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Japanese smart lock Akerun secures $9M to foray into entrance/exit logging business

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based startup Photosynth, developing and offering  smart lock Akerun as well as SaaS to manage entrances and exits, announced earlier this month that it raised funds from Globis Capital Partners, Daiwa Corporate Investment, and YJ Capital. The funds raised this time around total about 1 billion yen (about $9.1M US) when added to loans procured from the Japan Finance Corporation and Orix, and brings the cumulative amount of funding to 1.5 billion yen (roughly $13.7M US). Details such as the payment date, investment round, and share ratios were not disclosed, and Globis Capital Partners’ Emre Hidekazu Yuasa was appointed as Outside Director. In addition, the company also revealed that Akerun Pro, a smart lock for businesses, has been introduced by 2,500 companies since its launch in July 2016. In particular, industries which handle personal information such as recruiting, finance, and social work, in addition to companies with multiple offices, and coworking spaces have adopted it. The company will use the funds raised to double the current team of 50 members (this number is based on full-time employees) within two years. Specifically, it plans to strengthen its sales and support systems in order to respond…

Photosynth CEO Kodai Kawase

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based startup Photosynth, developing and offering  smart lock Akerun as well as SaaS to manage entrances and exits, announced earlier this month that it raised funds from Globis Capital Partners, Daiwa Corporate Investment, and YJ Capital. The funds raised this time around total about 1 billion yen (about $9.1M US) when added to loans procured from the Japan Finance Corporation and Orix, and brings the cumulative amount of funding to 1.5 billion yen (roughly $13.7M US).

Details such as the payment date, investment round, and share ratios were not disclosed, and Globis Capital Partners’ Emre Hidekazu Yuasa was appointed as Outside Director.

In addition, the company also revealed that Akerun Pro, a smart lock for businesses, has been introduced by 2,500 companies since its launch in July 2016. In particular, industries which handle personal information such as recruiting, finance, and social work, in addition to companies with multiple offices, and coworking spaces have adopted it.

The company will use the funds raised to double the current team of 50 members (this number is based on full-time employees) within two years. Specifically, it plans to strengthen its sales and support systems in order to respond to the increase in inquiries, and its goal is to be introduced in 10,000 companies by 2020.

Amendments to the Personal Information Protection Law Prove Helpful

Demo of the door installation (Akerun Pro)

Since its inception in September of 2014, Photosynth, which has often been featured on The Bridge, succeeded in raising a large-scale sum. By attaching Akerun Pro to a door handle, it is possible to lock or unlock the door using a smartphone or IC card. It is also linked to the cloud and can issue keys and manage a log of who enters and leaves through the door. There are no introductory costs as the company uses a monthly subscription model for renting the equipment and using web services. It is set at 15,000 yen (around $137 US) per month.

If we take a rough look at the domestic market for this smart lock, there are many uncertainties due to regulations with regards to Airbnb and the like, which the business model favors, and we get the impression that the company is working towards more reliable business development, evident in its partnerships with real estate and other companies.

As mentioned above, Photosynth is using a monthly subscription model, as opposed to selling the product until there is no more. On the business side, if the company does not have a revenue model that can anticipate new business, as the vacation rentals business does, it would definitely run into the problem of the product selling out.

However, right now, the business couldn’t be better. When I asked the company’s CEO Kodai Kawase the reason, it seems that the revision last year of the Personal Information Protection Law had a surprising effect.

According to the amendment of the Personal Information Protection Law in May 2017, roughly speaking, those who do business through memberships are supposed to take entrance and exit logs, but the introduction costs of existing entry and exit systems cost around 1 million yen (about $9.1KUS), including security services.

There are a multitude of small and medium sized businesses that take the personal information of their members. According to Kawase, it is necessary that the companies maintain “entrance/exit logs”, and with the advantage of no introductory cost, inquiries into Akerun keep coming one after another.

Users can get a key by registering through the smartphone app or with an IC card, like those used for public transit.

And there’s more.

Because of the entrance/exit log, it is possible to keep track of who is entering and exiting, so who is working or not working. Yes, that is one way to respond to the problem of overwork. Solutions for overwork, which has become a social problem in recent years, have garnered much attention, and there are many requests for ways to link them to attendance.

Naturally, if such solutions become a part of the service, the argument for monthly subscriptions is strengthened.

On the day of the interview, Kawase gave a demo of how to attach Akerun to a door, but it was easy to complete from installation to registering the key by smartphone in a few minutes. It may take time to set up the cloud service and various onboarding, but this hurdle is low compared to services that require actual alterations to a door.

I feel that Photosynth’s transformation from selling smart locks to taking on the challenge of the “entrance/exit log” is the reason behind its large-scale fundraising.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Japan’s smart lock Akerun secures $3.7 million from Jafco, YJ Capital, others

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Photosynth, the Japanese startup developing smart lock solution Akerun, announced today that it has fundraised 450 million yen ($3.7 million) from Jafco, YJ Capital, Gaiax, and Beta Catalyst. The funds will be used to strengthen sales and engineering efforts. Photosynch graduated from the Startup Innovator Program by Japan’s NEDO, or New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization. The program aims to create global, mega-venture companies within ten years in Japan where R&D-focused manufacturing companies are less likely to be born. Some 420 companies have applied for the program, while 14 companies have been selected to receive support from the organization. Photosynth is the first graduate from the program because startups that receive funds of more than 100 million yen ($830,000) are requested to quit. Photosynth started shipping their flagship smart-lock solution Akerun in April. In July, the company announced a wireless data gateway device called Akerun Remote, which allows users to lock or unlock a key from a feature phone or a desktop web browser as well as the Akerun smartphone app. They also recently started a new service meeting corporate needs. Since the July launch, the new product has attracted many businesses,…

akerun-series-featuredimage

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Photosynth, the Japanese startup developing smart lock solution Akerun, announced today that it has fundraised 450 million yen ($3.7 million) from Jafco, YJ Capital, Gaiax, and Beta Catalyst. The funds will be used to strengthen sales and engineering efforts.

Photosynch graduated from the Startup Innovator Program by Japan’s NEDO, or New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization. The program aims to create global, mega-venture companies within ten years in Japan where R&D-focused manufacturing companies are less likely to be born. Some 420 companies have applied for the program, while 14 companies have been selected to receive support from the organization. Photosynth is the first graduate from the program because startups that receive funds of more than 100 million yen ($830,000) are requested to quit.

Photosynth started shipping their flagship smart-lock solution Akerun in April. In July, the company announced a wireless data gateway device called Akerun Remote, which allows users to lock or unlock a key from a feature phone or a desktop web browser as well as the Akerun smartphone app. They also recently started a new service meeting corporate needs.

Since the July launch, the new product has attracted many businesses, mainly co-working spaces, restaurants, diners, etc. Users will be charged on a monthly basis, helping the company pile up sales through the subscription-based business model. That’s why the company will focus on acquiring business users.

The company recently introduced the handsfree unlock function, which allows users to automatically unlock a key when close to a door. Based on user feedback, they will keep improving and enhancing the functionality of the product because, which is their strength.

Photosynth is taking a lean startup approach, a rare case for a hardware startup, however it will be interesting to see how the company develops the smart lock market from here.

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Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by Kurt Hanson

Japan’s Akerun smart lock to start shipping soon, expecting to reach 10,000 orders in a year

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See the original story in Japanese. At the press conference last month, Tokyo-based IoT (Internet of Things) product developer Photosynth announced that it will start shipping a new smart lock product called Akerun on 23 April. They have been accepting pre-orders on their website since almost one month ago. The product will be available for 36,000 yen (about $300) excluding consumption tax. The company aims to sell 10,000 devices in the fiscal year 2015. Akerun is a smart lock that you can attach over an existing thumb turn-type door lock, controllable from smartphones via BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy).  It has also the automatic lock function, will automatically detect whether the door is open and lock it when needed just in case that a user forgot to do so. Photosynth is currently applying a patent for the product as an attachable smart lock system as well as the aforementioned automatic lock function. Users can generate spare keys via the mobile app; these keys can be shared with other selected persons using communication channels such as Line or Facebook messaging apps. The target of the product includes hotels, real estate agencies, and shared rooms which typically need to give multiple persons access to…

photosynth-kodai-kawase
Photosynth CEO Kodai Kawase unveils Akerun at the press conference.

See the original story in Japanese.

At the press conference last month, Tokyo-based IoT (Internet of Things) product developer Photosynth announced that it will start shipping a new smart lock product called Akerun on 23 April. They have been accepting pre-orders on their website since almost one month ago. The product will be available for 36,000 yen (about $300) excluding consumption tax. The company aims to sell 10,000 devices in the fiscal year 2015.

Akerun is a smart lock that you can attach over an existing thumb turn-type door lock, controllable from smartphones via BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy).  It has also the automatic lock function, will automatically detect whether the door is open and lock it when needed just in case that a user forgot to do so. Photosynth is currently applying a patent for the product as an attachable smart lock system as well as the aforementioned automatic lock function.

akerun_featuredimage

Users can generate spare keys via the mobile app; these keys can be shared with other selected persons using communication channels such as Line or Facebook messaging apps.

The target of the product includes hotels, real estate agencies, and shared rooms which typically need to give multiple persons access to a room.  This spare key function also supports one-time password and designation of key activation date and time.

Akerun allows users to record room entry and exit logs, so it can be integrated with other services to monitor their children’s home return hours or manage attendance at companies. In partnership with Docomo Ventures, Japan’s largest property search portal company Next (TSE:2120), and Japan’s leading property developer Mitsui Fudosan (TSE:8801), Photosynth will launch derived services based on the smart lock solution, such as 39hotels (allowing hotel guests to enter their room using their BLE-enabled smartphone), Smart Nairan (real estate mediation), and short-time rentals of vacant office spaces.

Regarding future plans, Photosynth CEO Kodai Kawase said that they aim to make the device be something more than a smart lock, like a ‘smart lock robot.’ In the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, we could hear many announcements made in the smart home sector. So it will be interesting to see how Akerun can expand business range beyond more than that of a smart lock.

Translated by Kenji Hayakawa via Conyac crowdsourced translation service
Edited by Masaru Ikeda and “Tex” Pomeroy