Pioneers Festival is a startup conference held annually in Vienna, Austria. The festival started in 2011, and the fifth edition will be held 28-29 May.
A qualifier was held in Tokyo last weekend to select the Japanese delegation for the conference, where D Free, the team developing a bowel movement tracking device under the same name, won the top award.
Let’s have a quick rundown on startups that had good results in the competition.
Judges for the competition were:
- Nikola Pavesic, CEO of Justa.io
- Vickie Paradise Green, Founder of Paradigm / Chairman of the board at Run for the Cure® foundation
- Tadaaki Kimura, CEO of Addlight
- Shingo Potier de la Morandière, co-founder of Impact HUB Tokyo
- Tim Romero, former representative director of Engine Yard, K.K., Host of Disrupting Japan podcast
Impact Hub Community Award winner: D Free
D Free is a wearable device that predicts the timing of bowel movements. Using ultrasonic waves it predicts how much time a person has until the feces will stimulate the sacral bone, which triggers the urge to defecate. In this way, users will not have to rush to the bathroom as it will free them from worries about the risk of fecal incontinence. It will help non-handicapped persons, as well as Parkinson’s disease patients, the physically challenged, and the elderly, who might be hard to make it to the bath room and forced to wear a diaper, helping them get back their human dignity.
The device’s learning feature complements individual differences and improves accuracy. They will start marketing to self operators in early 2016, followed by nursing care homes and hospitals in third quarter 2016.
2nd place award winner: Mister Suite
Mister Suite is an outsourcing service for small inn owners and hosts of short-term lodging facilities such as AirBnB. Instead of these hosts and owners, Mister Suite provides a variety of services such as guest relations, handing keys to guests, and room cleaning. In the year of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, while 20 million foreign visitors are expected to come to Tokyo, available hotel rooms are increasing at a pace of 1,800 rooms every year so lodging facilities for 3.7 million visitors will be lacking annually. On the other hand, the vacancy rate of residences in Tokyo is as high as 17%, so the Mister Suite team wants to these vacant rooms to be used as lodging facilities.
Their online booking system integrates with a dispatching system of room cleaners, and it will show when a room is available for a new guest after a guest leaves. The company wants to expand to small hotels, Japanese inns, hot spring inns, and other sharing economy businesses.
3rd place award winner: Wovn.io
Since its launch nine months ago, the service has translated 120,000 web pages for users. Website owners can choose from machine translation and human translation, and the former uses Google Translate while the latter relies on crowdsourced translation service Gengo. They are working on the next update that will allow users to easily integrate into major content management systems such as WordPress and Drupal.
The following startups did not win but gave interesting pitches.
Tamecco is a platform that applies Amazon.com’s recommendation user experience to the face-to-face shopping scene. Using an artificial intelligence-based mobile app to collect consumer behavior data, the platform allows store owners to recommend items at storefronts and distribute rewards, such as discount coupons, to potential customers on what they like or where they are.
Tamecco targets franchises of beauty salons, massage shops, ramen restaurants, and other retail businesses. The platform has been installed at selected outlets of Yoshinoya restaurants, a standing sushi bar chain, and Re.Ra.Ku massage places. Unlike typical iBeacon-based technologies that cannot serve Android users, Tamecco perfectly captures iPhone users as well as Android users. It is easy to use so that even the elderly, who are less familiar with mobile apps, can take advantage of it.
Jandi is a cloud-based communication platform for enterprise use. Slack is popular in this space, but the Jandi team claims that Slack does not always meet the demand from business in Asia as it was developed in Western countries. With offices in Tokyo, Taipei, and Seoul, the Jandi team wants to differentiate itself from other communication platforms.
In November, the company fundraised $2 million from Softbank Ventures Korea, China’s Cherubic Ventures, and Korea’s Ticket Monster CEO Hyun-sung Shin.
Paygate has developed a credit card payment system. Using a strategy that differentiates itself from similar payments platforms like Square or Coiney, Paygate targets the payment needs of big retail companies, which tend to require higher system reliability and security, providing devices accepting IC chip-embedded credit cards. The company provides payment SDKs (software development kits) in compliance with the PCI-DSS certification, which allows developers to easily develop apps with payments functions without applying for certification.
Typical NFC-based authentication systems or payments systems require users to have a smartphone with a higher operation system version and a mobile app for each of the systems. FlashTouch uses a mobile web browser and delivers a user’s authenticity via light flashing patterns from his or her mobile screen to a light-signal receiving device, which are typically located at storefronts so that it enables mobile payments, identification, smart key authentication, and other purposes. Based on the patent-approved technology, the company provides the solution for $20 per ID (required on every receiving device) every month.
Odigo is a trip planning and experience sharing platform for foreign visitors to Japan, where local photographers and authors introduce hidden attractions, destinations, and sightseeing spots. The company plans to monetize receiving budget from local governments for their tourism promotion.
Zest has developed an auto dispatch and scheduling system for staffers in various industries, and is currently validating its usability in the building inspection industry. The service is available for one-tenth the cost of similar products, and users only have to pay $100,000 for installation and $2,000 for monthly usage. Zest plans to set up an office in Singapore to expand into the Asian market.
Swingnow is a platform that aims to streamline messaging, calendar management, and contact management. It consists of three mobile apps – Swingmail, Swingcal, and Swingbooks – all available on the iTunes AppStore in English-speaking and Nordic countries, but only Swingmail has been launched in Japan.
Edited by Kurt Hanson
Proofread by “Tex” Pomeroy