THE BRIDGE

Masaru Ikeda

Masaru Ikeda

Masaru started his career as a programmer/engineer, and previously co-founded several system integration companies and consulting firms. He’s been traveling around Silicon Valley and Asia exploring the IT industry, and he also curates event updates for the Tokyo edition of Startup Digest.

Articles

Tokyo-based advertising startup FreakOut raises $5.3M from Yahoo Japan

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FreakOut is a Tokyo-based startup developing a smartphone advertising platform for real-time bidding (RTB). Today it announced that it has raised 500 million yen (approximately $5.3 million) in series B funding from YJ Capital, the investment arm of Yahoo Japan (TYO:4689). FreakOut was launched in 2010 by Yuzuru Honda who previously launched a content-matching ad platform called Brainer, which was subsequently sold to Yahoo Japan in 2008.  The startup has been delivering its white-label platform to more than 3,000 advertisers through 90 agencies in Japan and the US. With this new funding, the startup expects to intensify operations at its US subsidiary, FreakOut International Inc., which was launched in New York last April. Prior to this fundraising, the startup raised 350 million yen ($3.7 million) from two Japanese VC firms last year. TechCrunch Japan reports that the current value of the company is about 10.3 billion yen ($110 million).

freakout_logoFreakOut is a Tokyo-based startup developing a smartphone advertising platform for real-time bidding (RTB). Today it announced that it has raised 500 million yen (approximately $5.3 million) in series B funding from YJ Capital, the investment arm of Yahoo Japan (TYO:4689).

FreakOut was launched in 2010 by Yuzuru Honda who previously launched a content-matching ad platform called Brainer, which was subsequently sold to Yahoo Japan in 2008.  The startup has been delivering its white-label platform to more than 3,000 advertisers through 90 agencies in Japan and the US. With this new funding, the startup expects to intensify operations at its US subsidiary, FreakOut International Inc., which was launched in New York last April.

Prior to this fundraising, the startup raised 350 million yen ($3.7 million) from two Japanese VC firms last year. TechCrunch Japan reports that the current value of the company is about 10.3 billion yen ($110 million).

Looking for a job in Japan? Dragon Gate lets you pitch your skills to Japanese companies

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Dragon Gate is a job matching site that connects foreign students to Japanese companies. It was recently launched by Future Design Lab, a career consultancy based in Tokyo. Japanese business customs could potentially be a difficult obstacle for foreign students looking to work with Japanese companies. The consultancy helps them overcome this in a few ways, including helping in the creation of a CV as well as advising how to choose the right company to work with. The most interesting feature of Dragon Gate is that the service allows students to upload an 30- to 60-second introductory video clip for free. This video lets them showcase themselves on a prominent stage, and it enables Japanese talent seekers to easily assess the candidate’s level of Japanese proficiency as well as their business manner prior to hiring. Japanese streaming platform operator J-Stream provides the video solution for the website.. With these notable functions, the consultancy expects to help many foreign students find placements in Japanese companies. So if you’re a student or a recent graduate looking to find work in Japan, you might want to sign up!

dragongate_screenshot

Dragon Gate is a job matching site that connects foreign students to Japanese companies. It was recently launched by Future Design Lab, a career consultancy based in Tokyo.

Japanese business customs could potentially be a difficult obstacle for foreign students looking to work with Japanese companies. The consultancy helps them overcome this in a few ways, including helping in the creation of a CV as well as advising how to choose the right company to work with.

The most interesting feature of Dragon Gate is that the service allows students to upload an 30- to 60-second introductory video clip for free. This video lets them showcase themselves on a prominent stage, and it enables Japanese talent seekers to easily assess the candidate’s level of Japanese proficiency as well as their business manner prior to hiring. Japanese streaming platform operator J-Stream provides the video solution for the website..

With these notable functions, the consultancy expects to help many foreign students find placements in Japanese companies. So if you’re a student or a recent graduate looking to find work in Japan, you might want to sign up!

In Japan, new iPhone apps help you remember the deceased

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How do you pay your respects to a loved one who has recently passed away? You might go to a nearby church, or pay a visit to the cemetery. In Japan, many people used to have a Buddhist altar at home, but this is less common these days. Nagoya-based smartphone app developer Hanbunko has introduced another way, with a series of iPhone apps dedicated to a sort of digital remembrance. Users can simply pray for someone by looking at his or her portrait on their phone, while listening to appropriate music or chanting a sutra. The app has a sutra version and a sort of ‘nursery song’ version, and the both can store up to 10 portraits. The apps are available for free on the iTunes app store, but you will be charged if you wish to eliminate an in-app ad (85 yen). For the ‘nursery song’ version, the app has several tunes performed by Hiroko Scott, who has been writing music for the harp and piano in Australia. The startup expects to add more songs later on. You can check out the video demo below to learn more about how these apps work. Hanbunko is also well known for…

omairi_stevejobs How do you pay your respects to a loved one who has recently passed away? You might go to a nearby church, or pay a visit to the cemetery. In Japan, many people used to have a Buddhist altar at home, but this is less common these days.

Nagoya-based smartphone app developer Hanbunko has introduced another way, with a series of iPhone apps dedicated to a sort of digital remembrance. Users can simply pray for someone by looking at his or her portrait on their phone, while listening to appropriate music or chanting a sutra. The app has a sutra version and a sort of ‘nursery song’ version, and the both can store up to 10 portraits. The apps are available for free on the iTunes app store, but you will be charged if you wish to eliminate an in-app ad (85 yen).

For the ‘nursery song’ version, the app has several tunes performed by Hiroko Scott, who has been writing music for the harp and piano in Australia. The startup expects to add more songs later on.

You can check out the video demo below to learn more about how these apps work.

Hanbunko is also well known for having developed an iOS app that helps people suffering from certain verbal impediments or challenges to communicate with others selection certain options within the app (available in English and Japanese).

Japan’s ringtone publisher Dwango partners with pair of media giants

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[Update] The group has announced that UK-based play performance group Whole Hog Theatre will conduct a Japan tour of Princess Mononoke in April and May in partnership with the Studio Ghibli animation studio. Dwango’s CEO is currently working at the studio as a ‘trainee’ to explore a possible collaboration. Dwango, a Tokyo-based ringtone distributor and the parent company of Japanese video sharing service Nico Nico Douga, announced today that Japanese publishing giant Kadokawa Group and Nippon Television Network would take a major stake of its shares. The company’s largest shareholder prior to this announcement, music company Avex Group, will now be the third largest shareholder. Dwango has been partnered with Avex for seven years, but it has been exploring other partnerships in different businesses to diversify its service portfolio. Kagokawa also recently acquired Skyscraper Inc. from Dwango, a company which primarily handles ads for the Nico Nico Douga video service. A group of ten companies [1] including Dwango and Nippon TV Network will unveil a major joint project of some kind on Tuesday afternoon. The press briefing will be broadcast live on the web on Nico Nico Douga starting at 2pm Tuesday, Japan Time. The ten companies are Dwango, Nippon…

[Update] The group has announced that UK-based play performance group Whole Hog Theatre will conduct a Japan tour of Princess Mononoke in April and May in partnership with the Studio Ghibli animation studio. Dwango’s CEO is currently working at the studio as a ‘trainee’ to explore a possible collaboration.


dwango

Dwango, a Tokyo-based ringtone distributor and the parent company of Japanese video sharing service Nico Nico Douga, announced today that Japanese publishing giant Kadokawa Group and Nippon Television Network would take a major stake of its shares. The company’s largest shareholder prior to this announcement, music company Avex Group, will now be the third largest shareholder.

Dwango has been partnered with Avex for seven years, but it has been exploring other partnerships in different businesses to diversify its service portfolio. Kagokawa also recently acquired Skyscraper Inc. from Dwango, a company which primarily handles ads for the Nico Nico Douga video service.

A group of ten companies [1] including Dwango and Nippon TV Network will unveil a major joint project of some kind on Tuesday afternoon. The press briefing will be broadcast live on the web on Nico Nico Douga starting at 2pm Tuesday, Japan Time.


  1. The ten companies are Dwango, Nippon TV Network, Nelke Planning (musical production), the Yomiuri Shimbun (newspaper), Tokyo FM, Lawson (a convenience store), E-plus (an online ticketing service), Dentsu, Aiia (an apparel and puzzle game publisher), and BS Nippon (a satellite broadcaster).  ↩

Incubate Fund forms new $21.4M fund, plans to invest in 100 startups in 3 years

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Tokyo-based VC Incubate Fund recently announced that it had established a new 2 billion yen fund (about $21.4 million), with the aim of investing in seed startups and young venture capitalists. Specifically, the firm expects to invest in 100 startups within the next three years. To establish the fund, the firm fundraised from Infocom Corporation (the publisher of a bilingual news blog on Japan-made Android apps), Sega, SME Support, D2C (a joint venture of Dentsu and NTT Docomo), Nissay Capital (an investment arm of Japan’s second largest life insurance company), Mixi, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital. Until now, the firm has been known for investing in a number of notable Japanese startups including game companies Gumi, Pokelabo, Aiming, and Axel Mark; as well as San San, who runs a business card-based CRM solution. In the past several months, the firm has been expanding its scope beyond gaming startups, investing in seed and early startups like Coffee Meeting (people-to-people matchmaking on a chat over coffee), Storys.jp, Designclue, Voip, and Booklap.

incubatefund_logoTokyo-based VC Incubate Fund recently announced that it had established a new 2 billion yen fund (about $21.4 million), with the aim of investing in seed startups and young venture capitalists. Specifically, the firm expects to invest in 100 startups within the next three years.

To establish the fund, the firm fundraised from Infocom Corporation (the publisher of a bilingual news blog on Japan-made Android apps), Sega, SME Support, D2C (a joint venture of Dentsu and NTT Docomo), Nissay Capital (an investment arm of Japan’s second largest life insurance company), Mixi, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital.

Until now, the firm has been known for investing in a number of notable Japanese startups including game companies Gumi, Pokelabo, Aiming, and Axel Mark; as well as San San, who runs a business card-based CRM solution. In the past several months, the firm has been expanding its scope beyond gaming startups, investing in seed and early startups like Coffee Meeting (people-to-people matchmaking on a chat over coffee), Storys.jp, Designclue, Voip, and Booklap.

Korea’s beSuccess holds startup competition in Tokyo, winner moves on to Seoul for main event

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Read our Japanese report on this event Our partner tech site beSuccess will hold the second edition of its beLAUNCH event in Seoul this May, one of the largest tech startup conferences in the Asia region. In association with Tokyo-based Skyland Ventures and Seoul-based startup VCNC, the media company had a local satellite event in Tokyo on Wednesday, where one finalist was chosen from six participating Japanese startups to pitch at the main event in Korea. Let’s rundown through the lineup and take a closer look to who’s going to Gangnam, Seoul this May. The participating judges for the pitching session were (in alphabetical order): Hyungseok Dino Ha, CEO, Memebox (Seoul) James Jung, CEO, beSuccess (Seoul) Jimmy Jihoon Rim, CEO, Kcube Ventures (Seoul) Kiyo Kobayashi, CEO, Nobot Inc., (Tokyo) Ryuichi Nishida, editor-in-chief, TechCrunch Japan (Tokyo) Tetsuro Oshita, managing director, Cyber Agent Ventures (Tokyo) Yasuhiko Yurimoto, president and CEO, Global Brain (Tokyo) Yoshiro Taneda, senior director of digital media, Fuji TV (Tokyo) Designclue (the 3rd prize winner) ¶ Prize: Wins a complimentary booth to exhibiting at the Seoul event When you order logo design in Japan, it will usually not be very cheap due to high labor costs in the country. It can also be very hard for most Japanese people to order design work from…

belaunch_tokyo_grouppic

Read our Japanese report on this event

Our partner tech site beSuccess will hold the second edition of its beLAUNCH event in Seoul this May, one of the largest tech startup conferences in the Asia region. In association with Tokyo-based Skyland Ventures and Seoul-based startup VCNC, the media company had a local satellite event in Tokyo on Wednesday, where one finalist was chosen from six participating Japanese startups to pitch at the main event in Korea.

Let’s rundown through the lineup and take a closer look to who’s going to Gangnam, Seoul this May. The participating judges for the pitching session were (in alphabetical order):

Designclue (the 3rd prize winner)

Prize:

  • Wins a complimentary booth to exhibiting at the Seoul event

designclue

When you order logo design in Japan, it will usually not be very cheap due to high labor costs in the country. It can also be very hard for most Japanese people to order design work from overseas because of the language barrier.

Designclue is a logo-focused crowdsourcing site which allows users to easily place orders from independent foreign designers. Readers may recall that we we featured them on this site last week. The website has multilingual interfaces to easily facilitate your orders. Users can receive many design proposals at affordable rates from registered designers in emerging markets.

Not long ago, the startup announced that it had fundraised 14.7 million yen (about $150,000) from two Japanese seed investors, Incubate Fund and East Ventures.

Comobaco

comobaco

Comobaco allows you and your friends to create a pool of shared items both on the web and in real life. With this service, you can easily share things you own (such as books, DVDs, and game titles) with your office colleagues, your roommates, or any similar sort of group.

To use the service, someone at your location has to become the manager of a box, which will then be used to hold the exchanged items. If you put in things you don’t want to use any more, others will have a chance to take them without having to buy. The service’s founder hopes to change the concept of buying things for yourself only into buying things for the sake of the many people around you as well.

Job Share

jobshare_logo Job share is a community-based talent seeking site that helps companies find new employees who might enjoy working together. When you post a job opportunity on the service, your posting will be shared via social media through colleagues at your company. If someone sees it and would like to work at your company, you can then hire them if they’re a good fit. The startup aims to help companies create a workplace with a positive atmosphere by enlisting the help of existing employees in finding their new colleagues.

Conyac (the 1st prize winner)

From left: Conyacs CEO Naoki Yamada (the 1st prizw winner), Global Brain's Yasuhiko Yurimoto (award presenter), and beSuccess James Jung (award presenter)
From the left: Conyac’s CEO Naoki Yamada (the 1st prize winner), Global Brain’s Yasuhiko Yurimoto (award presenter), and beSuccess’ James Jung (award presenter)

Prizes:

  • A complimentary booth for exhibiting at the Seoul event
  • Round-trip air tickets for two, Tokyo/Seoul
  • A chance to pitch at the main competition

conyac_logo

Conyac is a crowdsourced translation service that gives users an interesting way to communicate with someone in a foreign language for affordable rates. When we spoke to them in a recent interview, they introduced the launch of a high-end service for business use, and told us about their first overseas expansion to San Francisco.

Booklap (the 2nd prize winner)

Prizes:

  • A complimentary booth for exhibiting at the Seoul event
  • Round-trip air tickets for two, Tokyo/Seoul

booklap Finding the right book to buy at bookstore can often take a long time. One recent survey says that 39% of all bookstore purchases take more than an hour. Similarly when you buy a book on Amazon.com, you’ll rely on book reviews posted by other users — but some of them are not reliable or just not good enough to help you decide.

Booklap is a service that wants to help you find a book you will love to read. It has two ways of doing this. The first is based on your interests which are pulled from ‘social graphs’ such as your Facebook profile. The other way by presenting quotes from books that have impressed other users.

The startup is planning to introduce a smartphone app which will allow a user to easily post quotes by just shooting a picture. What differentiates this from Amazon.com is that book reviews are being posted with the real names of those who have written the review.

Their revenue model is expected to come from affiliate fees from online bookstores like Amazon.com, driving users to buy books on their site. Booklap raised 3 million yen (about $32,000) from Incubate Fund last July.

UI Scope

UIscope

UI Scope allows software and hardware developers to crowdsource product testing tasks. A registered tester (called a ‘panel’ in the service) receives a camera from the startup so that it can record the testing process. When a developer (called ‘a client’) chooses someone from all registered testers and asks them to test the product, that person will take about 20 minutes to test it and report back with a video of the testing process. The developer pays 3,000 yen (about $32) for this testing, and the tester receives 500 yen. The testing results are reported online in the form of video, screenshots, and behavioral reports in text.

UI Scope was launched last August with the aim of creating a huge database of product testing by gathering such test results and case studies. It has raised 5 million yen (about $53,800) from Movida Japan, and has acquired 120 developers and 2500 testers during the last six months.

And now from Korea…

Three Korean startups also attended the meet-up, pitching their remarkable services to the Japanese crowd. Let’s have a look at what’s hot in this neighboring tech community.

BeNative

benative_logo

BeNative aims to help students have a more organic language learning experience by providing them with content that imitates real-life situations with native speakers. By presenting video clips of a specific occasion in English or other languages, the service allows users to learn more natural ways to speak new languages. According to Alan Moonsoon Kim, the CEO of parent company Smatoos, they are currently providing English version  and Chinese versions of the language learning site, as well as running news sites in English, Korean and Japanese. For more information, check out this feature over on Technode for more details.

Profeel.me

profeel.me_logo

Profeel.me is your digital business card, incorporating your social network accounts. It can be exchanged through text, messaging services, and social networks. Following the model of a real/physical business card, Korean-startup Venster has created an online business card that can be used as a virtual ID or calling card.  The startup’s CEO HoSuk Jeong presented. beSuccess has further information if you’d like to learn more.

profeel.me_presenting
Profeel.me CEO HoSuk Jeong pitches to a Japanese crowd

Memebox

memebox_logo

Memebox is the Korean version of Birchbox, a subscription-based e-commerce service that periodically delivers a box of cosmetics to users. The startup’s CEO Hyungseok Dino Ha explains they have partnered with 185 brands worldwide, and have delivered 52,900 boxes to their customers since launching in February of 2012. Subscribers can sign up for the service using three different subscription options: one, two, or six months. So far there are over 5,000 total subscribers.

There are 31 people on the team with an expected revenue of $1.3 million in Q2 of 2013. The startup is from the first batch of graduates coming out of Seoul-based SparkLab’s incubation program.


The beLAUNCH 2013 main event is scheduled to take place at COEX, an exhibition center in Korea’s capital on May 1st and 2nd. If you’d like to join. please feel free to sign up.

From the left: Kcube Venture's Jimmy Rim and VCNC's Keisuke Kajitani with a collection of autographs.
From the left: Kcube Venture’s Jimmy Rim and VCNC’s Keisuke Kajitani with a collection of autographs.

5 Japanese studios team up to create online anime platform for overseas markets

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Five Japanese animation studios and two Japanese advertising agencies announced yesterday that they will jointly found a web-based content distribution platform called Daisuki (literally meaning, ‘I love it so much.’). They plan to launch the service in April. The participating studios are Aniplex, Sunrise, Toei Animation, TMS Entertainment and Nihon Ad Systems, and two ad giants involved are Dentsu and Asatsu DK. These seven companies aspire to make it easier for people overseas to watch Japanese animation titles regardless of time and location, and to explore possibilities to monetize Japan-made content while preventing the spread of video piracy online. They will also sell merchandise such as character toys on the website as well. The animation titles expected to be included are Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Mobile Suit Gundam, One Piece, Lupin The Third, and The Prince of Tennis. Some popular new titles will be available on the platform also, broadcast at the same time that they appear on Japanese terrestrial TV networks. On a related note, Japanese video portal Gyao and social gaming giant GREE also announced this week that they would be teaming up to establish an investment fund to cultivate the animation production business.

DAISUKI-logo Five Japanese animation studios and two Japanese advertising agencies announced yesterday that they will jointly found a web-based content distribution platform called Daisuki (literally meaning, ‘I love it so much.’). They plan to launch the service in April. The participating studios are Aniplex, Sunrise, Toei Animation, TMS Entertainment and Nihon Ad Systems, and two ad giants involved are Dentsu and Asatsu DK.

These seven companies aspire to make it easier for people overseas to watch Japanese animation titles regardless of time and location, and to explore possibilities to monetize Japan-made content while preventing the spread of video piracy online. They will also sell merchandise such as character toys on the website as well.

The animation titles expected to be included are Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Mobile Suit Gundam, One Piece, Lupin The Third, and The Prince of Tennis. Some popular new titles will be available on the platform also, broadcast at the same time that they appear on Japanese terrestrial TV networks.

On a related note, Japanese video portal Gyao and social gaming giant GREE also announced this week that they would be teaming up to establish an investment fund to cultivate the animation production business.

Messaging app Line partners with Nokia to accelerate global expansion

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NHN Japan, the producer of the wildly popular Line chat app, announced yesterday that it has partnered with Nokia (NYSE:NOK) aiming to accelerate the app’s global user acquisition. The company is making the app available on Nokia’s Asha handset, a low priced smartphone (ranging from $100 to $200) that has topped more than 200 million units sold globally. Line will be available on the Nokia Store by the end of March, but some features such as free voice calls will be added later on after the initial release. With this partnership, NHN Japan is targeting new users in South East Asia, Latin America, Middle East, and Africa where Nokia’s budget Asha handset is popular. The two companies will work together to promote the handset and the app at merchant storefronts in these regions. The Line app is now available on several different mobile platforms including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and even Japanese feature phones. Currently at the Nokia Booth at Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, a test version of the app is installed on exhibited Asha handsets so that visitors can try it out. Japanese tech news site RBB Today has several still images of this, which they…

nokia-asha

NHN Japan, the producer of the wildly popular Line chat app, announced yesterday that it has partnered with Nokia (NYSE:NOK) aiming to accelerate the app’s global user acquisition. The company is making the app available on Nokia’s Asha handset, a low priced smartphone (ranging from $100 to $200) that has topped more than 200 million units sold globally.

Line will be available on the Nokia Store by the end of March, but some features such as free voice calls will be added later on after the initial release. With this partnership, NHN Japan is targeting new users in South East Asia, Latin America, Middle East, and Africa where Nokia’s budget Asha handset is popular. The two companies will work together to promote the handset and the app at merchant storefronts in these regions.

The Line app is now available on several different mobile platforms including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and even Japanese feature phones. Currently at the Nokia Booth at Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, a test version of the app is installed on exhibited Asha handsets so that visitors can try it out. Japanese tech news site RBB Today has several still images of this, which they shot at the exhibition booth.

Line recently surpassed the 100 million user milestone, having originally launched back in June of 2011. If you’d like to learn more about it, check out our video overview of the app below.

For more information on the growth of Line, please check out our interactive Line Timeline which chronicles its growth from its launch back in 2011 up until the present day.

Samurai Incubate exhibits fun new startups and ideas in Tokyo

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Tokyo-based startup incubator Samurai Incubate is planning to launch another co-working space at Odaiba, Tokyo’s waterfront area. The group already has a venue for incubating startups at another location, but the new one will focus on gadget and hardware manufacturing startups. It is jointly organized with a local architectural firm. The new incubation venue will be called MONO, and will be launched in the end of this month. To commemorate the opening the incubator recently held an exhibition and conference event for startups called Samurai MONO Festival Vol. 1, featuring a number of notable people from the gadget and hardware manufacturing scene. Let’s have a look at some of the interesting ideas and startups who we met at the event [1]. The Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology, Tokyo ¶ A team from this university showed us several interesting ideas including: Kansei Senkyoku – Mind Jukebox ¶ Kansei Senkyoku (literally ‘music selection by sense’) chooses a song that fits your current feeling by detecting your brain waves. It’s known that alpha brain waves emerge when you are stable before sleep, and the beta wave is usually seen when you are doing something that requires concentration. Accordingly, the app selects a song…

monofestival_birdview
February 16th 2013, at Telecom Center in Aomi, Tokyo

Tokyo-based startup incubator Samurai Incubate is planning to launch another co-working space at Odaiba, Tokyo’s waterfront area. The group already has a venue for incubating startups at another location, but the new one will focus on gadget and hardware manufacturing startups. It is jointly organized with a local architectural firm.

The new incubation venue will be called MONO, and will be launched in the end of this month. To commemorate the opening the incubator recently held an exhibition and conference event for startups called Samurai MONO Festival Vol. 1, featuring a number of notable people from the gadget and hardware manufacturing scene.

Let’s have a look at some of the interesting ideas and startups who we met at the event [1].

The Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology, Tokyo

A team from this university showed us several interesting ideas including:

Kansei Senkyoku – Mind Jukebox

kansei_senkyoku

Kansei Senkyoku (literally ‘music selection by sense’) chooses a song that fits your current feeling by detecting your brain waves. It’s known that alpha brain waves emerge when you are stable before sleep, and the beta wave is usually seen when you are doing something that requires concentration. Accordingly, the app selects a song to play, and help you get a better sleep or do your work more efficiently.

Recipit

recipit

This tablet app’s name is a combination of ‘recipe’ and ‘receipt’, and it helps you find a recipe for a meal the items you have just bought at the supermarket. By scanning the receipts for your groceries, the app will search for possible meals that can be cooked with these materials. You can then print out the recipe from Ricoh’s internet-enabled photocopiers. (The project is jointly conducted with Ricoh.)

Smart frosted-glass system

frostedglass

Large glass projection film, often used for digital signage systems at convenience stores and other public places, is usually very costly. But by combining normal frosted-glass and a camera-enabled Android handset, the team has developed a very cheap interactive touch panel system that allows users to control a screen with flicking motions over top of the glass, as your fingers are detected by the camera of the Android handset on the other side of the glass. The coodinate data for the screen is stored in a Google Docs file, and the app will show you the next screen which corresponds to your finger motion.

novelink

With this app users can create multiple parallel universes, based on someone else’s previous postings. This collective/collaborate writing results in a wide variety of novel endings, which sounds like a lot of fun. The app is expected to be available on iOS and Android soon.

This idea reminds me of the British-American film Sliding Doors, where the story alternates between two parallel universes.

Goeng, an iOS app that aims to help Japanese Facebook users communicate with foreigners

Goeng helps Japanese Facebook users find friends from outside the country who share the same hobbies and interests, or like the same things. Once you and that friend get along well, you can obtain their national flag and add it to your collection. Through this sort of collection you can also earn badges.

Gamba, an easier way to do daily reports

gamba

Making a report and submitting it to your boss on a daily basis can often be way too much hassle. Gamba allows employees to post daily reports to their bosses in a very easy way. I assumed this app was targeting SMEs or startups, but the app’s creator says they have many big Japanese companies as their users as well.

Elevator pitches with handheld megaphones

The festival also had an elevator-pitch session, where entrepreneurs were requested to pitch with a handheld megaphone (see picture below). When all was said and done, the winners were:

  • 3rd place: Shokunin-san, a job matching site for construction workers.
  • 2nd place: Anipipo, a crowdfunding site for animation content. It’s launching soon but still waiting for Paypal to approve them as a merchant.
  • 1st place: Craftstep, a how-to collection of handcraft matters, including things like Japanese paper foldings.
elevatorpitch
Tablet-focused web developer Social Agent pitches at Mono Festival

  1. Note that not all the startups introduced above have received fundraising from Samurai Incubate.  ↩

Gyao and Gree team up to invest in animation content development

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Gyao, a broadband video distribution company and a subsidiary of Yahoo Japan (TYO:4689), and Japanese social gaming giant Gree (TYO:3632) announced today the two companies have agreed to establish a fund to invest in animation content development. The fund will be worth 100 million yen (over $1 million dollars), and the two companies will split the ownership of the joint venture 50/50, and it will tentatively be called ‘Future Content Partners’. Content from the fund’s portfolio companies is expected to be distributed to Yahoo Japan’s premium service subscribers in formats for broadband video streaming, in social gaming, and more. Gyao, Gree, and Yahoo Japan have agreed to set up an information portal in the first half of this year, which focuses on introducing animated content such as games, video titles, and e-comic books. A recent survey says that the Japanese animation business is worth 219.7 billion yen (or approximately $2.3 billion), and revenues have been on the rise for the last three years. When we look at the retail business that springs from the animation industry, such as merchandising character toys, its volume exceeds more than a trillion ($10.6 billion). So it’s definitely a lucrative space. GREE (English / Japanese)

yahoo-gree

Gyao, a broadband video distribution company and a subsidiary of Yahoo Japan (TYO:4689), and Japanese social gaming giant Gree (TYO:3632) announced today the two companies have agreed to establish a fund to invest in animation content development. The fund will be worth 100 million yen (over $1 million dollars), and the two companies will split the ownership of the joint venture 50/50, and it will tentatively be called ‘Future Content Partners’.

Content from the fund’s portfolio companies is expected to be distributed to Yahoo Japan’s premium service subscribers in formats for broadband video streaming, in social gaming, and more. Gyao, Gree, and Yahoo Japan have agreed to set up an information portal in the first half of this year, which focuses on introducing animated content such as games, video titles, and e-comic books.

A recent survey says that the Japanese animation business is worth 219.7 billion yen (or approximately $2.3 billion), and revenues have been on the rise for the last three years. When we look at the retail business that springs from the animation industry, such as merchandising character toys, its volume exceeds more than a trillion ($10.6 billion). So it’s definitely a lucrative space.

GREE (English / Japanese)