Japan’s Trinus turns niche tech into consumer products leveraging crowdsourced designers



See the original story in Japanese.

Trinus is a platform for discovering technologies from SMEs in Japan, as well as developing commercial products based on these technologies. The company exhibited at our member-only monthly showcase event last Wednesday. We recently spoke with Shinya Sato, CEO of the service’s operating company under the same name.

Receiving over 70 design proposals in two months

Since its launch on 17 November, the company has been acquiring design proposals for four technology projects including magnesium alloy pipe/rod deformation and solid wood with high anti-warpage capacity by laminating materials in a wave-like form. The former project has attracted more than 70 design proposals.

Beginning with discovering technologies from SME manufacturers across Japan, Trinus gathers design proposals for these technologies from crowdsourced creators via the platform. Then the company selects proposals to be adopted and productized based on the number of “want-it” votes from users.

Following the confirming of a prototype from a manufacturer, Trinus launches a campaign for mass-production of the product on crowdfunding sites in Japan and the rest of the world. The process from collecting design proposals to productization takes about four months, and their first product from the platform will come out in July.

This is an example submitted by Trinus’ crowdsourced designer Yonanp. This magnesium-made vase keeps flowers fresh longer by helping them make chlorophyll and photosynthesize.

Former job gives him some hints

Partnerships with manufacturers and designers are key for the success of Trinus. Before launching the platform, Sato had previously worked with global consulting firm Accenture, where he helped SMEs and social businesses. Through his work at Accenture he learned about many remarkable technologies and also connected with numerous designers, which is contributing to his current business.

Sato explained what was behind the creation of the platform:

One project I was involved in at Accenture was helping the physically challenged be productive. They would make accessories to earn wages at factory houses, but their products were hard to sell. That’s why my team launched a project to collect proposals from consumers and developed a piggybank called Pos for the physically challenged to make, which is sold at Beams fashion stores.

Through this experience, I launched Trinus by combining the impact of public appeals with an initiative supporting SMEs that have interesting technologies.

Designers using the Trinus platform can receive 50,000 yen ($420) if their proposal is adopted, plus they can earn a 3% sales commission. Employees at major manufacturers (as a weekend job), young designers, and art school students are participating in product design. The company plans to launch an English version of Trinus to acquire more users from outside Japan.

Periodic introduction of new products and global expansion

For Trinus, their goal is to launch a new product every month. With the aim to focus on acquiring crowdsourced designers, evaluating their proposals, as well as acquiring potential purchasing users, the company will add a feature allowing users to follow their favorite users.

Sato explained:

Having a good eye for technologies and designs is key. We are working on this part together with creators supporting us. We want to create a mechanism to bring technologies and people together by visualizing user needs on our platform.

While many SMEs have technological strengths, most are busy with the work at hand and cannot afford to develop new products using their innovative technologies. I hope Trinus will turn many niche technologies into consumer products by helping SMEs cultivate their ideas and sales channels.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Editted by Kurt Hanson and Masaru Ikeda
Proofread by Chris Ames Pomeroy