THE BRIDGE

Startups

For fresh graduates in Japan, a new startup eases the pain of job hunting

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Typically graduating students in Japan begin their job-hunting process in the fall in their junior year, and spend around six months to a year searching for the best employer. The state of economy certainly has has impact on the job market too. According to Nikkei, the job openings to applications ratio for big companies with over 5,000 employees is as small as 0.60. But an interesting student recruiting service is trying to lend them a hand. It’s called Wild Card, and it just recently launched in beta. With this new service, which is integrated with Facebook, students and employers can find a better match faster and easier. Students can start by connecting to their Facebook account and upload proof of the job offers they have received, such as an email or some sort of document. After careful screening, other companies using Wild Card can search for promising students, and seeing that they have already passed one screening process, they can reach out to them knowing the student has already met the initial criteria. In this way, talented students can skip the hassle of filling out endless application forms, taking recruiting tests, and doing group interviews. The founder of Wild Card,…

wildcard-logo

Typically graduating students in Japan begin their job-hunting process in the fall in their junior year, and spend around six months to a year searching for the best employer. The state of economy certainly has has impact on the job market too. According to Nikkei, the job openings to applications ratio for big companies with over 5,000 employees is as small as 0.60.

But an interesting student recruiting service is trying to lend them a hand. It’s called Wild Card, and it just recently launched in beta.

wildcard-studentWith this new service, which is integrated with Facebook, students and employers can find a better match faster and easier. Students can start by connecting to their Facebook account and upload proof of the job offers they have received, such as an email or some sort of document. After careful screening, other companies using Wild Card can search for promising students, and seeing that they have already passed one screening process, they can reach out to them knowing the student has already met the initial criteria. In this way, talented students can skip the hassle of filling out endless application forms, taking recruiting tests, and doing group interviews.

The founder of Wild Card, Tairo Moriyama, further elaborates:

From my experience in HR, I thought it would be great if competent students with job offers from one company could skip the early recruiting process with other companies. Because the recruiting of brilliant new graduates is very competitive, some students feel pressured to commit to one company after receiving a job offer. But students should be allowed to see other options and figure out what’s best for them.

The site plans to go public in May and has already seen 500 students register in the first week. Wild Card is a great idea, in my view, because one job offer opens many doors to other potential jobs, and for students who live in the suburbs it will save them a lot of time and money.

Wild Card is convenient for companies too, because students on the site have already passed screening by other companies, making the recruiting process more efficient. The service uses a performance-based fee model, charging the company if the prospect is hired.

Wild Card has plans to release a mid-career version in the near future, so stay tuned for that as well.

Cinnamon pitching private photo sharing to the Southeast Asian market

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At the Startup Asia conference today in Singapore, Cinnamon – a startup led by CEO Miku Hirano – pitched a new photo app called ‘Seconds.’ I recently had a chance to meet with Miku, who gave me a preview of the soon-to-be-released app. To be launched first on the Android platform, she says that she would like Seconds to replace your native camera app, with private photo sharing features targeting the Southeast Asia market to start. The app is is simple and easy to use. You just take a photo, and choose your desired album for upload. Photos added are immediately visible to members who have access to that album, and those members can also upload pictures as well. You can also create any number of albums, which differ depending on who has access – it could be your family, friends, or your significant other. With photos being automatically uploaded, you don’t have to worry about losing your pictures if you misplace your phone or have it stolen. Cinnamon plans to release the app first in Thailand, says Miku, a country known for its love of photo sharing. They’re targeting the huge population of Southeast Asia because private sharing is…

At the Startup Asia conference today in Singapore, Cinnamon – a startup led by CEO Miku Hirano – pitched a new photo app called ‘Seconds.’ I recently had a chance to meet with Miku, who gave me a preview of the soon-to-be-released app. To be launched first on the Android platform, she says that she would like Seconds to replace your native camera app, with private photo sharing features targeting the Southeast Asia market to start.

The app is is simple and easy to use. You just take a photo, and choose your desired album for upload. Photos added are immediately visible to members who have access to that album, and those members can also upload pictures as well.

miku-hirano-cinnamon
Cinnamon CEO Miku Hirano

You can also create any number of albums, which differ depending on who has access – it could be your family, friends, or your significant other. With photos being automatically uploaded, you don’t have to worry about losing your pictures if you misplace your phone or have it stolen.

Cinnamon plans to release the app first in Thailand, says Miku, a country known for its love of photo sharing. They’re targeting the huge population of Southeast Asia because private sharing is a little bit more popular in Asian regions. They hope that more mature mobile markets like Japan, China, and Korea will help make it profitable.

Cinnamon was founded in Singapore back in October, and received seed funding December from CyberAgent Ventures and other angel investors. Currently the company has a headcount of like 10 people including its president at Hajime Hotta.

There are many ways in which they hope they can monetize Seconds, likely with premium features or with ads. If they go for premium model would mean extra features like storage, filters, decoration, or Facebook sync.

Tomorrow is day two of Startup Asia, so it will be interesting to see how Cinnamon fares in the field of 20 Asian startups. I had the pleasure of being a part of the last Startup Asia event in Jakarta last year, where the winner of the startup event was Moso, the sole Japanese entry in the competition.

seconds-app

New Docomo startup fund invests in two up-and-coming Japanese companies

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As we reported back in February, NTT Docomo launched a new startup fund worth 10 billion yen (about $100 million), along with an incubation program with 500 Startups and Japan’s B Dash Ventures. Today, the telco-backed investment arm unveiled the first selection of companies for the fund: tech news media company Iid and CRM solution developer Repica. Iid was founded back in 2000 as a subsidiary of internet research company IRI. That company has been running 23 web media entities across 16 different genres, including the notable tech news site RBBToday.com. The company also has developed an e-commerce site solution called Marble ASP as well. With the new funds, the company expects to intensify further mobile optimization of these news sites for its e-commerce platform. IID’s sharehoders include Globis Capital Partners, Inspire Investment, Itochu Technology Ventures, and Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings. Repica was founded in 2006 by former executives at Japanese mobile service giant Cybird Holdings. The company provides merchants with several customer-facing white-label CRM solutions such as a customer reward system, a gift coupon system, and a mobile-optimized e-mail distribution system. The company’s subsidiary Arara is known for running restaurant clipping app called Gugulog, as well as a smartphone app…

As we reported back in February, NTT Docomo launched a new startup fund worth 10 billion yen (about $100 million), along with an incubation program with 500 Startups and Japan’s B Dash Ventures.

Today, the telco-backed investment arm unveiled the first selection of companies for the fund: tech news media company Iid and CRM solution developer Repica.

IID's RBBToday.com
IID’s RBBToday.com

Iid was founded back in 2000 as a subsidiary of internet research company IRI. That company has been running 23 web media entities across 16 different genres, including the notable tech news site RBBToday.com. The company also has developed an e-commerce site solution called Marble ASP as well. With the new funds, the company expects to intensify further mobile optimization of these news sites for its e-commerce platform.

IID’s sharehoders include Globis Capital Partners, Inspire Investment, Itochu Technology Ventures, and Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings.

Repica's Appli-sommelier
Repica’s Appli-sommelier

Repica was founded in 2006 by former executives at Japanese mobile service giant Cybird Holdings. The company provides merchants with several customer-facing white-label CRM solutions such as a customer reward system, a gift coupon system, and a mobile-optimized e-mail distribution system. The company’s subsidiary Arara is known for running restaurant clipping app called Gugulog, as well as a smartphone app review site called Appli-sommelier.

Repica raised 113.4 million yen, hoping to integrate its apps and services on smartphone devices, and to intensify its global business expansion.

A new service gives Japanese students key info about their classes and profs

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For businesses, school systems, and lots of organizations in Japan, everything starts around April. For new students to in universities, they have passed the entrance exams successfully and are full of expectations for what will happen. Capitalizing on this phenomenon, a mobile app called Sugoi Jikanwari, roughly translated as ‘Timetable Wow’ in English, is getting lots of traction among students right now, despite the fact that it was first introduced last July. Available on desktop, Android and iOS, the app features user-generated content from university students, allowing them to find information about universities. For example, they could find out which courses are an easy credit, which professor gives especially interesting lectures, or even which lecturers strictly check attendance. There is a social networking feature for sharing knowledge with classmates, where you can easily find out about a sudden lecture cancellation without going to your school campus. Android version Timetable Wow was invented by a Tokyo-based web startup called Labit, which is led by young standout entrepreneur Hiroyuki Tsuruta, aka Mocchi. When the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the country in 2011, he developed a website called PrayforJapan.jp. That site was a place where people around the world could share their…

labit_logoFor businesses, school systems, and lots of organizations in Japan, everything starts around April. For new students to in universities, they have passed the entrance exams successfully and are full of expectations for what will happen. Capitalizing on this phenomenon, a mobile app called Sugoi Jikanwari, roughly translated as ‘Timetable Wow’ in English, is getting lots of traction among students right now, despite the fact that it was first introduced last July.

Available on desktop, Android and iOS, the app features user-generated content from university students, allowing them to find information about universities. For example, they could find out which courses are an easy credit, which professor gives especially interesting lectures, or even which lecturers strictly check attendance.

There is a social networking feature for sharing knowledge with classmates, where you can easily find out about a sudden lecture cancellation without going to your school campus.

sugojika_androidapp
Android version

Timetable Wow was invented by a Tokyo-based web startup called Labit, which is led by young standout entrepreneur Hiroyuki Tsuruta, aka Mocchi. When the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the country in 2011, he developed a website called PrayforJapan.jp. That site was a place where people around the world could share their thoughts and prayers for disaster victims, and more than 10 million people have the site in total.

As of last January, the Timetable app had acquired more than 90,000 users, with profiles of more than 380,000 lectures given at 1,114 universities and colleges in Japan. In terms of monetization, the app might be a good platform for potential advertisers to reach out to the university student demographic.

Labit was founded in April of 2011, and fundraised unknown amount (probably several tens of million yen) from NetAge, Recruit Incubation Partners, and six Japanese serial entrepreneurs.


From a presentation at the Infinity Venture Summit 2011

How do you child-proof your smartphone? Japan’s Mimamorl app does the trick

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On mobile, there is a lot of content out there that might be inappropriate for young kids (especially in gaming), and parents might want to be cautious when handing smartphones to their children. Mimamorl is an Android app and website that was recently published by Unirings, which tries to address this problem. By turning on the Mimamorl app on a given Android smartphone, kids can only access contents chosen by their parents. And if you want to exit the app, a password is required. The app effectively makes any Android smartphone child-proof, and it can also be useful during times of crisis or during a natural disaster in order to find your child’s whereabouts. The app has attracted a lot of attention, especially among working parents who can’t watch over their child, and also by parents whose kids commute to a jyuku (a sort of an after school prep-school that many Japanese kids go to) where it is not uncommon for kids to come home after 10pm. Mimamorl delivers geolocation data to a map once every hour which parents are able to view via web browser. The startup plans to introduce a premium account where the location is acquired every ten minutes…

mimamori-weblogo

On mobile, there is a lot of content out there that might be inappropriate for young kids (especially in gaming), and parents might want to be cautious when handing smartphones to their children. Mimamorl is an Android app and website that was recently published by Unirings, which tries to address this problem. By turning on the Mimamorl app on a given Android smartphone, kids can only access contents chosen by their parents. And if you want to exit the app, a password is required.

homeThe app effectively makes any Android smartphone child-proof, and it can also be useful during times of crisis or during a natural disaster in order to find your child’s whereabouts.

The app has attracted a lot of attention, especially among working parents who can’t watch over their child, and also by parents whose kids commute to a jyuku (a sort of an after school prep-school that many Japanese kids go to) where it is not uncommon for kids to come home after 10pm. Mimamorl delivers geolocation data to a map once every hour which parents are able to view via web browser. The startup plans to introduce a premium account where the location is acquired every ten minutes (for up to two kids) for the price of 315 yen, or about $3.40.

While developing the app, Masato Hoshi, the CEO of Unirings explains that the team conducted many user interviews.

Parents are not looking to monitor their children, but rather they wishes to have [adequate information] in times of emergencies. In fact, in the first version of the app, a child’s location was indicated by his photo, but many parents gave us feedback that it made them feel uncomfortable. They felt as if they were constantly monitoring their child’s activities.

mimamori-map

I assume that there is a great demand for solutions like Mimamorl, even for families with kids who just entered elementary school. Hoshi explains that the reason why they’re not seeing direct competitors yet is because of technological difficulties in this space. The app is developed using Scala and the Play framework. They also used Open Street Map to allow room for scalability. Outside Japan for example, there are maps indicating residential locations of sex offenders, but here, maybe they might find need to create a map of high radiation areas for general safety.

Hoshi also emphasized the power saving capabilities of the app:

When geolocation is enabled on a smartphone, the battery only lasts for a maximum of three hours. On Mimamorl, we designed the app so that if you leave home with a fully charged phone, the battery will last until late at night even with geolocation enabled. In addition, our technology enables us to acquire a more precise geolocation regardless of the device being used.

In the future, Mimamorl plans to add an alarm feature that when tapped by a child, automatically sends notification emails to their parents. Also, by registering a certain area up-front, the app will notify parents when children enter the vicinity. Mimamorl’s main target are kids in third grade up to middle school.

KakaoTalk passes 10 million downloads in Japan

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While NHN Japan’s Line is winning the chat application war in Japan by a large margin with over 45 million users [1], KakaoTalk is the likely number two in the nation. Today Kakao Japan announced that the KakaoTalk chat app has surpassed the 10 million downloads mark back on March 24. To mark the occasion, the company will have a week-long campaign where fans can win prizes like a Macbook Air and a Pentax Q10 zoom lens kit. What both KakaoTalk and Line have in common in Japan is that both have chosen to advertise heavily on TV in the country. DeNA’s Comm is perhaps the other notable contender with 5 million users as of this past December. I wouldn’t be surprised if Comm also has about 8 or 9 million users currently, given the frequency of its TV commercials. Back in October of 2012, Yahoo Japan (TYO:4689) – the country’s largest web portal – picked up a 50% stake in Kakao Japan. That backing makes KakaoTalk an interesting challenger for Line, even if the competition between the two is not so close right now. Like Line, Kakao Japan heavily features games on its chat platform, with casual titles like…

kakaojapan

While NHN Japan’s Line is winning the chat application war in Japan by a large margin with over 45 million users [1], KakaoTalk is the likely number two in the nation. Today Kakao Japan announced that the KakaoTalk chat app has surpassed the 10 million downloads mark back on March 24. To mark the occasion, the company will have a week-long campaign where fans can win prizes like a Macbook Air and a Pentax Q10 zoom lens kit.

What both KakaoTalk and Line have in common in Japan is that both have chosen to advertise heavily on TV in the country. DeNA’s Comm is perhaps the other notable contender with 5 million users as of this past December. I wouldn’t be surprised if Comm also has about 8 or 9 million users currently, given the frequency of its TV commercials.

Back in October of 2012, Yahoo Japan (TYO:4689) – the country’s largest web portal – picked up a 50% stake in Kakao Japan. That backing makes KakaoTalk an interesting challenger for Line, even if the competition between the two is not so close right now.

kakao talk
Kakao Japan

Like Line, Kakao Japan heavily features games on its chat platform, with casual titles like ZooZoo Bubble, SushiPanic, Tap Tap Blitz, and Pocket Colony.

Both KakaoTalk and Line are expected to make a more intense push for the US market this year, so stay tuned.

If you haven’t yet tried out KakaoTalk, you can get it over on the App Store, on Google Play, or on a number of other platforms.


  1. Line passed 45 million users in Japan back on March 10. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see Line Corporation to announce 50 million domestic downloads in the next month or two.  ↩

Pitapat launches invitation-only Q&A app for startups and entrepreneurs

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Tokyo-based startup Pitapat, known for having developed a Facemash-like girl-finding app, introduced its first (more pragmatic) app for business people today. It’s called Qixil [1], an invitation-only service which is open to entrepreneurs or venture founders only. Non-entrepreneurs can also sign up for the service if they receive an invitation from any of the existing users. The app is available on desktop and mobile, and is designed for entrepreneurs sharing knowledge about startups. It allows you to ask other users for tips or key advice on how to drive your startup. Pitapat has developed an algorithm to show you metrics on how much available advisors are trusted by the startup community, in important growth areas like investment, hiring, marketing etc. The service tries to make you feel as if you were discussing your choice with a group of mentors at an incubator. Pitapat won the top award at the 2011 Breakthrough Camp with its girl-hunting app called FaceMatch, and it became later a subsidiary of CyberAgent (TYO:4751) [2]. The app received much attention from the younger generation in Japan, mostly among males. But it suddenly shut down last September, and we’ve been looking forward to what they produce next. I’m…

pitapat_logoTokyo-based startup Pitapat, known for having developed a Facemash-like girl-finding app, introduced its first (more pragmatic) app for business people today. It’s called Qixil [1], an invitation-only service which is open to entrepreneurs or venture founders only. Non-entrepreneurs can also sign up for the service if they receive an invitation from any of the existing users.

The app is available on desktop and mobile, and is designed for entrepreneurs sharing knowledge about startups. It allows you to ask other users for tips or key advice on how to drive your startup. Pitapat has developed an algorithm to show you metrics on how much available advisors are trusted by the startup community, in important growth areas like investment, hiring, marketing etc. The service tries to make you feel as if you were discussing your choice with a group of mentors at an incubator.

Pitapat won the top award at the 2011 Breakthrough Camp with its girl-hunting app called FaceMatch, and it became later a subsidiary of CyberAgent (TYO:4751) [2]. The app received much attention from the younger generation in Japan, mostly among males. But it suddenly shut down last September, and we’ve been looking forward to what they produce next.

I’m not sure how they intend to monetize this new app, but it will be a really helpful tool for startup owners whenever they need some helpful advice.

qixil_screenshot
Qixil

  1. The pronunciation in Japanese sounds like ‘ask’ and learn’.  ↩

  2. No figures were disclosed for the acquisition.  ↩

Deadline approaching for G-startup event in Beijing, get your application in now!

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We just received a short note from the folks over at Beijing-based GWC reminding us that the deadline for their G-Startup event is just around the corner on April 8. For those who would like to apply, you can do so here. What I find interesting about startup events in the Asia region is that even though Japanese startups are typically under-represented, they always seem do well, punching above their weight class so to speak. So if you are a Japan-based startup looking for an opportunity to show off your company outside the country, G-Startup is certainly an event worth exploring. Check out the details below! G-Startup Beijing Approaches Deadline on April 8th Pitch your startup to a panel of serial entrepreneurs, angel investors, and VCs, while gaining massive exposure through international media! Every year, G-Startup pits top startups and app developers against each other for the chance to win investment, distribution, incubation and exposure. In 2012, G-Startup attracted applicants from 30 countries overall. Participants can expect to gain significant exposure to new opportunities. Case in point, last year’s winner Beiz from Finland raised $1 million USD investment and increased their user-base by 1 million after the competition! This year’s…

gstartup

We just received a short note from the folks over at Beijing-based GWC reminding us that the deadline for their G-Startup event is just around the corner on April 8. For those who would like to apply, you can do so here.

What I find interesting about startup events in the Asia region is that even though Japanese startups are typically under-represented, they always seem do well, punching above their weight class so to speak. So if you are a Japan-based startup looking for an opportunity to show off your company outside the country, G-Startup is certainly an event worth exploring.

Check out the details below!

G-Startup Beijing Approaches Deadline on April 8th

Pitch your startup to a panel of serial entrepreneurs, angel investors, and VCs, while gaining massive exposure through international media! Every year, G-Startup pits top startups and app developers against each other for the chance to win investment, distribution, incubation and exposure. In 2012, G-Startup attracted applicants from 30 countries overall.

Participants can expect to gain significant exposure to new opportunities. Case in point, last year’s winner Beiz from Finland raised $1 million USD investment and increased their user-base by 1 million after the competition!

This year’s event includes two tracks: the Startup Competition, and appAttack. The Startup Competition pitches startups against each other for investment, while appAttack finds the “Most Innovative App” and provides distribution avenues for the winner. Applications are accepted until April 8th.

G-Startup is a one stop for all your global startup needs:

  • Incubation
  • Partnerships
  • Networking and connections
  • Users and clients
  • Marketing/PR
  • Investment

Past competition partners have included: Innovation Works, ChinaAccelerator, PlugandPlay, InnoSpring and RocketSpace.

Closet shopping for material girls: Material Wrld makes its public debut

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Material Wrld, a high end marketplace for used clothes, made it’s official debut after six months in beta operation. This New York-based startup was co-founded by Japanese entreprenuer Rie Yano and her partner Jie Zheng. The service allows users to shop for interesting items from fashion taste-maker’s closets. For example, at the time of the official launch, the site is showcasing what’s inside the closets of popular female DJs in New York, the contents of which users are able to buy. Many features have been added to Material Wrld to kick off its launch, such as a personalized live feed where users can enjoy real-time updates and notifications of closets and style groups they follow. Style groups are aimed at making discovery and engagement with shoppable closets easier, based on shared style interests. It works sort of like Meetup.com, where users can create and join groups that best suits their interests, location, and associations, thus enhancing their curated shopping experience. Another new feature, Closet Roulette, lets users simply discover random closets. On the seller’s end, reviews by buyers and personal messaging feature were added to help them build credibility and trust in the Material Wrld community. In order to assist…

MaterialWrld-officiallaunch

Material Wrld, a high end marketplace for used clothes, made it’s official debut after six months in beta operation. This New York-based startup was co-founded by Japanese entreprenuer Rie Yano and her partner Jie Zheng. The service allows users to shop for interesting items from fashion taste-maker’s closets. For example, at the time of the official launch, the site is showcasing what’s inside the closets of popular female DJs in New York, the contents of which users are able to buy.

Many features have been added to Material Wrld to kick off its launch, such as a personalized live feed where users can enjoy real-time updates and notifications of closets and style groups they follow. Style groups are aimed at making discovery and engagement with shoppable closets easier, based on shared style interests. It works sort of like Meetup.com, where users can create and join groups that best suits their interests, location, and associations, thus enhancing their curated shopping experience. Another new feature, Closet Roulette, lets users simply discover random closets.

MaterialWrld-stylegroups-artist

On the seller’s end, reviews by buyers and personal messaging feature were added to help them build credibility and trust in the Material Wrld community. In order to assist sellers, the site recommends prices, based on the brand and category. The algorithm behind this price recommendation consists of data aggregated from the web, but the engine will learn and become smarter as more purchase data is collected on the site.

What differentiates Material Wrld from similar sites (like Poshmark, for example) is that its items are carefully selected, allowing only high-end brands and quality items to be showcased. While the average prices on similar sites are in the range of $20 to $30, on Material Wrld it is about $100. The site will monetize by taking a 15% transaction fee, but for now the focus is on growing its user base.

During its beta period Material Wrld saw over 100,000 visitors and the number of curated closets now stands around 300. The startup closed its seed round funding of $780,000 last December from Great Oaks VC and SunBridge Startups.

Material Wrld also plans to launch its mobile app in the near future, as well as make its international debut, possibly in Japan.

How Stores.jp is helping small businesses in Japan come online

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While it is unlikely that we’ll see an ecommerce competitor as huge as Rakuten in the near future, there is still much room to grow in the online commerce sector, especially for small businesses. According to research by Japanese Ministry of Economy, the portion of of the country’s retail industry who are online is only 2.8%. That means that 97.2% of all retail businesses in Japan limit themselves to selling things offline. Of this 97.2%, the overwhelming majority are very small business run by only a few people with presumably limited internet skills. Stores.jp is aimed at these small businesses, allowing them to create online stores in a matter of minutes. It’s the equivalent of services like Yokaboo or Flying Cart. The company behind Stores.jp, Bracket, also runs other services such as Shoes of Prey, an online custom shoes service (headquartered in Australia), and a C2C car sharing site called Cafore. Shoes of Prey promises satisfaction guaranteed, allowing users to return their custom designed shoes if they are not 100% happy with them. To sell off these returned shoes, the company tried using services like Stores.jp, but found them too confusing to use with too many features. So they decided…

stores.jp-logo

While it is unlikely that we’ll see an ecommerce competitor as huge as Rakuten in the near future, there is still much room to grow in the online commerce sector, especially for small businesses. According to research by Japanese Ministry of Economy, the portion of of the country’s retail industry who are online is only 2.8%. That means that 97.2% of all retail businesses in Japan limit themselves to selling things offline. Of this 97.2%, the overwhelming majority are very small business run by only a few people with presumably limited internet skills.

Stores.jp is aimed at these small businesses, allowing them to create online stores in a matter of minutes. It’s the equivalent of services like Yokaboo or Flying Cart. The company behind Stores.jp, Bracket, also runs other services such as Shoes of Prey, an online custom shoes service (headquartered in Australia), and a C2C car sharing site called Cafore. Shoes of Prey promises satisfaction guaranteed, allowing users to return their custom designed shoes if they are not 100% happy with them. To sell off these returned shoes, the company tried using services like Stores.jp, but found them too confusing to use with too many features. So they decided to build a more simplified version, and that resulted in Stores.jp.

To use the site, no coding or HTML skills are required. To create your store, all you need is your email and password. After registration, just upload photos, names, and descriptions of your products and your online store is completed. When orders come in, you send out the product and the money will be paid to your designated bank account. Stores.jp follows a freemium model where up to five items per month can be sold with zero cost. For sellers with more items to sell, the monthly cost is 980 yen (about $10) with an additional payment system usage fee of 5%. For premium accounts, the site offers marketing and log analysis features as well.

stores.jp-capture

Stores.jp was released in August of last year, and so far over 25,000 stores have been opened on the site. According to Bracket CEO Yusuke Mitsumoto, the total number of stores on Rakuten is 40,000. The number of items registered exceeds 70,000 and it currently has more than 500,000 monthly users.

But Stores.jp is not without competitors. Three months after its release, an almost identical site called Base was released and had over 7,000 stores within three weeks. In an effort to stay ahead of the competition, Stores.jp offers additional services including professional photography and the creation of store business cards. Both options are provided free, with photography available for maximum of twenty items.

Merchants on the site are mainly small businesses but there are also well-known chains like Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and a famous magazine called Tokyo Calendar. These bigger companies use the site to create online shops dedicated for a particular campaign or content. For example, Tokyo Calendar opened a Japanese sake shop for its sake issue.

To find out more about how the Stores.jp works, check out the video below.