This is a combined abridged version of the first article and the second article.
As seen in this year’s theme ‘change,’ B Dash Camp 2016 Spring in Fukuoka was held earlier this month with a program agenda which differs a bit from conventional ones. From this time forward, the selection criteria for preliminary document screening was raised and the selection for finalist was conducted within the main session, while the selection had been conducted in a track behind the main session until last year.
In this article, 18 teams including four finalists that all gave pitches at the arena have been described. The top winner was scheduled to be announced earlier this month. The five judges on the selection panel were as follows.
- Yu Akasaka (CEO, Eureka)
- Naoki Aoyagi (SVP, Global Operations and Business Development)
- Yusuke Asakura (Visiting Scholar, Stanford University)
- Hironao Kunimitsu (CEO, Gumi)
- Takuya Miyata (General Partner, Scrum Ventures)
Pitch Arena winner / Paypal Award winner: SmartHR by KUFU (Japan)
- Mentoring on product marketing and development (presented by Google)
- Amazon Fire Tablet (presented by Amazon Web Services)
- 1 million yen-worth of ads on Japanese career transition magazine Doda, arranging startup events for free at startup community space Dots. in Shibuya (presented by Intelligence)
- 50,000 bonus miles each for three people (presented by Japan Airlines)
- 90,000 yen-worth of accommodation for the Atami Sekaie hot spring resort, plus a travel voucher for a two-day one-night trip for each of all team members (presented by Relux)
- 1 million yen-worth of credits for Paypal transactions or product marketing (Presented by Paypal Japan)
SmartHR is an automation tool of employment insurance or social insurance for SMEs. It has already been adopted at 650 companies in three months since its official launch. It targets 4.19 million SMEs existing in Japan, employing in total 27 million people workers. In early March, the web application function for government office use was also launched upon cooperation with e-Gov API.
In the future, SmartHR aims to establish a health insurance society on its own in order to lower insurance fees on user SMEs. Moreover, it also plans provision of big data to insurance companies or cooperation businesswises with pharmaceutical companies.
- Japan’s SmartHR, crowdsourced personnel management platform, secures seed round
- Cloud-based personnel management tool SmartHR wins TechCrunch Tokyo’s pitch competition
- Cloud-based personnel management tool SmartHR wins Open Network Lab 10th Demo Day
Pitch Arena Runner-up: Gozal by BEC (Japan)
- 50,000 bonus miles each for two people (presented by Japan Airlines)
Gozal pursues back office automation for SMEs. Generally, SME managers are said to spend 30 days a year for back office works, yet they wonder uneasily whether the business operation had been carried out appropriately. This tool automates the back office operation utilizing machine learning as a cloud service. Currently, it supports 10 types of procedures online, and has been adopted by 1,000 companies. Gozal aims to enable completion of 100 types of procedures online by 2017.
Sakura Internet Award winner: Nine by Lip (Japan)
- a two-day one-night trip to Sakura Internet’s Ishikari Data Center in Hokkaido for all team members (Presented by Sakura Internet)
Since the Tinder matching app connects people only with profile photos, sometimes it gives matching results that are unbalanced. On the other hand, this Nine works linking with Instagram; extracting the user’s 9 photos from Instagram which were most highly rated, it aims to match by showing his/her daily life or personality to other users. Since each user’s instinctive profile is made automatically by AI (artificial intelligence) from Instagram containing a treasure trove about user personality, a rich stock can be brought in as chat-use topics after matching.
HelloWings by Outland (Taiwan)
Taiwan-based HelloWings, formerly known as Tixchart, is a price comparison website focusing on LCC (low-cost carrier) tickets. It provides information about ticket prices comparing 3,000 LCC companies in 107 countries in real-time, such as ticket prices on a specific date and time, or the lowest price throughout a year including surcharges.
Compared to similar services like Skyscanner connecting to GDS (global distribution systems) for airline companies, such as Amadeus, Sabre or Galileo, this HelloWings differentiates itself through acquisition of data by directly crawling the airlines’ website. Thus, it proposes the best ticket combination across a plurality of LCC companies only by inputting departure points, destinations, date and time. The team is backed by Kuala Lumpur-based Tune Labs, the startup incubator of Malaysian LCC company AirAsia Group.
The following are 14 teams which unfortunately did not make the final round but had made excellent pitches.
Chikyu provides both CRM (customer relationship management) services focusing on management of customers/negotiations and MA (marketing automation) services focusing on SME-use mail distribution/lead scoring/workflow. Company founder Toshihiro Asai had formerly been involved in product sales for items that faced poor demands at his previous job. After he had conducted various analyses and tried improvement there, the monthly sales scales had increased by 3.6 times, and that made him realize that database marketing could produce results. On the other hand, only 15.9% of companies overall had implemented CRM. Judging that the cause of this poor implementation rate is the absence of simple and effective CRM services, Asai started this business.
Senses by Mazrica (Japan)
Eiji Kurosa, the founder of Mazrica, formerly had been in charge of supervisory manager of sales, marketing and customer support in UzaBase, the company behind Japanese curated news app Newspicks. In that company, he had keenly realized a problem: every personnel relocation requires handover of business knowledge or procedures, all work came to depend on individual skills of those who had become deeply versed in the work, and that motivated him to develop this business support tool Senses. Managing visit history, communication history or feedbacks by every item unit, it supports business handover or reduction of communication losses, and also links with groupware including Gmail.
Taiwan-based SkyRec offers a Google Analytics-like service under the same name for real stores. It allows users to gain information about which spot, how often and how long customers stayed in at stores visually, and especially exhibits powers upon analyzing customer guideline/bestseller products, improving display methods or selecting items for elimination. According to the team, a certain store had shown a 10% improvement for traffic in-store plus an 18% improvement for monthly sales. SkyRec was born out of the 11th batch of AppWorks, a Taiwanese startup acceleration.
Jumpy is a smartwatch targeting 5 to 8 year-old kids, installing interactive games pitting parents against children. In addition to being the first in the world, daily schedule notification or messaging functions have been included so that parents can grasp how their children are spending their time via smartwatch. By publishing open SDK (software developer kit), third parties besides development source JoyRay have been launching brand-new apps almost every month. Jumpy was established by Jerry Chang who had been involved in smartphone sector at Taiwanese electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn, and also born out from the 9th batch of AppWorks.
France-based IoT startup SevenHugs offers two products named HugOne and SmartRemote. HugOne is an IoT device for sleep tracking and one can purchase it at major retail stores in France. The latter SmartRemote is an easily remote- control device for smart home devices that works just by pointing.
The weakness of typical smarthome devices is the difficulty in intuitive operations which requires an app to be started by mobile devices or tablets. With position and acceleration sensors combined, SmartRemote recognizes where the user is pointing and enables control of targeted devices. Established in 2014 the Gallic firm has fundraised 2.25 million euros (about $2.5 million) for seed funding.
Generally, with communication tools such as Slack it is difficult to ascertain what issues are being discussed and if they have been solved, because messages are displayed in chronological order as posted. Collabee, developed by a Korea-based startup having the same name, classifies messages into threads by issues, and the discussion content about each issue are managed in individual windows. Therefore, it becomes easier to fathom states of discussion or progress of the situation. Retrieval function is not only available using keyword or file name but via task, decision or image as well. It can also operate seamlessly with e-mail.
Pocket SuperNova (Japan)
Pocket SuperNova developed a video edit app for mobile movie creators called PocketVideo. It aims to solve the problem of long tail creators hardly being monetizable due to the shortage of video apps focusing on specified use cases. As of now, 60,000 creators have been registered, and US-based Japanese actor Masi Oka has invested in this service as an angel investor. The post money valuation of the firm is estimated at $20 million, having secured $5 million so far. In addition, one Japanese investment company has also promised to invest $3.5 million.
Caster aims to realize at-home dispatching business in order to form a suitable remote work environment. In an environment where the term “staff-shortage bankruptcy” appeared, shorthanded companies have been faced with a severe and critical situation. On the other hand, the number of registration of dispatched workers has been low due to the recently soiled image of conventional dispatching business.
Caster had obtained the online dispatching business license. For three months since launch in last November, the number of registrants has exceeded 1,000. Many of them are women in their 20s to 40s living in provincial towns. The major clients are mainly Japanese IT companies, namely Chartwork or SMS. The team’s goal is to acquire 100 new client companies during 2016, and to realize an environment where 10,000 registrants can make their living just through remote work until 2020.
Nutte by State of Mind (Japan)
Nutte is an apparel marketplace where one can order manufacturing of one-of-a-kind fashion items. In Japan, there are tens of thousands sewing craftsmen dealing with sample products or costumes for the stage. However, they have few opportunities to take on as work except for introduction from within the industry, so that their incomes are unstable.
Since its launch last February, Nutte has constructed a network of more than 500 craftsmen, and the current agreement rate of transactions exceeds 80%. If contracts are agreed upon, 20% of transaction amount is charged for mediation. 5,000 companies/people have been registered as Nutte users. It responds to not only business use; one can order a stage costume for a pop star, for example.
In the used car distribution industry in Japan, 30% of the price is charged as total handling fees from a point of trading-in to resale in stores. Nevertheless, 90% of used cars is distributed without being repaired and maintained. In order to eliminate unnecessary intermediary margins and consumption taxes, Ancar networks with maintenance factories throughout Japan, and has been enhancing the environment for advance evaluation and maintenance. At the moment, the service supports three prefectures in Kanto area including Tokyo.
Although the used car industry is an exclusive field, the founder/CEO of the firm Kazuhiro Joh’s grandfather was a founding member of the industry organization, and that made it possible to start this business smoothly. In addition to used car distribution business, it plans to enter the after-sales service market until 2016. Also it will launch a matching app for maintenance factories named Repea in March, and a business management tool for maintenance factories named BizMart in May.
ST Booking by Hakodate Ventures (Japan)
ST Booking, started by a former associate of East Ventures Shota Morikawa, is a matching platform for connecting students who desire to study abroad in East/Southeast Asia to Japanese educational institutions. Tying up with 50 language schools or business colleges in Japan, and more than 20 agencies in Thailand or Vietnam, ST Booking approaches with both B2B via agencies and B2C by directly acquiring students.
The recent Japanese government’s effort to attract 300,000 international students a year by 2020 is having a positive impact on the service. It monetizes with a “results reward” model; educational institutions will be charged 15 to 25% commission of the school fees. In the future, it aims to develop a CRM to optimize sponsorship relations with companies for employment after graduation or studying abroad processes. So far it has fundraised from Beenext or If Angel.
ODIN by Panair (Japan)
Due to liberalizing the electricity retail market this spring in Japan, ODIN supports reduction of operation costs for power companies. As API connection to wide area network became available, Japan’s Panair has developed an operation platform utilizing AI based on Ruby. Automatically gathering electricity consumption data from contractors’ smart meters, it predicts highly precise demand using AI.
With these dashboards, only one individual can run electric power business. Moreover, Panair also plans to construct “OEM power” chain, so that power companies as users can procure electric power from new major power generation at lower price than conventional power supplies.
Scorer by FutureStandard (Japan)
Scorer by Japan’s FutureStandard is a cloud service for image analysis automatically in real-time. With normal video cameras on the market, it allows easy analysis on visitors, number of people in procession, moving direction or number of passers near the store. Cooperating with distribution industry or power companies in order to construct camera networks, it has been installing cameras at large scale retailers or utility poles. Analyzing images photographed by one camera, it provides an environment where plural clients can utilize the acquired data for plural uses.
Since the application requires various kinds of image analysis technologies, FutureStandard has prepared a marketplace where third party can provide each technology. For a month since launch, it has been carrying out a trial with six companies. Having secured 130 million yen (about $1.1 million) from Incubate Fund, YJ Capital and Primal Capital, the firm aims at overseas expansion within this year. It was born out from the 8th batch of Incubate Camp.
In the annual sales of fashion industry marking 180 billion yen (about $1.5 billion), most of these tradings are completed by offline. Styler proposes improvement of the experiences of purchasing fashion items offline. It launched a platform app under the same name for iOS on 10th December, and has achieved 10,000 results matching retailers with potential customers. It has acquired 130 stores registered so far.
At this pitch, STYLER also announced the cooperation with Yahoo Japan. While currently Styler is attracting customers from its owned media named Styler Mag, it will start providing these contents to Yahoo Japan in addition to partnering with Japanese fashion news portal FashionSnap.com. Also it plans business development to the vicinity of China including Taiwan in summer of 2016.
Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy