Feb 28, 2011

CyberAgent provides social game platform aiming at global market /CyberAgent

CyberAgent starts to provide GameWave, a social game platform for iPhone in this spring. In addition to social games from CyberAgent and third party developers, it provides communication functions among users. The company plans to expand the service for global market centered around North America. GameWave is based on Pankia, SDK for smartphone from Pankaku, smartphone application startup.

CyberAgent Press Release 2/28/2011

  • Pankia surpassed 5 million users as of 2011 February.
  • Pankaku raised 50M yen from CyberAgent in 2010 March.

Samurai Fund II invests in Bukupe, social book summary site /CNET Japan

Bukupe is the first investments from Samuri Fund II, which Samurai Incubate operates. Bukupe is just established on February 28th. CEO is a startup member of where 2.0, internal business of Samurai Incubate.

Bukupe plans to launch social reading service, Bukupe, providing features such as "Summary of books" allowing to sum up reviews or impressions of a book with Wiki-like interface and "My ronbun" letting users to integrate contents of various books into one.

CNET 2/28/2011

  • Samurai Incubate is an incubator focused on seed/early stage startups. From its first fund, it invests in several startups including Anydoor, social translation, Nobot, smartphone ad network, and Sassor, energy consumption management.

mixi provides "Social Phone" combining SNS and smartphone for Softbank /CNET Japan

mixi starts to provide Android application, Social Phone, making easier to use mixi on smartphone for Softbank Mobile devices. Social Phone links mixi and smartphone to display all update information in mixi such as mixi voice or diary, and also automatically synchronize telephone directory and friends on mixi.

By June, it plans to add My mixi (friends) request function using Felica. Between Felica-enabled devices, users can request My mixi by just holding their devices over each other.

CNET 2/25/2011

  • It is interesting that mixi launches with Softbank first rather than NTT Docomo or KDDI which have more Android users. Softbank is an exclusive seller of iPhone in Japan, even though it also sells Android.

FamilyMart launches coupon service using Tonchidot's Sekai Camera /Nikkei

A convenience store operator, FamilyMart starts new service allowing customers to get a coupon by pointing a smartphone camera to a store. It focuses on the fact that its main target customers, 20 to 40 males, overlaps with smartphone users.

The new service utilizes Sekai Camera, AR service operated by Tonchidot. When customers touch the logo mark or airtag, which is overlaid on the landscape of smartphone camera, a coupon with ID is displayed. The customer gets a real coupon by inputting the ID into  Famiport, an information terminal placed in a store.

Nikkei 2/27/2011

Feb 24, 2011

KDDI and GREE will launch GREE Market, apps search service in summer /ITmedia

KDDI and GREE announced that they will provide GREE Market for au and other career's Android devices from summer of 2011 aiming to promote social applications on "au one GREE" and "GREE", social networking service for Android devices.

GREE Market offers search of applications as well as categorizing, ranking, and recommended applications. It also plans to add social features such as informing users  that friends start using applications for the future.

GREE Market is provided as an application on Android market or au one market. In addition, the application will be pre-installed on Android devices from au.

ITmedia 2/24/2011

  • KDDI invested in GREE in 2006, which was quite early phase and has leveraged the partnership so far.

GREE launches GREE Ad Program for developer partners /japan.internet.com

GREE announced that it starts GREE Ad Program from February 25th, which supports GREE partners to attract users and monetize their applications.

The service is the first collaboration with Atlantis which GREE acquired in January. With the service, GREE partners are able to place ads on the ad network to attract users.

In addition to existing ad network that Atlantis is operating, ad spots set by GREE partners will be added to allow to place ads on wider network. GREE partners will get advertising revenue.

The company starts to provide the service for iOS/Android native applications from February 25th, for feature phones from middle of March, and for iPhone/Android web applications from the beginning of April.

japan.internet.com 2/24/2011

  • Considering that many of advertisements in smartphone applications are of other applications, it is a reasonable service for GREE.

[BusinessWire] Domo Introduces Pre-Social Mobile App to Meet the People Around You

BusinessWire 2/23/2011
Tonchidot, the Tokyo-based mobile application company, today announces “domo” at the LAUNCH Conference in San Francisco. With domo, Tonchidot introduces a “pre-social” application that allows users to find people around them they do not yet know, who would be interesting to connect with. Domo essentially brings the usefulness of Facebook profiles into the real world, in real-time, allowing people to open up their data and information to others around them and meet in person.

“Domo connects people! Domo makes love and peace!”
The domo app, which works on Android and iPhone, comes from the crazy Japanese Tonchidot team that launched “Sekai Camera” at TechCrunch50 in 2008. With this next step in “Augmenting” the real world, domo will allow users to see other domo users nearby, get connected to people with common interests, and message or just say “domo”.

Domo will be available for Android and iPhone at the beginning of March, just in time for South By Southwest.

  • Tonchidot raised $12M in series B round on the last September from several investors including KDDI, DCM, US-based VC, and Itochu Technology Ventures.

Feb 23, 2011

MediaProbe allocates new shares to ITmedia and others /japan.internet.com

MediaProbe conducted an allocation of new shares to ITmedia and individual investors including Takaaki Nagayama, former CEO of Sunbridge.

MediaProbe was founded in 2002 April aiming at Web media. With the release of iPhone from Apple in 2008, it focused on developing applications for smartphone. The company has provided applications for many enterprises including ITmedia. Along with dramatic increase of smartphone and electronic publishing, it raised capital to accelerate speed of product development.

japan.internet.com 2/23/2011

  • MediaProbe developed several iPhone applications such as RSS readers, Twitter clients, and video viewers.

ALBERT forms a capital tie-up with ADK Interactive /Venture Now

ALBERT revealed that it allocates new shares to ADK Interactive. The amount is not disclosed but holding share of ADK Interactive after the investment is 13.7% which makes the company the largest shareholder among corporate investors.

ALBERT will use the capital for mainly R&D. Both companies jointly develop a new advertising service called A x A Project providing for advertiser side. They plan to have trial of distributing advertisement based on analyzing behaviors of users with high potential who made actions specified by advertisers, targeting for users with similar audience data.

Venture Now 2/23/2011

  • ADK Interactive is an affiliate company of Asatsu DK, the third largest advertising agency in Japan.

PC-EGG launches voice posting service using telephone linking with Twitter and Facebook /ITpro

PC-EGG started to provide Koeroku which allows users to post voice message on dedicated web site with telephone. Users can post a hyperlink to voice message for Twitter or Facebook. The service is free and does not need user registration.

In order to post voice messages, users click "post" button to open posting page. On the page, users input their name and titles of the message and click "register" button, then a dedicated telephone number is to be displayed. If users call the number and leave a message, voice file is saved on the web site.

Users can listen to posted voice messages by three ways, 1) play by clicking hyperlink on the web site, 2) call the dedicated number, 3) download MP3 file. It also has a feature to attach a script on other web pages such as users' own blogs.

According to PC-EGG, the service is developed using FUSION IP-Phone, Fusion Communication's IP phone service, Asterisk, open source IP-PBX software, and Telne API, PC-EGG's voice communication service.

ITpro 2/22/2011

  • There are several voice tweet service using mobile phone's recording function, but Koeroku is unique that it uses telephone number to post.

Feb 18, 2011

Cerevo, Internet appliance venture, raised 250M yen /CNET

Cerevo conducted allocation of new shares of 250 million yen to develop and sell new products. Investors are Enova, Inspire Technology Innovation Fund, and Neostella.

Cerevo develops CEREVO CAM live!, a digital camera which allows to live-stream on Ustream with just a camera and CEREVO LIVEBOX, an appliance which allows to live-stream on Ustream by just connecting to video camera and microphone.

CNET 2/18/2011

Feb 14, 2011

Brainsync raised 98M yen from Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital /Venture Now

Brainsync revealed that it completed its round C fundraising of 98 million yen at the end of January.

Since 2007, Brainsync has operated "syncl", cloud service for individuals and businesses centered around artists, which provides features such as social networking and communication among fans as well as streaming and selling digital contents.

As of February of 2011, it has about 400,000 members including 6,000 artists. With the capital raised, the company plans to expand overseas, strengthen the system of fan club, official contents, and subscription sales, and starts promotion service using artists.

Venture Now 2/14/2011

  • Existing shareholders of Brainsync include Japan Avex Marketing, Asia Investment, Orix Capital and CyberAgent.

Feb 11, 2011

Pankia, social game platform for smartphone hits 5M users /ITmedia

Pankaku announced that its social platform, Pankia, surpassed five million users for eight months after the launch.

Pankia is a social SDK for iPhone and Android, which includes item management, store function, matching-up players, ranking, achievement and linkage with Twitter/Facebook. Application developers can add those functions into their games without spending a lot of cost.

The company also provides Pankia for OEM, which allows developers to operate their own social platform.

ITmedia 2/10/2011

  • Pankaku became famous with its iPhone game, LightBike ranked top 1 in paid application on AppStore in the US. Needless to say, the game adopts the platform.
  • The company looks to global market from the beginning, which is quite rare for Japanese startups.

Supre raised 40M yen to strengthen support for hobby education /Venture Now

Supre fundraised 40 million yen on December 24th from Mitsubishi UFJ Capital and Mitsui Sumitomo Asset Management. The company will use the capital for increasing human resource and system development of its school support business centered around Shumi Navi, a portal site of hobby related schools and classes.

Supre was founded on 2007 April providing media centered on hobby. Linking with its base service, Shumi Navi, it also operates community service, Shumi Nakama Net, and blog community, Slow Town.

Shumi Navi currently has 6,000 schools from 250 categories, which the company plans to expand to 7,000 schools by May and 100,000 by 2015.

Venture Now 2/10/2011

  • Supre was selected as one of final presentors at NICT business plan contest held at January 25, 2011.

mixi provides real-check for places or goods using NFC /CNET

On February 9th, mixi started to provide mixi check and mixi check-in utilizing NFC technology. mixi check and mixi check-in using NFC are respectively called mixi real-check and mixi real-check-in. For example, visitors for a shop can use mixi check or mixi check-in by just holding Android device over NFC tag attached POP advertisement in the shop.

According to mixi, it is the world first service to combine NFC for android and location information. Android 2.3 devices are available and currently there is only Google Nexus S.

mixi extends mixi check to places or goods in real world. Attaching NFC tag on posters or books allows users to share information with friends or to see review from them.

CNET 2/10/2011

  • The service is not available for most of users at the present moment, but it seems to have huge potential combining several trendy aspects of Internet such as mobile, real-time, social, location and O2O.

Feb 8, 2011

Gree starts to provide in-house developed social games for iPhone/Android /Venture Now

The first games is Monpla, monster training and battle game. There are few difference in functions between games for feature phone and smartphone. Design or screen layout are optimized for smartphone.

With the launch, users of feature phones and smartphones can play each other in rear-time.

Venture Now 2/8/2011

  • In order to let both feature phone and smartphone users play together, games would probably be different or seemed to be poor compared to games which only target for smartphones. 
  • It is interesting to see if popular games in feature phones gets the popularity in smartphones as well by taking advantage of social elements.

Booklista, ebook distributor, increases capital to 490M yen /CNET

Sony, Toppan Printing, KDDI, and Asahi Shimbun announced capital increase in Booklist which was co-founded by these four companies. Additional amount of capital is 490 million yen. After the increase, Sony, Toppan, KDDI respectively hold 30% and Asahi Shimbun holds 10%.

Booklista is an ebook distributors established in 2010 July aiming at contents selling service including computerizing and maintaining book contents, billing, and promotion.

CNET 2/7/2011

  • NTT Docomo and Dainippon Printing just jointly launched 2Dfacto, ebook store for smartphone. Both groups include Telecom career and two largest printing companies in Japan.
  • ebook distributing business seems to become red ocean by those large corporations entry in addition to existing ebook distributors which has quite a long history on PC platform such as Papyless and eBookJapan.

Feb 4, 2011

e-machi town expands group coupon buying service partnering with Shareee China /Venture Now

e-machi town announced that it acquires new shares of Shareee China, a subsidiary of SBI Veritrance. The amount is 150 million yen. Each of SBI Investment's operating fund, e-machi town and SBI Holdings secure 50 million yen.

After the allocation of new shares, SBI Veritrance holds 50%, and above three holds 16.67% respectively.

Sharee China was just spun out from SBI Veritrance on January 14th. It operates JJ Street, shopping information service for tourists from China. e-machi town set up Shareee jointly with SBI Group in 2010 August. Shareee is a group coupon buying service in Japan.

With this alliance, Shareee China plans to launch group coupon buying service of venues in Japan for tourists from China.

Venture Now 2/4/2010

  • It seems Groupon clone race is getting calm down by two strong services, Groupon Japan and Recruit's Ponparade gets long lead against over 100 of competitors.
  • However, it could be a good idea to differentiate from those giants by targeting tourists from other countries, even though the market size is limited.

Feb 3, 2011

Softbank acquires 35% stake of China's largest online video streaming service /Nikkei

Softbank announced that it acquires 35% of SynaCast, Shanghai-based online video streaming service provider to become a largest shareholder. The acquisition price is US$ 250 million.

SynaCast started simulcast of TV and Video on demand from 2004 and its streaming service, PPTV has 105 million daily active users.

Nikkei 2/3/2011

  • SoftBank has aggressively invested in foreign Internet companies including Alibaba in China and Ustream, live streaming service.
  • This is one of the biggest investment for an Internet startup ever. 

Feb 2, 2011

Digital Garage invests in US-based mobile SNS, Path /TechWave

Path is a mobile SNS which allows users to enjoy social networking with real friends in closed environment. Path restricts a number of friends to 50 or fewer. In addition to Digital Garage, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Index Ventures participate in the fundraising round, and the total amount of capital is $8.65 million.

TechWave 2/2/2011

  • Digital Garage is famous for investing in Twitter. It also operates Open Network Labs, a seed stage incubation program similar to Y Combinator in Silicon Valley

[TechCrunch] Social Application Developer Seesmic Raises $4M From SoftBank And Salesforce

TechCrunch 2/1/2011
Social application developer Seesmic has raised $4 million in new funding from enterprise giant Salesforce.com and Softbank Holdings, a subsidiary of Softbank. This brings Seesmic’s total funding to $16 million; Seesmic’s last fundraising round took place in 2008. ...

  • SoftBank is very active for investing in foreign Internet startups such as Ustream, Zynga or RockYou. But it does not invest in Japanese startups so often as NTT or KDDI.

DeNA announced record profits for five consecutive quarters /ITmedia

DeNA announced financial results of October - December quarter. A revenue is 29.5 billion yen, 153% increased from a year ago period, and operating profits increased by 182% to 14.7 billion yen. Both recorded the best performance for five quarters in a row.

ITmedia 2/1/2011

[Teclosion] Business partnership between Nobot and Smaato in mobile ad distribution

Teclosion 2/2/2011
Nobot, a public company that operates the ad network “AdMaker” for the Smartphone has formed a business partnership with Smaato Inc., a company with a global mobile advertising platform that proudly ranks in first place in the world as the leading mobile advertising optimization platform. 
These two companies have integrated their advertising delivery systems in order to provide one solution for the mobile advertising market in Japan.

  • Nobot has been actively developing partnership with overseas advertising platforms including US-based mobile-worx and Mojiva and Singapore-based Buzz City.
  • Smartphone applications such as games are becoming more and more global due to its nature, but ads may be more local oriented. In that sense, it looks good strategy for a startup like Nobot to go global taking advantage of partnership with local players in order to compete with giant rivals such as iAd of Apple or AdMob of Google. 

Clwit collaborate with Ustream Asia to provide social shopping with live video streaming /Venture Now

Clwit, social streaming service provider, revealed that it will start official service of "Social Tsuhan" (social shopping) using Ustream from this April.

Social Tsuhan is an online shopping platform which combines live video using Ustream, Clwit's social stream, wiwit live, and detailed information of goods/services and ordering button. wiwit live makes possible to place live video and social streams like Twitter into the same view.

By just adding iframe tag of one line into existing web site, it enables real-time and interactive online shopping service linking live video and social media such as Twitter.

Venture Now 2/1/2011

  • The market volume only for PC could be limited, but it would be very interesting to provide the service on TV.

Feb 1, 2011

RecoCheck; Recruit launches location-based social application /TechWave

Users of RecoCheck are allowed to check-in or recommend places or shops with related information, photos and reviews with five stars. Users can share check-in and postings with accounts of twitter, facebook or mixi.

The application is provided only for iPhone and can be downloaded free. Android version is expected to be released in Spring of 2011.

In addition to same functions as Forsquare or Locatouch such as labeling users based on number of check-ins, it introduces concept of distance. For example, if users check-in 1 km apart, it defines it as AirCheck.

TechWave 2/1/2011  

  • There are already many similar service including mixi, facebook, foursquare, Locatouch or Hatena Coco.
  • Recruit has many Internet services dealing with restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues, based on which the company may try to differentiate from competitors.

[Asiajin] Social Translation Service Conyac Integrates Facebook And Badgeville

Asiajin 2/1/2011
Tokyo-based tech start-up Anydoor announced today that it had completed the integration of its social translation service Conyac with Facebook and social rewards platform Badgeville, which allows potential users to join the service more easily and to motivate participating users to be engaged.
Conyac enables you to request a translation easily. Users can ask for translations in exchange for a small amount of money and other users around the world can then translate the requests, receiving rewards in return.

Integrating Facebook enables Facebook users to become a Coynac user (translation requester or translator) without entering a bunch of user information, and integrating Badgeville enables them to earn rewards when finishing someone’s translation request or evaluating someone’s translation result. ...

  • Social translation service is becoming popular. myGengo is another popular service from Japan. 
  • Conyac targets consumers as customers but myGengo more focuses on business customers. 

Synergy Marketing allocates new shares of 36M yen to Salesforce again

Synergy Marketing announced to conduct an allocation of new shares of 36 million yen to Salesforce.com following last October. The ratio of Salesforce's holding shares rises from 2.7% to 2.9%.

Venture Now 2/1/2011

  • It is quite rare that Japanese enterprise software company gets capital from a foreign company.