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Japan’s Robofund gets $1M to help mutual fund brokerages better serve customers

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based FinTech startup Robofund unveiled on Monday that they have raised 100 million yen (nearly $1 million) from Japanese startup-focused VC firm Incubate Fund. The company has developed an IVRS (interactive voice response system) for call centers for mutual fund customers. By introducing the system to securities companies and banks, customers will be able to check percentage changes and dividends of invested funds by automated voice over the phone. This system can adopt caller ID to automatically authenticate customers and update them on the status of their funds. For those unfamiliar with the use of internet or smartphones such as elderly investors, checking updates through web services or apps is difficult, but this service seeks to improve support for them. Satoshi Noguchi, previously having worked at SBI Veritrans, SBI Holdings, and Pictet Asset Management, established Robofund in May of 2016. Graduating from the first batch of Tokyo-based seed accelerator program Supernova (co-produced by Draper Nexus, Slogan, Coent Venture Partners, and Viling Venture Partners), Robofund then went on to win the program’s Demo Day back in July. In addition to IVRS, the company is also in the process of developing a chatbot to make it…

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From the left: Yusuke Murata (Managing Partner, Incubate Fund), Satoshi Noguchi (CEO, Robofund), Yudai Yamada (Associate, Incubate Fund)

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based FinTech startup Robofund unveiled on Monday that they have raised 100 million yen (nearly $1 million) from Japanese startup-focused VC firm Incubate Fund. The company has developed an IVRS (interactive voice response system) for call centers for mutual fund customers. By introducing the system to securities companies and banks, customers will be able to check percentage changes and dividends of invested funds by automated voice over the phone. This system can adopt caller ID to automatically authenticate customers and update them on the status of their funds. For those unfamiliar with the use of internet or smartphones such as elderly investors, checking updates through web services or apps is difficult, but this service seeks to improve support for them.

Satoshi Noguchi, previously having worked at SBI Veritrans, SBI Holdings, and Pictet Asset Management, established Robofund in May of 2016. Graduating from the first batch of Tokyo-based seed accelerator program Supernova (co-produced by Draper Nexus, Slogan, Coent Venture Partners, and Viling Venture Partners), Robofund then went on to win the program’s Demo Day back in July.

In addition to IVRS, the company is also in the process of developing a chatbot to make it possible to know fund distribution ratios and percentage changes. However, it appears the foundation for the business they are aiming for is elsewhere.

Noguchi explained:

Sales representatives of securities companies need to make the optimal choices from all 5,800 mutual funds available in Japan and propose them to the visiting customers over the counter on the spot. Without understanding those customer’s portfolios and investment strategies, it is difficult for these representatives to present the optimal options.

Robofund is developing, with these securities companies in mind, a service that by simply choosing conditions in line with the customers wishes, brings up combinations of the optimal mutual funds (see picture below).

Firstly, the company hopes to expand to securities companies looking to target customers seeking aggressive fund management (as opposed to customers concerned with saving), in addition to regional banks that carry out investment trust sales. Due to prolonged negative interest rates, for bankers from banks who have been selling financial products it is difficult to sell risky new goods. But with the use of Robofund’s services it will become easier for not only securities companies, but also banks to sell investment funds.

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Click to enlarge: The dashboard for securities companies’ representatives (under development)

In contrast with robo-advisors, a renowned business in the FinTech startup space which typically makes a direct approach to individual investors, Robofund takes a B2B business model and works with securities companies. Eventually, Noguchi wants to develop a robo-advisor, but there is an intentional reason he started with the B2B (business-to-business) model.

Noguchi continued:

I want mass data. If we would start with a B2C model, it would be impossible to collect statistics enough to analyze because we would be forced to start with the small number of customers and small trading transactions. Furthermore, I assume it’s skeptical about if robo-advisors can give customers truly-appropriate choices of funds back only by answering just a few questions.

By communicating over and over with customers it is necessary to teach the engine “what answer should be returned for people with this sort of problem”. From my previous job experience I have knowledge of example answers like those found in a dictionary, but in order to make them more objective, I thought it was necessary to put the dictionary into a chatbot and train it.

In other words, he started as a B2B business and cultivate the intelligence and communication knowhow, and then he appears to be planning to continue to expand into the B2C space.In order to provide to sell mutual funds as an extension from advisory services in Japan, companies have to be registered as a financial instruments business by the Japanese financial services agency. The time and expense required for completion of this registration process becomes a heavy burden for startups dealing with these businesses. Even from such a point of view, we could say taking a B2B approach makes sense.

Robofund is currently looking for promising engineers from the machine learning field, UI/UX designers, and database engineers specializing in NoSQL and RDB to assist in the acceleration of its service development.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Japan’s Incubate Fund holds its first global edition of bootcamp program in Singapore

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See the original story in Japanese. Incubate Camp is a startup bootcamp program that lets entrepreneurs brush up their business idea with mentoring support from investors on a face-to-face basis, periodically organized by Japanese startup-focused investment firm Incubate Fund.  Seven editions of the program have been held to date in Japan. The firm held its first global edition called Incubate Camp Asia on February 25th, at Singapore University of Technology Design, SUTD for short. SUTD is known for Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab, which has been nourishing gaming developers in partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). During the first global edition dubbed Incubate Camp Asia, gaming developers (entrepreneurs) from all across Asia and gaming publishers (investors providing mentoring support) mainly from Japan came together, teamed up and presented their polished business ideas after several review sessions. Their ideas were scored by mentors and participating SUTD students with consideration of investment potentials, where three startups were selected out of all participating 10 startups upon their final pitch session. Note: Some of gaming titles featured in this article are still under development. Top Prize: JOY Entertainment J.S.C. (Vietnam) (Mentoring by Allan Simonsen, Founder and CEO, Boomzap) JOY Entertainment J.S.C. is a Vietnam-based gaming…

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See the original story in Japanese.

Incubate Camp is a startup bootcamp program that lets entrepreneurs brush up their business idea with mentoring support from investors on a face-to-face basis, periodically organized by Japanese startup-focused investment firm Incubate Fund.  Seven editions of the program have been held to date in Japan.

The firm held its first global edition called Incubate Camp Asia on February 25th, at Singapore University of Technology Design, SUTD for short. SUTD is known for Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab, which has been nourishing gaming developers in partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

During the first global edition dubbed Incubate Camp Asia, gaming developers (entrepreneurs) from all across Asia and gaming publishers (investors providing mentoring support) mainly from Japan came together, teamed up and presented their polished business ideas after several review sessions.

Their ideas were scored by mentors and participating SUTD students with consideration of investment potentials, where three startups were selected out of all participating 10 startups upon their final pitch session.

Note: Some of gaming titles featured in this article are still under development.

Top Prize: JOY Entertainment J.S.C. (Vietnam)

(Mentoring by Allan Simonsen, Founder and CEO, Boomzap)

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JOY Entertainment J.S.C. is a Vietnam-based gaming developers and has acquired 2 million users in the Southeast Asian region with their 3D MMOTPS (multiplayer onlinne third-person shooter) gaming titles. Going forward, the company wants to expand their business beyond to mainland China, Japan, Korea, and other markets, exploring potential partnership with gaming companies like Tencent in China as well as DeNA and Gumi in Japan. They are currently raising money to start self-publishing their titles in Vietnam.

Allan Simonsen, who has been working for over a decade in this space, lectured about improvements in user experience and monetization strategies. He acclaimed the team because of their passion and the promising achievement of having introduced apps that have attracted many users in the region.

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Allan Simonsen provides mentorship.

2nd Prize: Alkemis Games (Indonesia)

(Mentoring by Juno Shin, Business Development Leader, Tencent Japan)

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Alkemis Games is now developing a gaming title which will be launched this coming spring in Indonesia. They are interested in keeping the app in the higher rank on the AppStore for a long time, rather than taking a stab at top rank fame.

The team introduced their use case based on Pickfu.com, where developers can receive feedback from the market through presentation of multiple improvement proposals. Tencent’s Shin advocated some ideas like adding a GvG (Guild vs Guild) flavor or the concept of swapping and renting virtual items in the game, aiming to help them differentiate from other competing titles in the U.S.

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Juno Shin reviews his mentoring sessions.

3rd Prize: SnoozeFox (Thailand)

(Mentoring by Minori Iwaki, COO and Senior Vice President, Sega Networks)

Bangkok-based SnoozeFox has developed a game title called Chaos Sphere. They were advised to add some features like auto-batting mode as well as increasing the variety of characters, weapons and consuming virtual items in the game, aiming to gain a lifetime value of users.

Iwaki praised the team for its awesome game assets and having adopted GvG experience in their app.

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Minori Iwaki (right) reviews his mentoring sessions.

What impressed me during the event was a comment given by David Ng, CEO of Gumi Asia. According to him, gaming developers who have less experience in working with gaming publishers usually start developing an app without considering its publishing process. These developers are so devoted to refining user interface and experience that the size of their app may be larger than 1 gigabytes. Such a huge size for gaming apps means a quick death regardless of quality, especially when broadband connectivity is likely unavailable such as in Indonesia.

Although it may be hard for developers in Southeast Asia where they typically have few gaming publishers in the neighborhood, Ng noted that developers should stay alert on the publishing side but not scamp the improvement process of user interface and experience regardless of whether your title is a major or indie one. Other participating mentors also agreed with his insight that encourages developers to listen to market voices.

Other participating startups and mentors were:

  • Altitude games (the Philippines), mentoring by Jakob Lykkegaard, Co-Founder/CEO, Playlab
  • Dreamlords Digital (the Philippines / US), mentoring by Akira Abe, General Manager, DeNA Asia Singapore
  • Firebeast Studio (Indonesia), mentoring by Kazuyuki Hagiwara, COO, Aiming
  • Hextek (China), mentoring by David Ng, CEO of Gumi Asia
  • Ixora Studios (Singapore), mentoring by Gerald Tock, Co-Founder/CEO, Inzen Studio
  • Touch Dimensions (Singapore), mentoring by Kent Byers, Co-Founder/CEO, Booster Pack
  • Witching Hour (Singapore), mentoring by Yusuke Murata, General Partner, Incubate Fund
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A scene from mentoring sessions.
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A scene from mentoring sessions.
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Entrepreneurs deliver their pitch to a crowd of mentors.
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The first edition of Incubate Camp Asia took place here at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

Disclosure: Incubate Fund is a sponsoring member of The Bridge.

Translated by Sumi Yo via Mother First
Edited by Masaru Ikeda
Proofread by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s Incubate Fund creates $91 million fund to back IoT startups

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Japan’s Nikkei reported earlier this morning that Tokyo-based VC firm Incubate Fund has formed a new fund valued at 11 billion yen (about $91.2 million), focused on investing in IoT (Internet of Things) startups. See also: Incubate Fund forms new $21.4M fund, plans to invest in 100 startups in 3 years The new fund has raised 5 billion yen ($41.5 million) from Japanese state-run fund Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) as well as the rest from internet giants and established companies including Yahoo Japan (TSE:4689), Sumitomo Mitsui Bank (TSE:8316), Development Bank of Japan, Tencent Holding (HKG:0700), Sega Sammy Holdings (TSE:6460), Mistletoe, TBS Holdings (TSE:9401), Mixi (TSE:2121), and undisclosed several angel investors [1]. While Incubate Fund had been typically an average of several hundreds of thousands US dollars per startup, the new fund is aimed to invest a relatively large amount ranging from $2.5 million to $4 million. Incubate Fund unveiled that it has invested in US-based smart driving assistant developer Drivemode from this fund. It is often said that IoT businesses typically require more engineering expertise and experience from many industries, so Incubate Fund expects to help IoT startups hire talented people through supply of funds. Tencent Holding is a stock holding company…

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Japan’s Nikkei reported earlier this morning that Tokyo-based VC firm Incubate Fund has formed a new fund valued at 11 billion yen (about $91.2 million), focused on investing in IoT (Internet of Things) startups.

See also:

The new fund has raised 5 billion yen ($41.5 million) from Japanese state-run fund Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) as well as the rest from internet giants and established companies including Yahoo Japan (TSE:4689), Sumitomo Mitsui Bank (TSE:8316), Development Bank of Japan, Tencent Holding (HKG:0700), Sega Sammy Holdings (TSE:6460), Mistletoe, TBS Holdings (TSE:9401), Mixi (TSE:2121), and undisclosed several angel investors [1].

While Incubate Fund had been typically an average of several hundreds of thousands US dollars per startup, the new fund is aimed to invest a relatively large amount ranging from $2.5 million to $4 million. Incubate Fund unveiled that it has invested in US-based smart driving assistant developer Drivemode from this fund.

It is often said that IoT businesses typically require more engineering expertise and experience from many industries, so Incubate Fund expects to help IoT startups hire talented people through supply of funds.


  1. Tencent Holding is a stock holding company of a Chinese internet giant. Sega Sammy Holdings is a stock holding company of Japanese major game and pachinko companies. Miseletoe is an investment fund by Japanese investor Taizo Son. TBS Holdings is a stock holding company of Japan’s major private TV network Tokyo Broadcasting System.

Japanese fashion-focused startup Youtfit raises $310,000 from Incubate Fund

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See the original story in Japanese. Japanese fashion startup Youtfit today announced that it has raised 30 million yen (approximately $310,000) from Tokyo-based Incubate Fund. The startup is known for having started Japan Style, a magazine-like mobile app targeting the Asia region. In addition, the company launched a social fashion app (also called Youtfit) back in May of 2012, allowing users to post and share their outfits. Available in Japanese, Thai, and English, the app also allows you to evaluate other users’ posts with a five-step evaluation system, with cute, sexy, cool, elegant, and unique being the chosen criteria. With these new funds, the company expects to strengthen their management base, and improve the value offered by the Youtfit and Japan Style apps. Prior to this funding, the startup raised an undisclosed amount of funds from Japanese incubator NetAge. The Youtfit app is available on the App Store if you’d like to give it a try.

Youtfit-logo

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese fashion startup Youtfit today announced that it has raised 30 million yen (approximately $310,000) from Tokyo-based Incubate Fund. The startup is known for having started Japan Style, a magazine-like mobile app targeting the Asia region.

In addition, the company launched a social fashion app (also called Youtfit) back in May of 2012, allowing users to post and share their outfits. Available in Japanese, Thai, and English, the app also allows you to evaluate other users’ posts with a five-step evaluation system, with cute, sexy, cool, elegant, and unique being the chosen criteria.

With these new funds, the company expects to strengthen their management base, and improve the value offered by the Youtfit and Japan Style apps.

Prior to this funding, the startup raised an undisclosed amount of funds from Japanese incubator NetAge.

The Youtfit app is available on the App Store if you’d like to give it a try.

Youtfit

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

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

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

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

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

Storys.jp: Because business cards just aren’t enough

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See our version of this story in Japanese. We’ve all exchanged name cards while on business or at social events. But a business card can only convey certain information, such as a person’s name, the company they work for, and contact details. Storys.jp tries to tell you even more by sharing experiences in a form of story. The service was launched by ResuPress Inc. last week. Storys.jp helps you easily write up your background and details of your experience by connecting to Facebook and pulling your history. You can then create your story by entering the projects you’ve been involved in and who you’ve been working with, which will give people a more complete idea of who you are. The service also allows you to read some background information about your friends which you might not have known, potentially letting you find more things you may have in common with them. With such an abundance of information on the web these days, and with human relationships already complicated enough, the startup thought that many people might have trouble understanding others at times. Story.jp was launched with the aim of alleviating this problem. They explain: By helping people with different experiences…

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See our version of this story in Japanese.

We’ve all exchanged name cards while on business or at social events. But a business card can only convey certain information, such as a person’s name, the company they work for, and contact details. Storys.jp tries to tell you even more by sharing experiences in a form of story.

The service was launched by ResuPress Inc. last week. Storys.jp helps you easily write up your background and details of your experience by connecting to Facebook and pulling your history. You can then create your story by entering the projects you’ve been involved in and who you’ve been working with, which will give people a more complete idea of who you are. The service also allows you to read some background information about your friends which you might not have known, potentially letting you find more things you may have in common with them.

With such an abundance of information on the web these days, and with human relationships already complicated enough, the startup thought that many people might have trouble understanding others at times. Story.jp was launched with the aim of alleviating this problem. They explain:

By helping people with different experiences understand and cooperate with each other, we believe that they can create great ideas to solve various problems.

storys-jp

Sharing information about yourself in this way can be a good way to reboot communications with colleagues or friends.

But at the same time, Japanese people typically don’t disclose their backgrounds under their real names in such a way. So I’m curious whether or not Japanese consumers will go for this kind of service.

The startup was founded by ex-JP Morgan employee James Riney and TIT student Koichiro Wada with a 30 million yen (about $320,000) investment from Incubate Fund, Tokyo-based angel investor Anri Samata, and Hong Kong-based angel investor Teddy Lo.

Japan’s Designclue wants to build Asia’s largest logo crowdsourcing market

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See also this story in Japanese. Designclue is a service that lets you crowdsource logo creation to freelance designers regardless of their location or nationality. It’s run by the Tokyo-based startup called Purple Cow, which recently announced it had fundraised 14.7 million yen (approximately $157,000) in a seed round from Incubate Fund and East Ventures. We had a chance to interview all the three members of the startup, Kensuke Shibata, the CEO; Kyohei Teshima, the chief global officer; and Akira Kudo, the web developer. What exactly motivated you guys to launch this service? Shibata: I was studying in high school in Canada, and our CGO Kyohei Teshima was studying in the UK. As both he and I were outside Japan, we saw a variety of services for outsourcing tasks to emerging countries. We didn’t really call it ‘crowdsourcing’ in the past, but it was an [early] form of today’s crowdsouricing concepts. Kyohei and I met each other while working at DeNA as interns. We were so inspired by the concept of The World is Flat, the best-selling book by Thomas Friedman, and started working together exploring an innovative project that might disrupt the global market. With the idea of building…

From left: Kyohei Teshima (CGO), Keisuke Shibata (CEO), and Akira Kudo (web developer)
Kyohei Teshima (CGO), Kensuke Shibata (CEO), and Akira Kudo (web developer)

See also this story in Japanese.

Designclue is a service that lets you crowdsource logo creation to freelance designers regardless of their location or nationality. It’s run by the Tokyo-based startup called Purple Cow, which recently announced it had fundraised 14.7 million yen (approximately $157,000) in a seed round from Incubate Fund and East Ventures. We had a chance to interview all the three members of the startup, Kensuke Shibata, the CEO; Kyohei Teshima, the chief global officer; and Akira Kudo, the web developer.

What exactly motivated you guys to launch this service?

Shibata: I was studying in high school in Canada, and our CGO Kyohei Teshima was studying in the UK. As both he and I were outside Japan, we saw a variety of services for outsourcing tasks to emerging countries. We didn’t really call it ‘crowdsourcing’ in the past, but it was an [early] form of today’s crowdsouricing concepts.

Kyohei and I met each other while working at DeNA as interns. We were so inspired by the concept of The World is Flat, the best-selling book by Thomas Friedman, and started working together exploring an innovative project that might disrupt the global market. With the idea of building up a global project-sharing platform without considering language barriers and cultural gaps, we won a grand prize award plus 3 million yen ($32,000) at an entrepreneur contest from Skylight Consulting. That’s where my colleague Akira Kudo joined the team too.

When thinking about what was the easiest category of crowdsource-able tasks [unlikely to be impeded by] language barriers, we concluded we should focus on a platform specializing in logo design.  Since we started working on it, we’re haven’t been interested in business in a specific country but rather one that works in the global market. [1]

Can you tell us how the system works?

When you order logo design here in Japan, it will usually not be very cheap due to high labor costs in the country. And it can also be very hard for most Japanese people to order such work from overseas because of the language barrier. Our service allows users to easily place orders from independent foreign designers.

The website has multilingual interfaces to easily facilitate this. We’ve developed a non-verbal interface that allows users to let the designers know what kind of tastes you like or what kind of additional changes you want by just choosing selective designations or pointing [things] out over the artwork on screen.  Users can receive many design proposals at affordable rates from registered designers in emerging markets.

How do you monetize this?

We charge our user almost 20% of the ordering fee as our commission (this can vary according to some order criteria) when the design artwork is delivered to the user. When a user submits the order, we’ll charge our fee including the commission. And after that user then selects one of the design proposals, Designclue will pay the designer. So, Designclue plays a sort of escrow role in terms of money flow. All payments on the platform are processed via PayPal.

What kinds of business are using the service the most?

About 50% of all orders on the platform came from Japanese startups, followed by large-sized IT enterprises which accounted for 30% of orders.

How geographically varied are the designers?

About 30% of registered designers comes from Indonesia, followed by the Philippines, the US, India, Serbia, and the UK (in descending order). There was even a South African freelance designer who could make a living for three months as long as he accomplished a single task.

It seems that in Indonesia the locals are aggressively developing their skills to make a living.  Many people are using [similar services] like 99designs.com and are used to submitting their artwork ideas as side jobs.   99designs is an English language site and helps them work with Western countries.  But for the Indonesian designers, we are a way to enlarge their business opportunities to non-English-speaking countries, including Japan.

Can you share any interesting metrics about your service so far?

123 design proposals are delivered for an order on average, and 95% of all the order requests are completed with users satisfied with the outcome. We have 800 designers in 60 countries, and more than 85% of all the designers came from outside Japan. We’ve handled more than 100 transactions during the last six months since the site launch.

What do you foresee for Designclue in the future?

We think we’ll be moving towards the realization of a project sharing platform, where users can easily split their tasks to small pieces and outsource to freelancers.


Designclue was chosen as one of the finalists for the SF Japan Night event that will take place in San Francisco in early March.

They’re currently hiring Ruby developers, preferably English speakers.  If you are interested in joining them and being a part of a platform that may disrupt the global market, please feel free to contact them.

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  1. After this point, all three pitch in to answer various questions.  ↩

Meet the Japanese startup aspiring to bring new voices to your games

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See original story in Japanese. The high penetration of smartphone and tablet devices has made it a lot easier to enjoy rich visual and audio content. But from the point of view of game developers, it can be incredibly tough to differentiate your works from others, as great artwork and illustrations alone might not be enough. Many of them are trying to improve the sound of their games as well, in order to improve their content offerings. Tokyo-based startup, Grood, has recently introduced an online service for voice acting jobs called Voip. The startup won the top prize at Incubate Camp, a demo event held by local startup accelerator Incubate Fund last March. The startup is also known for its smartphone smash-hit app 全国告白白書 (or literally ‘All-Japan Love Confession Whitepaper’) which allows users to experience virtual love confessions to beautiful girls on the app. Voip has partnered with voice actor agencies and schools nationwide, and has enlisted more than 450 actors and actresses. By taking advantage of the country’s largest such network of this kind, the startup provides a large base from which social games or MMORPG developers can source quality voice actors. Prior to placing an order, a game…

See original story in Japanese.

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The high penetration of smartphone and tablet devices has made it a lot easier to enjoy rich visual and audio content. But from the point of view of game developers, it can be incredibly tough to differentiate your works from others, as great artwork and illustrations alone might not be enough. Many of them are trying to improve the sound of their games as well, in order to improve their content offerings.

Tokyo-based startup, Grood, has recently introduced an online service for voice acting jobs called Voip. The startup won the top prize at Incubate Camp, a demo event held by local startup accelerator Incubate Fund last March. The startup is also known for its smartphone smash-hit app 全国告白白書 (or literally ‘All-Japan Love Confession Whitepaper’) which allows users to experience virtual love confessions to beautiful girls on the app.

Voip has partnered with voice actor agencies and schools nationwide, and has enlisted more than 450 actors and actresses. By taking advantage of the country’s largest such network of this kind, the startup provides a large base from which social games or MMORPG developers can source quality voice actors.

Prior to placing an order, a game developer can ask an actor or actress to read a script as a sort of audition. When the developer chooses their favored actor, that person will then be notified about the job details. The actors can choose the work that they really want, and the client can choose from the best among all audio pieces that actors have recorded and submitted.

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Although there appears to be more overall demand for quality voice-acting these days, notable voice actors and actresses frequently featured on TV or in well-known anime charge very high guarantee fees for their performance, and that is likely beyond the reach of most social game developers.

There are tens of thousands of voice actors in Japan, but only a fraction of them can make a living without doing other work on the side. The industry is very much seniority-based, and younger actors find it hard to survive even if they are popular.

So this service is a natural fit for voice actors in need of work and social game developers who are in need of quality performances. One job on the site has received 213 applications within 10 days of being published, which is a very impressive total.

Voip is currently working on some projects for Pokelabo, a well-known social game developer also backed by Incubate Fund.