Jan 31, 2011

Seed investor, Samurai Incubate sets up second fund /TechCrunch Japan

Samurai Incubate operates Samurai Fund which is one of the seed accelerator emerging recently in Japan. With small amount of investment, it supports startups. From the first fund launched in 2009, it invests in nine startups including Anydoor, social translation service, Conyac operator, Nobot, smartphone ads network, Sassor, energy consumption management tool for electric appliances, and Rei Frontier, operating Lala Colle, location-based social application using AR.

Each amount of investment is very small like several hundreds of million yen and the total amount of fund is also small as 51.5 million yen. The second fund (62 million yen) is announced to be set up to continue the investment activity. It says to invest 10 startups within this March.

TechCrunch Japan 1/31/2011

  • Seed accelerators, investing small amount and incubating at very early stage, are increasing.
  • Other incubators are mostly established by successful Internet companies such as GMO, CyberAgent and Digital Garage.

Jan 28, 2011

Train route search service, Ekitan will go public on TSE Mothers /Venture Now

Ekitan accepted IPO on Mothers from Tokyo Stock Exchange. The planned date is March 3rd.

Major investors are Polaris Capital Group (60.99%), Fuji Media Holdings (13.21%), Increment P (8.64%), Ekitan (5.87%). Toshiba (4.73%) and five board members (6.56%).

Ekitan started in 1997 as an internal venture of Toshiba and was spun off as a 100% subsidiary in 2003 January. At the end of October of 2007, Polaris and management of Ekitan conducted MBO.

Ekitan Mobile has 851,657 paid-users and 1,751,579 free users. The revenue of a fiscal year ending March 2010 is 2,429 million yen, and the operating profit is 511 million yen.

Venture Now 1/27/2011

  • There are some competitors in train route search service, such as Jorudan or NaviTime. Jorudan has already got IPO. 

Social application provider, Community Factory raised 180M yen from mixi /TechCrunch Japan

The first investment from mixi Fund, which mixi set up to promote its open strategy, was for Community Factory. The startup raised 20 million yen from mixi Fund in 2009 April and as its fourth fundraising, secured 180 million yen from mixi again.

Community Factory which begun providing application when mixi was just opened is a pioneer of a social application provider in Japan. Current hit application is "Minna no Kentei" surpassing 5.7 million registered users.

The company also provides Orkut, Google's social network, with games co-developing with local partners in Brazil.

With the investment, mixi holds nearly 40% share of Community Factory, which has raised 130 million yen from Mizuho Capital, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital and Nissei Capital in 2010 June and also from Cyber Communications in 2009 November.

TechCrunch Japan 1/28/2011

  • mixi positions itself as a social graph provider, which means it focuses on operating the platform and does not provide applications itself.
  • Following joint venture with CyberAgent, it looks like mixi would like to accelerate providing applications using its capital.

Jan 26, 2011

[Asiajin] Japan’s Mobile Social Gaming Giant GREE Partners With China’s Tencent (QQ)

Asiajin 1/26/2011
Big news from Asia’s social gaming world today: Tokyo-based mobile social games juggernaut GREE ($3 billion market cap) just announced it will tie up with China’s biggest web company Tencent ($45 billion market cap), which operates the massive QQ platform.

The plan is to “export” GREE’s social apps to the rapidly growing market for mobile games in China as well as to offer games made in China to GREE’s 22 million Japanese users. The focus of the partnership is on “GREE Platform for Smartphone”, which was announced by the company last year...

  • This is a similar type of alliance which mixi has developed with Renren in China, CyWorld in Korea, and Vznet in Germany very recently. One of differences is that GREE focuses on smartphone.
  • Another rival, DeNA chooses to extend its own service by M&A including ngmoco (US) or WapTX (China). It is interesting to see which strategy will work better as a global expansion. 

[Asiajin] For Social App Development: Mixi And CyberAgent Launch Joint Venture

Asiajin 1/25/2011
Japan’s social apps boom isn’t ending: Today, two of the country’s biggest web companies, namely Mixi and CyberAgent, announced they will launch a joint venture to produce social apps for mixi, Japan’s biggest social network, on February 1. CyberAgent is best known for its massive Ameba blog platform, Japan’s biggest (12.4 million registered users).

The new venture, which is called Grenge (no website yet), is capitalized at 50 million yen ($606,000) and owned 51% by CyberAgent and 49% by mixi. Grenge is expected to produce apps for Japanese feature phones and smartphones from April this year. By March 2012, the plan is to have deployed a total of eight titles on Mixi.

Grenge is expected to generate $6 million in sales by September this year.

What’s interesting is that with this move, mixi is moving further away from its position as a strict, “neutral” social network/graph provider. Its big rivals in terms of user numbers, mobile gaming networks Mobage-town and GREE, have been doubling as platform and app providers since they opened their sites to third-party developers in 2009/2010.

In 2009, Mixi established the so-called Mixi Fund to invest in startups that provide social apps. Since then, big M has invested in several companies, for example in Tokyo-based social games startup Pikkle ($1.6 million).
  • CyberAgent and its group companies have released 25 titles of mobile social applications with over 10 million registered users in total .

Jan 21, 2011

d-worx launches application log analysis service for iPhone/Android /@IT

d-worx announced that it adds smartphone application analysis service to "wellout", access log analysis service for mobile phones.

wellout smartphone apps analysis is a cloud model service which provides 18 kinds of reports such as usage trend and device information of multi-applications. The service allows customers to use the reports for improvements of applications or effect measurements of sales promotions using the application.

Its usage trend analysis lets customers measure a number of usage or time spent by tracking and analyzing activation and termination of the application and button clicks. In addition, it offers pathway analysis which analyze transition of users in the application.

It also provides various device information from OS, language, and device model to network status of users such as wireless LAN or offline.

@IT 1/20/2011

  • There are few access log analysis service for smartphones except FEYNMAN's dodaii, which is more like a platform including billing and sales report functions in addition to log analysis.  

mixi partners with German social network, Vznet /TechCurnch Japan

mixi announced that it agreed with German-based social networking service, Vzent, to standardize their platform. This is an extension of partnership with Cyworld of Korea and Renren of China, which allows application developers to easily provide their applications over all platforms.

According to mixi, Vznet provides three platforms; schulerVZ for middle school and high school student, studiVZ for university students, and meinVX for working people. It has combined users of 17.5 million. Vznet is a subsidiary of Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group.

TechCrunch Japan 1/20/2011

  • Along with GREE, which just launched US office, and DeNA, which announced partnership with Samsung and China entry, mixi is steadily driving its own strategy for global partnership.
  • But different from rivals, the partnership of standardization does not mean mixi's own expansion in abroad, but helping application providers go global in order to make the platform attractive for them and then for users in Japan.

Jan 20, 2011

Yahoo Japan launches "Yahoo! Loco" integrating local information /TechCrunch jp

Yahoo! Loco includes map, train line, traffic information, local information, gourmet, telephone directory, coupon and others. The service will be provided on PC as well as mobile and smartphone.

At Yahoo! Loco, local businesses are allowed to have their own web page. Until now, businesses like restaurants, beauty salon or healthcare can have paid-for web pages, but those will be integrated into two plans, free entry plan and paid standard plan with 36,000 yen of annual charge.

Currently Yahoo! has 26 million users and 1.7 billion PV from these local services, which is expected to be increased, Yahoo Japan said.

Also it plans to provide advertising combining users' interest and place by integrating Yahoo!'s interest match and AdLocal, location-based ads operated by Cirius Technology which Yahoo Japan acquired last August.

TechCrunch Japan 1/20/2011

  • Yahoo! is No.1 site on desktop PC, but mobile seems the key for success in location-based service.
  • Yahoo! does not have such a dominant position in mobile as well as Google. Still there may be plenty space for other service providers including startups.

Aratana releases Social Gateway allowing to launch EC site in Facebook Fan Page /Venture Now

Social Gateway is an application which allows EC site to link with Facebook Fan Page. With the application, EC site operators can utilize Facebook as their satellite site.

At the launch, it is only available with EC sites developed on EC-CUBE and Kagorabo of Aratana, but the company plans to make usable with EC sites using other ASP services.

Venture Now 1/19/2011

  • As Facebook users are increasing recently, Facebook related services and products are appearing. 
  • From a recent survey for corporations, more companies are interested in Facebook than Twitter to use for marketing, although a number of unique users of Facebook (3M) is still far behind from Twitter (12m).

Littel, search technology startup, is acquired by NEXT, real estate portal site operator with 286.4M yen/Venture Now

Littel announced that it has concluded to transfer shares to NEXT, Japan's largest real estate information portal, HOME's, operator to become a wholly owned subsidiary.

Littel was founded in 2007 April from University of Tokyo. It commercializes advanced technologies related to natural language processing and information navigation which have been developed at University of Tokyo. Currently, the startup develops and sells products automatically providing items or information that users want as well as provides solution service to support to develop Hadoop, large scale distributed processing platform.

NEXT aims to be a global company with DB + CCS, or database plus communication and concierge service. In order to realize the target, it considers Littel's technology to be very beneficial and decided to acquire the startup.

Venture Now 1/19/2011

  • Other two startups backed by University of Tokyo got Innovation Winner Award at iEXPO 2010, business plan contest in Silicon Valley
    •  Phyzios, web contents and iPhone game developer
    •  Morpho, image processing technology
  • Even though the exit price is not a particular success, the university's venture incubation activities are yielding a certain results. 

Jan 19, 2011

[Marbridge Daily] Japanese Mobile Game Platform DeNA to Enter China

Marbridge Daily 1/12/2011
On January 11, COO Moriyasu Isao of Japanese mobile gaming platform DeNA said in an interview that his company will bring its game and application platform to China in late February in its first foray into the China market. 20 to 30 Chinese developers have already signed partnership agreements with DeNA.

Wang Yong, the CEO of DeNA China and former CEO of TX.com.cn, said on the same day that the new game and application platform would be operated entirely by DeNA China, which was created following DeNA's acquisition of a controlling stake in TX.com.cn in August 2009 and subsequent change of the site's name to DeNA China.

Wang revealed that Chinese game developers would be able to put their games on DeNA's game and applications platform for paid download by customers around the world. DeNA will take a 30% cut of download revenues; the remaining 70% will go to the Chinese developers.

  •  DeNA announced an alliance with Samsung and ngmoco integration last month. It accelerates global expansion.  

GREE released web application for iPhone/Android from development partners /japan.internet.com

GREE launched GREE Platform for smartphone on December 6 of 2010, and this is the first launch of smartphone applications from GREE Partner. GREE Platform for smartphone releases specifications for web apps for iPhone/Android, native apps for iOS and Android.

As of January 18, about 200 companies has announced to join as a GREE Partner for smartphone. In addition to web apps, it plans to release iOS apps and Android apps from the GREE Partners.

japan.internet.com 1/19/2011

  • 15 titles of applications are planned to be released soon. Almost all of them are games.
  • GREE was the last SNS to start providing open API among rivals, DeNA and mixi, but it takes a lead against DeNA to launch partner's social games for smartphone.

Jan 18, 2011

[Asiajin] For $26 Million: GREE Acquires Mobile Ad Startup Atlantis

Asiajin 1/15/2011
M&A-related news are relatively rare in Japan’s startup scene, but today we can report that mobile social gaming juggernaut GREE has acquired Tokyo-based ad exchange service Atlantis for 2.2 billion yen ($26 million). The company will be turned into a GREE subsidiary.

Big G says that the acquisition marks their entry into the mobile/smartphone ad business, which has been growing rapidly in Japan in recent months. With the move, GREE also wants to strengthen its recently launched “GREE Platform for smartphone” by which games will be offered to users of Android handsets and iPhones.


Atlantis was founded in 2007 and currently employs 15 people.

  • This may be the first corporate acquisition for GREE. But the mobile game platform operator has acquired minority shares of mig33, mobile SNS based in Singapore, and istyle, cosmetics community site. 
  • In advertising field, Cirius Technology, location-based ads technology, was acquired by Yahoo Japan in 2010. 
  • Smartphone's rapid growth will boost up competition in mobile ads industry. 

Jan 14, 2011

DeNA launches Premium Course, monthly charge service for Mobage-town /Venture Now

Premium Course targets for users of NTT docomo and KDDI au. With the service, users get members-only items or services depending on courses they select. As the start, Kaito Royale Premium Course (500yen - ) and Aisatsu Premium Course (200yen - ) are provided.

The company says that users had to pay each time to buy items so far, but the monthly charge service allows users to save the effort and improves convenience.

Venture Now 1/14/2011

Digital Garage and IIJ partner to promote corporate mini blog service /CNET

Digital Garage and IIJ announced that they have business alliance in cloud computing area. As the first case, they start to sell BirdFish, Digital Garage's corporate mini blog service on IIJ GIO Service, IIJ's cloud service.

After the spring of 2011, both companies plan to add functions to display BirdFish's mini blog on IIJ GIO Cybozu Garoon SaaS.

CNET 1/13/2011

Aiming at overseas market, social commerce, Brasyna Japan, launches /Venture Now

From the mid February, Brasyna launches Brasyna Japan, social commerce service for foreign markets with concept of "Japanese treasure ship" utilizing flash marketing. It prepares one item/service for each category, which has a brand power such as award-winning or highly ranked goods from third-party organizations.

Currently prepared categories include "TRADITIONAL & CULTURAL" such as Ninja item or Kimono, "TICKET on JAPAN", "MANGA & CHARACTERS", "ELECTRONICS", "FOOD & DRINK", and "APPAREL & COSMETICS". Main target markets are English speaking countries like USA or UK. China and France will be added in this spring, and Brazil, Taiwan and Korea will join in the fall.

Venture Now 1/13/2011

Jan 13, 2011

MapMotion provides location information management system to NTT NaviSpace /Venture Now

MapMotion revealed that it provides SanPotora, NTT NaviSpace's service for smartphone which gives mileage points based on moving distance, with its original developed GPS Platform.

GPS Platform is a B2B2C ASP service which allows customers to unify management of GPS-enabled information on feature phones or smartphones, such as location, status of users, check-in, calculation of moving distance, and contents services.

Venture Now 1/13/2011

Septeni acquires a part of shares of Kauli, supply side ad platform /MarkeZine

Kauli operates Supply Side Platform which distribute advertisement for various network media using unique technologies such as web site analysis based on its own algorithm or concept matching using user segmentation. Supply Side Platform or SSP is a service platform to maximize benefit of ads used by web site operators which place ads.

With the acquisition, Septeni aims to strengthen partnership with the company and enhance competitive edge in ad network domain.

MarkeZine 1/13/2011

Jan 12, 2011

FlutterScape partners with myGengo to allow users to place goods in Japanese /Nikkei

FlutterScape is a social commerce platform which allows foreigners living in Japan to sell Japanese goods for people overseas. myGengo is a translation platform combining human power and technology. With this alliance, myGengo provides "API Honyakubako" for FlutterScape which is the first attempt for the translation company. It makes easier to place goods in Japanese on FlutterScape and allows not only foreigners but also Japanese to use the service.

Nikkei 1/12/2011

[Asiajin] GREE Opens Subsidiary In The US

Asiajin 1/11/2011
GREE CEO Yoshikazu Tanaka announced it in June last year, and now the Japanese mobile social gaming giant did make the second step on the road to internationalization (following the mig33 investment in Singapore): it just announced the establishment of GREE International, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary in California.

The office will be led by the company’s CFO Naoki Aoyagi who joined GREE in 2006 and is fluent in English (Aoyagi is still listed as the CFO on GREE’s website).

Jan 11, 2011

[e27] SingTel Innov8′s first investment is 2359 Media

e27 1/11/2011
So the news broke late yesterday that SingTel’s venture unit, Innov8, has made its first investment. The fund spent SGD800,000 (around US$615,000) for 28.57 percent of 2359 Media, a mobile advertising and publishing company, in a Series A round. SingTel announced the investment in a filing with the Singapore Exchange.

Jan 7, 2011

Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance sets up VC fund for Asia /Nikkei

Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance announced that it sets up 2 billion yen of fund through its VC subsidiary, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital aiming at investing in Asian startups in China, Taiwan and others.

This is the first VC business in Asia for Japanese insurance company. Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance stakes 95.5% and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital invests rest.

Nikkei 1/7/2011

Jan 6, 2011

TSUNAMI, social game developer, raised 42M yen from Mizuho Capital /Asahi.com

TSUNAMI provides social games for mixi, Mobage-town, and GREE. Along with fundraising from AdWays group in the last September, the startup has raised 80 million yen in total.

Asahi.com 1/6/2011