THE BRIDGE

Takeshi Hirano

Takeshi Hirano

Takeshi is a Japanese tech blogger and a co-founder of The Bridge, and is also the CEO for bootupAsia, Inc. He started his career as a web designer.

Articles

Japan’s cloud-based house construction management platform Andpad raises $3.8M

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Oct, the Japanese startup developing and providing the Andpad house construction management platform, announced earlier this month that it has fundraised  about 400 million yen ($3.8 million US) from Draper Nexus Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, Beenext, and individual investors. Details of the stock ratios, payment date, and individual investors were not disclosed. In accordance with this, Draper Nexus Venture’s Managing Director Akira Kurabayashi will be appointed as an Outside Director. The company plans to integrate the platform with Salesforce Sales Cloud in the early part of this year, aiming to offer sales updates and construction management information in an integrated manner. The company has been offering the cloud-based platform since April of 2016, helping architects and construction companies keep them updated with construction progress as well as onsite communication at their properties among them. It helps firms focused on constructing or renovating houses share blueprints and schedules with carpenters, electricians, and other project-related workers in addition to helping their managers consolidate reports like building inspections. According to Oct CEO Takeo Inada, the introduction of the service reduced onsite supervisors’ work by one hour per day, strengthening the operation efficiency for a major construction company….

Andpad
Image credit: Oct

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Oct, the Japanese startup developing and providing the Andpad house construction management platform, announced earlier this month that it has fundraised  about 400 million yen ($3.8 million US) from Draper Nexus Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, Beenext, and individual investors. Details of the stock ratios, payment date, and individual investors were not disclosed. In accordance with this, Draper Nexus Venture’s Managing Director Akira Kurabayashi will be appointed as an Outside Director.

The company plans to integrate the platform with Salesforce Sales Cloud in the early part of this year, aiming to offer sales updates and construction management information in an integrated manner.

The company has been offering the cloud-based platform since April of 2016, helping architects and construction companies keep them updated with construction progress as well as onsite communication at their properties among them. It helps firms focused on constructing or renovating houses share blueprints and schedules with carpenters, electricians, and other project-related workers in addition to helping their managers consolidate reports like building inspections.

According to Oct CEO Takeo Inada, the introduction of the service reduced onsite supervisors’ work by one hour per day, strengthening the operation efficiency for a major construction company.

The funding announced this time around follows that of January 2017 when the company raised an amount in the tens of millions of yen from individual investors. The number of contracted companies released at the time of the previous fundraising was 350, but as of January 2018 that number has increased to 800 companies, the majority of which pay to use the service. Going forward, the company’s goal is to sign with 10,000 companies soon. With the funds raised, it will also increase the number of staffers to 30 and focus especially on strengthening system development capabilities.

From a tool to an integrated management platform

Oct CEO Takeo Inada

The leap forward of B2B-focused SaaS (business-to-business focused software as a service) specialized in specific verticals has been a hot topic for these last two to three years. It provides online efficiency tools for the progress of specific industries, such as restaurant, education, logistics and distribution, and other businesses. Andpad is one example of them. With such tools, if the user experience proves good it leads to adoption, but because they are specialized in specific industries, using it only as a tool leads to inferior scaling when compared with accounting or personnel and labor relations services that can cross different industries.

Inada’s explanation of this point was clear.

First of all, the 800 companies currently announced are so-called project owners, and it seems that there are about ten times the number of issued accounts for free users (for example, carpenters and electric companies).

In other words, Andpad has a track record of having used nearly 8,000 related companies in the industry.

These naturally become candidates for the next paying users (pay contracts are necessary when creating projects, such as for new construction or renovation), and at the same time by utilizing this “aspect” there is a good possibility of evolving into an information platform for the construction/architecture industry.

Although it is still in the concept stage, Andpad accumulates a lot of architecture and construction data. Which makers are using which building materials frequently and what are the reactions? This kind of information is, of course, important marketing data for manufacturers and if they can draw some kind of connection with Andpad it will directly affect sales.

Unlike content media such as industry journals, touchpoints are necessary for business, so if the company can provide a well rounded plan it would be a very useful information platform for business operators. Incidentally, Inada declined capital alliances with specified businesses and makers.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Japan’s Coinboard, app for managing multiple crypto portfolios, secures $940K

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Logica, the Japanese startup behind the Coinboard multiple crypto portfolio management tool, announced on Wednesday that it has raised 100 million yen (about $942K US) in funding. Participating investors are Ceres, Cyberagent Ventures, Adways, and Monex Ventures. Details such as the payment date and investment ratios were not disclosed. Coinboard allows users to manage their crypto portfolios by linking their registered crypto exchange accounts. As of this writing, the platform supports 10 exchanges in Japan and the rest of the world: Bitbank, BitFlyer, Coincheck, Quoinex, Zaif, Binance, Bittrex, Kraken, Liqui, and Poloniex. The Coinboard platform helps users aggregate their crypto balances, their transaction history, their total asset amount and the like from multiple different exchanges. We’ve seen similar services like Blockfolio and Cryptofolio but these require users to manually input all of their transaction history by themselves, which makes it inconvenient especially for those who trade often. The Coinboard platform has automated this input process using an API (application program interface). Given that other similar crypto platforms like Coin View having also recently supporting the same function, automated data import is becoming essential for a crypto portfolio management platform. Logica was founded in…

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Logica, the Japanese startup behind the Coinboard multiple crypto portfolio management tool, announced on Wednesday that it has raised 100 million yen (about $942K US) in funding. Participating investors are Ceres, Cyberagent Ventures, Adways, and Monex Ventures. Details such as the payment date and investment ratios were not disclosed.

Coinboard allows users to manage their crypto portfolios by linking their registered crypto exchange accounts. As of this writing, the platform supports 10 exchanges in Japan and the rest of the world: Bitbank, BitFlyer, Coincheck, Quoinex, Zaif, Binance, Bittrex, Kraken, Liqui, and Poloniex.

The Coinboard platform helps users aggregate their crypto balances, their transaction history, their total asset amount and the like from multiple different exchanges. We’ve seen similar services like Blockfolio and Cryptofolio but these require users to manually input all of their transaction history by themselves, which makes it inconvenient especially for those who trade often.

Logica CEO Masaru Matsunaga

The Coinboard platform has automated this input process using an API (application program interface). Given that other similar crypto platforms like Coin View having also recently supporting the same function, automated data import is becoming essential for a crypto portfolio management platform.

Logica was founded in November of 2015 by Masaru Matsunaga who previously worked for Japanese news curation app Gunosy as an engineer. With the support of angel investors he originally worked on image analysis products. After several trial and errors, including a hotel comparison site, he arrived at Coinboard last summer. At first glance it may seem inconsistent among all the services he had developed to date, but in fact all these were concerned with information aggregation, and are manifestations of Matsunaga’s interest in improving the convenience of amounts of information.

Using the funds raised this time, the company plans to strengthen its engineering capabilities for developing a mobile app as well as integrating the platform with more crypto exchanges including DEX (decentralized exchange).

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Delighted gets $1.1M series A, notifies office workers of visitor arrivals in smarter way

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Delighted, the Japanese startup offering an iPad-powered unmanned reception system called Receptionist, announced on Wednesday that it had fundraised 120 million yen (about $1.13M US) from Daiwa Corporate Investment, Tsuneishi Capital Partners, and an undisclosed private investment partner in a series A round. The investment ratios and payment dates are undisclosed. Receptionist is a cloud-based reception service that substitutes existing messaging tools from Facebook, Slack, etc., through an iPad app for companies that are dependent upon internal landlines. When a visitor chooses a contact person with the iPad app, a notification of the visit is sent directly to his or her messaging tool. It has also a management function to collect the visitor’s information, such as the visitor’s name and company name (only when provided) in addition to the number of visits or visit times by contact person. The company is currently promoting service development and implementation with a team of about 20 people, and will further strengthen its personnel with this funding. Supporting Smartphones to Improve Usability Following the announcement of answering accumulated 10,000 calls at receptions across their user base as of March 2017, the unmanned reception app has steadily increased…

Delighted CEO Mariko Hashimoto
Image credit: Delighted

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Delighted, the Japanese startup offering an iPad-powered unmanned reception system called Receptionist, announced on Wednesday that it had fundraised 120 million yen (about $1.13M US) from Daiwa Corporate Investment, Tsuneishi Capital Partners, and an undisclosed private investment partner in a series A round. The investment ratios and payment dates are undisclosed.

Receptionist is a cloud-based reception service that substitutes existing messaging tools from Facebook, Slack, etc., through an iPad app for companies that are dependent upon internal landlines. When a visitor chooses a contact person with the iPad app, a notification of the visit is sent directly to his or her messaging tool. It has also a management function to collect the visitor’s information, such as the visitor’s name and company name (only when provided) in addition to the number of visits or visit times by contact person.

The company is currently promoting service development and implementation with a team of about 20 people, and will further strengthen its personnel with this funding.

Supporting Smartphones to Improve Usability

The number of visitors as visualized on the management screen of Receptionist
Image credit: Delighted

Following the announcement of answering accumulated 10,000 calls at receptions across their user base as of March 2017, the unmanned reception app has steadily increased their users. It has grown up to 210,000 calls in total as of March this year, and according to Delighted CEO Mariko Hashimoto there are examples among them of companies on a scale of 500 people.

The company is also preparing for new services that are compatible with smartphones. Those that have used Receptionist probably understand, but entering the name of the contact person on the iPad or inputting one’s own name or company name is still troublesome (however, writing it out by hand is more so). It was said that the smartphone app currently under development will eliminate such poor usability, but unfortunately the details cannot be published yet.

Companies customize the reception display and make their own “Face”
Image credit: Delighted

I often come across the unmanned reception app now in my visit to companies. Regarding use cases, some examples include: in a development room when you do not want to put a landline due to the noise it causes, or if you move seats or change the floor layout and do not want to use a landline because they are cumbersome to move around. Essentially, it solves problems often found at companies with a lot of movement, especially Internet-based ones.

On the other hand, I also looked into cases of companies that did not introduce it, and on the contrary, some said they prefer the sound of a landline, and for those companies where internal communication equals telephones with the fixed concept of “telephone families” it appears difficult to accept such a new tool.

As a slight digression, I believe the way people are thinking about the telephone, even around me, has changed considerably. While there are many people taking the “tactless” way of calling suddenly and depriving each other of time for communication purposes, there are also those times where it is better to explain important issues, especially when trouble arises, with voice. With the number of tools increasing, perhaps we have to think more about what’s the right tool for the right place.

Additionally, it appeared the company was considering various uses of the visitor data gradually accumulated in each company. News regarding this will be released as development progresses.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Japan’s online fashion giant Start Today sets up R&D arm, pursues best user experience

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See the original story in Japanese. Start Today (TSE:3092), the Japanese company behind online fashion marketplace Zozotown, announced in January that it has set up a project team called Start Today Research (Research for short) as its R&D arm. Yuki Kanayama, CEO of Vasily which was recently acquired by Start Today, will lead the arm and conduct projects leveraging big data owned by the fashion giant. The specific Big Data set as its analysis data include 30 million brand-official product data (product information, category, size, material), 10 million fashion coordination data, 23 million user information (user attribute, purchase history, held items), shop information and distribution-related data, in addition to human body dimension data measurements from Zozosuit as had recently been announced and is seen being accumulated in the future. According to Kanayama, although he cannot disclose details about the current team, he aims to build an organization a few hundred-strong comprising doctorate holders in such fields as machine learning, encryption technology, material science or hydrodynamics, so as to analyze fashion from the scientific perspective in the future. In tandem with the announcement, we held a short interview with Start Today CEO Yusaku Maezawa and Kanayama, inquiring into their objectives in…

L to R: Start Today CEO Yusaku Maezawa, Vasily CEO Yuki Kanayama
Image credit: The Bridge

See the original story in Japanese.

Start Today (TSE:3092), the Japanese company behind online fashion marketplace Zozotown, announced in January that it has set up a project team called Start Today Research (Research for short) as its R&D arm. Yuki Kanayama, CEO of Vasily which was recently acquired by Start Today, will lead the arm and conduct projects leveraging big data owned by the fashion giant.

The specific Big Data set as its analysis data include 30 million brand-official product data (product information, category, size, material), 10 million fashion coordination data, 23 million user information (user attribute, purchase history, held items), shop information and distribution-related data, in addition to human body dimension data measurements from Zozosuit as had recently been announced and is seen being accumulated in the future.

According to Kanayama, although he cannot disclose details about the current team, he aims to build an organization a few hundred-strong comprising doctorate holders in such fields as machine learning, encryption technology, material science or hydrodynamics, so as to analyze fashion from the scientific perspective in the future. In tandem with the announcement, we held a short interview with Start Today CEO Yusaku Maezawa and Kanayama, inquiring into their objectives in establishing Research [interviewer questions indicated in boldface].

Approaching fashion from scientific angle

Zozosuit
Image credit: Start Today

I give due warning; the whole picture of the R&D arm is still unclear. As mentioned above, it is a fact that the firm has been storing an enormous amount of data related to fashion especially in Japan. The data content will enable more multidimensional analysis by adding body dimension data measured by Zozosuit that astonished the world. The two guys explained about the outline of the new arm.

Although Research was introduced with a bit ambiguous expression as “scientific approach of fashion utilizing big data” in the press release, would you explain about the outline of it again?

Kanayama: The purpose of Research is to utilize fashion data including human body dimension data. We will jointly research with external companies or educational organization about what can be grasped from fashion data or how we can utilize it into our service. The output of Start Today is thought to be divided into two types: the one is academic approach via papers or learned societies and the one is to make it into services or products led by companies. As acquiring an enormous amount of data, I would like to improve the state of the world together with outside collaborators.

Is it a R&D department of Start Today?

Maezawa: We had sometimes conducted planning or development as needed, but here we will cover a wide range of R&D activities in Research.

I ask you more about the organization. While Mercari had also announced the establishment of R&D department with detailed research themes or organization scale, how about is that in Research?

Kanayama: We plan to construct a several hundred-scale organization having Ph.D. members, in addition, we will start researching about fact or theory which has not been commercialized. Fashion has both “protection” and “emotion” aspects. The protection aspect is to wear clothes to protect himself against the cold or to cover up himself. The emotion aspect is to lift the spirit or to gain confidence or satisfaction. To meet the emotion aspect, measurement technology is needed, and the size suit must be improved further. We will explore themes about combination or coordination utilizing algorithm, machine learning, or deep learning. If health factor were required for fashion, healthcare field would become one of our research targets.

These data, Kanayama compared to “petroleum”, is just a string if it remains as it was. Refining it and synthesizing it, they turn it into a form available. The direction Research pursues may be to quantify fashion that had been determined based on the sense and to change fashion into a knowledge that everyone can share as common recognition.

Perfect-fitting by one-centimeter pitch

L to R: Start Today CEO Yusaku Maezawa, Vasily CEO Yuki Kanayama
Image credit: The Bridge

What are the specific views the two guys are going to cultivate, while it seems to a big project they imagine? I continued interviewing.

I will ask you about the research contents. For example, Amazon has a simple view like Echo Look, suggesting fashion which suits each user by taking photos. Do you have any specific ideas as outputs from Research?

Kanayama: Yes, we have some plans for services but cannot reveal them now. I want to pursue the point what is cool for him seen from himself just as seen from those around him.

Maezawa: The purpose of Research is to seek the answer to the problem as for what is cool for each user, by suggesting satisfactory fashion that looks cool seen him and also seen from surrounding people. We aim to digitize what is cool and what is cute. Off course, it is important for a user to be satisfied himself, but we want a proof that other people will be sure to admire the fashion enough to recommend them to him.

We will digitize the ambiguous concept of “cool”; for example, a coordination is cool because it is formed by combining this one and that one it is highly evaluated by 85 in 100 people qualitatively. Anyone may be worried about whether clothes will suit him. I think it is important to tell him that it really suits him or looks cool qualitatively to make him positive. To do that, first of all, we want everyone to experience wearing perfect-fitting clothes and to be impressed with them. Then, digitalized data outputted from Research will work as a support. That is our future vision.

As hearing Maezawa’s explanation, I had a dim impression that standardized information related to fashion like “fashion score” will be born from here. Of course, that will be incorporated into the group’s services, but standardized data can be used by external companies too.

Start Today CEO Yusaku Maezawa
Image credit: The Bridge

Let’s continue the interview. If you could acquire any outputs from the data in Research, how the world will change? For example, with the advent of fast fashion represented by Uniqlo, we no longer have difficulties in having clothes just to live. How are they going to change the world?

We no longer have difficulties in having clothes thanks to the advent of fast fashion. On the other hand, ocular changes have occurred in the street; homogeneity in fashion can be seen. What impacts do you expect Research to have?

Maezawa: I think the silhouette of aman wearing T-shirt is an art; it completely differs according to person. In autos’ body lines, there is a ratio called golden section which is digitalized to a certain degree. Similarly, we will try to sublimate the silhouette in a size suitable for each person to an art. I believe there is “a point” of perfection.

Currently, we have been producing T-shirts with size intervals of several centimeters pitch and wish everyone to find their favorite silhouette. An impression of clothes changes greatly only with one-centimeter difference in size, but there had not been such line-ups allowing customers to choose thus far. Few people are particular about one-centimeter difference in clothes, right? That is why I wish them to find their own perfect T-shirts.

Although I cannot refer to Zozosuit because I have not experienced Zozosuit yet, how does it feel to wear a perfect T-shirt?

Kanayama: It makes you positive.

I see.

Should the day arrive when we really can obtain perfect-fitting clothes, we will surely get to enjoy fashion from all over the world via online more easily or more people will gain confidence about one’s own fashion by utilizing the abovementioned Fashion Scoring.

Will it bring another change just as fast fashion created? I would like to wait for their outputs with great interest.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s Lancers raises $9M from HR giant and bank, offers loans to freelance workers

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Lancers, the Japanese startup providing a major crowdsourcing platform under the same name, announced last month that it had raised 1 billion yen (about $9 million) from Persol Holdings (TSE:2181) and Shinsei Bank (TSE:8303). Concluding business partnership contracts with both companies concurrently, Lancers will commence its new financing business targeting freelance workers. According to Lancers, the current number of freelancers in Japan is 11.22 million comprising 17% of the entire working population, showing a 5% increase from last year. It is said that more and more Japanese workers are coming to choose a ‘new work style’ which is neither full-time nor contract work. On the other hand, Persol Group, one of the investors this time, has developed various businesses that enhance job mobility of the Japanese working population, by using temporary staff company Tempstaff (TSE:2476) or staffing agency Persol Career (TSE:4757, formerly known as Intelligence) that it owns. While the two companies had been affiliated through investment via Persol Career, by adding Shinsei Bank into this framework, they aim to develop and provide a new loan service to individual workers who need equipment investment or education / training upon starting new business. At…

Yosuke Akiyoshi, CEO of Lancers

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Lancers, the Japanese startup providing a major crowdsourcing platform under the same name, announced last month that it had raised 1 billion yen (about $9 million) from Persol Holdings (TSE:2181) and Shinsei Bank (TSE:8303). Concluding business partnership contracts with both companies concurrently, Lancers will commence its new financing business targeting freelance workers.

According to Lancers, the current number of freelancers in Japan is 11.22 million comprising 17% of the entire working population, showing a 5% increase from last year. It is said that more and more Japanese workers are coming to choose a ‘new work style’ which is neither full-time nor contract work. On the other hand, Persol Group, one of the investors this time, has developed various businesses that enhance job mobility of the Japanese working population, by using temporary staff company Tempstaff (TSE:2476) or staffing agency Persol Career (TSE:4757, formerly known as Intelligence) that it owns.

While the two companies had been affiliated through investment via Persol Career, by adding Shinsei Bank into this framework, they aim to develop and provide a new loan service to individual workers who need equipment investment or education / training upon starting new business.

At the press conference held last April, Lancers announced that its sales in 2016 exceeded 2.1 billion yen and then revealed a new concept of Open Talent Platform as its business strategy out of an otherwise conventional online work matching platform. It presented several action plans for gearing up of its service operation as part of the concept, such as start of individual skill matching platform Pook or the spin-off of Quant for corporate customers.

See also:

The loan business to individuals announced this time is an extension of the concept, and is expected to be a system enabling individual workers to receive credit examination or third-party evaluation as with full-time workers. Specifically, they plan to visualize individual workers’ skill or work style as ‘Talent Score’ based on evaluation data accumulated by Persol Group or Lancers, and input it into business activities leveraging Shinsei Bank’s financial know-how.

Yohsuke Akiyoshi, CEO of Lancers, explained that the firm will jointly develop Talent Score as an evaluation criterion for the establishment of ‘Lancer Economies’:

Our cumulative fundraised amount is 2.3 billion yen (about $21 million) including this round. I see the two companies as partners to establish Talent Score together in order to increase freelancers’ working option under the framework of Open Talent Platform.

With Persol Holdings, we will jointly develop an evaluation system of freelancer’s work style and skill. Even in Lancers or Persol, full-time workers taking up freelance works as side jobs have been appearing.

Akiyoshi said the kind of workers that are expected to benefit most through this business partnership is those who hold full-time jobs and freelance work concurrently, called ‘parallel worker’:

Conventionally, work contents or performance evaluation were completely separated between the main job and the extra job.

However, in the economic area we are going to create, users can receive higher salary in their main job reflecting feedback of the subsidiary job performance at Lancers, or vice versa.

With the other partner Shinsei Bank, Lancers plans to carry out activities related to credit examination based on the score, according to Akiyoshi:

We also develop Talent Score with Shinsei Bank. Although Lancers has own unique data, the bank has a strength in individual credit data in terms of quality and quantity.

By cooperating with the institution, we will upgrade Talent Score and invest in Lancers users who are scored at a certain level, in order to change the current situation where it is harder for freelancers to borrow money than full-time workers. Imagine how we can improve their work style together as well as their life generally.

With respect to the concept of scoring individuals, Japan’s Crowd Works had also announced a similar lending service called Crowd Cash. The two players seem to lead the construction of infrastructure surrounding the Japanese new work style now in formation.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s MiddleField secures $2.2M to drive customer traffic to autoparts makers, shops

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based MiddleField, operating the auto parts database website Garage, announced back in December that it had raised 250 million yen ($2.2 million) from Femto Growth Fund 2.0. The detail of the investment including share ratio is not disclosed. Femto Growth Fund 2.0 is managed by Femto Growth Capital where Tetsuya Isozaki acts as General Partner. Garage provides information about auto parts from engine to exterior by category / manufacturer, used for dressing-up or tuning-up of autos for race or enjoyment. When a user chooses a car model on the website, the car is displayed by linking with information about each additional part, allowing him / her to make inquiries for purchasing. Currently, Garage covers 1,500 brands and is tied up with 300 shops which deal with attachable aftermarket parts. Garage does not only provide auto parts information, but also intermediates between purchase wishers and shops supporting mounting work to allow users to get reservation. Shota Nakayama, CEO of MiddleField, says most of its users visit Garage by smartphone: Like other industries, the major inflow path is the search with smartphone shifted from magazine in this field as well, and 80% of our users visit…

Garage
Image credit: MiddleField

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based MiddleField, operating the auto parts database website Garage, announced back in December that it had raised 250 million yen ($2.2 million) from Femto Growth Fund 2.0. The detail of the investment including share ratio is not disclosed. Femto Growth Fund 2.0 is managed by Femto Growth Capital where Tetsuya Isozaki acts as General Partner.

Garage provides information about auto parts from engine to exterior by category / manufacturer, used for dressing-up or tuning-up of autos for race or enjoyment. When a user chooses a car model on the website, the car is displayed by linking with information about each additional part, allowing him / her to make inquiries for purchasing.

Garage
Image credit: MiddleField

Currently, Garage covers 1,500 brands and is tied up with 300 shops which deal with attachable aftermarket parts. Garage does not only provide auto parts information, but also intermediates between purchase wishers and shops supporting mounting work to allow users to get reservation. Shota Nakayama, CEO of MiddleField, says most of its users visit Garage by smartphone:

Like other industries, the major inflow path is the search with smartphone shifted from magazine in this field as well, and 80% of our users visit Garage with smartphone. The purchase wishers of auto parts tend to take enough time to consider which parts to choose within the budget. Although they formerly used to collect information mainly from magazines, magazines are not suitable for carrying and covering information only about a part of auto makers, so that they have come to search with smartphone.

The author of this article also likes cars and have purchased such magazines covering parts information (have not attached parts though). As the main information gathering means having shifted from magazine to smartphone, a certain format is needed to overcome problems such as underdevelopment of shops’ website or complexity of information about attachment means or costs, and Garage aims to fill in the blank. According to Nakayama, the firm plans to renew the website early this year.

 

MiddleField was founded in December of 2015 by Nakayama, who had experienced business development in the racing team Lexus Team Sard which participated in many races, and have developed auto-related media Motorz.

In 2017, with Garage, the firm took part in the Asahi Shimbun Accelerator Program, an acceleration program by the Japanese major newspaper company Asahi Shimbun. After its Demo Day, the service was showcased at Incubate Camp 10th held by Incubate Fund or StarBurst managed by ProtoStar, and was highly evaluated by investors.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japanese e-commerce platform Base raises $13M, launches payments service subsidiary

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Base, the e-commerce platform provider dubbed Japan’s answer to Shopify, announced on Thursday that it has fundraised 1.5 billion yen (about $13.3 million US) from Japanese VC firm Global Brain and Japanese accounting SaaS (Software as a service) provider Money Forward (TSE:3994). This round was led by Global Brain but no financial term of the deal has been disclosed. Base has partnered with Money Forward to share a potential user base of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) with each others. Using the funds, Base plans to strengthen hiring talents to solidify management foundation. On the same day, Base announced that it has spun off payments platform businesses, such as PAY.JP and PAY ID, to set up a fully-owned subsidiary called Pay. Kenichi Takano, the current project leader for payment platform businesses at Base, was appointed CEO for the new company while Base CEO Yuta Tsuruoka joined the management board. See also: Base, Japan’s answer to Shopify, snags $14M to strengthen payment solutions unit Expanding beyond e-commerce platform The highly anticipated e-commerce platform has been advanced to the next stage by serving 450,000 merchants and 3 million mobile app users while their payments business…

L to R: Pay CEO Kenichi Takano, Base CEO Yuta Tsuruoka
Image credit: Base

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Base, the e-commerce platform provider dubbed Japan’s answer to Shopify, announced on Thursday that it has fundraised 1.5 billion yen (about $13.3 million US) from Japanese VC firm Global Brain and Japanese accounting SaaS (Software as a service) provider Money Forward (TSE:3994). This round was led by Global Brain but no financial term of the deal has been disclosed. Base has partnered with Money Forward to share a potential user base of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) with each others. Using the funds, Base plans to strengthen hiring talents to solidify management foundation.

On the same day, Base announced that it has spun off payments platform businesses, such as PAY.JP and PAY ID, to set up a fully-owned subsidiary called Pay. Kenichi Takano, the current project leader for payment platform businesses at Base, was appointed CEO for the new company while Base CEO Yuta Tsuruoka joined the management board.

See also:

Expanding beyond e-commerce platform

PAY.JP
Image credit: Pay

The highly anticipated e-commerce platform has been advanced to the next stage by serving 450,000 merchants and 3 million mobile app users while their payments business has processed transactions 40 times more than that one year ago. Tsuruoka showed his confidence by seeing some actual performance indicators are higher than disclosed ones while his company claims that it saw the greatest growth last year since its launch.

In response to our question about the situation of Base Live, the company’s recently-launched live commerce platform that enables merchants to introduce and sell products through live performance, he told us that it still gives them some impact on transactions while there are many apparel merchants whose monthly sales reach nearly 1 million yen ($8,800). However, the live commerce platform has become popular among merchants in view of another channel for creating a fan base.

This large-scale funding may be based on all these results. Regarding the purpose of the funding, Tsuruoka says:

Our funding purpose has been changed from surviving to growing.

No doubt that the payments business was spun off because this space has high potential for extensive growth. While the Base platform has been esteemed because it allows anyone to easily build an e-commerce presence, the company’s payments businesses have to deal with different types of data and serve diverse user demographics. So the company spin-out is reasonable in optimizing their decision-making process from now on.

The company now has a staff of about 100 people, which is doubled from last year, including 20 staffers in charge of payments businesses.

On a related note, Base unveiled on Thursday that it has launched another fully-owned subsidiary called Base Bank. They claim the new company will target a new business area but no further details have been disclosed. In view of Japanese C2C marketplace startup Mercari having invested in Base and founded a new business-focused subsidiary called Souzoh, Base Bank may aim at a similar goal like building various apps and diversifying businesses.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japanese fashion commerce giant Zozotown acquires fashion coordination startup Vasilly

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based startup Vasily, which runs online fashion coordination service iQON, announced on Thursday that it has been acquired by Start Today (TSE:3092), the company behind Japan’s leading fashion commerce site Zozotown. Details on financial terms have not been disclosed. See also: Japan’s fashion coordination app iQon unveils native advertising service Japanese fashion coordination site iQON surpasses 1 million users Japanese fashion site iQon lands partnership with Italian online mall Yoox.com Japanese fashion coordination site iQON raises $3.2M, will boost marketing efforts Vasily was founded back in 2008 and subsequently launched fashion coordination service iQON back in April of 2018. Using the mobile app or desktop, the service allows one to combine clothing and accessories online while sharing fashion coordination ideas with other users. Each item has a direct link to fashion e-commerce sites where purchases are made, and the startup will generate revenue from partner sites using an affiliate model. Their mobile app is highly evaluated and has been selected as the best apps several times on the Apple iTunes Appstore and Google Play. Meanwhile, Start Today, the company behind Zozotown, launched a fashion coordination app called Wear back in 2013, having since acquired…

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based startup Vasily, which runs online fashion coordination service iQON, announced on Thursday that it has been acquired by Start Today (TSE:3092), the company behind Japan’s leading fashion commerce site Zozotown. Details on financial terms have not been disclosed.

See also:

Vasily was founded back in 2008 and subsequently launched fashion coordination service iQON back in April of 2018. Using the mobile app or desktop, the service allows one to combine clothing and accessories online while sharing fashion coordination ideas with other users. Each item has a direct link to fashion e-commerce sites where purchases are made, and the startup will generate revenue from partner sites using an affiliate model. Their mobile app is highly evaluated and has been selected as the best apps several times on the Apple iTunes Appstore and Google Play.

Meanwhile, Start Today, the company behind Zozotown, launched a fashion coordination app called Wear back in 2013, having since acquired 9 million downloads and 6 million coordination pattern posts. According to the financial report of Start Today, the company has annually transacted 212 billion yen (about $1.9 billion US) as of March this year on the Zozotown marketplace.

See also:

The content of the partnership between the two companies has not been disclosed. However, it is expected that Start Today and Vasily will jointly conduct a measure to encourage sales leveraging items and user preference data collected by both companies respectively.

Yuki Kanayama, CEO and founder of Vasily, declined our request to disclose the details but he says,

We can’t yet disclose the details about for how much we have been acquired or what we will jointly work with Start Today on. However, all I can sa is that the key will be data. We believe that we can do more business than ever by combining existing and future data held by Start Today and our own Vasily technology.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s LaFabric, shirt and suit tailor startup, gets $6.6M to enrich original product lineup

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Lifestyle Design, running the LaFabric online store focused on made-to-measure shirts and custom business suits for men, announced on Monday that it has secured a total of 740 million yen (about $6.6 million) from Globis Partners, Nissay Capital and Spiral Ventures Japan (previously known as IMJ Investment Partners Japan) in funding with loans from Japan Finance Corporation. Detailed financial terms have not been disclosed. Coinciding with the funding, the company appointed their former CFO Kenichiro Mishima as a managing director while adding Globis Capital Partners’ Yuki Watanabe and Nissay Capital’s Kenko Nagai to the management board. Following the launch of online fashion store back in February of 2014, the company successfully raised 100 million yen from Nissay Capital in 2015. Subsequently they launched a real flagship store in Shibuya back in 2016 while occasionally before that opening pop-up stores here and there. They secured 400 million yen (about $3.5 million) in funding back in January this year, seeing a steady growth these days. In order to the strengthen direct-to-consumer model, Lifestyle Design will use the funds to improve user experience at both online and offline stores while enriching the lineup of their original…

Image credit: Lifestyle Design

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Lifestyle Design, running the LaFabric online store focused on made-to-measure shirts and custom business suits for men, announced on Monday that it has secured a total of 740 million yen (about $6.6 million) from Globis Partners, Nissay Capital and Spiral Ventures Japan (previously known as IMJ Investment Partners Japan) in funding with loans from Japan Finance Corporation. Detailed financial terms have not been disclosed.

Coinciding with the funding, the company appointed their former CFO Kenichiro Mishima as a managing director while adding Globis Capital Partners’ Yuki Watanabe and Nissay Capital’s Kenko Nagai to the management board.

Following the launch of online fashion store back in February of 2014, the company successfully raised 100 million yen from Nissay Capital in 2015. Subsequently they launched a real flagship store in Shibuya back in 2016 while occasionally before that opening pop-up stores here and there. They secured 400 million yen (about $3.5 million) in funding back in January this year, seeing a steady growth these days.

In order to the strengthen direct-to-consumer model, Lifestyle Design will use the funds to improve user experience at both online and offline stores while enriching the lineup of their original fashion products.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

LaFabric Real Store in Shibuya
Image credit: Lifestyle Design

Japan’s Crevo raises $2.8M, aiming to help crowdsourced animators work smarter

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Crevo, the Japanese startup offering crowdsurced animation production platform, announced on Thursday that it has secured 310 million yen (about $2.8 million US) in funding. This round was led by Itochu Technology Ventures with participation from Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Capital, AG Capital, and D4V. Detailed financial terms such as share ratios and the payment date have not been disclosed. Additionally, the company will launch the Collet animation production management tool, which until now had been used internally only. The tool organizes the portfolio of animation creators, a job board, video files generated during the production process, and chatting function with clients. The company believes that conducting meetings with clients online can cut time down by 1/5th. The company will initially open this tool up to 30 ad agencies and video production companies. According to Crevo CEO Kensuke Shibata, the usage fees remain undecided, but we should expect it to be cheaper than the monthly fees of hiring an assistant for process management. The funds raised this time around will go towards the future development of this platform. For better serving creators In recent years, several specialized crowdsourcing platforms geared at creators have appeared….

The Crevo team

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Crevo, the Japanese startup offering crowdsurced animation production platform, announced on Thursday that it has secured 310 million yen (about $2.8 million US) in funding. This round was led by Itochu Technology Ventures with participation from Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Capital, AG Capital, and D4V. Detailed financial terms such as share ratios and the payment date have not been disclosed.

Additionally, the company will launch the Collet animation production management tool, which until now had been used internally only. The tool organizes the portfolio of animation creators, a job board, video files generated during the production process, and chatting function with clients. The company believes that conducting meetings with clients online can cut time down by 1/5th.

Collet

The company will initially open this tool up to 30 ad agencies and video production companies. According to Crevo CEO Kensuke Shibata, the usage fees remain undecided, but we should expect it to be cheaper than the monthly fees of hiring an assistant for process management. The funds raised this time around will go towards the future development of this platform.

For better serving creators

In recent years, several specialized crowdsourcing platforms geared at creators have appeared. Similar to Crevo, these platforms in Japan like Kaizen (growth hacking / online experience optimization), Viibar (video production) and Mugenup (game character illustration) are aiming to create their own way of systematizing workflows by linking together creators scattered all over the world online.

The creative field, not just animation or video production, is populated by those with individualized skills. If a company puts out similar orders, as expected the client’s output will have little variation. The crowdsourcing method also has a great advantage in terms of presenting options from the client’s perspective.

On the one hand, giving directions online can be difficult. Even if you prepare tools to ensure efficiency, if someone cannot use them, it could lead to further inefficiency. Crevo made the decision to open up Collet to the public after refining it through projects with 700 companies over the past three years. According to Shibata, there has been an increase in requests for animation production from media publishers and printing companies.

What stands out is that the orders are coming from departments separate from the companies’ advertising divisions. The business is still developing and, while it is trivial, I’d like to see some explanatory materials, but it seems that Crevo’s service is prepared to meet those needs.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru IKeda