Startups show improvement after joining Heart Catch, UX mentoring initiative in Tokyo



See the original story in Japanese.

There are many startups that develop great technologies and have a great team spirit, yet fail to promote their products or services because they lack user experience (UX) or good marketing skills. The Heart Catch program helps those foundering startups by matchmaking professional designers and marketers as their mentors during a period of two months. On this very first showcasing event organized by the program, five participating startups presented their results.

On stage, each team gave a pitch of their improvement by comparing their project before and after the mentoring sessions. Then, team members discussed in detail the mentoring process with their mentors. In this article, I summarized how each team improved through this program (Hotaru, one of these five teams, is excluded because they are still in a stealth mode as of this writing).

heart-catch-2015-mana.bo_ CFO Koichi Tsunoda provides a private tutoring service via smartphones or tablets. Students can ask questions on their platform, which will be answered by tutors. In this way, students can take charge of their learning by asking freely what they don’t understand, which would be difficult to do in a classroom where teachers usually teach many students in their own pace. In order for this project to succeed, it would be crucial for student users to ask many questions on the platform.

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Mentors asked the team to redefine whom the target users are and what kind of message they wish to convey. After some reflection, they realized that although all users are students, their true targets are their mothers who make the final decision of paying for this service. Therefore, while creating an attractive interface to students, the team needs to convince their mothers that this is a solid service that helps their children.

Then, the team made one-year, three-year and five-year plans concerning what kind of service they want to provide, whether they should provide business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) service, and the estimated conversion rates. Breaking down these steps helped them understand how to improve user interface (UI). As a result, one important factor of key performance indicator (KPI) concerning the probability of trial users to ask the first question has increased from 25% to 64%; the probability improved 2.5 times. It contributed directly to users’ conversion to the service, since once a question is asked it will lead to second and third questions.

  • Yasuhiro Yano (CEO, Bloom & Co.)
  • Takayuki Fukatsu (Interactive Designer, The Guild)

Sommnie by Neurospace

Neurospace CEO Takanori Kobayashi

Neurospace is a startup specializing in sleep. In order to stay healthy, we need to eat well, exercise and have a good night’s sleep. We usually ask nutritionists about what kind of food we should eat or ask gym instructors for efficient exercise programs. Yet we don’t often ask specialists about how to sleep well. In fact, there are various methods available for measuring how much food is consumed or how much exercise is done. If we wish to measure how long and how deep one sleeps, on the other hand, we need an electroencephalograph (EEG) to measure brainwaves, which is not easy to do.

Specializing in EEG technologies, Neurospace has teamed up with Tsukuba University to develop an easy-to-use portable EEG for commercialization. By allowing users to record brainwave data on their smartphone or on the cloud, the team started developing a service for observing and improving the sleeping habit without any help of sleeping pills.


Prior to the mentoring program, the company contemplated marketing this service to taxi companies for improving sleeping habits of drivers. They also thought that professional athletes would need their service for improving their performances by sleeping better. After investigating during the Heart Catch program, they discovered that there are other potential marketing B2B and B2C targets. In fact, IT companies are consciously worried about the lack of sleep for its employees due to huge workloads. Companies in the restaurant industry have a hard time recruiting due to its negative image of irregular shift hours. Furthermore, career-oriented working women around 30 also suffer from sleep deprivation, especially if they are team leaders or managers at a company.


With this new information about other potential targets, the team concluded that a device has to be wearable and comfortable. As a result, they have successfully developed the prototype of a wearable EEG device in the form of a nightcap. From now on, they will provide services to companies by creating online support systems for improving sleeping habits of employees, by asking about and analyzing their sleeping problems. As soon as the nightcap supply logistics is settled, they will also start providing services to individual customers.


  • Futaba Maehara, (Managing Director, Quantum Makers, TBWA\HAKUHODO\QUANTUM)
  • Tomoki Harada (Group Creative Director, TBWA\HAKUHODO\QUANTUM)
  • Rosa Uchima (Product Designer, TBWA\HAKUHODO\QUANTUM)
  • Nobu Takenaka (Marketing, TBWA\HAKUHODO\QUANTUM)


D Free by Triple W Japan

Triple W Japan “Organizer” Atsushi Nakanishi

After successfully launching a crowdfunding campaign in Japan this year, Triple W Japan will start shipping its wearable device which predicts the timing of bowel movement, called D Free, from next year. The company’s “organizer” Atsushi Nakanishi told us that he didn’t know how to promote this product that has so many potential applications.

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They started by elucidating three problems to be solved: 1. Price range, 2. Wearability and 3. Potential use cases.

First of all, according to some studies, 62.5% of all seniors, living alone or living under assisted conditions, have experienced bowel control issues. For those potential customers, the estimated price range of around 20,000 yen (about $170) is affordable. They are contemplating other types of sales plans, including monthly subscriptions.

Second, wearability is an important UX aspect upon marketing the device. The company has concluded that the actual form of the device won’t bother seniors both who are actively living and who need assistance. On the other hand, the device must have “cool” design, if they are to expand their market to the beauty, health and sport industries.

Third of all, potential target user base may include women seeking not only outer beauty but also inner beauty in addition to elderly people, as the company expands to the beauty, health, and sport industries as mentioned above. Since many women suffer from constipation, the company envisages the possibility of using the device to propose bowel improvement plans, by generating healthy and natural digestive habits without taking laxatives or suppliments.


As D Free has many potential applications, mentors suggested that it would help companies to clarify the context by pondering whose life they wish to improve with this product. Nakanishi said that he was reminded of how important designing and marketing is for business through this program.


  • Hiroto Ebata (CMO, IMJ – Professor, Graduate School of Project Design – Ambassador, World Marketing Summit)
  • Mie Hommura (The Guild – Sleepytiger)
  • Yukiya Okuda (ALUMICAN.NET –  IROZA – Part-time instructor, Tama Art University – Designer and Programmer)



Quiver producer Jessop Petroski

Originally from New Zealand, this startup first appeared on The Bridge during B Dash Camp Osaka in 2013. Relocating the base to Japan, which is one of the Quiver’s biggest markets, the company has steadily gained in reputation by attending international events and obtaining media coverage. Since they don’t know the Japanese market well enough, they have always worried whether their products fits into the Japanese market. By participating in the Heart Catch program, they succeeded in evolving their products by implementing Japanese users’ voices.

Quiver (formally known as colAR) created an augmented reality (AR) tool that allows any colored drawing to be changed into 3D animation, just by taking a picture on the Quiver app using a smartphone or tablet. Developing this idea, they also created a technology to combine real objects with 3D animation by putting markers on the object. As one possibility of the business plan of this product, they propose collaborating with airline companies to create special services for children to play on airplanes with a tablet. This product has promising potentials in the children’s market.



Quiver possesses high technology of recognizing 2D drawing pictures and turning them into 3D animation. Like D Free introduced above, this technology also has many application potentials. Therefore it’s important to clarify what kind of UX the company wants to provide and who their potential marketing targets are. As Quiver can easily promote this product to adults beyond children, they will more need to cultivate potential use cases.


  • Nobu Takenaka (Marketing, TBWA\HAKUHODO\QUANTUM)
  • Niya Sherif (Interactive Designer)

heart-catch-2015-puteko-mentorsTranslated by Moto Tsujino via Mother First
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy and Masaru Ikeda