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KDDI Mugen Labo, the startup acceleration arm by Japan’s second largest telco, held last week its 9th startup Demo Day in Tokyo for participants of their program. On Demo Day, 4 teams from the Original Program and 2 teams from the Hardware Program pitched the progress they’ve made over the last several months.
Camelors, which developed the UUSIA marketplace where artists can sell their interior arts and the UUSIA PICTURE IoT (Internet of Things) photo frame with e-paper that users can decorate with the art items purchased through UUSIA, won the top prize.
UUSIA by Camelors (Top award winner)
Prize: Fashion accessories by Monoco
There are more and more fashionable cafes in town these days, with the cultural setting for enjoyment of interior arts in one’s living room becoming widespread. On the other hand, the arts remain difficult-to-obtain, financially and culturally. At the same time, the artists are unsatisfied with their situation where not enough opportunity to present their artworks exists.
UUSIA is a marketplace where artists can sell their interior artworks. Users can casually buy the artworks as if they are buying LINE stickers. Although the platform has not been launched yet, they have garnered approvals from 539 artists in a single day. They will release the beta version of UUSIA in March and will also start their crowdfunding campaign from May in the US for their UUSIA PICTURE IoT photo frame. As it is electronic paper-based, it is not necessary to have continuous power supply for its display.
KDDI was in charge of mentoring, and supported by measuring power consumption, carrying out technical research on electronic parts as well as development of sales channel, among other activities, to realize their concept of service.
Dendama (Audience choice award winner)
Prize: 3 Cool Gadgets presented by Monoco
A team of 6 who met at a KDDI hackathon event. While Kendama (bilboquet or cup-and-ball) has become known worldwide for the game (Kendama 2.0), this team has evolved Kendama by applying IoT and trying to realize Kendama 3.0 with the new product “Dendama.” With a built-in sensor/communication function using a smartphone/actuator, it makes it possible to have two people play or in teamplay and to provide damage to opponents by catching a ball in the cups or making a ball land on the spike.
The market of Kendama is approximated at 2 billion yen ($17.6 million). But by channeling in the virtual game market (12.7 billion yen / $112 million), the darts market (119 billion yen / $1 billion) etc. through IoT’izing Kendama and expanding the global market, they are aiming for a market fivefold larger than all of these markets combined. On 29 February, they will launch their crowdfunding campaign on Makuake. While they will sell their product via Makuake or Kickstarter for B2C, for B2B2C they are looking for channels to expand into darts bars, amusement facilities and nursing homes.
KDDI, which was in charge of mentoring, supported as to parts selection, in obtaining certification and by establishing a mass production system, with cooperation from Yukai Engineering, Jenesis and Crea. They are also considering provision of an opportunity for trial “play stands” at KDDI mobile shops.
The HRDatabank team is comprised of Korean and Tunisian entrepreneurs and engineers. They originally provided the “Study in Japan” support service platform for foreign students in Japan. After consulting over 600 users from 50 countries, they found that the users are interested in job hunting more than in study itself. Therefore they established a human resources supply model in developing countries and developed HRDatabank.
They are specialized in recruiting engineers from developing countries. Normally it takes 100 minutes to review resumes, but thanks to 24 condition filters, now it takes only 10 seconds. Users can communicate by text chat or video chat and organize the interview schedules. If needed, they can create an application form based on data from the resume to submit to the immigration office or entrust visa application to administrative scriveners.
Google and KDDI offered them mentoring. Google mainly supported in terms of marketing methods for global expansion, and offered one-to-one support in the technical fields.
It is common to ask someone who is knowledgable or look it up on the Internet, when a bug or an error occurs during programming. However, for someone who is getting into programming for the first time, it is hard to find experts around and it takes a lot of time to look up unfamiliar information on the Internet.
AppMotor is a bug fixing support platform for programmers or future programmers. Users can post their problems and connect with technicians on the platform who can solve it. The users can ask the technicians who guide them for a solution, by sharing user screen, keyboard input and movement of mouse. They also offer video call support.
They will hold an operational test at the TECH::CAMP developer training course, and have begun recruiting users for the closed version starting 22 February. Sumitomo Realty & Development was in charge of mentoring, and supported in examination of the business model, introduction of clients and offering the opportunity of conducting “touch and try” events.
ViC by AG
There exists the issue with e-commerce as to the difficulty in telling the customers the product sizes or texture only with product photos. Therefore, especially in e-commerce dealing with fashion or interior goods, it is not so rare for the customers to return the items after trying them. It is because that they can not make the customers understand enough the product information such as texture, comfortability or nuance with its description and photos.
At VIC, they solved this e-commerce problem in using video of the product description as well as the example of use. Users can purchase the product by clicking and selecting on the video. The users can also look up detailed nuances of texture via close-up images by sliding the pointer on the screen.
Japanese credit company Mitsubishi UFJ NICOS offered mentoring, introducing AG to Parco, one of Japan’s leading fashion department stores, and ViC is now installed in Parco’s EC site Meetscal Store. Their selling point is that their video production costs are the industry’s lowest price level so that they can aim to lead customers from movies, TV series or cooking programs to e-commerce by product replacement.
In Japan, it is statistically said that 24% of small and mid-sized restaurants and retailers close their business in 2.5 years. For these, the business continuity depends on securing repeat customers. Although they create websites, flyers or coupons, they may not catch a customer’s attention because of information saturation. Also, leading chain stores started to create mobile apps for push notification, using owned media or the merit of being installed in smartphones, but it is still unaffordable for small and mid-sized business owners.
Buildy is a platform targeting small and mid-sized restaurants/retailers to create their own mobile app, where users can use the standard function gratis, the app being completed at shortest in 3 minutes. In addition to the app, they can also create a website. So far, it has been introduced to hair salons, clothing boutiques and restaurants, for starters. In the future, they aim to acquire 2 million small and mid-sized retailers/restaurants, and they aim for their users to secure their own repeat customers through this app. At the moment, its main function is for communication between stores and customers, but in the future they are planning to add functions such as making reservations or e-commerce payment, among others.
Dai Nippon Printing who was charged with mentoring, supported by brushing up their O2O (Online to Offline) business model and contacting with potential customers and collaborators. Claude Tech won the hackathon event in Tokyo held by PayPal with a service called Talk’nPick, and they launched its beta version on 22 February.
Shifting from incubator to accelerator
After the pitch of the 9th batch graduating startups, Makoto Takahashi, Managing Executive Officer at KDDI, appeared on the stage and emphasized that since 2011 a total of 45 startups had graduated from KDDI Mugen Labo. To mark the upcoming 10th batch, he announced that the program will be shifting from a seed stage-targeted incubator to an early stage-targeted accelerator.
Specifically, the application condition that candidates have not launched products, has been eliminated, and the target will be shifted to business feasibility and business cooperation with KDDI Mugen Labo partner corporates rather than launch of products. In addition to the 18 existing partner corporates, 12 corporates have been newly added to support in acceleration, and KDDI now has 30 partner corporates. It is interesting that Japanese public broadcaster NHK and all the private broadcasting companies in Tokyo participate in the program, if including their affiliated companies.
Recently, with the intension of enhancing cooperation between partner corporations and startups, they organize pitches where startups visit Credit Saison, Toppan Printing, Mitsui Fudosan, Dai Nippon Printing to pitch in front of the employees. They also focus on mining new startups in cooperation with the municipalities of Osaka, Ishinomaki, Hiroshima and Fukuoka cities.
At the same time as the end of this year’s (that is, 9th) Demo Day, KDDI Mugen Labo started accepting applications for the 10th batch as from 22 February. In addition to the 9th batch, there are two categories: Original Program and Hardware Program, both targeted in a wide variety of fields: financial /settlement, healthcare, media/advertising, entertainment, life event, business solution, tourism/agriculture, robot/mobility, and Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality/Artificial Intelligence.
The deadline is March 22, and the program will start from the end of April. In case of the prescribed number of startups are met before March 22, they may stop accepting the applications. Therefore, we recommend a prompt entry if you’re thinking about applying for it. KDDI will hold briefing sessions on March 1, 2, 9 & 10 from 6-8pm at Shibuya Hikarie (at the KDDI Mugen Labo space) or to skype them.
Translated by Minako Ambiru via Mother First
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy and Kurt Hanson