Japan’s Yamap raises $1.5M series A funding to develop gamified experiences for hikers



See the original story in Japanese.

Fukuoka-based Sefuri, the Japanese startup that provides the Yamap app for mountain climbers and hikers, announced today that it has fundraised 170 million yen (about $1.5 million) in series A funding round. This round was led by Japanese mobile gaming publisher Colopl (TSE:3668), with participation from Daiwa Corporate Investment and Fukuoka-based VC firm Dogan. Sefuri claims that they will continue being focused on improving their services rather than pursuing profitability for over an year from now at least, so the funds will be used for operation during the period.

Yamap is a mobile app that allows users to check where they are without mobile data access as well as provides a platform for sharing posts and updates about mountain climbing and hiking with other users. Since its launch back in March of 2013, the app has acquired 260,000 downloads, 160,000 registered users, 2.2 million photos and 9 million monthly page views to date. In July, the company launched an insurance service for hikers, Yamap Geers (a price comparison site that reviews outdoor gears), and .Hyakkei (an online media site focused on outdoor activities). They recently partnered with manufacturers of camera, smartphones and smartwatches to diversify revenue streams.

The user community of the Yamap platform recently participated in a joint development project of camera accessories for outdoor use in association with Olympus’ open-platform camera Air A01(as showcased at CP+ show in Yokohama, for example). In addition, the Yamap app will be pre-installed on Kyocera’s outdoor smartphone Torque and Casio’s smartwatch WSD-F10 (on sale in late March).

The Yamap app preinstalled on Torque.
The Yamap app preinstalled on WSD-F10.

Yoshihiko Haruyama, CEO of Sefuri, claims that they have categorized their business development phases into three categories: 1. offering easy-to-use and convenient measures, 2. offering exciting and novel experiences, and 3. becoming a good partner for users. They will be focused on Phase 2 from now on where his team wants to add new functions like giving users stickers upon reaching the top of a mountain or access a FireChat-like streetpass communication among users. We expect that Sefuri will soon add geolocation-based gamified experiences to the app with support from Colopl which is novel in this category.

Furthermore, Sefuri has been conducting a field test in Niseko, a renowned ski resort on the northernmost island of Hokkaido, in partnership with a local tourism association where the company is offering visiting skiers an offline map through the app to prevent them from straying off a set course (especially back country ones) in aaddition to letting them enjoy discovering as to how they may typically enjoy experiences in the resort by leveraging big data analysis. Since these updates are provided in English as well, more than 400 updates have been posted by domestic and inbound overseas visitors.

Upon this funding, The Bridge asked Haruyama about his business exit strategy. He told us that he’s aiming at an IPO by summer of 2020, however he will be exploring other exit options including M&A while considering a way to provide a positive impact on their users and services. He said the company wants to get involved in supporting inbound tourism demands at globally popular destinations in Japan such as another renowned ski resort Hakuba Area and the southern world heritage Yakushima Island.

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Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy