Apr 28, 2011

Kamado, operator of social classified service, Livlis, raises 20M yen /TechCrunch Japan

Kamado operates Livlis, social classified service, which got award at Teclosion 2011 Spring, startup event organized by TechCrunch Japan. It raised about 20 million yen from unique lineup including Kronos Fund, Takao Ozawa (serial entrepreneur and angel investor), archetype and Ubiquitous Entertainment.

Yuichi Kawasaki, the CEO of Kamado, was a vice president of Hatena. Livlis plans to release iPhone version after Golden Week.

TechCrunch Japan 4/28/2011 

  • Livlis allows users to sell/give or buy goods using Twitter to inform their followers. Another unique point is that users can search goods from Amazon or Rakuten to list them up. The startup aims to make easier to list goods as much as possible.

GREE goes to China; The9 adopts OpenFeint platform /Game Watch

GREE revealed that The9, Chinese game maker, adopts social game platform of OpenFeint, which GREE acquired at April 22.

A new social game platform based on OpenFeint is called The9 Game Zone. It allows game makers to evolve their game contents into social games adding several functions same as OpenFeint like ranking, achievement, match-up, and community features for iOS and Android applications.

Game Watch 4/27/2011

  • GREE partners with Tencent in China to standardize smartphone application platform. It may need to integrate two platforms like DeNA has done with ngmoco.

Apr 26, 2011

ZOZOTOWN goes to China with Softbank /MarkeZine

Start Today establishes Start Today Hong Kong jointly with SoftBank and the company launches Start Today Shanghai operating fashion EC site in China as a subsidiary of the joint venture. Alibaba Japan, SoftBank's subsidiary, supports the business development.

Start Today Shanghai launches ZOZOTOWN in China using TaoBao platform operated by Alibaba Group as well as opens a shop in B2C shopping mall, TaoBao mall.

Start Today launches ZOZOTOWN.com in the end of May, which is global site of ZOZOTOWN, fashion shopping site in Japan. The global site is available in five languages, Japanese, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Korean, and English.

MarkeZine 4/26/2011

  • SoftBank's affiliated company, Yahoo Japan cooperates with Alibaba to link its EC service with TaoBao since last June.

ngi group launches ad-network service for smartphone /japan.internet.com

Internet related service provider, ngi group announced on April 26 that it launches AD-STA for smartphone, ad network service for smartphone from May.

AD-STA for smartphone is a service which utilizes ads distribution optimizing technology of AD-STA, ad network service for feature phone.

AD-STA used to be a pay per click based mobile ad network operated by Fractalist which ngi group acquired in last December.

japan.internet.com 4/26/2011

  • Ad network for smartphone is one of the hottest areas in Internet services. GREE acquired Atlantis in January and DeNA and CyberAgent launches joint venture.

Apr 25, 2011

[asahi.com] DOCOMO and DeNA to Partner in Mobile Social Gaming

asahi.com 4/25/2011
NTT DOCOMO, INC. and DeNA Co., Ltd. announced today a business alliance to offer an enhanced mobile-based social-gaming platform in Japan and overseas, aiming to tap into the rapid growth of social gaming worldwide.

From May, Mobage, DeNA's highly popular social networking platform centered on gaming, will be directly linked to DOCOMO's i-mode mobile Web portal for feature phones and "docomo market" portal for smartphones. Linkage will enable DOCOMO customers - including more than 6 million smartphone users projected for the current fiscal year - to navigate easily to Mobage's social-gaming services.
  • Another mobile gaming platform, GREE announced in February to launch GREE Market partnering with KDDI in summer. 

Apr 22, 2011

[TechCrunch] Japanese Company GREE Buys Mobile Social Gaming Platform OpenFeint For $104 Million In Cash /TechCrunch

TechCrunch 4/22/2011
Mobile gaming startup OpenFeint, has been acquired by Japanese mobile gaming company GREE for $104 million in cash plus additional capital for growth of the OpenFeint platform. OpenFeint and its team will remain with long-term incentives, including CEO and founder Jason Citron, says the company.

OpenFeint provides a comprehensive mobile social gaming platform for the iPhone and Android platforms. ...
  • GREE's rival, DeNA acquired ngmoco last year, which is integrated into mobage, DeNA's mobile social game platform.
  • GREE has been accelerating global expansion recently by several partnerships such as Tencent, mig33, and Unity and launching local office in US, Europe, and Asia.  

[Mashable] A-Fund: Investors Bet $100 Million on Android Ecosystem

Mashable 4/22/2011
Investors have established the first investment vehicle dedicated to Android-focused startups and developers. Dubbed the A-Fund, the $100 million fund will invest between $500,000 and $4 million in products that will shape the Android ecosystem.
The A-Fund is being managed by DCM, a firm with a presence in Silicon Valley, Beijing and Toyko. Additional fund investors represent the top names in Asian mobile and social innovation and include GREE Inc., KDDI Corporation and Tencent.
  •  GREE and KDDI respectively invest $25 million in the fund. 

Apr 21, 2011

[The Wall Street Journal] U.S. Firms Plow on With Japan Start-up Fund

The Wall Street Journal 4/21/2011
Venture firms Draper Fisher Jurvetson and JAIC America put the wheels in motion months ago to raise a new, cross-border fund for investing in start-ups in Japan and in America.

But since they started raising that fund, life in Japan was upended by several unforeseeable catastrophes. Instead of abandoning the idea, investors from both firms decided to press on, believing that the crises in the island nation could eventually spawn new opportunities.

DFJ and JAIC America–a division of Tokyo-based Japan Asia Investment Co.–jointly announced on Wednesday they have closed on about $25 million of a fund that is likely to reach $50 million, and which will fund start-up companies in Japan and the U.S.

  • There are a few US-based VC such as DCM or Globespan investing in startups in Japan. But it may be the first case of joint VC fund between VCs in US and Japan.

Infinity Ventures launches JMTY alpha, classified service /Venture Now

Jmty, 100% owned by Infinity Venture Partners, launched alpha version of JMTY, a matching service focused on local information.

JMTY is so-called classified site like a bulletin board for local information. It allows anyone to post various local information such as job recruiting, real estate, group member recruiting, buying and selling or exchange.

Similar services like Craigslist in US or 58.cn in China are very popular, but in Japan, the business has not yet been so common. However IVP decided to enter the market because they thought the recent smartphone penetration will increase users of the service.

Venture Now 4/21/2011

  • Infinity Venture Partners launched Groupon-clone, Qpod in Julyo, which was acquired by Groupon just after less than two months.

Apr 20, 2011

Globis and Inspire acquire IID, subsidiary of IRI aiming for IPO in 2014 /Venture Now

IID runs RBB Today, IT news media and others. The company announced that Globis Capital Partners and Inspire Investment acquired its shares from a parent company, IRI and other existing share holders.

Globis takes 35% and Inspire has 12.9% with the investment. A share of the capital of IRI goes down to 36% from 77%.

IID was founded as a 100% subsidiary of IRI on April 2000. The company operates several vertical media such as RBB Today and Response, automotive news site.

It has 1.3 billion yen of revenue in 2010 FY and targets over 2 billion yen this year. The company plans to go IPO in 2014.

Venture Now 4/20/2011

  • Inspire also invests in Cerevo, Internet enabled consumer appliance maker.

Apr 19, 2011

jig.jp enteres into ebook publishing service with twePUB /ITmedia

jig.jp released twePUB beta, EPUB reader service enabling social reading and publishing on Twitter. With technical words to explain the service, it is a mash-up service of web-based EPUB reader connecting Dropbox API, storage service, and Twitter API.

The service is available on iPhone 3GS/4, iPod touch after the third generation, iPad, and Android OS2.1 update1 and later. It is basically web application but the user interface is designed well and looks like a native application. Android version is released as a native application.

There are two ways to read EPUB contents, adding them yourself and reading other users' contents. Contents holders or self publishers can publish their own contents and promote them using a social graph of Twitter.

ITmedia 4/18/2011

  • jig.jp provides applications for feature phones including very popular full browser, jig browser. Along with dramatic penetration of smartphone, the service is its first major service targeting only for smartphone.

CyberAgent invests in PT Tokopedia, Indonesian online shopping mall /Nikkei

Through its subsidiary, CyberAgent invests $700 thousands in PT Tokopedia, Indonesia's largest online shopping mall. The share is considered to be over 10%. CyberAgent plans to launch an office of the investment arm in Indonesia in September to accelerate expansion in South East Asia.

Over 7,000 shops are registered on the shopping mall of PT Tokopedia, selling more than 150,000 items. It plans to have collaboration with social services that CyberAgent runs.

Nikkei 4/18/2011

  • The investment arm, CeyberAgent Ventures has local offices in China and Vietnam investing in many local startups.
  • In Indonesia, Rakuten launches shopping mall, Rakuten Belanja Online, partnering with PT Global Mediacom, the largest Indonesian media company.

Apr 18, 2011

KPI Solutions fundraises 39M yen from Mitsubishi UFJ Capital and others /Venture Now

KPI Solutions announced that it conducted an allocation of new shares of 39 million yen to Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Sansei Capital, and SMBC Venture Capital.

KPI Solutions develops and provides Get Web Action, web marketing platform based around behavioral targeting since 2008. It uses the capital to enhance sales force as well as to develop a feature optimizing conversion of advertisement based on basic profile such as age, gender, resident area, and income, which influence on user's behavior.

Venture Now 4/14/2011

Apr 17, 2011

Royal Gate to launch credit card transaction service with Android/iPhone /WirelessWire News

Royal Gate announced to launch PAYGATE which allows users to use Android or iOS smartphone for credit card transaction. The service uses its original Bluetooth enabled credit card reader.

To use the service, users first install PAYGATE, credit card reader application. Credit card number is encrypted on the reader before sending to smartphones via Bluetooth, which ensures security. Also in order to increase a level of security, the readers are managed with individual ID.

The company expects that it is to be used in such cases as a credit card transaction is required in front of customers including insurance salespersons, home delivery, moving company, bike delivery riders, classy boutiques, and hotels. Royal Gate partners with Toyota Finance and Mitsui Sumitomo Card for credit card member stores recruiting, GMO Payment Gateway for credit card transaction service, COC for sales, and Netindex for Bluetooth reader development.

WirelessWire News 4/15/2011

  • The service is similar to Square, US-based service which is very popular in media. One of the differences is it uses Bluetooth. 

Apr 15, 2011

5 seconds video sharing service to be launched in April funded by Samurai Fund /Cnet

Samurai Incubate announced to invest in Miew from its operating Samurai Incubate Fund II.

Miew was founded on March 8 to develop 5Seconds, social video service focused on smartphone. 5Seconds is a video sharing service which allows users to share 5 second video shot with smartphone adding effects and linking with Facebook and Twitter.

A beta version of iPhone app will be released at the end of April.

Cnet 4/15/2011

  • It seems that the service is a video version of Instagram. There are tons of photo sharing service for smartphone, but few of video sharing.

Apr 14, 2011

Realworld provides translation service by crowd sourcing /Cnet

Realworld launched translation service on its crowd sourcing service, CROWD. It costs 0.6 yen per one character. Data input costs 0.2 yen per a character

CROWD is a crowd sourcing service which allows users to outsource tasks for 7.6 million members of "REALWORLD", a social site.

The company expects that the service will be used for exporting anime or manga. In order to raise the precision of translation, it changes original sentences into standard language. The service prepares two options for translation, human translation and machine translation. After translation, another user checks it.

Cnet 4/14/2011

  • There are several crowd sourcing translation such as myGengo and Conyac, but the price of CROWD is competitive. Also it is unique that it focuses on translation of anime and manga.

[TechCrunch] Japan’s GREE And Mobile Community mig33 Sign Deal To Bring Social Games To Asia

TechCrunch 4/13/2011

Big news from Asia’s social games industry today: Japanese mobile social gaming juggernaut GREE and mig33, a mobile community that’s especially popular in Asia, have just announced a cooperation with the potential to change the social gaming market in the region.

Under the agreement, mig33 adopts the “GREE platform for smartphone”, which means that smartphone games that have been created using the technical specifications of GREE’s Japanese platform can now be easily ported to mig33, and vice versa.
  • Gree invested in mig33 at the series C round in the last November.
  • Gree also had similar partnership with China's largest Internet company, Tencent.

Apr 13, 2011

Fashion community, Poupeegirl surpasses 1million members, 46% from overseas /Venture Now

Poupeegirl launched in February 2007 with both Japanese and English. Users enjoy dress-up of a character called Poupee or share photos of their own fashion items such as cloths or small items with friends. As of the end of March 2011, foreign users share around a half, 46%.

According to CyberAgent, a parent company of Poupeegirl, user share by language is as follows, English 20%, Portuguese 9%, Spanish 6% and Chinese 4%. The company says that foreign users are increasing mainly by word-of-mouth on local social networking services.

The basic business model is virtual goods sales. It provides fashion items to arouse users to dress-up Poupee.

Venture Now 4/13/2011

  • CyberAgent runs another avatar based community service Ameba Pico for global market, in which many of foreign users seem to be located in South East Asia. It is interesting that Poupeegirl looks like attracting users in other regions.

NTT IP and others invest in Midokura, cloud computing technology /Nikkei

Midokura conducts an allocation of new shares of 113 million yen in total to NTT Investment Partners, Bit-isle, data center operator, 1st Holdings, software developer, and individual investors.

Midokura is an IT startup with engineers from Amazon, Google, and others to develop cloud platform developing technology using network virtualization. Each investors will develop their own products with the cloud technology.

Nikkei 4/13/2011

  • Pure VC is not included in the investors. It seems that the startup aims to take advantage of strategic synergy by the fundraising rather than just money.

Apr 12, 2011

Auction application for Facebook, Whyteboard raises seed money /Venture Now

Whyteboard allocates new shares to Samurai Incubate Fund II. Whyteboard was founded on March 28 and is now developing "f auction", an application to allow Facebook users to buy and sell goods by auction model.

The founder says that there is no such a full-scale auction services on Facebook. It charges commission of 5% for sellers and 10% for buyers.

Alpha version will be launched at the end of April. The official version, planned to launch in this summer, will provide API which enables to display auction items in users' own Facebook Pages or blogs.

The service is offered only in English. The startup aims to provide the service for global market.

Venture Now 4/12/2011

  • It is rare that a startup from Japan provide only English service.
  • Social commerce on Facebook is expected to be one of the hottest area for startups this year. It is very interesting to see how the startup differentiate from competitors around the world.

Apr 8, 2011

Takumen raised 40M yen from Kronos Fund and individual investor /Venture Now

Gourmet Innovation providing Takumen, ramen online shopping service, raised 40 million yen by allocation of new shares to Krnos Fund and others.

With the capital, the company strengthen Takumen.com service such as introducing smartphone application. Takumen.com surpasses 9,000 members and around 90 ramen shops.

Venture Now 4/8/2011

  • Gourmet Innovation was founded on 2010 April. Takumen.com sells non-concentrated soup and noodles of popular ramen shops in Japan.

Kayac raises 350M yen from Globis and others /Cnet

Kayac announced that it conducted an allocation of new shares of 350 million yen in total to CyberAgent, Start Today, and Globis Capital Partners.

Kayac was founded in 1998 developing original contents for web and mobile sites. The fundraising aims to accelerate speed of business and recruiting.

Cnet 4/8/2011

  • Kayac is a unique company. Most of staffs are creators who basically create what they want to create. They produce wide range of products or services in which even operating restaurants and farms are included.

Shareee acquires group coupon buying Qpon, subsidiary of Netprice /Venture Now

Sharee accelerates to increase its market share in group coupon buying business to acquire a whole share of Dealmate, Qpon operator owned by Netprice.

Dealmate was founded by Netprice and Digital Garage to launch Qpon since 2010 June holding 80 thousands members as of today. Netprice determined that it is difficult to maintain the business solely in the fierce competition. Netprice once bought all shares that Digital Garage had held for the sellout.

Venture Now 4/7/2011

  • Shareee was launched on 2010 August by SBI Investment, Hikari Tsuhshin and e-Machi town.
  • In the Groupon clone market, two largest providers, Groupon Japan and Ponpare by Recruit leave others far behind. M&A is likely increasing this year.

Apr 7, 2011

EC Navi Ventures invests in Cotobank, e-learning service /Cnet

EC Navi's 100% subsidiary, EC Navi Ventures announced that it invested in Cotobank on April 7th. Cotobank is a startup providing online language learning services such as EXE, English conversation crash course for management executives, and SQRIPT, business English learning site.

The amount is not disclosed but EC Navi Ventures revealed it is within the VC's usual range between 1 to 10 million yen.

EC Navi group has made several investments here and abroad, but this is the first deal for EC Navi Ventures founded on this March.

Cnet 4/7/2011

  • Relatively small amount of seed investments is getting more and more popular in Internet industry. Samurai Incubate is the leader of the kind of investors, which has already made four investments for the last two months.

Apr 5, 2011

Facebook Pages development tool, fanbook raised capital from Samurai Incubate Fund /Venture Now

fanbook conducted allocation of new shares to Samurai Incubate Fund II. The amount of capital became 9 million yen. The company was founded on March 3rd, 2011 to provide fanbook, an application to allow users to easily customize Facebook Pages.

The sales pointof fanbook is that it does not need HTML or CSS and is very easy for anyone to use. It prepares a lot of design templates developed by designers.

Its business model is freemium. It plans to launch in May aiming at making available for other social platforms than Facebook as well.

Venture Now  4/5/2011

  • This is the forth seed investment from Samurai Incubate Fund II since the launch in January.

Adways Ventures to invest in startups here and abroad /MarkeZine

Adways announced that it established Adways Ventures in February, which provides management resources needed by its investing companies, seeking synergy with Adways group.

MarketZine 4/5/2011

  • Adways provide Internet advertising service centered around affiliate ads.
  • Internet company's corporate VC is increasing. EC Navi founded EC Navi Ventures last month.

Otsuka Corporation holds Venture Discovery Conference on June 6 /asahi.com

The conference is held twice a year to pursue partnership with IT related startups. The company has joint venture fund with Yasuda Enterprise Development, a large VC, which invests in the startups based on their request to actively support business launch and growth of those startups.

It has so far had 390 applications among which 107 gave presentation and 12 companies have partnership. The company said the startups can take advantage of its marketing method and sales channels (830 thousands customer base) to sell technology or products efficiently and smoothly. Otsuka Corporation expands and strengthens its service by combining technology or products of startups with its solutions keeping down R&D cost.

asahi.com 4/4/2011

  • Otsuka Corporation is one of the largest VAR in Japan providing system integration, OA system, and software development.

Apr 4, 2011

[Asiajin] DeNA And CyberAgent To Start Joint Smartphone Ads Network For Mobage/Ameba

Asiajin 4/4/2011
DeNA announced that CyberAgent and they are to established a new joint venture company at the end of April. The company will form an ads network for smartphone since May. CyberAgent will own 51%, DeNA 49%.

DeNA holds 24.48 million social network users on Mobage and Yahoo! Mobage, Cyber Agent has 13 million users on its blog and social portal Ameba.

  • GREE acquired Atlantis, smartphone ad network in January. It is interesting to see how mixi, another large SNS, reacts these moves for advertising business.

Digital Arts sets up subsidiaries in US and UK /asahi.com

Digital Arts establishes Digital Arts America in US and Digital Arts Europe in UK. The company receives a patent in 27 countries and regions with ZBRAIN, its unique filtering technology.

With the launch of overseas offices, it conducts market research, develops customer support organization for game console or Internet-enabled TV makers for which Digital Arts provides its technology, and pursues acquisitions or partnerships with local companies.

asahi.com 4/1/2011

  • Digital Arts develops and sells Internet security products centered around web filtering and email filtering. It is listed on JASDAQ.
  • It is quite rare for Japanese software company to expand foreign market.

Apr 1, 2011

Aratana raised 60M yen from two VCs and settlement service provider /Venture Now

Aratana conducted allocation of new shares of 61.95 million yen to Social Ad & Commerce Technology Fund operated by GMO Venture Partners, Miyazaki Taiyo Challenge Fund, and GMO Payment Gateway.

The company uses the capital to strengthen development of Social Gateway, an application to link Facebook Pages and EC sites. Aratana was founded on 2007 May. Its main business is deployment or customization of ASP-based online shopping service, Cagolabo. It plans to extend the business in rapidly growing social commerce market with Social Gateway which was just launched on this January.

Social Gateway is an application allowing to develop EC site in Facebook Pages. There is few such a service in Japan, but the kind of services get very much attention overseas. The company offers both free and paid version. Currently 1,000 sites adopt the free version. It targets foreign market as well, however the first priority is to become the number one in Japan market, the president said.

Venture Now 4/1/2011

  • There are still not so many users of Facebook in Japan, but Aratana seems to believe it will increase and also be used widely as EC platform. Internet conglomerate, GMO also seems to pursue the opportunity.

eBook platform, Puboo surpasses 10,000 titles /Internet Watch

GMO Internet group company, paperboy&co announced that ebook publishing platform, Puboo surpassed 10,000 titles of user generated ebooks after eight months of its launch in 2010 June.

Among over 10,000 ebooks, about 70% are free. Puboo allows users to set a price of their ebooks. The most common price range is between 100 and 300 yen, which is cheaper than usual books. The most popular category is novels followed by picture books/nursery tales and manga.

Internet Watch 4/1/2011

  • Users can download ebooks on Puboo by PDF or ePub, which allows to read ebooks on many devices such as iPhone, Android, or Kindle. But feature phones are not available.

GMO and Acrodea establishes joint venture to launch Android apps market /Venture Now

GMO Internet and Acrodea jointly sets up GMO Game Center to operate smartphone game apps market.

GMO Internet stakes 51% and Acrodea stakes 49%. They plan to launch the joint venture at June 1st. With a capital affiliation in 2010 September (GMO accepted allocation of new shares of 630 million yen from Acrodea to become a major share holder with about 20%), both currently co-operate smartphone game platform.

On 2010 November, both launched G Ge by GMO Beta, game apps market for Android providing 110 titles including Sonic The Hedgehog from Sega.
GMO Game Center will become an operator of G Ge to aim acquiring 1 million users accounts within 2011.

Venture Now 3/31/2011

  • Acrodea develops middleware products focused on mobile and related businesses such as consulting or contract development.

GMO sets up new fund focused on Facebook related startups /Cnet

GMO Venture Partners, a venture capital arm of GMO Internet, establishes Social Ad&Commerce Technology Fund aiming at investing in Facebook related technology startups.

It invests in companies providing EC or advertising services on social networks including Facebook and others. As the first deal, it invests in Aratana which provides Social Gateway, a tool to develop EC on Facebook Pages.

At the launch the fund size is 57 million yen, which expects to increase up to 2 billion yen.

Cnet 3/31/2011

  • GMO launched two incubation program last year, App Yarouze supporting social apps developers, and Android Yarouze supporting Android apps developer.