See the original story in Japanese.
Earlier this month, Culture Convenience Club (CCC for short, TSE:4756), the Japanese company well known for its CD/video rental and bookstore chain called Tsutaya, held the final public screening event for the second batch of its startup incubation program called T-Venture Program, in cooperation with IMJ Investment Partners or CCC’s investment arm.
In this review, ten teams which had cleared the second round of judging gave their pitch as finalists. After being examined for four criteria including value creation, potential growth and branding by judges, eventually four startups were selected as award winners.
Unlike typical incubation programs, this review considers possibilities of synergies or collaboration plans with CCC as important points upon examination.
The judges for the screening event were:
- Muneaki Masuda, Representative Director and CEO, Culture Convenience Club
- Atsuki Ishida, Director & CIO, Culture Convenience Club
- Kazuhiko Kitamura, Vice President, CCC Marketing
- Kazuo Nakanishi, CEO, T-Media Holdings
- Yuji Horiguchi, CEO, IMJ Investment Partners
- Takeshi Yoshimura, President and CEO, Digital Hollywood
- Lin Kobayashi, Founder and Chair of the Board of International School of Asia, Karuizawa
- Norihiko Sasaki, Chief Editor, NewsPicks
- Taizo Son, Founder and CEO, Mistletoe
Top Award Winner: Street Academy
Supplemental prizes: T-Point worth 300,000 yen , air-cleaning machine and humidifier from luxury home appliance brand Cado.
Street Academy is a skills marketplace enabling anyone to be an instructor. Focusing on connecting instructors and students, it provides off-line learning opportunities. Conventionally, there were no evaluation websites of skills mastery in Japan’s skills learning industry like Tabelog (a Japanese restaurant review portal) in the restaurant industry. Therefore, founder Takashi Fujimoto implemented word-of-mouth functions among students regarding how instructors are good at teaching on the website. In this manner, the team aims to provide an environment for casual learning in town.
Since its launch back in August 2012, Street Academy has acquired 3,500 instructors registered and 100 genres of service content consisting of 4,000 lectures, such as an accounting lecture by an accountant in a café, or a back-flip lesson for gymnastics amateurs. 25% of the total services are conducted in local areas other than Tokyo.
Tying up with Tsutaya Bookstore Tenjin in Fukuoka coincidentally, Street Academy recently held a public lecture event also aimed at sales promotion of the textbook which was written by a lecturer based on teaching activities at Street Academy. Through cooperation with CCC, online reservations at Street Academy website and trial lectures held at Tsutaya stores might attract new customers to shopping complexes of CCC.
Outstanding Startups Award winner: GeneQuest
Supplemental prize: T-Point worth 100,000 yen .
GeneQuest is a startup focusing on gene analysis, established by researchers at the University of Tokyo and others in 2013. Sending back one’s saliva collected by the sampling kit which was sent from the lab after the order, one can receive evaluation with 300 items regarding congenital onset risks of diseases or constitutions based on the results of gene analysis.
As for possibilities of cooperation with CCC, the team emphasized that more effective marketing would be achieved by adding genetic health data to purchase information of the customers if acquired 550,000 users for GeneQuest would account for 1% of the total number of T-Point members . Moving forward, the company plans to build a genetic information database on top of the service with an expectation that pharmaceutical companies leverage it for their R&D activities.
Although the probability of business opportunities is still unknown, GeneQuest seems to have the advantages in terms of analysis of disease onset trends based on the genetic information of Asian or the yellow race including Japanese in contrast to Western companies which are specialized in analysis of Westerners, for patterns of genetic information differ depending on race.
Outstanding Startups Award winner: Factelier
Supplemental prize: T-Point worth 100,000 yen .
Kumamoto-based Lifestyle Accent spent three years constructing an apparel e-commerce platform called Factelier, offering inexpensive but high-quality fashion items by affiliating with 480 sewing factories all over Japan including ones are engaged in outsourced manufacturing of notable fashion brands overseas. Connecting factories and consumers directly in the supply chain, it cuts the wholesale and retail costs. That enables Factelier to sell products under the own brand name, and also bring more orders to factories.
Mineaki Saito, former CEO of Hermès Japon, had joined the team as its advisor. Factelier has been accessed from 130 countries since the start of the service to overseas customers two months before. In the future, the company aims at receiving an order for uniforms of the Japan national team in 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Tsutaya Award Winner: Anikore
Anikore is an anime evaluation website having 13 monthly page views and 2.3 million unique users on a monthly basis. It has already gained 1.35 million review posts for anime since its launch five years ago.
Although having reached most domestic anime freaks, the team is conscious of not being recognized by overseas freaks or anime fans who dare not follow anime information on the Internet.
Through utilization of 35,000 ranking patterns made by Anikore users, special features of rental video according to various ranking at Tsutaya stores can be planned. While overseas development will be propelled gradually upon confirming reaction from fans in each country, launch of an English version first was requested by Judge Son.
The followings are the startups which unfortunately missed prizes but conducted excellent presentation as finalists.
ClubFm (pronounced ‘club f-minor’) is a rental platform for pictures or contemporary arts owned by major galleries in Japan for 4,800 yen (about $40) a month. Focusing on new demand development such as houses or offices having little opportunities to be decorated with pictures before, it also offers a function on the website to simulate room decoration with pictures or foliage plants collectively. As of September 2015, it dealt with 1,200 pictures in partnership with 70% of domestic major galleries, aiming at a 90% share.
The company plans to propose a lifestyle surrounded by arts to T-Site visitors or T-Point members through cooperation with CCC  .
Voice Marche is a telephone counseling platform staffed by female counselors, exclusively for female users. Users may access experienced counselors to talk about subjects they cannot even discuss with close people for 55 minutes at 12,000 yen (about $100).
All of current 368 registered counselors have passed the interview by the company. Thus, its high degree of the user satisfaction can be assumed from 1,543 experience stories posted on the website.
The team suggested that the Voice Marche app can be preinstalled in smartphones of TONE mobile, CCC’s mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), through the partnership. Also it may be available for health management or caring for the elderly by tying up with the Furusuma mobile company and the municipalities.
Eichiii is a rental platform dealing with 800 meeting spaces on demand in Tokyo. Most of the listed spaces on the website are like dining bars which open in the evening, or co-working spaces with idle time. The owners can additionally receive benefits by utilizing dead time.
Enhancing the linkage by being published on the website of T-Site, Eichiii aims to collect customers via T-Site through holding events or seminars at meeting spaces listed on Eichiii . Besides, it looks for ways to utilize T-Point or coupons .
Wellnote is a social network platform focusing on limited use within families, allowing records sharing of daily life or of growth even between grandchildren and grandparents. While it has been distributing various content such as recipes for baby food or daily life information through cooperation with kid-raising support company Akachan Honpo or educational content publisher Gakken, the team emphasized that cooperation with CCC would enable offering movie recommendations for families, picturebooks for grandchildren or events for kids.
Recently, Wellnote tied up with a Japanese TV morning show ZIP! and planned an educational program for teaching dance to kids. Also it has started to formulate a creative educational program conducted year-round supported by pedagogy expert Dr. Manabu Sato, Emeritus Professor of the University of Tokyo.
Sensy is a personal artificial intelligence (AI) app for fashion and outfit coordination. As implied by ‘personal,’ the app can be customized according to each user’s taste or demand. Incidentally, it had been selected as the first case handled by IBM Watson in Japan.
Currently, 12,000 brands participate in Sensy; for example, Isetan Mitsukoshi (TSE:3099) , one of Japanese major department stores, adopted Sensy as a service app for dealing with visiting customers. Visitors can receive proposal of fashion items suiting them by calling each personal AI profile with e-mail. Moreover, by calling AI profiles of Isetan Mitsukoshi’s top buyers, users can learn their sense of coordination via the app.
The team said it wanted to develop a point card implementing the personal AI profile to leverage cooperation with CCC.
Generally, medical information including medical chart belongs to doctors, and is rarely exposed to patients. Pratechs proposes a healthcare environment that allows users to keep their own daily vital data and to get necessary supports by releasing the data to a third party. The service mainly consists of a personal app for users called Healthplayer, measuring stations and a console for business operators.
Specifically, it can be applied in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) at pharmacies. In addition, a possible approach with cooperation with CCC includes a system to motivate users to continue recording their vital data by giving T-Point or coupons exchangeable for merchandises to users who visit the pharmacies . Also it may be available for the health management or caring the elderly through tying up with the Furusuma mobile company and the municipalities.
Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy and Masaru Ikeda
- Operated by CCC, T-Point is a customer loyalty and rewards program available at Tsutaya bookstore chain and other affiliate online/offline retailers. ↩
- Operated by CCC, T-Site is a brand given to online/offline shopping complexes, aiming to propose new lifestyle, fashion and creative items as well as selling books. ↩