Tokyo-based startup incubator Open Network Lab held a demo day event for its ninth incubation batch on Tuesday. Starting in July, this batch has nourished six teams from Japan and the rest of the world, but one team was not showcased because they are in stealth mode.
A “Best Team” and a “Best Growth” award were presented to two startups that have shown solid growth in the last three months of their incubation period. Let’s take a quick look at those two and other startups that graduated from the program.
Yunomi (‘Best Team’ award winner)
Yunomi is an online marketplace that sells Japanese tea globally. According to the Japanese ministry of agriculture, Japanese tea exports stood at $50 million as of 2013, but the government aims to boost this to $150 million by 2020. However, the team pointed out that even Poland generates three times more value in tea exports than Japan.
There are obstacles to the extremely low amount of Japanese tea exports despite its high quality and the huge global tea market of $85 billion. The obstacles are language, logistics, and high prices. By connecting Japanese tea farmers to global tea brands, the Matcha Latte Media team wants to eliminate obstacles and increase the competency of Japanese tea in the global market. They have acquired 2,300 users, and their conversion rate is 35%. While half of their sales are to the US, they have shipped to buyers in 55 countries. If tea sales sees good growth, they will expand to other products such as Japanese tea utensils, tea-taste food products, and Japanese food products.
Tabeena (‘Best Growth’ award winner)
At sightseeing spots, many tourists can be seen taking photos with their smartphones to record their travel experience. However, most of these photos remain stored on a smartphone. Facebook is a good platform to share experiences with friends, but it is not always suitable for recording memorable moments.
The team developed the Tabeena app that allows users to shoot and review photos instantly. Their survey of smartphone users in Japan found that a user will take five shots on average during a trip. Japan has a cumulative total of 380 million tourists in Japan, so the team can target 1.7 billion travel photos annually.
The team aims to make the Tabeena app a customized travel guide that will give users travel tips based on their interests, location, weather, and time.
Deploying apps to a server or a cloud environment is a time-consuming task for engineers. By automating this process as SaaS (software as a service), Mobingi helps users complete the arduous task without help from other engineers. Heroku, Engine Yard, and Digital Ocean are potential competitors, but Mobingi has an advantage with several features such as non-app software deployments, no vendor lock-in, and auto scaling.
This space has a market volume of $2 billion in Japan, as well as $190 billion in the global market. Mobingi started developing the platform in January and launched a closed beta version in September followed by an open beta version in October.
In Japan, one out of 20 people suffers from atopic dermatitis who pay more than $2,400 per year on average for products to alleviate symptoms of the skin disorder, a market valued at $9 billion.
Chiyo Nomura and her team have developed a social network for atopic dermatitis sufferers called Untickle. Atopic dermatitis sufferers can use Untickle to find a workaround that will suit their symptoms from messages posted by other users who have similar symptoms.
In cooperation with Japan Atopic Dermatitis Patients Association and a curative hot spring spa, they have acquired 5,600 users, 10 advertising requests, and two sponsors. They plan to monetize the business by partnering with food or cosmetics companies that make atopic-friendly products. They aim to expand globally.
Kabotip is a platform where users can post and find digital content and give monetary tips via digital currency to other users who have created preferred content.
They aim to acquire users via a viral marketing campaign in partnership with over 200 influential bloggers worldwide, 12 magazines in the US, Japan, and France, as well as globally notable fashion blogs. They will monetize content by allowing users to give tips to creative talent at real-world events, as well as premium memberships.
Open Network Lab is now inviting applications from startups looking to join the next batch of its incubation program starting in January. The application deadline is November 10th. Qualified teams will be able to use co-working spaces in Daikanyama Tokyo and Kamakura, as well as Digital Garage’s co-working space DG717 in San Francisco. At DG717, they are planning to increase mentoring opportunities having entrepreneurs based in Silicon Valley.