THE BRIDGE

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Japan’s Metaps secures $35.7M series C round to strengthen big data business

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This is the abridged version from our original article in Japanese. As some Japanese news media reported earlier this morning, Tokyo-based Metaps, the company that provides an app monetization platform using artificial intelligence, will announce today that it has fundraised 4.3 billion yen ($35.7 million) in series C round from several businesses and  VC firms from Japan and the US. Details of investors are yet to be disclosed until later on when the company will announce joint venture launches in partnership with these investors. Coinciding with this funding, Metaps announced that Heizo Takenaka, the former Japanese minister of state, has joined the advisory board of the company. Metaps was founded under the former name of E-factor in September 2007 by Katsuaki Sato. Born in 1986, he attended Tokyo’s Waseda University but subsequently dropped out to establish the company, which in 2011 launched app monetization platform Metaps. This was soon followed by securing series A round funding of 440 million yen including 330 million yen from Ngi Group (now known as United); in March 2013 series B round funding of about 1 billion yen from Fidelity Growth Partners Japan and other investors was realized. Headquartered in Tokyo, they started global business expansion in 2011, opening regional offices in Singapore, San Francisco, London, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, and Shanghai. Foreign…

metaps

This is the abridged version from our original article in Japanese.

As some Japanese news media reported earlier this morning, Tokyo-based Metaps, the company that provides an app monetization platform using artificial intelligence, will announce today that it has fundraised 4.3 billion yen ($35.7 million) in series C round from several businesses and  VC firms from Japan and the US. Details of investors are yet to be disclosed until later on when the company will announce joint venture launches in partnership with these investors.

Coinciding with this funding, Metaps announced that Heizo Takenaka, the former Japanese minister of state, has joined the advisory board of the company.

Metaps was founded under the former name of E-factor in September 2007 by Katsuaki Sato. Born in 1986, he attended Tokyo’s Waseda University but subsequently dropped out to establish the company, which in 2011 launched app monetization platform Metaps. This was soon followed by securing series A round funding of 440 million yen including 330 million yen from Ngi Group (now known as United); in March 2013 series B round funding of about 1 billion yen from Fidelity Growth Partners Japan and other investors was realized.

Headquartered in Tokyo, they started global business expansion in 2011, opening regional offices in Singapore, San Francisco, London, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, and Shanghai. Foreign sales from these markets outside Japan accounts for about 70% of corporate income.

In view of app monetization platforms, they have been often cited with other startups such as Japanese ad technology developer FreakOut. To date, apps adopting Metaps’ monetization platform have surpassed over 1.2 billion downloads globally.

Metaps launched a freemium payments platform ‘Spike’ in April 2014, and has acquired 40,000 merchants in seven months since then (or 50,000 merchants in ten months to date). Recently, the company has teamed up with Space Shift on big data analytic systems in relation to ultra-micro satellites.

Metaps says that the funds will be used for hiring people and R&D on big data analysis solutions as applied to wearable devices and automobiles. The company has been collecting usage information of mobile app users via the app monetization platform, but aims to acquire that from 800 million people – five times of the current accumulation – by expanding beyond to aforementioned new areas.

In view of large pre-IPO funding rounds in Japan, this Metaps funding is the second largest following that of Gumi which raised 5 billion yen (about $50 million) back in July.

See also

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s Fril to start TV commercial campaign, featuring actresses from popular drama series

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Fablic, the startup behind flea market app Fril, announced that it will start airing a TV commercial on Friday. Coinciding with this, the company will also launch a promotion campaign giving away costumes used in the commercial film. Four actresses from Fuji TV’s popular drama series First Class – Erika Sawajiri, Kavka Shishido, Tomoe Shinohara, and Mirei Tanaka – are featured in this film, where they perform as close friends giving and taking their fashion items from each others. The Fablic team said they do not intend to look into cross-marketing with the drama series but this casting makes it easier for viewers to understand the story’s background. By casting high-fashion actresses, the company wants to present their vision and brand image to potential users through this campaign. Fashion magazine Numero Tokyo editorial director Sayumi Gunji and popular fashion stylist Tetsuro Nagase participated in creating the film. Since its launch in July 2012, the Fril app has acquired over 2 million downloads, generating a monthly transaction volume of $5 million. The company fundraised about $10 million from Japanese internet companies like Cookpad and Colopl in September.

fril_firstclass

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Fablic, the startup behind flea market app Fril, announced that it will start airing a TV commercial on Friday. Coinciding with this, the company will also launch a promotion campaign giving away costumes used in the commercial film.

Four actresses from Fuji TV’s popular drama series First Class – Erika Sawajiri, Kavka Shishido, Tomoe Shinohara, and Mirei Tanaka – are featured in this film, where they perform as close friends giving and taking their fashion items from each others.

The Fablic team said they do not intend to look into cross-marketing with the drama series but this casting makes it easier for viewers to understand the story’s background.

By casting high-fashion actresses, the company wants to present their vision and brand image to potential users through this campaign. Fashion magazine Numero Tokyo editorial director Sayumi Gunji and popular fashion stylist Tetsuro Nagase participated in creating the film.

Since its launch in July 2012, the Fril app has acquired over 2 million downloads, generating a monthly transaction volume of $5 million. The company fundraised about $10 million from Japanese internet companies like Cookpad and Colopl in September.

Line reported to submit IPO application to Tokyo Stock Exchange

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According to several news sources, Line, the Japanese messaging app company and a subsidiary of Korea internet company Naver (TSE:035420), was reported today that it has submitted an IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The company and its potential underwriter Nomura Securities have not approved the report. Bloomberg reported last month that Line has been in talk with Morgan Stanley and Nomura Securities to explore possibilities to go IPOs at Tokyo Stock Exchange as well as New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ simultaneously.

Line Pop-up Store, Orchard, Singapore
Line Pop-up Store, Orchard, Singapore

According to several news sources, Line, the Japanese messaging app company and a subsidiary of Korea internet company Naver (TSE:035420), was reported today that it has submitted an IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The company and its potential underwriter Nomura Securities have not approved the report.

Bloomberg reported last month that Line has been in talk with Morgan Stanley and Nomura Securities to explore possibilities to go IPOs at Tokyo Stock Exchange as well as New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ simultaneously.

Pinterest hopes ad giant Dentsu can make it big in Japan

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Today Pinterest Japan announced that it will ally with Japanese advertising giant Dentsu to expand its business in Japan, as the social image curation service would potentially offer a new marketing alternative to local advertisers. Pinterest recently localized for Japan a few months back, and CEO Ben Silbermann recently expressed a hope that Japanese people can try to express more about their culture (things like art, food, and architecture) through pinned images. Ostensibly, Silbermann has that very same hope for Japanese advertisers, who might more effectively reach global audiences in a more visual manner. Pinterest has tested promoted pins over the past year in the US market, and looks poised to charge top dollar from advertisers. Via Venture News

pinterest

Today Pinterest Japan announced that it will ally with Japanese advertising giant Dentsu to expand its business in Japan, as the social image curation service would potentially offer a new marketing alternative to local advertisers.

Pinterest recently localized for Japan a few months back, and CEO Ben Silbermann recently expressed a hope that Japanese people can try to express more about their culture (things like art, food, and architecture) through pinned images. Ostensibly, Silbermann has that very same hope for Japanese advertisers, who might more effectively reach global audiences in a more visual manner.

Pinterest has tested promoted pins over the past year in the US market, and looks poised to charge top dollar from advertisers.

Via Venture News

Japanese company unveils mobile UI component generator

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Tokyo-based system developer Asial announced today that it has launched a component generator for mobile app developers called Onsen CSS components. It’s available in English and Japanese. While HTML5 technology lets developers create for multiple platforms, it remains difficult to develop the kind of user experience found in native apps. To address this problem, their solution lets you to generate user interface components and download them for free. So you don’t need to develop a user interface from scratch when you develop a HTML5 app. The component generator has more than 20 design framework patterns, and you can choose your prefered color scheme for the interface, with an the inspection function that lets you inspect HTML and CSS code. You can migrate the interface to your app under development by simply copying the generated codes. Asial is perhaps best known for having created the mobile development environment Monaca, which won the second place in pitch competition at Global Brain’s showcase event last year.

onsen-css-components_featuredimage

Tokyo-based system developer Asial announced today that it has launched a component generator for mobile app developers called Onsen CSS components. It’s available in English and Japanese.

While HTML5 technology lets developers create for multiple platforms, it remains difficult to develop the kind of user experience found in native apps. To address this problem, their solution lets you to generate user interface components and download them for free. So you don’t need to develop a user interface from scratch when you develop a HTML5 app.

The component generator has more than 20 design framework patterns, and you can choose your prefered color scheme for the interface, with an the inspection function that lets you inspect HTML and CSS code. You can migrate the interface to your app under development by simply copying the generated codes.

Asial is perhaps best known for having created the mobile development environment Monaca, which won the second place in pitch competition at Global Brain’s showcase event last year.

Japanese app ‘YourGolf Online’ acquired by TV network

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YourGolf Online is a Tokyo-based startup that provides a GPS-enabled golf logging app. Jupiter Golf Network, Japan’s only golf-focused TV network, announced today that it has taken a full stake that company, with neither party disclosed the specific figures around the acquisition. Since its launched back in 2011, the app (available on both iOS and Android ) has seen more than 1.6 million downloads from over 390,000 users in Japan and around the world. Based on an accumulation of course data from over 2,500 domestic courses and 30,000 courses beyond Japan, the app lets you record at which courses you’ve played, how you made approach shots, and what scores you earned. By acquiring YourGolf Online, Jupiter Golf Network plans to explore possible synergies around their business by attracting amateur golfers to their network, perhaps providing golf-related video programs via mobile or tablet apps. via Nikkei IT Pro

yourgolfonline-golfnetwork_logos

YourGolf Online is a Tokyo-based startup that provides a GPS-enabled golf logging app. Jupiter Golf Network, Japan’s only golf-focused TV network, announced today that it has taken a full stake that company, with neither party disclosed the specific figures around the acquisition.

Since its launched back in 2011, the app (available on both iOS and Android ) has seen more than 1.6 million downloads from over 390,000 users in Japan and around the world. Based on an accumulation of course data from over 2,500 domestic courses and 30,000 courses beyond Japan, the app lets you record at which courses you’ve played, how you made approach shots, and what scores you earned.

By acquiring YourGolf Online, Jupiter Golf Network plans to explore possible synergies around their business by attracting amateur golfers to their network, perhaps providing golf-related video programs via mobile or tablet apps.

yourgolf_screenshot1

yourgolf_screenshot2

via Nikkei IT Pro

Be a world champion programmer: Hello World Open now accepting sign-ups

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The Hello World Open is world programming competition that takes the form of a virtual race, with teams participating from all around the world. Organized by Finland based creative firm Reaktor and game developer Supercell, the race will require teams to program an artificial intelligence to drive the race faster than the competition, hopefully without any serious crashes! [1] Teams can include one to three members from the same country, but the same person can only participate on one team. Sign ups are accepted starting today (as of 1900 JST), and will run until April 7th. The actual coding goes from April 15th to the 29th, with regional qualifying rounds to follow in May (see map below). Six teams will travel to Helsinki, Finland (all expenses paid) for the finals. I’m really hoping we can see many entrants here from Japan, but I have a sneaking suspicion that won’t be the case [2]. But the folks from Reaktor were kind enough to pass along a Japanese translation of their announcement, which you can find below. Please check out out and sign up if you think you can outrun the competition to the (ahem) Finnish line! ハローワールドオープン : 史上初のコーディング世界選手権への申し込み受付が始まります。 この春は、コード裏に隠れた未来のスーパースターを見い出すチャンスです。ハローワールドオープンでは、史上初のコーディング世界選手権にて、トップコーダー達が自国の名誉をかけて挑みます。 創造力に富んだテクノロジー企業…

The Hello World Open is world programming competition that takes the form of a virtual race, with teams participating from all around the world. Organized by Finland based creative firm Reaktor and game developer Supercell, the race will require teams to program an artificial intelligence to drive the race faster than the competition, hopefully without any serious crashes! [1]

Teams can include one to three members from the same country, but the same person can only participate on one team.

Sign ups are accepted starting today (as of 1900 JST), and will run until April 7th. The actual coding goes from April 15th to the 29th, with regional qualifying rounds to follow in May (see map below). Six teams will travel to Helsinki, Finland (all expenses paid) for the finals.

I’m really hoping we can see many entrants here from Japan, but I have a sneaking suspicion that won’t be the case [2].

But the folks from Reaktor were kind enough to pass along a Japanese translation of their announcement, which you can find below. Please check out out and sign up if you think you can outrun the competition to the (ahem) Finnish line!

hello world open


ハローワールドオープン : 史上初のコーディング世界選手権への申し込み受付が始まります。

この春は、コード裏に隠れた未来のスーパースターを見い出すチャンスです。ハローワールドオープンでは、史上初のコーディング世界選手権にて、トップコーダー達が自国の名誉をかけて挑みます。

創造力に富んだテクノロジー企業 Reaktor社およびモバイルゲームデベロッパーのSupercell社が企画するハローワールドオープンは、一風変わったコンテキストの中でプログラミング能力に国際的な脚光を当てます。まず、希望に燃える参加者は1~3名のトップコーダーによるチームを作ります。最高の人材がそろったら、各チームの課題はバーチャルカーレース用の人工知能を制作することにあります。申し込み受付は3月31日に始まります。

「コーディングのような掴みにくいコンセプトを簡潔化することによって、コーディングにアピール力を与え、一般の人々も楽しめるレベルに持ってくるのが意図です」と語るのはハローワールドオープンの主催者、Reaktor社の Ville Valtonenです。「我々の狙いはコーディングにおけるセバスチャン・ヴェッテルやジェフ・ゴードン、つまり尊敬に値する国民的スーパーヒーローを作り上げることです。観客の皆さんには自国の競合者に誇りをもち、勝利に向かって彼らを応援していただきたいのです。」

決勝戦は6月5日、フィンランドのヘルシンキにて、ケーブルファクトリーで行われます。当日このイベントの前には、Supercell
社が第2回年次ゲーミングサミットを開催します。

しかし、決勝進出チームがヘルシンキまでたどり着く前にはまだ長い道のりがあります。スポーツがいつもそうであるように、これら世界選手権でも観衆が大きな役割を果たします。誰もが何千というトップコーダー達の試合をオンラインで見守るチャンスがあります。

約1万チームが仮想バトルで競い合うことが予想されます。選手権は世界地図を3大地域に分けて行い、各地域で5月に予選が繰り広げられます。

最終的に6チームがヘルシンキでの決勝戦に進出します。決勝進出チームによるヘルシンキまでの渡航費用はすべて支払われます。彼らは自国を代表してその卓越したコーディング能力を披露し、総額1万ユーロという驚くべき賞金を獲得するチャンスを手にします。

申し込み受付は3月31日に始まります。あなたもエキサイトしてみませんか。

ハローワールドオープンの導入スケジュールは以下の通りです :

3月31日 – 申し込み受付開始。競技への参加は無料です。
4月7日 – 申し込み受付終了

オンライン予選ラウンド。試合をフォローするのは次のサイトです。 helloworldopen.com

  • 5月6日 – ハロー地域1
  • 5月7日 – ハロー地域2
  • 5月8日 – ハロー地域3
  • 6月5日 – コーディング世界決勝戦 : 世界で最もタフなコーディングチーム6組がフィンランド、ヘルシンキで出会います。

Reaktor社は2012年に初回フィンランドコーディング選手権を開催しました。目標はポンボット用の人工知能をコーディングし、卓球で他のすべてのチームを打ち負かすことでした。このイベントは大成功でした
– 200以上のチームが競技に関与および参加しました。選手権は24時間で百万人のフィンランド人に達しました – 人口5百万の国でありながら。

詳細は以下にお問い合わせください
Veera Voutilainen
Head of Communications
+358 50 343 8608
veera@helloworldopen.com

Reaktor 社について
Reaktor社は卓越して機能性に優れたサービスを生み出す、創造力に富んだテクノロジー企業です。250名のプロフェッショナルからなるReaktor社のチームは、サービスデザイナー、インタラクションデザイナー、アートディレクター、ソフトウェアアーキテクト、デベロッパー、コーチを擁しています。当社オフィスはフィンランドのヘルシンキ、および東京にあります。当社は世界でベストなソフトウェア会社となるよう日々努めています。Reaktor社に関する詳細は、次をご覧ください。 www.reaktor.fi

Supercell 社について
2010年設立の Supercell社はフィンランドのヘルシンキに本社を置くモバイルゲーム開発会社で、サンフランシスコ、東京、およびソウルにオフィスを持ちます。Supercell社のゲーム、クラッシュオブクランおよびヘイデイは iOS および Android デバイスでどうぞ。新作タイトル Boom Beach が間もなくiOS でリリース。Supercell 社に関する詳細は次をご覧ください。 www.supercell.com


  1. See what I did there?  ↩

  2. Besides this website, I’m not sure if there will be many ways for Japanese programmers to learn about this event, unless they read English news regularly.  ↩

iChef’s restaurant point of sales solution impresses at Echelon Tokyo

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We had the pleasure of attending e27’s Echelon Tokyo Satellite event today, where Taiwan-based startup ICHEF won the judges prize at the events pitch competition. They explained that conventional point-of-sales solutions are slow and heavy, and they result in bottlenecks during peak restaurant hours. But in contrast, their app is much quicker and versatile, using one iPad or multiple synchronized iPads. Currently they have 100 restaurants using their solution in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and they are planning to expand to Japan as well. They will charge a monthly fee to restaurants for use, which is their main monetization model, but the data that they can collect about purchases and orders is something that they could potentially use as well, in an anonymized or aggregate form.

We had the pleasure of attending e27’s Echelon Tokyo Satellite event today, where Taiwan-based startup ICHEF won the judges prize at the events pitch competition.

They explained that conventional point-of-sales solutions are slow and heavy, and they result in bottlenecks during peak restaurant hours. But in contrast, their app is much quicker and versatile, using one iPad or multiple synchronized iPads.

Currently they have 100 restaurants using their solution in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and they are planning to expand to Japan as well.

They will charge a monthly fee to restaurants for use, which is their main monetization model, but the data that they can collect about purchases and orders is something that they could potentially use as well, in an anonymized or aggregate form.

In conversation with Japan’s Samurai Incubate, Anydoor about early-stage startups (Part 3 of 3)

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See the original article in Japanese The partnership between investors and entrepreneurs is an interesting one. In the seed money round, investors not only invest funds, but they cooperate with entrepreneurs on many aspects of the business. But what’s actually going during the very early funding round? We spoke with an investor and an entrepreneur to find out more about this. Kentaro Sakaibara is the CEO of Samurai Incubate, a pioneer among independent incubators in Japan. Naoki Yamada is the CEO of Anydoor, the startup behind crowdsourced translation service Conyac, a portfolio startup of Samurai Incubate. In the previous article, they talked about how they cooperated on the Conyac translation service early on. This conversation is the third and final part, where Sakakibara talked about his long term goals. History of Anydoor Feburary 2009: Naoki Yamada and Tomohiro Onuma founded Anydoor. May 2009: Conyac, crowdsourced translation service, was launched. March 2010: Yamada met Sakakibara, and became one of the first portfolios of Samurai Incubate. December 2011: Anydoor fundraised from United. February 2013: Conyac for Business was launched. October 2013: Anydorr fundraised from three VCs. Yamada: How do you support young startups recently? Sakakibara: For the first half a year after…

See the original article in Japanese

The partnership between investors and entrepreneurs is an interesting one. In the seed money round, investors not only invest funds, but they cooperate with entrepreneurs on many aspects of the business. But what’s actually going during the very early funding round? We spoke with an investor and an entrepreneur to find out more about this. Kentaro Sakaibara is the CEO of Samurai Incubate, a pioneer among independent incubators in Japan. Naoki Yamada is the CEO of Anydoor, the startup behind crowdsourced translation service Conyac, a portfolio startup of Samurai Incubate.

In the previous article, they talked about how they cooperated on the Conyac translation service early on. This conversation is the third and final part, where Sakakibara talked about his long term goals.

History of Anydoor

Feburary 2009: Naoki Yamada and Tomohiro Onuma founded Anydoor.
May 2009: Conyac, crowdsourced translation service, was launched.
March 2010: Yamada met Sakakibara, and became one of the first portfolios of Samurai Incubate.
December 2011: Anydoor fundraised from United.
February 2013: Conyac for Business was launched.
October 2013: Anydorr fundraised from three VCs.

_MG_9880

Yamada: How do you support young startups recently?

Sakakibara: For the first half a year after investment, I use more schemes when I give advice, more than before. Hands-on for half a year, and then changing the meetings to twice a week… things like that.

Yamada: It’s more formulated rather than working together through trial and error.

Sakakibara: Right.

Yamada: Do you still have the Excel spreadsheet we used before?

Sakakibara: Yes, the form has changed though.

Yamada: Wow, I miss that. I struggled with filling out the tables, but I think that sheet helped me a lot in finding the next investor. The template made it easier for me to pitch in front of investors.

Sakakibara: Actually, some don’t like the sheet. They feel like they’re being controlled.

Yamada: Will you continue to support startups this way? Will you look at startups in Japan from a broader point of view?

_MG_9888

Sakakibara: I think both perspectives are important. Some startups, incubators and CVCs were founded because of our influence. But I personally feel I shouldn’t be in Japan; I should create successful startups overseas.

Yamada: Are you going overseas? I remember when we were in the US, you’d been saying you want to try there.

Sakakibara: I’d rather go to Israel than the US, actually. I’d like to move on from Kobayashi-san to take a chance in Silicon Valley, and make connections on my own with investors in the Middle East and create a chance for startups in Japan to get investment from them.

Yamada: What is your final goal?

Sakakibara: The Nobel Peace Prize.

Yamada: You are very consistent about that. At our first meeting at Tully’s Coffee, you mentioned that. I thought you might be a crazy…

Sakakibara: Really? Did I say that then?

Yamada: And you mentioned Eiichi Shibusawa half a year later [1].

Sakakibara: Actually when I looked up business people related to the Nobel Peace Prize, I found information about Eiichi Shibusawa. He founded 521 companies, so I thought I would create 522 companies by the year 2020. You know, if I become a successful incubator in developing countries and contribute to making those countries richer, then it would be possible to win the prize.

Yamada: Quite a simple plan.

_MG_9895

The Bridge: How do you spend your free time?

Yamada: When I used to spend weekends in Samurai House, I asked Sakakibara-san what he does. I remember he said that he watched DVDs, and I thought he was sort of introverted. We went to a rental video shop together, and I recommended him all the good DVDs for half an hour. But every time he replied he’d already watched them.

Sakakibara: Yeah, at GEO in Ekoda [2].

Yamada: The rental fee was very low, like 50 yen for each. He watched them all and had nothing left to watch.

Sakakibara: Haha. Right.

Yamada: I’m sure you will miss those days 10 years later. You will look back at the old days from Israel. Don’t you have a partner?

Sakakibara: No. Startups are my girlfriend.

Yamada: Ahhhh….

_MG_9885

The Bridge: You got married, Yamada-san. Right?

Yamada: We started our relationship when I was 18 years old. We went to the US together. Quite a long relationship. A bit complicated though.

Sakakibara: Onuma-san told me that this subject is taboo.

Yamada: The funny thing is when we got investment from Sakakibara-san, Onuma’s marriage was then fixed. And when the next investment was settled, I got married. After our recent capital increase, the marriage of our CTO was fixed.

Sakakibara: Haha. Marriage-raising, eh?

The Bridge: I think we’ll end there. Thanks guys.


  1. Referred to as the father of Japanese capitalism.  ↩

  2. GEO is a movie rental chain in Japan.  ↩

Japan’s ‘little satellite that could,’ 27cm³, launches into space

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Our readers may remember a feature that we did on Japan’s Weathernews (TSE:4825) back in April. The company has made a major business in the area of weather information, and now has offices in 27 cites across 13 countries. Recently the company has been working to develop a sort of ‘polar routing’ service, to help marine traffic navigate icy Arctic waters. To date, they have relied on data from government satellites, but in order to get their service going they need a dedicated satellite. To that end, Japanese startup Axelspace has been enlisted to help with the project, as a company offering micro-satellites whom Weathernews deemed preferable to outsourcing to the government or a large manufacturer. They’ve produced an ultra-compact satellite that is 27 cubic centimeters, and weighs just 10kg. Dubbed the WNISAT–1, the tiny satellite launched today from Yasny Cosmodrome in Russia, piggybacking on top of a Dnepr–1 rocket [1]. According to the Axelspace blog this evening the launch was successful, and the satellite’s signal was successfully received. It is expected to pass over Japan at 20:40 tonight. The device will make 15 orbits of the earth every day, equipped with optical and infrared cameras, which it will use…

wnisat-1
Image: Weathernews

Our readers may remember a feature that we did on Japan’s Weathernews (TSE:4825) back in April. The company has made a major business in the area of weather information, and now has offices in 27 cites across 13 countries.

Recently the company has been working to develop a sort of ‘polar routing’ service, to help marine traffic navigate icy Arctic waters. To date, they have relied on data from government satellites, but in order to get their service going they need a dedicated satellite.

To that end, Japanese startup Axelspace has been enlisted to help with the project, as a company offering micro-satellites whom Weathernews deemed preferable to outsourcing to the government or a large manufacturer. They’ve produced an ultra-compact satellite that is 27 cubic centimeters, and weighs just 10kg. Dubbed the WNISAT–1, the tiny satellite launched today from Yasny Cosmodrome in Russia, piggybacking on top of a Dnepr–1 rocket [1]. According to the Axelspace blog this evening the launch was successful, and the satellite’s signal was successfully received. It is expected to pass over Japan at 20:40 tonight.

Ground control at WN headquarters
Ground control at WN headquarters

The device will make 15 orbits of the earth every day, equipped with optical and infrared cameras, which it will use to take shots covering 500km² of the Arctic Seas ice. These images will be sent back to Weathernews’ own Global Ice Center where they will be analyzed and put to use as part of their polar routing system. It’s expected that the WNISAT–1 will have a lifespan of one to three years.

As a provider of micro-satellites, Axelspace is an interesting company. They’re capable of producing these tiny satellites at a fraction of the cost, also using just a fraction of the development time necessary with conventional satellites. They design their satellites specifically to their customer’s needs as well, which is another competitive advantage.

Amazingly, this is not the only startup to venture into space recently. Back in October we’ve also seen San Francisco-based startup Elysium Space roll out its space burial service here in Japan, following its initial US-launch in August.

[Written with contributions from Tsutoha Izumisawa]


  1. The launch was originally intended to take place back in September, but was postposed until today.  ↩