THE BRIDGE

News

Japanese corporate communication platform Talknote has more than 5,000 clients

SHARE:

See the original story in Japanese. Talknote, a Tokyo-based startup providing an in-company social network platform for sharing among colleagues, announced that it has acquired more than 5,000 corporate users. The startup was launched in February of 2010, pivoted to a communication tool for business in 2011, and raised funds from CyberAgent Ventures in March of 2012 [1]. They’ve been seeing good numbers lately with 1,400 corporate users coming on board in the last two months, and company’s CEO Haruo Koike says the service will be reaching a growth rate of 1,000 users a month very soon. It was more than three years ago when I met with Haruo for the first time to discuss the original version of Talknote. At that time it was intended for chatting in closed groups, but the shift to target enterprise users has yielded good results. The CEO’s eccentric background has really helped the rapid growth of the company. He has been running several restaurants since he was young, and I still remember how he emphasized the importance of feature phone-optimization for web services, making them easier to use at working sites like restaurants where adoption of digital services can be very slow. And…

talknote_logo

See the original story in Japanese.

Talknote, a Tokyo-based startup providing an in-company social network platform for sharing among colleagues, announced that it has acquired more than 5,000 corporate users. The startup was launched in February of 2010, pivoted to a communication tool for business in 2011, and raised funds from CyberAgent Ventures in March of 2012 [1].

They’ve been seeing good numbers lately with 1,400 corporate users coming on board in the last two months, and company’s CEO Haruo Koike says the service will be reaching a growth rate of 1,000 users a month very soon.

It was more than three years ago when I met with Haruo for the first time to discuss the original version of Talknote. At that time it was intended for chatting in closed groups, but the shift to target enterprise users has yielded good results.

The CEO’s eccentric background has really helped the rapid growth of the company. He has been running several restaurants since he was young, and I still remember how he emphasized the importance of feature phone-optimization for web services, making them easier to use at working sites like restaurants where adoption of digital services can be very slow. And he has apparently done a good job of bringing such businesses onto his platform. Haruo tells me that internet companies and IT business account for only the 20% of the entire user base. The rest are restaurants which were accustomed to fax or feature phone-based e-mails for their internal communication.

talknote_usergrowth
The Growth of Talknote subscribers (corporate accounts)

Most users have learned about our service by word of mouth from restaurant owners whom I know, and they’ve decided to use the service not because of better usability than other tools but because those owners find the value that Talknote may help them get away from conventional analog communication tools.

When I saw it for the first time, I thought it was just a Yammer clone and would be a new group chat tool for high school girls. But what Haruo is proposing is not developing an innovative system but evolving ways of communication in places slow to adapt to digital. It will be long journey to make this happen.

Compared to the other businesses, people working in the restaurant industry can be very digitally challenged, they don’t want to use anything even if it’s a bit complicated. I’ve been working here for 10 years, and that experience helps a lot in developing the service.

We often follow cutting edge technologies or business models in the tech space. But this conversation reminds me that this is just the tip of the iceberg when building new services or new businesses. Talknote is expecting to acquire 10,000 users by the end of this year. We hope they’ll have a big impact on digitally challenged businesses with their product.


  1. The amount of funds raised was not disclosed.  ↩

Japanese tower defense hit ‘Battle Cats’ marches on, now with 4 million downloads

SHARE:

The Japanese tower defense game Battle Cats from Kyoto-based developer Ponos has just surpassed 4 million downloads, this according to Gamebiz.jp. This comes shortly after the title passed the 2 million downloads milestone just last month. The game was initially released for iOS back in November, with the Android version following at the end of December. The title has been a top 50 iOS app in Japan for the majority of 2013, and a top 5 stallworth in the strategy category. The Android version has done even better, starting out a little slow, but staying in the top 25 of all Android apps for Japan since early January, with the exception of a few days. Personally I’m a huge fan of this game, and I’m really glad to see it doing well. I confess, that Puzzle & Dragon’s has displaced Battle Cats somewhat in my gaming time, but if I can ever get past chapter 3, round 48, then I expect my addiction will re-kindle pretty quickly. While I haven’t yet cracked the problem of beating chapter 3, some readers have inquired about beating chapter 2. So here’s a short video (above) which gives an overview of that round. I…

The Japanese tower defense game Battle Cats from Kyoto-based developer Ponos has just surpassed 4 million downloads, this according to Gamebiz.jp. This comes shortly after the title passed the 2 million downloads milestone just last month. The game was initially released for iOS back in November, with the Android version following at the end of December.

The title has been a top 50 iOS app in Japan for the majority of 2013, and a top 5 stallworth in the strategy category. The Android version has done even better, starting out a little slow, but staying in the top 25 of all Android apps for Japan since early January, with the exception of a few days.

battlecats

Personally I’m a huge fan of this game, and I’m really glad to see it doing well. I confess, that Puzzle & Dragon’s has displaced Battle Cats somewhat in my gaming time, but if I can ever get past chapter 3, round 48, then I expect my addiction will re-kindle pretty quickly.

While I haven’t yet cracked the problem of beating chapter 3, some readers have inquired about beating chapter 2. So here’s a short video (above) which gives an overview of that round. I hope it helps!

If you’re a fan of Battle Cats, feel free to share your tips or invite codes in the comment section below.

Tokyo’s iPad-powered bars remember your favorite drinks

SHARE:

A new bar just opened yesterday in Tokyo’s busy Shibuya district, bringing with it a new digital solution that could disrupt the bar industry. It’s called LogBar, and was founded by entrepreneurial programmers Takuro Yoshida and Takayuki Yamazaki. When you step inside the bar, you receive an iPad upon which you should sign in with a username and password. Every order of beverages, alcohol, and appetizers is to be made on the iPad. You can also interact with bartenders and other customers on the app, which have been specifically designed for the bar. The app allows you to check what the other customers have ordered and to throw them a ‘like’ as well. The two founders are not satisfied with developing digital-centric solutions, but wanted to explore digital solution opportunities by connecting online to offline. By accumulating your orders on the app, your drink preference will be stored on the system, so you might see a suggested drink that suits your tastes at a participating bar in the network, even if it’s your first time there. Their bars are located at two locations in Shibuya, but are open only on Monday evenings. Traditionally, the best bars are the ones where…

logbar_entranceA new bar just opened yesterday in Tokyo’s busy Shibuya district, bringing with it a new digital solution that could disrupt the bar industry. It’s called LogBar, and was founded by entrepreneurial programmers Takuro Yoshida and Takayuki Yamazaki.

When you step inside the bar, you receive an iPad upon which you should sign in with a username and password. Every order of beverages, alcohol, and appetizers is to be made on the iPad. You can also interact with bartenders and other customers on the app, which have been specifically designed for the bar. The app allows you to check what the other customers have ordered and to throw them a ‘like’ as well.

logbarapp_screenshotThe two founders are not satisfied with developing digital-centric solutions, but wanted to explore digital solution opportunities by connecting online to offline. By accumulating your orders on the app, your drink preference will be stored on the system, so you might see a suggested drink that suits your tastes at a participating bar in the network, even if it’s your first time there. Their bars are located at two locations in Shibuya, but are open only on Monday evenings.

Traditionally, the best bars are the ones where bartenders remember customers’ preferences, and customers might often frequent establishments where they enjoy chatting with the bar staff. This is why many consider the bar industry to be one of the most difficult sectors in which to develop a franchise business. But with this new technology, you might find that a bar you’ve never been inside before could know your name and favorite drink in advance!

logbar_ipad_and_cocktail

Animation effects startup Cybernoids raises $557K for global expansion

SHARE:

Cybernoids, a Tokyo-based startup developing two-dimensional animation technology, announced on Monday it has raised 52.4 million yen (approximately $557,000) from Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Seibu Shinkin Capital, and visual-effects developer Qtec. The funds are to be used to intensifying the company’s business expansion overseas. The startup has developed a new image rendering technology called Live 2D, which makes it easier to add motions or expression changes to characters animated in 2D. The company’s CEO Tetsuya Nakajo explains the global market potential of their flagship technology: The overseas animation industry has no similar technology because they’ve been developing only 3-dimensional animation titles. Cybernoids was founded in July of 2006, and the Live 2D technology was chosen as one of the year’s finalists for Mitou, a bi-annual software engineering promotion program run by a governmental IT promotional agency of Japan. The company’s Flash-based technology helps smartphone game developers easily create animated character motion, and it has been deployed to more than 40 game titles including Konami’s virtual dating game for females, Tokimeki Restaurant. The company is exhibiting the latest version of its Live 2D technology at the Game Developers Conference 2013, which is currently underway in San Francisco. Check out the following video from…

cybernoids_logoCybernoids, a Tokyo-based startup developing two-dimensional animation technology, announced on Monday it has raised 52.4 million yen (approximately $557,000) from Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Seibu Shinkin Capital, and visual-effects developer Qtec. The funds are to be used to intensifying the company’s business expansion overseas.

The startup has developed a new image rendering technology called Live 2D, which makes it easier to add motions or expression changes to characters animated in 2D. The company’s CEO Tetsuya Nakajo explains the global market potential of their flagship technology:

The overseas animation industry has no similar technology because they’ve been developing only 3-dimensional animation titles.

live2d_screenshot

Cybernoids was founded in July of 2006, and the Live 2D technology was chosen as one of the year’s finalists for Mitou, a bi-annual software engineering promotion program run by a governmental IT promotional agency of Japan. The company’s Flash-based technology helps smartphone game developers easily create animated character motion, and it has been deployed to more than 40 game titles including Konami’s virtual dating game for females, Tokimeki Restaurant.

The company is exhibiting the latest version of its Live 2D technology at the Game Developers Conference 2013, which is currently underway in San Francisco. Check out the following video from the folks at Diginfo News for more information on how the technology works.

Japanese auction price comparison site Aucfan approved for IPO in April

SHARE:

Aucfan, a Tokyo-based startup featuring price comparisons and quotes for items from several auction sites, was approved to IPO on Friday and is expected to be listed on the TSE Mothers stock exchange, a market for emerging companies. Aucfan started out way back in September of 2000 as a part of Defacto Standard, a company known for operating Brandear, an online pawn shop and luxury second-hand e-commerce site. It was spun off in 2009. Aucfan curates price quotes from major auction sites including Yahoo Auction, Moba Oku (Mobile Auction by DeNA), Rakuten Auction, and even some international sites such as eBay and Taobao. The service suggests the best bidding price for the item that you want, which is a handy feature for shoppers on the lookout for the best deals. Aucfan has acquired more than 240,000 users (as of September of 2012), and approximately 30,000 of them subscribe to premium services. Most paid users are probably avid auction traders who need to be conscious about prices, as many of them can get revenue from taking advantage of price gaps, buying items at an auction site and selling them at another one. The company’s major shareholders include the company’s founder Shuichi…

aucfan_logoAucfan, a Tokyo-based startup featuring price comparisons and quotes for items from several auction sites, was approved to IPO on Friday and is expected to be listed on the TSE Mothers stock exchange, a market for emerging companies.

Aucfan started out way back in September of 2000 as a part of Defacto Standard, a company known for operating Brandear, an online pawn shop and luxury second-hand e-commerce site. It was spun off in 2009.

Aucfan curates price quotes from major auction sites including Yahoo Auction, Moba Oku (Mobile Auction by DeNA), Rakuten Auction, and even some international sites such as eBay and Taobao. The service suggests the best bidding price for the item that you want, which is a handy feature for shoppers on the lookout for the best deals. Aucfan has acquired more than 240,000 users (as of September of 2012), and approximately 30,000 of them subscribe to premium services. Most paid users are probably avid auction traders who need to be conscious about prices, as many of them can get revenue from taking advantage of price gaps, buying items at an auction site and selling them at another one.

The company’s major shareholders include the company’s founder Shuichi Takenaga, Globis Capital Partners, Digital Garage, NetPrice.com, Gree, and Kyoto University’s startup fund. In the last fiscal period ending September of 2012, they achieved about 620 million yen ($6.5million) in net sales with 201 million yen ($2.1million) in operating income.

aucfan_screenshot

Japan’s Softbank Mobile to acquire majority shares of game developer Gungho Online Entertainment

SHARE:

Japanese mobile carrier Softbank Mobile announced today it would tender an offer of social gaming giant Gungho Online Entertainment. Softbank (TSE:9984) was founded by Masayoshi Son, and Gungho was founded by Masayoshi’s young brother Taizo Son who is also a serial entrepreneur and now running a tech startup incubator called Movida Japan. Gungho has been getting lots of attention from investors because of its hugely popular titles Puzzle & Dragons and Ragnarok Online, making the company’s stock price five times what it was at the beginning of this year. By partnering with the gaming company, Softbank Mobile expects to expand the sales of online and smartphone game titles using the company’s global business. Softbank’s announcement can be found over on its website in English and in Japanese (PDFs) GungHo’s Puzzle & Dragons recently surpassed the 10 million downloads milestone on March 9th, but perhaps its biggest accomplishment to date has been its longevity on the top grossing apps charts, and is reportedly has a market cap of about $4.6 billion [1]. The company’s success to date has primarily been limited to Japan. It has a US subsidiary, but it remains to be seen if global users will get behind the…

softbank-gungho

Japanese mobile carrier Softbank Mobile announced today it would tender an offer of social gaming giant Gungho Online Entertainment. Softbank (TSE:9984) was founded by Masayoshi Son, and Gungho was founded by Masayoshi’s young brother Taizo Son who is also a serial entrepreneur and now running a tech startup incubator called Movida Japan.

Gungho has been getting lots of attention from investors because of its hugely popular titles Puzzle & Dragons and Ragnarok Online, making the company’s stock price five times what it was at the beginning of this year. By partnering with the gaming company, Softbank Mobile expects to expand the sales of online and smartphone game titles using the company’s global business. Softbank’s announcement can be found over on its website in English and in Japanese (PDFs)

GungHo’s Puzzle & Dragons recently surpassed the 10 million downloads milestone on March 9th, but perhaps its biggest accomplishment to date has been its longevity on the top grossing apps charts, and is reportedly has a market cap of about $4.6 billion [1].

The company’s success to date has primarily been limited to Japan. It has a US subsidiary, but it remains to be seen if global users will get behind the P&D phenomenon.

Gungho also recently launched its own online store for Puzzle & Dragon’s merchandise, where you can pick up plush toys, iPhone cases, and even P&D mugs. So far, it’s just for fans in Japan, but we hope to see an international version later on if the game catches on elsewhere.

If you’d like a general introduction to the wildly popular game, check out our video demo below.


  1. This according to Serkan Toto.  ↩

Japan tech this week: Apps for finance, photos, and fair skin

SHARE:

We’ve had another fun week here at SD, doing our best to bring you interesting tech stories going down in Japan. But in case you missed any of it, here’s a wrap up below. If you’d like to get this weekly summary plus other bonus content, we hope you’ll check out our shiny new newsletter here. Features Japan increasingly turning to Facebook to reach potential tourists 03/24 5 photo apps with fantastic skin filters that Japanese women prefer 03/23 ‘Super lettuce’ grown under LED lights in Japan 03/18 Business How one Japanese fashion brand is using smartphones to connect with customers 03/22 Japan’s members-only discount site LUXA raises $5.32M 03/21 2012 was Apple’s first year on top of Japan’s mobile market 03/21 Fabless printing startup Raksul partners with Stores.jp, fulfills printing needs for e-store owners 03/21 Japanese fashion e-commerce service Laso raises $2.1M from DCM 03/20 Language Cloud gets investment boost from CyberAgent Ventures 03/19 Japanese hit game ‘Puzzle and Dragons’ gets its own online store 03/18 Design New transparent, foldable material could be the future of e-paper 03/20 Sony TVs through the years [Timeline] 03/19 Apps So you’re the new Japanese prime minister, eh? There’s an app for that!…

sakura

We’ve had another fun week here at SD, doing our best to bring you interesting tech stories going down in Japan. But in case you missed any of it, here’s a wrap up below. If you’d like to get this weekly summary plus other bonus content, we hope you’ll check out our shiny new newsletter here.

Features

Business

Design

Apps

Startups

Others

So you’re the new Japanese prime minister, eh? There’s an app for that!

SHARE:

On Friday the Japanese prime minister’s office unveiled smartphone apps for Android and iOS, with aim of giving the country’s leader more reach to among Japanese nationals. It uses a smartphone app framework called News Agent, which was developed by Tokyo-based smartphone app developer Brave Soft. The end result gives smartphone users easy access to announcements from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as a stream of news photos from summits and diplomatic conferences he has been attending. The app has no especially impressive features from a technical point of view, and often redirects you to the PMO’s Facebook page or Abe’s own Facebook page. However, for the younger generation who don’t subscribe to physical newspapers or watch TV news shows, it could be a good touch point for them to stay up to speed on Japanese politics. In addition, when the government has an important announcement, it will be published on the app as an official update from the prime minister, and you’ll get a notification as well. Last October, the PMO has set up an account on the Line messaging platform, which gives access to potentially over 40 million Japanese people, almost one-third of Japan’s entire population. On…

pmo_app

On Friday the Japanese prime minister’s office unveiled smartphone apps for Android and iOS, with aim of giving the country’s leader more reach to among Japanese nationals. It uses a smartphone app framework called News Agent, which was developed by Tokyo-based smartphone app developer Brave Soft. The end result gives smartphone users easy access to announcements from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as a stream of news photos from summits and diplomatic conferences he has been attending.

The app has no especially impressive features from a technical point of view, and often redirects you to the PMO’s Facebook page or Abe’s own Facebook page. However, for the younger generation who don’t subscribe to physical newspapers or watch TV news shows, it could be a good touch point for them to stay up to speed on Japanese politics. In addition, when the government has an important announcement, it will be published on the app as an official update from the prime minister, and you’ll get a notification as well.

Last October, the PMO has set up an account on the Line messaging platform, which gives access to potentially over 40 million Japanese people, almost one-third of Japan’s entire population.

On a related note, here’s some mobile apps published by governmental offices in other countries:

  • USA: The White House app  ( iOS / Android )
  • UK: Official Number 10 app ( iOS )
  • Korea: Presidential Office “Cheong Wa Dae” app ( iOS / Olleh / TStore )

Google Maps adds spectacular 45-degree aerial view to select Japanese cities

SHARE:

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has announced that it has added Tokyo, Kawasaki, Chiba, and Sendai to the list of cities worldwide that have the slick 45-degree aerial view feature. Somewhat similar to Apple’s touted ‘flyover’ feature, this view was initially rolled out in 37 US cities as well as 14 international cities last year. Now on Google Maps you can check out iconic locations such as Tokyo Tower or even the new Tokyo Skytree from a 45-degree vantage point. As you can see in the pictures below, the view looks pretty amazing. The 45-degree perspective doesn’t appear right away, but once you’ve zoomed into a certain level, it suddenly kicks in. Eye-candy aside, this is actually a pretty practical feature, especially if you’re trying to scout out a new place you plan to visit. I find myself often confused when visiting some stations, so I expect to make use of it often [1[. You might also want to check out Google’s Streetview compilation of cherry blossom viewing spots. Trees are just starting to bloom in Japan, so if you’d like to scout a spot near you for this weekend, this is a fun resource to explore! Sometimes it feels a little like…

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has announced that it has added Tokyo, Kawasaki, Chiba, and Sendai to the list of cities worldwide that have the slick 45-degree aerial view feature. Somewhat similar to Apple’s touted ‘flyover’ feature, this view was initially rolled out in 37 US cities as well as 14 international cities last year.

Now on Google Maps you can check out iconic locations such as Tokyo Tower or even the new Tokyo Skytree from a 45-degree vantage point. As you can see in the pictures below, the view looks pretty amazing. The 45-degree perspective doesn’t appear right away, but once you’ve zoomed into a certain level, it suddenly kicks in.

tokyo-tower-google-maps

tokyo-skytree-google-maps

Eye-candy aside, this is actually a pretty practical feature, especially if you’re trying to scout out a new place you plan to visit. I find myself often confused when visiting some stations, so I expect to make use of it often [1[.

You might also want to check out Google’s Streetview compilation of cherry blossom viewing spots. Trees are just starting to bloom in Japan, so if you’d like to scout a spot near you for this weekend, this is a fun resource to explore!


  1. Sometimes it feels a little like Mario Bros, coming up in a strange new world after traveling around in a series of pipes. ↩

Japan’s members-only discount site LUXA raises $5.32M

SHARE:

Tokyo-based e-commerce website LUXA has announced today that it has raised 500 million yen in series B funding from the JAFCO Super V3 Fund. For those outside Japan who might not be familiar with the site, LUXA is a sort of ‘outlet shopping’ site which offers products at discount prices for a limited time, with sales typically lasting for just 72 hours for its members. The site has over 350,000 members to date, mostly people in their 30s and 40s, with products recently showing a heavy slant towards cosmetics and appliances. The company’s founder and CEO Swimmy Minami explains more about the service: LUXA aims to provide a unique online shopping experience, similar to what is offered at real-life premium outlet malls. The buyers stakeholders of various categories in LUXA will continue to focus on curating the best premium products and luxury experiences for its membership and make LUXA into an essential online shopping destination full of new discoveries. The new funds will be used to help the service grow, specifically in terms of its sales staff as well as customer acquisition, particularly on mobile where the site has seen a six-fold increase in revenue over the course of 2012….

luxa-jpTokyo-based e-commerce website LUXA has announced today that it has raised 500 million yen in series B funding from the JAFCO Super V3 Fund. For those outside Japan who might not be familiar with the site, LUXA is a sort of ‘outlet shopping’ site which offers products at discount prices for a limited time, with sales typically lasting for just 72 hours for its members.

The site has over 350,000 members to date, mostly people in their 30s and 40s, with products recently showing a heavy slant towards cosmetics and appliances. The company’s founder and CEO Swimmy Minami explains more about the service:

LUXA aims to provide a unique online shopping experience, similar to what is offered at real-life premium outlet malls. The buyers stakeholders of various categories in LUXA will continue to focus on curating the best premium products and luxury experiences for its membership and make LUXA into an essential online shopping destination full of new discoveries.

The new funds will be used to help the service grow, specifically in terms of its sales staff as well as customer acquisition, particularly on mobile where the site has seen a six-fold increase in revenue over the course of 2012.

In addition to Tokyo, the company also has offices in Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka. This round of funding brings its total amount raised to 10 billion yen (or $10.6 million).

I was lucky enough to have a chance to meet with Swimmy just last week, and hear more about how Luxa has grown. He’s a bold entrepreneur, and it will be interesting to see where he steers Luxa in the future.

luxa-home