Japan’s Lip drops new app Lemon, AI-curated social network for university students



See the original story in Japanese.

Some of our readers may recall that Japanese startup Lip launched their limited-time-period matching app ‘5pm’ in San Francisco in June. The same company has just released another new service.

Lemon is a social network from Lip geared towards university and grad students that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to carry out selective admission with the idea of “deepening relationships between people.”

The service was made available starting last week, and they have begun accepting user applications.

A curation system that speeds up matching

Lip has been operating an invitation-only closed beta version of the app since June 25th. Those that were invited to join the new network were proactive and assertive university students. Lip’s vice president and product director Mai Sekiguchi spoke about the focus of the service’s value,

By forming a community of people who have made it through our aptitude test which we’ve placed high standards on, I think it will be easier to create new connections. I think the number one value point of this service is the ability to make new connections through Lemon.

We already have seen some results, for example a student with experience studying abroad in France connecting and being able to have meaningful conversations through Lemon with a student who has experience starting a business in Mexico, or a student interesting in space being able to exchange with a student doing space development research. We want to keep creating more opportunities like these.

The main focus of the service itself is the AI that handles curation.

AI curation


With the AI engine that controls curation developed by Lip, in order to be able to join, applicants must “have affinity with at least 30% of existing members.” So, why choose to have curation carried out by AI?

Sekiguchi elaborated:

This is a very important point, our policy is not that the developers decide who is admitted and who isn’t, that should be determined by existing members. New members will be selected based on the already existing members’ opinions and sensibilities. I think this is what makes Lemon so interesting.

That’s why we created the criteria ‘affinity with at least 30% of existing members.” We have to implement this rule bluntly and without exception, and doing that with human power alone would be difficult. By having the algorithm itself evolve while deep learning about the preferred member model, existing members sensibilities are incorporated into the algorithm and progressively more human-like curation can be accomplished.

For those users who are able to clear inspection, two features are available. One is the “member introduction feature.” Other members who share a high level of affinity with you will be searched for by the AI and introduced to you daily. If you are interested in one of those members you can send and receive messages with that person.

The other is the “bulletin board feature.” This is a bulletin board that members can write on freely and exchange information regarding anything from job hunting to university life.

She added:

For now, our goal is to gather 1% of all of Japan’s university students, after that we’ll open it up to active working adults in the business world. Eventually we want to make this a place for carefully selected members from multiple industries and countries to make new connections starting out in Asia.

Lip’s first product, matching app ‘5pm’ is seeing favorable results in San Francisco and is also planned to be opened up to Asia as well in the near future. Looking at Lip’s products so far, we can see that there are still many new ways that matching services can be created.

As for future services, Lip says they “already have a variety of ideas.” Exactly what kind of services and what sort of results they will yield are yet to be seen, but we’ll be eagerly following their progress.

Translated by Connor Kirk
Edited by Masaru Ikeda