IBM BlueHub holds demo day, showcases five teams from its first accelerator batch



See the original story in Japanese.

IBM BlueHub, IBM Japan’s startup accelerator program in association with Tokyo-based incubator Samurai Incubate, held a demo day for its first batch earlier this week, showcasing five teams graduated from the recent three-month program starting in December.

According to Catherine Solazzo, Director for Performance Marketing at IBM, who leads the accelerator program, the best team from the first batch will be selected upon voting at IBM XCITE Spring 2015, which will take place in Tokyo on 19 and 20 of May.

Catherine Solazzo, IBM BlueHub

As I wrote when the first batch was started, IBM Japan is expecting to help these startups foster their services as the one representing the Japanese tech industry by the year of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games. So Norihiko Nakabayashi, big data and analytics architect at IBM Japan, who also leads the acceleration initiative, confirmed that the company will keep supporting these startups even after their graduation from the batch.

Yoshiaki Ishii, Director of New Business Policy Office, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, delivered a guest speech in the beginning of the event, where he claimed that the Japanese government wants to massively support a global company like IBM conducting such an activity in the country.

So now let’s have a quick look down about how the participating startups have been advanced in the last three months.

Gene Quest

From the left: Gene Quest’s Shoko Takahashi, her mentor IBM BluHub’s Norihiko Nakabayashi

Gene Quest provides a large-scale human genome analytics service for consumers via the Internet. The company’s personal genome service can detect the largest variety of detectable potential diseases in Japan, which can be adopted to many areas including disease prevention, custom-made medical treatment, avoiding from prescribing medicines which may cause a side effect for a patient by learning his/her genetic risk beforehand.

When you ask for analyze your genome sample using a genetic inspection kit, your ‘my page’ will be provided on the company’s website where precautions for your health are provided in addition to continuously updating when a new medical or pharmaceutical update comes in.

Gene Quest analyzes and anonymizes genetic data collected from users, planning to provide the analytics to pharmaceutical companies and clinical research organizations with the aim of contributing to the invention of new medicines and the development of medical industry. As differentiation from competitors, the company can offer the service on a white-brand basis, so they have been partnering with the Health Data Lab service on Yahoo Japan since last October.

Shoko Takashi, who leads the company, has been majored in molecular biology at the graduate school of the University of Tokyo. She shared her passion that her team wants to contribute to society by providing feedback to the medical and pharmaceutical research rather than pursuing profitability.


Brand Pit

From the Left: BrandPit’s T. T. Chu, his mentor Samurai Incubate’s Mariko Yazawa

About 1.8 billion photos are being posted on social media every day, but 80% of them has no text profiles such as hash tag. Brand Pit analyzes visual context in these photos, helps brand managers understand consumer behaviors and learn new markets that they consider to expanding into. Brand Pit CEO T. T. Chu showed the audience a sample data as an example, which was acquired using Dutch beer brand Heineken as a keyword (see below [in Japanese]).

Brand Pit has already partnered with global big companies such as health care manufacturer Unilever and marketing agency Ogilvy & Mather. The company offers customer-made reporting and online dashboard for brand managers on a monthly charging but an annual subscription basis. Their technology can recognize context in still images for now, considering to advance it to motion images.

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Terrace Mile

Terrace Mile CEO Yuichi Ikoma

While it is said that farmer’s earnings are decreasing every year, the Japanese market is still as big as valued at 8 trillion yen ($67.3 billion) in agriculture, seeing a 100 trillion yen ($841 billion) market if consolidated with the food industry. Yuichi Ikoma, CEO of Terrace Mile, believes that they can help farmers make their business more profitably by offering them a data-driven agriculture methodology. Upon a series of interviews with more than 200 people farming 100 different types of crops, Ikoma has been devoted to developing the solution which helps farmer better run their business with visualized management system, sales forecast, and metrics showing how supply chains work.

The company has developed an iOS app called TeraScope during the accelerator program, which will be released in late April. With the app, farmers can visualize data about their business just only by entering the amount of harvested crops to be shipped or produced. TeraScope was developed aiming to increase a farmer’s income to 140% for the current state.

The company intends to offer the service consisting of the mobile app and the crowd service for free for three years from now. They will also provide an analytics service called TeraReport for JA Zen-noh(Japan’s National Federation of Agricultural Co-operative Associations) and local governments, giving them three-times detailed metrics for the one-third cost of other conventional services. They will participate in Jump Start Nippon, the entrepreneurship encouragement program by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), from April to further polish up the service.


Link Sports

From the left: Link Sports’ Shinya Koizumi, his mentor Samurai Incubate’s Mariko Yazawa

People enjoying sports in a casual way tend to have a common problem. When they have a team match with other teams, they typically have the following problems:

  • Hard to share updates and adjust schedules among team members because more than a half of them still use feature phones.
  • Hard to record and manage scores. 95% of amateur sports players record scores on paper, copy them to an Excel file to share with other team members.
  • Hard to collect money or for splitting  the bills for match venue rent and drinking party after the match.

Link Sports has developed a mobile app to solve all these issues, which will be released in late April. When a manager posts updates like the schedule of an upcoming team match game, it will be delivered via push notification from the app, in-app alert as well as e-mail so as to enable even feature phone users updates to be kept.

Planned monetization streams include crowd storage for sport-training movies, paywalled features, recruiting supplementary members for a game match as well as sales of sports items, uniforms, and sports insurance. Based on assumption that 5% of all sports teams in Japan use the service, Link Sports expects to generate a 150 million yen ($1.26 million) monthly sales in the future.

The company has already partnered with Nihon University, Waseda University, Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports, (online athlete supporting platform), Mizuno (sports equipment and sportswear company), YKK Group (manufacturing company famous for making zippers), and Jognote (cloud-based exercise tracking platform).



From the left: Yoshihiko Haruyama, his mentor Samurai Incubate’s Ryo Tamaki

Yamap is a mobile app that lets users find where they are even when outside mobile telephony range. The app was to develop a system to prevent mountain climbers, anglers and outdoor-goers from getting lost.

Since it launched back in March 2013, the app has acquired 100,000 downloads while map data for the app have surpassed 430,000 downloads. The app will hit the 300,000 downloads and 1 million map downloads milestone in 2015, where more than 1 million photos are uploaded by users onto the app’s social network function.

Going forward, Sefuri, the company behind the app, expects to generate annual sales of 100 million yen ($841,000) sales from premium membership and that of 600 million yen ($5 million) from Yamap Gears, a planned price comparison site that reviews mountain climbers and outdoor gears. Our readers may recall that the company won a pitch competition at B Dash Camp 2015 Spring in Fukuoka last week.

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Following a series of these pitches, Samurai Incubate’s CEO Kentaro Sakakibara delivered a closing speech to participating startups and the audience. In relation to his current base in Israel, he joked that IBM has started this accelerator program in Japan as the second market following Israel.

He sent hearty cheers to the graduating teams and explained that Samurai Incubate join forces with IBM because he thought leveraging the power that such a huge global company has would definitely help startups better gain the potential in making their business more successful.

Samurai Incubate CEO Kentaro Sakakibara (left)

Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy