the past several months.
Me:new won a trip to Silicon Valley, as well as arranged appointments with investors there. The demo was presented by founder and CEO Nobuyuki Miyake and by certified dietitian Keiko Hori who supervises recipes.
Busy families often need to think carefully about what they cook. Me:new (a name likely derived from the word ‘menu’) proposes what you should cook for the next seven days, thus saving you time. Depending on what you choose to cook, the app will tell you what you need to buy at the supermarket so that you can easily see what you need to pick up in one trip, rather than make multiple trips as you might without such planning.
The company plans to acquire 8 million users in the next three years. It will take a monthly subscription fee paid by premium users, projected to be 5% of its user base. For additional revenue streams, they will consider an online meal ordering service, advertising, and partnership with online healthcare services.
ATLS (by ForEst)
ForEst took the so-called ‘best stretch award’, also winning a trip to Silicon Valley and appointments with investors.
Presented by Takumi Goto, ForEst aims to be the Amazon of online learning. In the same way that Amazon suggests recommendations when you visit their site based on what you have bought in the past, ForEst will build an online learning platform for students that can propose what and how to learn by measuring how much they have understood a certain topic.
They have partnered with educational publishers who have allowed the use of their materials on the platform. Based on accumulated data, it helps you overcome difficult problems and better prepare for tests or entrance exams.
Egao no Hon (books for smiles)
Some of our readers may recall we told you that Tokyo-based startup Egao has been developing an online photobook album app. Based on the presentation by Shohei Ota, it appears they have adjusted their game plan since then, now focusing on providing an online platform to help children buy event photos taken by photographers at their schools.
Here in Japan parents typically need to visit their child’s school to select from photos posted on in the school’s corridor. According to a survey, a photographer often needs to put 8,000 photos on a wall in this way (after an event, for example), and a parent will pick about 9 or 10. This process is obviously very time-intensive.
Egao’s online platform uses facial recognition technology to helps you find photos that show your child from a collection of images. Photographers benefit because they no longer need to print out so many photos to put on the wall. The company has partnered with some local photo studios and photographers around the country, and their platform lets you create a photo book from the photos you’ve selected. You can even order specific prints upon request if you choose.
Presented by Taiki Yojima, Dank1 is a video coaching app that lets you learn from professional athletes. Many sport fans would love to be coached by professionals, but that would be especially hard for anyone living in remote areas of Japan.
The business will start by providing coaching in baseball (specifically pitching and hitting), but they plan to expand to other sports like golf later on.
Pozica by Wizpra
In the retail business here in Japan, many part-timers are hired only to quit after as little time as three months. Often this is not because they don’t like the work or pay, but instead it is often due to miscommunication with other part-time employees. As a result, this kind of turnover puts pressure on store owners.
Inspired by internal communication tools like McDonald’s Web Smile, Wizpra has developed a communication platform called Pozica which helps managers better engage with their part-timers through increased communication opportunities. The idea was presented by Yoshimitsu Imanishi, and their potential clients include beauty salons and restaurants, business that often make use of part-time employees. The company plans to eventually expand this business globally as well.
WonderBee is a gadget-focused social network platform where users can exchange their insights and comments about hardware. When you are buying consumer electronics, it can be hard to identify specific user benefits through the manufacturer’s website. So the best way for you to find out is by asking people who already own that device.
The platform has a community classified according to products, so you can easily speak to someone who owns the device you are thinking to buy. On the community page there’s a ‘buy button’ that takes you to an online store-front, which helps drive traffic to manufacturers pages as well.
The company expects to build revenue streams through affiliate marketing, banner ads, and through its own online e-commerce channel. They hope to acquire more than 3.2 million users in the next three years.
Coinciding with this Demo Day event, Docomo Ventures announced it has just started receiving applications for the next batch of the incubation program, which is due May 8th, 2014. Selected startups will receive with assistance in partnering with NTT group companies, and Sony Mobile Communications has been added as a program partner.
The maximum amount of seed investment startups are likely to obtain has been increased to 5 million yen ($50,000), up from the 2 million yen ($20,000) for past batches.