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Boasting 300M+ consumer reach in Asia, Yoyo launches Popstar influencer platform

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See the original story in Japanese. Manila-based Yoyo Holdings, the startup known for its PopSlide mobile rewards platform, announced on Monday that it has officially launched a micro influencer platform called PopStar. Since its quiet launch in a stealth mode back in July of last year, the platform has acquired more than 200,000 micro influencers in the Philippines and Indonesia, boasting an accumulated total of 300 million consumers following the influencers as the number of the platform’s marketing reach. The number of their influencers registered is ranked on the top in all across the Asian market where influencer marketing is specifically trending. As a reason why the company can attract such a huge number of influencers, Yoyo Holdings founder and CEO Yosuke Fukada pointed out they could leverage the PopSlide app which helped them reduce the marketing cost for acquiring influencers for PopStar as well as having built a system that allows them to easily manage the entire process from managing influencers to measuring campaign performances. Fukada also told us the story behind why Popstar was launched: Under the mission of allowing people to use mobile internet for free of charge, Yoyo was founded and then launched apps like PopSlide…

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PopStar hosted a party in Manila in July, celebrated its 1st anniversary with about 100 influencers.
Image credit: Yoyo Holdings

See the original story in Japanese.

Manila-based Yoyo Holdings, the startup known for its PopSlide mobile rewards platform, announced on Monday that it has officially launched a micro influencer platform called PopStar. Since its quiet launch in a stealth mode back in July of last year, the platform has acquired more than 200,000 micro influencers in the Philippines and Indonesia, boasting an accumulated total of 300 million consumers following the influencers as the number of the platform’s marketing reach.

The number of their influencers registered is ranked on the top in all across the Asian market where influencer marketing is specifically trending. As a reason why the company can attract such a huge number of influencers, Yoyo Holdings founder and CEO Yosuke Fukada pointed out they could leverage the PopSlide app which helped them reduce the marketing cost for acquiring influencers for PopStar as well as having built a system that allows them to easily manage the entire process from managing influencers to measuring campaign performances.

Fukada also told us the story behind why Popstar was launched:

Under the mission of allowing people to use mobile internet for free of charge, Yoyo was founded and then launched apps like PopSlide and Candy. However, marketing condition have been changed a lot since our foundation seven years ago. Now that we see everyone using Ineternet and data charge cost has significantly dropped down.

In our team, we’ve been discussing how we can keep creating values to the society with PopSlide and Candy only. How can we make more impact? How can we create a service that bring people beyond Internet? Such thought inspired us to invent PopStar.

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The “Online Audition” function encourages influencers to submit their sample for a tryout.
Image credit: Yoyo Holdings (Image is partially modified.)

Yoyo has built a platform that helps them easily find influencers who are likely to better reach the appropriate target audience according to the subject of their clients in addition to encouraging these influencers to submit their sample for a tryout. Also, the platform’s dashboard can facilitate everything needed for influence marketing, including managing campaigns, creating performance reports for clients, invoicing to clients, and paying rewards to influencers. Leveraging all this, Yoyo claims that all campaign placements can be managed by just a few people in charge.

PopStar clients are vary from crypto exchange, credit card issuer, major drug store chain, underwear brand, to operator of children’s playground. With a variety of influencers, the platform can deal with many different types of products and services which requires it to reach a huge variety of audience.

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Image credit: Yoyo Holdings

Fukada added:

PopSlide, the mobile rewards platform we’ve been offering since several years ago, is also boasting a high user retention rate. We cannot disclose exact numbers but I think it must be higher than that of typical popular mobile game titles. Wondering one of the reasons why PopStar is going well is we are a product company and are good at making products.

In contrast to celebrities’ push into leveraging digital media such as YouTube marketing effort, the micro influencer segment is still behind in visualizing its components because influencers can also a long-tail in the whole marketing industry.

If they can achieve a data-driven approach and performance improvement through systemization, there would get a huge business opportunity. Yoyo claims that they want to become the top player in this sector by 2020. Fukada didn’t mention whether a regional or global top but that probably means the global one.

Japan’s WAmazing secures $8.5M series B from railway operators to serve foreign visitors

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based WAmazing, the Japanese startup offering free SIM cards and tourism services to foreign visitors to Japan, announced today that it has secured 930 million yen (about $8.5 million US) in a series B round funding. This round was led by Tokyo-based private railway operator Tokyu Corporation (TSE:9005) with participation from JR West Innovations (corporate venture capital of the Japanese railway company covering western part of Japan), JR East Startup (the one covering eastern part of Japan), Yamaguchi Capital, Pola Orbis Holdings (TSE:4927), Nihon Unisys’ investment arm Canal Ventures as well as several unnamed angel investors. For WAmazing, this follows their previous $9.2 million funding back in September of 2017 (it’s supposed to be a series A round, and the amount includes loans from financial institutions). WAmazing distributes free SIM cards to foreigners visiting Japan and provides tourism information via a mobile app. Foreign tourists register their personal information on the WAmazing website before embarking on their trip and then can pick up the SIM card upon arrival at 20 international airports in Japan (covering 90% of overseas tourist inflow routes). WAmazing directs tourists to activity providers and in doing so takes a 10%-15%…

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WAmazing exhibits a booth at International Travel Fair in Kaohsiung, Taiwan last week, in partnership with Tokyu Corporation’s resort hotel promotion.
Image credit: WAmazing

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based WAmazing, the Japanese startup offering free SIM cards and tourism services to foreign visitors to Japan, announced today that it has secured 930 million yen (about $8.5 million US) in a series B round funding. This round was led by Tokyo-based private railway operator Tokyu Corporation (TSE:9005) with participation from JR West Innovations (corporate venture capital of the Japanese railway company covering western part of Japan), JR East Startup (the one covering eastern part of Japan), Yamaguchi Capital, Pola Orbis Holdings (TSE:4927), Nihon Unisys’ investment arm Canal Ventures as well as several unnamed angel investors. For WAmazing, this follows their previous $9.2 million funding back in September of 2017 (it’s supposed to be a series A round, and the amount includes loans from financial institutions).

WAmazing distributes free SIM cards to foreigners visiting Japan and provides tourism information via a mobile app. Foreign tourists register their personal information on the WAmazing website before embarking on their trip and then can pick up the SIM card upon arrival at 20 international airports in Japan (covering 90% of overseas tourist inflow routes). WAmazing directs tourists to activity providers and in doing so takes a 10%-15% sales commission.

In two years and more since the service launched the app has been installed 240,000 times, mainly in Taiwan and Hong Kong Users are also expanding in China and Southeast Asia. The startup has made excellent results at many startup showcase events, such as winning B Dash Camp 2017 Spring in Fukuoka, the Tokyu Prize (equivalent of First Prize) at Tokyu Corporation’s 3rd accelerator batch Demo Day, Morning Pitch’s 2019 year-beginning edition, and JR East’s 1st accelerator batch Demo Day.

In contrast with their series A round backed by VC firms mainly, business companies including railway operators participate in the series B round at this time. Since these companies are strengthening their inbound and regional revitalization businesses all across Japan, WAmazing recognizes they can share the same marketing strategy and aim to work collaboratively.

Japan’s Morning Pitch reveals 7 outstanding teams from presentations throughout 2018

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See the original story in Japanese. Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support and Nomura Securities conducted the first special event of the year for their Morning Pitch series (held every Thursday) earlier this month in Tokyo. Previously, this event was often held at the end of the year in a rented movie theater or other venues, but this year it was moved to an event hall and held at the beginning of the year to summarize the previous year. For this event, seven companies that were evaluated to have superior technology on the world stage in 2018 pitched and competed for first prize. WAmazing, which provides information services for inbound tourists to Japan with free SIM cards and a mobile app, was the winner by judge’s choice. Musca, which creates fodder and fertilizer using houseflies, came away with the Audience Award through a vote. The following is a list of the pitch competition judges: Soichi Kariyazono – Managing Partner, Globis Capital Partners / Chairman, Japan Venture Capital Association Yasuhiko Yurimoto – President & CEO, Global Brain Shinichiro Nakaishi – CEO, Universal Sound Design CEO / Researcher, Hiroshima University Space Regenerative Medical Center (First place at Morning Pitch 2017’s year-end wrap-up) Genichi Tamatsuka…

See the original story in Japanese.

Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support and Nomura Securities conducted the first special event of the year for their Morning Pitch series (held every Thursday) earlier this month in Tokyo. Previously, this event was often held at the end of the year in a rented movie theater or other venues, but this year it was moved to an event hall and held at the beginning of the year to summarize the previous year.

For this event, seven companies that were evaluated to have superior technology on the world stage in 2018 pitched and competed for first prize. WAmazing, which provides information services for inbound tourists to Japan with free SIM cards and a mobile app, was the winner by judge’s choice. Musca, which creates fodder and fertilizer using houseflies, came away with the Audience Award through a vote.

The following is a list of the pitch competition judges:

  • Soichi Kariyazono – Managing Partner, Globis Capital Partners / Chairman, Japan Venture Capital Association
  • Yasuhiko Yurimoto – President & CEO, Global Brain
  • Shinichiro Nakaishi – CEO, Universal Sound Design CEO / Researcher, Hiroshima University Space Regenerative Medical Center (First place at Morning Pitch 2017’s year-end wrap-up)
  • Genichi Tamatsuka – President & CEO, Digital Hearts Holdings
  • Hiro Yoshida – Deputy Editor, TechCrunch Japan
  • Atsuhiko Nakata – Comedian, Businessman, Author of “Bokutachi Ha Dou Tsutaeru Ka (How do we communicate?)”

First Prize winner: WAmazing by WAmazing (Selected from the Cool Japan Sector)

WAmazing distributes free SIM cards to foreigners visiting Japan and provides tourism information via a mobile app. Foreign tourists register their personal information on the WAmazing website before embarking on their trip and then can pick up the SIM card upon arrival at 20 international airports in Japan (covering 90% of overseas tourist inflow routes). WAmazing directs tourists to activity providers and in doing so takes a 10%-15% sales commission.

In the year and a half since the service started the app has been installed 210,000 times, mainly in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Users are also expanding in China and Southeast Asia. WAmazing Snow, which specializes in winter activities, offers 800 tourism options at 200 ski areas nationwide. The company was the winner of B Dash Camp 2017 Spring in Fukuoka, and took the Tokyu Prize (equivalent of First Prize) at the Demo Day for the 3rd batch of Tokyu Corporation’s accelerator.

See also:

Audience Award winner: Musca by Musca (Selected from the AgriTech Sector)

Musca uses houseflies which have been selectively bred over 11,100 generations for 45 years to produce feed and fertilizer from garbage and manure. The housefly eggs are added to garbage and manure where they become larvae and larvae excrement in about one week. As the larvae move around, they grow while decomposing the organic matter around them. The larvae can be used as feed and the larvae excrement can be used as fertilizer. Unlike biodegradation, with this method fermentation does not occur, which makes it easier to avoid foul odors and does not produce gas that causes global warming.

Muska aims to secure profit by setting up large plants capable of producing 100 tons of feed and fertilizer per unit in more than 3,000 locations throughout Japan, and selling the products to feed and fertilizer companies. The company’s proof-of-concept is scheduled to begin in the spring of this year. AgriProtein, Protix, Enterra Feed, etc., are examples of competitors in this field; however, Muska is set apart in that it uses houseflies that can cope with any organic matter. The strength of the company lies in the capacity of waste treatment and the efficiency of feed production which occurs in one week after receiving the garbage and manure. Muska won the pitch competition at TechCrunch Tokyo 2018.

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P3 Finder by RF Locus (Selected from the Logistics Sector)

RF Locus’ P3 Finder is a high-accuracy precision locating system that uses RFID tags. In general use cases RFID, as opposed to barcodes, does not require unpacking the boxes containing the product which makes it easier to take stock, etc. However, since the accuracy of RFID in showing locations is not good, it is difficult to determine exactly where the product is.

Through the dual use of smartphone acceleration sensors and software for “the time-series analysis of radiowave phase”, P3 Finder can determine an accurate position and content of a product even when it has not been unpacked. The company’s pitch revealed a system that combines logistics robots and drones. Toyota Motor, major airlines, and major apparel companies have introduced the system. P3 Finder took fourth place at Infinity Ventures Summit 2017 Winter’s Launchpad.

Tyffonuum by Tyffon (Selected from the AR/VR Sector)

Artist and engineer Ken Fukazawa (current CEO) established Tyfonn as an XR (extended reality) startup. The company was developing AR apps, and in 2014 was chosen for the Disney Accelerator. The company’s AR app Show Your Disney Side reached 8th place overall in the app rankings in the US. From then on it pivoted to become an AR startup. To date, it has developed two VR attractions, Corridor and Fluctus, and is also expanding to provide the facilities to experience these attractions.

The AR facilities are currently located in Odaiba and Shibuya, Tokyo with the third to be opened at Santa Monica’s Third Promenade. The company plans to release a new attraction this year called Taro VR, and is also preparing to collaborate with a big Hollywood IP. The company’s value propositions include technology to capture “the actual look of your own hand” in real-time in AR called Magic Realty, as well as the ability to create dynamic attractions in small spaces.

DeepX by DeepX (Selected from the AI Sector)

DeepX led by Kaoru Nasuno who is from the University of Tokyo’s Matsuo Laboratory, which is famous for producing AI talent in Japan. Through the use of deep learning, the company is able to automate movement in any machine that until now could not move automatically. In the past most movements made by machines and robots were repetitive, but with the introduction of deep learning and image recognition they have become flexible and can adapt by learning movements through trial and error.

Additionally, it is necessary to develop hardware as well as software for complete automation, and Nasuno remarked that Japan has the advantage in this. From now the company will promote machine automation across industries, including manufacturing, transportation, and construction, etc., as well as promote the production of common parts in modules. In terms of the future, the company would also like to apply this to marginal fields like newly opened and radiation facilities, and so on. Currently, the startup is working with each company on its Proof-of-Concept, and is aiming for a launch next year or the year after.

Sekai Hotel by Kujira (Selected from Inbound Tourism)

Kujira operates Sekai Hotel, which provides local experiences for foreign tourists in Japan. When a user checks in at the front desk of a local Sekai Hotel they receive a card and can stay in a room at a renovated house in the area. With the same card they can also bathe in a public bath, enjoy food and drinks at a coffee shop, etc. The focus is on providing opportunities in each town that resemble what life is actually like for the locals.

The company currently operates two Sekai Hotels in Osaka Prefecture, and as the rooms are owned by general investors (which Sekai Hotel then leases), even if the company expands the impact to its balance sheet can be kept to a minimum. The fact that the company does not need large plots for developing, and that it does not need to develop in expensive urban centers means less competitors and advantages for business development. The company has also seen cases where coffee shops in shopping areas were considering closing, but due to an increase in the number of inbound customers thanks to Sekai Hotel have been able to remain open.

Sukedachi by Sukedachi (Selected from the Construction Sector)

Sukedachi is a mobile app that connects construction sites with constrcution workers. CEO Yoichi Wagatsuma, who as been involved in the construction industry for 15 years, is keenly aware of the information asymmetry between construction sites that need to people to work and the workers seeking such work. Workers recruit their peers and together they can seek work at construction sites. The company does not only introduce construction work, but also provides Sukedachi Pay for workers, which allows workers to receive their pay through a Seven Eleven ATM, and the monthly use balance exceeds 10 million yen (about $91K US).

Today, January 11th, the company has partnered with Credit Saison and Mitsui Sumitomo Aioi Life Insurance to launch its own branded prepaid card “Sukedachi Card”, which can be used for construction charges and is also accompanied by accident insurance. Its value proposition lies in the fact that construction workers are often also individual business owners, information regarding jobs can be divided into 74 categories, and that the company can provide not only job introduction but also means for payment and insurance in a complete package. The company is also planning to sell tools via the app. After trying to spread to the 5 million construction workers within Japan itself, the company also plans to expand into Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and other countries.

See also:

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Next-gen drone startup Aeronext wins pitch arena at B Dash Camp Fall 2018 in Fukuoka

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See the original story in Japanese. Japanese outstanding VC firm B Dash Ventures held its flagship semi-annual conference B Dash Camp 2018 Fall in Fukuoka from October 3rd to 5th. 16 startups which passed document examination participated in the preliminary of Pitch Arena, and 6 teams were chosen for finalists. The top prize went to Aeronext,  a startup developing next-gen drone technologies. This article introduces the finalists and their pitches. The judges for the final round of Pitch Arena were as follows: Kotaro Chiba (Investor / Drone Fund) Shinji Kimura (AnyPay) Taichi Murakami (Livesense) Yusuke Sato (Hey) Genki Shiota (Akatsuki) Ken Tamagawa (Soracom) Top Prize / PERSOL Award winner: Aeronext Aeronext develops next-gen drone technologies. Using its own technology called 4D Gravity, the firm had launched drone products optimized for various use cases: Next VR optimized for 360-degree VR photographing, Next DELIVERY specialized in delivery services and Next INDUSTRY available for infrastructure inspection, surveying, security and agriculture. By improving drone airframes from hardware perspective, these products acquired significant technical superiority in body axis stability or high-speed flight. The firm aims a business scaling-up by founding joint ventures in cooperate with major companies specialized in each use case. Currently, the firm…

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese outstanding VC firm B Dash Ventures held its flagship semi-annual conference B Dash Camp 2018 Fall in Fukuoka from October 3rd to 5th. 16 startups which passed document examination participated in the preliminary of Pitch Arena, and 6 teams were chosen for finalists. The top prize went to Aeronext,  a startup developing next-gen drone technologies.

This article introduces the finalists and their pitches. The judges for the final round of Pitch Arena were as follows:

  • Kotaro Chiba (Investor / Drone Fund)
  • Shinji Kimura (AnyPay)
  • Taichi Murakami (Livesense)
  • Yusuke Sato (Hey)
  • Genki Shiota (Akatsuki)
  • Ken Tamagawa (Soracom)

Top Prize / PERSOL Award winner: Aeronext

Aeronext develops next-gen drone technologies. Using its own technology called 4D Gravity, the firm had launched drone products optimized for various use cases: Next VR optimized for 360-degree VR photographing, Next DELIVERY specialized in delivery services and Next INDUSTRY available for infrastructure inspection, surveying, security and agriculture.

By improving drone airframes from hardware perspective, these products acquired significant technical superiority in body axis stability or high-speed flight. The firm aims a business scaling-up by founding joint ventures in cooperate with major companies specialized in each use case. Currently, the firm is developing Next VTOL, the airplane capable of vertical take-off and landing with fixed wings utilizing its own multicopter technologies.

They fundraised from Drone Fund in May of last year.

2nd Place / Lexus Award winner: Medulla by Sparty

Sparty provides the hair-care brand Medulla for female users, allowing periodical purchase of shampoo and hair treatment customizable in accordance with hair quality and condition. The shampoo market in Japan is formed with many varieties and even the most popular product can acquire only 5% of the share. The firm expects that the next trend in the shampoo market must be personalization and launched this service in May 22nd.

Just answering to seven questions, users can periodically receive optimal shampoo and hair treatment chosen from among more than 100 recipes. The firm aims to encourage an innovation in the data-driven hair-care market. It currently has six demonstration spots within Tokyo are and is going to expand them nationwide through cooperation with hair-salons.

Jobcan Award winner: Kuraseru by Kuraseru

When an inpatient who is hardly treated by home medical care leaves hospital, social workers or care managers in hospital have to look for a nursing facility which can accept him. Kuraseru develops and manages the hospital-leaving arrangement SaaS (Software as a Service) Kuraseru targeting social workers and care managers.

These procedures are currently done by phone and facsimile, and Kuraseru aims to improve the efficacy of the work by replacing all these procedures. The firm had fundraised 50 million yen (about $450,000) from 500 Startups Japan in June.

600 by 600

600 is the refrigerator-based drink / convenience goods sales service. It is, so to speak, the free convenience store for offices, hospital, or apartment houses. All goods have IC tags attached, and the refrigerator detects which goods were picked and then calculates the price automatically triggered by opening and closing the door. Purchasers pay for them by swiping credit cards to reader on the door.

The firm had officially launched the service this June and commenced a new integrated service of storage / unmanned convenience store from this month. 600 replenishes commodity goods in the refrigerator twice a week and also provides a concierge service; users can purchase their favorites items from among 600 items by requesting through a chat tool in advance.

The firm had fundraised from Apricot Ventures back in June.

Ginco by Ginco

Ginco developed the wallet app under the same name available for multiple cryptocurrency. Not a few users in Japan deposit cryptocurrency to the exchange and leave it untreated, but Ginco suggests that users should own and manage their cryptocurrency by themselves to secure safety. Since its launch back in April 2018, the app has been downloaded more than 30,000 times, and the total dealt amount on the app comes to more than 3 billion yen (about $27 million).

The firm monetizes the app through customer transferring to various services where cryptocurrency is available. The firm added DEX (Decentralized Exchange) function enabling overseas users to trade tokens between users on Ginco and plans to launch hardware wallet next year too.

The firm fundraised 150 million yen (about $1.3 million) from Global Brain.

Choole by Rexit

Rexit provides the bridal reservation support platform Choole, allowing couples about to be married to choose wedding dress, hair-do, photographer, videographer and wedding hall. The choice of wedding dress or flowers is generally narrow because bridal item providers are tied up with each wedding hall, but Choole enables users to order to any provider directly and hold ceremonies in at reasonable price.

Since its launch back this June, more than 130 wedding halls have participated in this platform. The firm fundraised 55 million yen ($490,000) from Shinichiro Sugiyama (CEO of Valetudo), Genki Arai (CEO of Happy Element) and individual investors.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s MakeLeaps, cloud-based invoicing startup, announces acquisition by Ricoh

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based MakeLeaps, the startup behind a cloud-based invoicing platform under the same name, announced on Friday that it has agreed to be acquired by Japanese photocopier giant Ricoh (TSE:7752). The acquisition price is not disclosed but Nikkei estimated it to be tens of million US dollars in their report. Ricoh is scheduled to complete acquiring all MakeLeaps shares on November 30. As far as has been disclosed, MakeLeaps raised several million US dollars from Rakuten Ventures in a series A round back in July of 2016, an undisclosed sum from Kima Ventures (a seed startup-focused fund led by renowned French entrepreneur Xavier Niel) in a seed round back in September of 2014, plus $600,000 from AngelList, Dave McClure and other investors in an angel round back in August of 2014. See also: Cloud-based invoicing startup MakeLeaps wins IE-KMD Venture Day in Tokyo Since its launch in October 2011 by Australian serial entrepreneur Jay (Jason) Winder, MakeLeaps has been offering an invoicing platform that targets freelancers as well as small/medium-sized enterprises. Their users can simplify and streamline their process of issuing estimates, purchase orders, bills, receipts, etc. in addition to even mailing all these to…

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See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based MakeLeaps, the startup behind a cloud-based invoicing platform under the same name, announced on Friday that it has agreed to be acquired by Japanese photocopier giant Ricoh (TSE:7752). The acquisition price is not disclosed but Nikkei estimated it to be tens of million US dollars in their report. Ricoh is scheduled to complete acquiring all MakeLeaps shares on November 30.

As far as has been disclosed, MakeLeaps raised several million US dollars from Rakuten Ventures in a series A round back in July of 2016, an undisclosed sum from Kima Ventures (a seed startup-focused fund led by renowned French entrepreneur Xavier Niel) in a seed round back in September of 2014, plus $600,000 from AngelList, Dave McClure and other investors in an angel round back in August of 2014.

See also:

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MakeLeaps CEO Jay Winder delivers his pitch at B Dash Camp 2015 Spring in Fukuoka.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Since its launch in October 2011 by Australian serial entrepreneur Jay (Jason) Winder, MakeLeaps has been offering an invoicing platform that targets freelancers as well as small/medium-sized enterprises. Their users can simplify and streamline their process of issuing estimates, purchase orders, bills, receipts, etc. in addition to even mailing all these to their clients.

According to Ricoh’s announcement, the company expects to integrate MakeLeaps solutions to its photocopiers and multi-functional printing machines while adding on to various third-party systems for customer management, accounting and sales management, aiming to transform into a B2B platform operator by helping enterprises digitalize their workflows. MakeLeaps CEO Winder says in his statement that there will be no change in service offerings and terms of delivery even after the acquisition.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

 

Ginco wallet app launches decentralized exchange for crypto investors outside Japan

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Ginco, the Japanese startup developing a multi-cryptocurrency wallet app, officially announced the launch of its decentralized exchange (DEX) on the app. The availability of the DEX function will be limited to users outside Japan for the time being because it may require them to register as a “virtual

ginco_dex_featuredimage
Image credit: Ginco

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Ginco, the Japanese startup developing a multi-cryptocurrency wallet app, officially announced the launch of its decentralized exchange (DEX) on the app. The availability of the DEX function will be limited to users outside Japan for the time being because it may require them to register as a “virtual currency exchanger” with the Financial Services Agency (FSA), the Japanese monetary authority.

Muuto Morikawa, CEO of Ginco, unveiled the DEX function to be already live for overseas users during the Pitch Arena competition at B Dash Camp 2018 Fall, the startup conference held in Fukuoka last month. In order to allow users to buy / sell different cryptocurrencies in the app with each other, integration with KyberSwap, an application program interface by Singapore-based DEX project Kyber Network. was realized.

Starting with a cryptowallet app, Ginco aims to build a comprehensive asset platform that can deal with all types of cryptocurrencies. Their other services include a crypto-mining business in Mongolia (launched in June) and development of a hardware wallet (planned for launch next year). The exact launch schedule for the exchange function in Japan is yet unclear because it is totally up to talks with FSA.

Ginco won the Arena competition at Tech in Asia Tokyo 2018 back in September, which followed the securing of $1.4 million from Global Brain in a seed round earlier this year.

See also:

Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Bangkok’s ad-wrapping startup Flare secures seed round from Japan’s KLab and Framgia

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See the original story in Japanese. Bangkok-based Flare, offering an ad-wrapping service for car owners under the same name, announced today that it has secured seed round funding from KLab Venture Partners and Framgia Holdings. Framgia Holdings is the Asia-focused investment arm of Japanese system integrator Framgia. Financial terms have not been disclosed but Flare uses the funds to strengthen system engineering and international expansion efforts. Bangkok-based Flare, offering an ad-wrapping service for car owners under the same name, announced today that it has secured seed round funding from KLab Venture Partners and Framgia Holdings. Framgia Holdings is an Asia-focused investment arm of Japanese system integrator Framgia. Financial terms have not been disclosed but Flare said it will use the funds to strengthen system engineering and international expansion efforts. The Flare users owning automobiles log onto the service via a mobile app available, and selects a desired one from among campaigns offered by advertisers. After applying for the campaign through uploading photos of the auto and driver license, a wrapper will come and wrap the auto in the ad. The GPS information of driving record while putting the ad will be sent to Flare via the app. Each campaign budget…

The Flare team
Image credit: Flare

See the original story in Japanese.

Bangkok-based Flare, offering an ad-wrapping service for car owners under the same name, announced today that it has secured seed round funding from KLab Venture Partners and Framgia Holdings. Framgia Holdings is the Asia-focused investment arm of Japanese system integrator Framgia. Financial terms have not been disclosed but Flare uses the funds to strengthen system engineering and international expansion efforts.

Bangkok-based Flare, offering an ad-wrapping service for car owners under the same name, announced today that it has secured seed round funding from KLab Venture Partners and Framgia Holdings. Framgia Holdings is an Asia-focused investment arm of Japanese system integrator Framgia. Financial terms have not been disclosed but Flare said it will use the funds to strengthen system engineering and international expansion efforts.

The Flare users owning automobiles log onto the service via a mobile app available, and selects a desired one from among campaigns offered by advertisers. After applying for the campaign through uploading photos of the auto and driver license, a wrapper will come and wrap the auto in the ad. The GPS information of driving record while putting the ad will be sent to Flare via the app.

A car wrapped with an Flare ad
Image credit: Flare

Each campaign budget is set by advertisers in advance and when an auto with the ad drives on a busy main street on a weekend, the budget will be greatly spent. Conversely, the budget will be spent less in local areas having minimal traffic under Flare’s charge system. Advertisers can confirm the spending pace of the budget or the progress of the campaign via the dashboard.

Since its launch back in August of 2017, the service has seen continuous growth and acquired more than 6,000 cars as registrants while temporary registration restrictions were imposed due to the rush of car registrations. In addition, the number of advertisers using Flare is also increasing.

See also:

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Yamap, mountaineers community app from Japan, secures $11M in series B round

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See the original story in Japanese. Fukuoka-based Yamap, which operates a community platform for mountaineers, announced on Friday at a press conference held in Tokyo that it has fundraised about 1.2 billion yen (around $11.2M US) in a series B round. The following 14 companies and funds participated in this round: ICI Ishii Sports Kyushu Wide Area Reconstruction Assistance Fund (managed by REVIC Capital) FFG Venture Business Partners (Investment arm of Fukuoka Bank) Yamaguchi Capital (Investment arm of Yamaguchi Bank) I Mercury Capital SMBC Venture Capital Setouchi Kanko Kasseika Fund (Managed by Setouchi DMO) Japan Asia Group SRL Oita Venture Capital (Investment arm of Oita Bank) Sagin Capital & Consulting (Investment arm of Saga Bank) Hiroshima Venture Capital (Investment arm of Hiroshima Bank) Morinaga (TSE:2201) 01Booster Keeping in mind the participation of numerous funds supported by regional banks, we can assume the intention is for Yamap to contribute to the revitalization of regional tourism. The company revealed that the amount raised from Japan’s largest outdoor retailer, ICI Ishii Sports, is the largest of the 14 contributions, although the amount received from each company and fund individually was not disclosed. For Yamap, this round follows the seed round which saw 5…

Yamap CEO Yoshi Haruyama with the investors who participated this round
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

See the original story in Japanese.

Fukuoka-based Yamap, which operates a community platform for mountaineers, announced on Friday at a press conference held in Tokyo that it has fundraised about 1.2 billion yen (around $11.2M US) in a series B round.

The following 14 companies and funds participated in this round:

  • ICI Ishii Sports
  • Kyushu Wide Area Reconstruction Assistance Fund (managed by REVIC Capital)
  • FFG Venture Business Partners (Investment arm of Fukuoka Bank)
  • Yamaguchi Capital (Investment arm of Yamaguchi Bank)
  • I Mercury Capital
  • SMBC Venture Capital
  • Setouchi Kanko Kasseika Fund (Managed by Setouchi DMO)
  • Japan Asia Group
  • SRL
  • Oita Venture Capital (Investment arm of Oita Bank)
  • Sagin Capital & Consulting (Investment arm of Saga Bank)
  • Hiroshima Venture Capital (Investment arm of Hiroshima Bank)
  • Morinaga (TSE:2201)
  • 01Booster

Keeping in mind the participation of numerous funds supported by regional banks, we can assume the intention is for Yamap to contribute to the revitalization of regional tourism. The company revealed that the amount raised from Japan’s largest outdoor retailer, ICI Ishii Sports, is the largest of the 14 contributions, although the amount received from each company and fund individually was not disclosed.

For Yamap, this round follows the seed round which saw 5 million yen funding (about $46.6K US) from Samurai Incubate and the series A round (March 2016) in which it fundraised 170 million yen (about $1.5M US) from Colopl (TSE: 3668), Daiwa Corporate Investment, and Dogan. With the latest round at this time, the total amount fundraised to date for Yamap has reached about 14 billion yen (around $12.8M US).

Yamap Founder and CEO Yoshi Haruyama explaining the intention behind the fundraising and business partnership
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

In addition to announcing the fundraising, Yamap also revealed that it has partnered with Ishii Sports, one of the investors this time around. Through this partnership the two companies will implement measures such as cooperation between members of Yamap and Ishii Sports, collaboration between Yamap and Ishii Sports stores (33 throughout Japan), and the expansion of joint events put on by the two companies. With the renewal of Ishii Sport’s e-commerce platform planned this fall, they also expect some sort of system integration with Yamap.

Mountaineering enthusiast Yoshi Haruyama (Founder/CEO) established Yamap in 2013 (the name at establishment was Sefuri). Even in mountains unreachable by cellular radio waves, the company has developed a map app called Yamap that allows mountaineers to know their current location by using the GPS radio waves of satellites.

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In 2014, the company was adopted into the first batch of IBM Blue Hub, the IBM Incubation Program in Tokyo, followed by winning the pitch arena of B Dash Camp 2015 Spring held in Fukuoka.

In July of 2015, the company released Yamap Gears, an outdoor equipment review app, its own insurance plans, and the media site .Hyakkei (Dot Hyakkei) specialized in the outdoors. It has also tried to diversify sales by partnering with camera, smartphone, and smartwatch makers.

In addition to Yamap’s user community partnering with Olympus’ open platform camera “Air A01” to develop outdoor camera accessories, Yamap also comes preinstalled on Kyocera’s smartphone Torque for the outdoors and Japan’s first domestic smartwatch WSD-F10 from Casio.

To give an idea of the number of Yamap’s users, the latest figures show that the app has been download 820,000 times with nearly 100 million monthly page views (the precise number of users is undisclosed). Leisure White Paper 2016 published by Japan Productivity Headquarters estimates there are 8.6 million mountaineers in Japan, which means slightly less than 10% of the entire population of mountaineers in Japan is using Yamap. By partnering with Ishii Sports, Yamap aims for synergy with the Ishii Sports member community which totals over 1 million.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Medication SaaS for pharmacists Musubi wins B Dash Camp’s pitch arena in Fukuoka

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This is part of our coverage of B Dash Camp 2018 Spring in Fukuoka. 18 companies passed the initial screening for the Pitch Arena competition of B Dash Camp 2018 Spring in Fukuoka, a semi-annual startup conference taking place in the western city of Japan, and of those, six companies were chosen as finalists. Kakehashi, the Japanese startup behind a cloud-based medication profiling system for pharmacists called Musubi, walked away with the grand prize. The judges for the final round were as follows: Yusuke Asakura (Signifiant) Yoshinori Fukushima (Gunosy) Shinji Kimura (DAS Capital) Hironao Kunimitsu (Gumi) Genki Shiota (Akatsuki) This article will give a rundown of each company and their pitches. Grand Prize, Caster Biz Special Award winner: Musubi by Kakehashi Musubi, provided by Kakehashi, is a cloud-based medication profiling system for pharmacies and pharmacists. There are 60,000 pharmacies in Japan, outnumbering even convenience stores. Filling out the medication history for each patient is one heavy task of pharmacies. On average, it is said that it takes two hours to fill in the medication history for 40 patients, but by introducing Musubi, this can be compressed down to 15 minutes (⅛). A patient comes to the pharmacy and medication is…

This is part of our coverage of B Dash Camp 2018 Spring in Fukuoka.

18 companies passed the initial screening for the Pitch Arena competition of B Dash Camp 2018 Spring in Fukuoka, a semi-annual startup conference taking place in the western city of Japan, and of those, six companies were chosen as finalists. Kakehashi, the Japanese startup behind a cloud-based medication profiling system for pharmacists called Musubi, walked away with the grand prize.

The judges for the final round were as follows:

  • Yusuke Asakura (Signifiant)
  • Yoshinori Fukushima (Gunosy)
  • Shinji Kimura (DAS Capital)
  • Hironao Kunimitsu (Gumi)
  • Genki Shiota (Akatsuki)

This article will give a rundown of each company and their pitches.

Grand Prize, Caster Biz Special Award winner: Musubi by Kakehashi

Musubi, provided by Kakehashi, is a cloud-based medication profiling system for pharmacies and pharmacists. There are 60,000 pharmacies in Japan, outnumbering even convenience stores. Filling out the medication history for each patient is one heavy task of pharmacies. On average, it is said that it takes two hours to fill in the medication history for 40 patients, but by introducing Musubi, this can be compressed down to 15 minutes (⅛).

A patient comes to the pharmacy and medication is dispensed based on the prescription. After this, the pharmacist instructs the patient about the medication, but with Musubi this medical instruction takes place on a tablet, and according to the buttons pushed by the pharmacist a medication history is recorded. In four months from the start of the service, the company received inquiries from 7,000 stores, accounting for 11% of the 60,000 pharmacies nationwide. In the future, after the ban on offering medication instruction remotely is lifted, the company is also considering offering a drug delivery service.

Special Award winner: Sumaho Hoken by JustInCase

JustInCase is an InsurTech startup founded in 2016 by Kazy Hata (current CEO), who has worked in the actuarial field at Milliman, a leading actuarial consulting firm, along with his team. The company is currently preparing Sumaho Hoken (literally meaning Smartphone Insurance), an insurance service to cover repair costs in the event of a malfunction for smartphone users.  It uses AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms to analyze user behavior patterns, and conducts a risk assessment for each user allowing the company to provide a service with optimum premiums.

Sumaho Hoken is classified as a P2P (peer-to-peer) insurance which applies the concept of a sharing economy to insurance, i.e. friends and groups of users (pools) who are interested in insurance against the same risk pay the insurance premiums, and a system is adopted whereby insurance money is paid out from this pool. To date, the company has raised seed funds from 500 Startups Japan, Naoki Aoyagi (CEO of Marcari’s payments-focused subsidiary Merpay), and others.

HERP by HERP

Herp provides a platform of the same name which automates the many tasks related to office work for recruitment. “Herp” automatically unifies tasks such as the creation of job listings, the creation of information on candidates, the notification of selection results, management of contact to the company, etc. By automating tasks that previously required an assistant employed by the company, employee costs can be reduced by 75% or more. Up to now, 500 companies have pre-registered.

The company believes the reason why recruitment options are not evolving is because platforms are separated by mediums and agents, which limits them. It will make Herp an open adoption marketing SaaS (software as a service) that can cooperate with multiple mediums and agents. In the future, the company plans to provide functions like predictions of investment effectiveness separate from the marketing channel, an automated AB test for job listings, and automated document selection.

LaboNavi by Inner Resource

Research department rules for purchasing are often put in place to ensure fraud prevention and optimization. Purchasing management requires a comparison of delivery prices from multiple vendors through competitive bidding, checking this with multiple people, sharing the results, and before ordering, one of the steps necessary in the process is to physically write it out. While some purchasing management systems have been introduced, the disadvantage remains that they are specialized systems, high in operation costs and difficult for users.

LaboNavi, developed by Inner Resource, is a general-purpose cloud service that enables users to complete business from purchase management to order placement strictly in accordance with the industry flow. Research departments that have introduced LaboNavi have seen workflow streamlined, the number of quotation requests sent to suppliers has been reduced to ⅓, and purchase prices have decreased by 8% on average. The company is backed by Tokyo-based VC firm Anri.

Logikura by NewRevo

NewRevo’s Logikura wants to tackle about $507B US problem of excess inventory at small and medium sized enterprises in Japan. Managers in charge of ordering for companies often place orders based on intuition and experience, which creates excess inventory. In order to deliver a data-driven ordering environment, Logikura provides demand forecasts based on economic trends, weather forecast, competitive analysis, damage rates, and other data.

There are no services in Japan there that offer everything from inventory control to demand forecasts in one package, so Logikura has an advantage in this respect. The company has received inquiries from more than 60 companies so far, and aims to acquire 5,000 companies in 5 years and reduce domestic excess inventory by 30%. It plans to offer the service at a rate of 600,000 yen (about $5,600 US) per year depending on the scale. In the future, NewRevo has plans to offer a marketplace function that allows users to trade excess inventory/stock shortage, as well as a lending function that uses stock as collateral.

The company participated in the 15th batch of Open Network Lab’s Seed Accelerator Program and raised 50 million yen (about $470K US) from Genesia Ventures in a pre-Series A round last December.

Yumerium by Subdream Studios

Yumerium, provided by Subdream Studios, is a platform that uses blockchain to reward users for playing, reviewing, and sharing games. By pouring the concept of the token economy into game players and communities, the company wants to create an ecosystem that will benefit not only game makers but also players and influencers while acquiring popular game titles.

In the meantime, the company will expand its services by producing its own titles and network, and will start to handle third party titles from 2019 onwards. Following this, it is planning to grow as a  crowdfunding platform. So far in its seed round, Subdream Studios has raised $1.6 million US from Genesia Ventures, DeNA, Cognitive Investment, HTC, and others.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Japan’s Factbase unveils cryptocurrency market forecast platform at Blockchain Expo

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-basedFactbase announced a cryptocurrency-focused market forecast platform called Signal at Blockchain Expo, which just finished in Santa Clara, US last week. Coinciding with this announcement, the company began accepting pre-registration for use of the service. Factbase was founded in November by Osaka University alumni Yusuke Takahashi and other members. The team recognized that distribution flow of news updates and other elements likely to produce price fluctuations in cryptocurrencies are totally different from those for legal currencies. The Signal platform provides two functions: a web-based dashboard called Signal Board offering market forecast and analysis, and a notification service called Signal Alerts which lets users know via the LINE messaging app when an event likely to greatly impact price fluctuation of a cryptocurrency occurs. Takahashi explained: For example, presidents of Bank of Japan never tweet about banking policy or strategy. In contrast, information distributed online is likely to reflect price fluctuation of cryptocurrecies, and the information flow of it is also unique. Most of this kind of information is publicly available online, which usually gets bigger and bigger thorugh communities of mining users and others, and eventually snowball into big news with huge impact. […] Hence,…

CEO Yusuke Takahashi stands in the center of the Factbase team.
Image credit: Factbase

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-basedFactbase announced a cryptocurrency-focused market forecast platform called Signal at Blockchain Expo, which just finished in Santa Clara, US last week. Coinciding with this announcement, the company began accepting pre-registration for use of the service.

Factbase was founded in November by Osaka University alumni Yusuke Takahashi and other members. The team recognized that distribution flow of news updates and other elements likely to produce price fluctuations in cryptocurrencies are totally different from those for legal currencies. The Signal platform provides two functions: a web-based dashboard called Signal Board offering market forecast and analysis, and a notification service called Signal Alerts which lets users know via the LINE messaging app when an event likely to greatly impact price fluctuation of a cryptocurrency occurs.

Takahashi explained:

For example, presidents of Bank of Japan never tweet about banking policy or strategy. In contrast, information distributed online is likely to reflect price fluctuation of cryptocurrecies, and the information flow of it is also unique. Most of this kind of information is publicly available online, which usually gets bigger and bigger thorugh communities of mining users and others, and eventually snowball into big news with huge impact. […]

Hence, anyone can gain access to information resources which may alter the trend of cryptocurrencies, but it’s hard to organize this kind of information and understand its context because of too much miscellaneous information being included. The Signal platform leverages big data and artificial intelligence to help users organize it and understand the context more accurately.

Factbase CEO Yusuke Takahashi presents the Signal platform at Blockchain Expo
Image credit: Factbase
The Factbase team demos the Signal platform in their booth at Blockchain Expo.
Image credit: Factbase

In view of other areas where publicly disclosed information is likely to alter market trends, when a listed company announces their financial statement, hedge funds and institutional investors first sell or buy the company’s shares based on it, and then individual investors follow, which eventually leads to price fluctuations for the market.

In contrast to legal currencies or stock prices, not only the mechanisms behind securing values but also those leading to price fluctuations have become decentralized for cryptocurrencies. For cryptocurrency investors, keeping their eyes on announcements from Federal Reserve Bank or Bank of Japan by watching CNBC or reading the Nikkei would not suffice upon catching market trends. It is here the Signal platform can create a niche opportunity that can provide investors a new value.

Screenshots of Signal Board
Image credit: Factbase

The Signal platform curates timelines and posts by crawling Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, GitHub and other websites, and analyzes them from different viewpoints using Natural Language Processing to see whether each article has a positive or negative context. They will initially start with Bitcoin out of many cryptocurrency options. Generally speaking, it’s difficult to distinguish between news updates on Bitcoin and those on Bitcoin Cash, but we were told that the company’s technology can realize it by leveraging their proprietary algorithm.

We are currently focused on curating, organizing and analyzing information. We are planning to start publishing reports in partnership with cryptocurrency-focused market analysts. In addition, we intend to publish a sort of “Cryptocurrency market index” based on calculation using our proprietary algorithm. […]

Our mission is to offer optimized collecting information on cryptocurrency investment by forecasting a fluctuation in prices.

A screenshot of Signal Alert
Image credit: Factbase

Going forward the company plans to introduce a so-called “development index” for every cryptocurrency. Since the ecosystem of cryptocurrencies is a real mix of wheat and chaff, these indexes will help cryptocyrrency investors understand, for example, which ICO (initial coin offering) campaigns are well organized or plain irresponsible. The team aims to acquire a million users in two years from now, planning to expand the service into English and Korean languages.

Factbase has secured a seed funding from multiple unnamed angel investors. Takahashi says the company is hiring data analysts, data scientists and “engineers who are likely to feel ecstasy upon collecting information” for further service development of the platform.

Translated by “Tex” Pomeroy