On July 14th at Shibuya Hikarie in Tokyo, Japan’s leading telco, KDDI (TSE:9433) held a Demo Day event for the 8th batch of the KDDI Mugen Labo incubation program. In continuing with the program’s format, partnered businesses offered mentoring and support for participating startups over the three-month incubation period.
The audience choice award as well as the grand prize went to Cinderella, the company behind the app Cinderella Shoes. The following is a summary of the participating startups’ pitches that were given. (The title of each section consists of the service’s name and the name of the speaker. The company’s name, if it differs from their service, will be placed in parentheses.)
Cinderella Shoes (Cinderella): Pitch by Kumiko Matsumoto
In keeping with the name, Cinderella Shoes is an e-commerce service for women which is used to get the most accurate shoe recommendations by entering information about your feet in the app. CEO Kumiko Matsumoto who was selected for the program, has been involved in designing shoes for thirteen years.
Finding the most appropriate shoes requires a variety of foot measurements, not just shoe size alone, but the number of people who have actually measured their feet before is quite few. Meanwhile shoe store staff that actually know proper fitting techniques are rare, and custom order shoes are expensive and often not very cute.
Matsumoto believes that this service will now be able to offer a solution for the challenge of appropriate shoe selection. By taking a picture of your feet and sending it to the service using a smartphone camera, users will be able to get suggestions for shoes that will be a perfect fit. Serving as mentors to Cinderella, KDDI and Sumitomo Fudosan (TSE:8830) were active in collaboration to develop the needed image recognition technology and voice recognition.
Oshareca: Pitch by Natsumi Satake
“Information about hairstyling is everywhere now, but what if I just want to see information that is more tailored to my personal preferences and hair type? I have a regular stylist and salon but I can’t go very often due to cost. I like to see a service that allows more direct communication with stylists and beauticians.” That was the basis for Oshareca, an application for nominating individual beauticians and making reservations.
As a female student entrepreneur, CEO Natsumi Satake’s aim is to optimize the beauty industry by digitizing the inefficient telephone reservation system that is predominantly used. With Credit Saison participating as Oshareca’s mentor company, follow-ups have been carried out using market data from their business network in the beauty industry.
Bee Sensing: Pitch by Hideki Matsubara
Bee Sensing is a startup that is automating the management of honey production with AI(artificial intelligence)-equipped beehives. CEO Hideki Matsubara says that because honey producing beehives are typically located away from densely populated areas, there is a large need for automation and optimization in the beekeeping industry. As a beekeeper and honey producer himself, Matsubara founded the company in reaction to market pressure from cheap foreign produced honey.
Depending on location and local flora, the taste of honey can change dramatically. By being able to manage multiple hives in remote areas without having to go all the way there to check on them, Bee Sensing will increase the total number of hives that one person or team is capable of managing.
Matsubara says he hopes to reach half of all domestically produced honey with this project. The mentor company, Toppan Printing, is also considering advancing the service into the agriculture industry as an in-house project.
Handmade goods platform PU (SuperStudio): Pitch by Tsutomu Mano
SuperStudio proposed a platform for handmade things called PU. The platform will bring together various how-to instructions and information related to DIY targeted at interior and general goods, as well as allow users to post and share their own DIY how-to’s.
With the hopes of creating a more multifaceted platform by soliciting cooperation with web media, events, and e-commerce to, for example, suggest retailers from whom materials can be purchased directly. CEO Tsutomu Mano also plans to create a system of creative collaboration with art university students and others from their warehouse located in eastern part of Tokyo. Tokyo-based private broadcaster TV Asahi offered their knowledge and experience with regard to creating large quantities of video content as PU’s mentor.
Lyncue: Pitch by Teijiro Shiotsuka
Lyncue is a device that proposes connecting people living far apart using light as a main feature. By turning on one of the paired devices the other will light up, creating a new way to feel the presence of someone even from remote distance. The concept that has been suggested by the company is “communication using light.”
The Lyncue device is equipped with a camera and a projector, so when two paired devices are both lit up video can be transmitted and received. For example, by sending a Lyncue device to your grandparents who live far away, it’s possible for them to talk to and see their children and grandchildren in a convenient and natural manner.
In addition to KDDI, Hitachi also participated as a mentor to the project, offering their wealth of manufacturing knowledge and even offering assistance with things such as circuit design. KDDI also supported the device by incorporating their telecommunications environment to help produce a concrete product.
The Demo Day event came to a close with an explanation of what to expect at the next program from KDDI Representative Director Makoto Takahashi.
The 8th batch was conducted in cooperation and with the support from 15 partnering companies, featuring the first appearance of proposals in the hardware category. Since the beginning of the program a total of 39 startups have graduated from the program and 29 of them have successfully fundraised from investors.
Additionally, with regard to the business matching occurring in the program, collaborations between 70 partner companies have been born, doubling from the previous term.
“There’s definitely pressure to bring new things to the table every time.” Takahashi shared, “We’re paying close attention to manufacturing opportunities right now.” Partner involvement in the 9th batch will be expanded even further, including companies such as Google, Sumitomo Fudosan, Japanese credit card company Mitsubishi UFJ NICOS (TSE:8583) in a list of 18 newly added companies. Collaboration efforts with local governments are also being expanded, with Ishinomaki City, Hiroshima Prefecture, and Fukuoka City now included.
Lastly, it was announced that, starting from next time, a program geared towards aiding manufacturing related businesses will begin. Diverging from the standard three-month pattern, this program will feature a six-month backing term. KDDI explained that they will offer substantial support including business matching with enterprises to the teams that have graduated from the past incubation batches as well.
Translated by Connor Kirk
Edited by Masaru Ikeda