Feb 26, 2013

[Sd] Gyao and Gree team up to invest in animation content development

Gyao, a broadband video distribution company and a subsidiary of Yahoo Japan (TYO:4689), and Japanese social gaming giant Gree (TYO:3632) announced today the two companies have agreed to establish a fund to invest in animation content development. The fund will be worth 100 million yen (over $1 million dollars), and the two companies will split the ownership of the joint venture 50/50, and it will tentatively be called ‘Future Content Partners’. 
Content from the fund’s portfolio companies is expected to be distributed to Yahoo Japan’s premium service subscribers in formats for broadband video streaming, in social gaming, and more. Gyao, Gree, and Yahoo Japan have agreed to set up an information portal in the first half of this year, which focuses on introducing animated content such as games, video titles, and e-comic books. ...
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Sd  2/25/2013 [en]

  • It is the second joint announcement from Gree and Yahoo this year followed by setting up joint venture for mobile social game released last week. These two companies are getting closer recently. It looks like mobile social game format has been already matured and then game publishers are more dependent on IP from popular contents such as Marvell or Gundam. So, it would be an important strategy to have exclusive IP of animation contents for Gree.

LINE Partners With Nokia Accelerating Global Expansion / Cnet Japan

NHN Japan announced strategic alliance with Nokia aiming to expand global development of free voice and messaging app, LINE. The company provides LINE app on Asha, low priced smartphone of Nokia.

Planning to release on Nokia Store within March, Asha version of LINE has one to one talk, group talk, and stickers (basic four types, Moon, Cony, Brown, and James). Other features including voice call will be added later.

NHN Japan hopes to acquire users in emerging markets which Asha targets such as South Ease Asia, Central and South America, Middle East, and Africa. Also, by marketing LINE at Nokia Store or other shops in each country, it expects to increase awareness of LINE in these countries.

Cnet Japan 2/26/2013 [jp]

  • Nokia sold 9.3 million Asha devices in Q4 2012, which is more than double of its Lumia, 4.4 million unites. So, it would be a quite large market that LINE does not want to lose. Even though LINE is becoming popular in some Asian and Spanish speaking countries, entering into matured markets with strong existence of similar apps like US, Western Europe, or China may be difficult. In order to continue the growth speed, LINE should more focus on emerging markets.

Feb 20, 2013

[Sd] Mixi tries again: New photo printing service ‘Nohana’ targets parents in Japan

Japanese social network Mixi (TYO:2121) just launched a new photo service named Nohana (meaning ‘wild flowers’ in Japanese) targeting parents with small children. This move makes a lot of sense considering that the early users of the social network, which launched way back in 2000, are now a little older and likely to have children of their own. 
The app is surprisingly simple and is completely separate from Mixi proper. After signing up, you can invite your family members by entering their phone numbers. Once this is done, you can upload or take photos with the iOS app and then every month users (in Japan) can receive a free (90 yen shipping fee not included) printed photo book. The first book of each month is always free, however each additional book costs 525 yen and there is free shipping for orders above 1,050 yen (about $11). 
Sd 2/19/2013 [en]

  • As mentioned in the article from Sd following on above quote, Mixi launched subscription based fashion commerce site last year and shut down just a several months later. Although it seems Facebook, Twitter, or LINE are taking over users of Mixi, it still has over 10 million active users. But it is actually decreasing gradually. Mixi should find alternative services to keep the users. Comparing a social networking service, the market of subscription commerce or photo book printing may be niche. It is still unclear how Mixi can fully take advantage of the current huge user base.

[Tech In Asia] Yahoo Japan and GREE Invest $2 Million to Open Social Gaming Joint-Venture Next Month

Yahoo Japan and GREE (TYO:3632) announced today what they had teased a few months back – the launch of a joint-venture company that will focus on developing and running social gaming titles for smartphones. After committing ¥200 million (US$2.2 million) to this new gaming venture, a cat was then brought into the office and allowed to walk across a keyboard, creating the joint-venture’s tentative name, GxYz. 
GREE will hold 51 percent of the stake in GxYz, with the rest owned by Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO). 
Tech In Asia 2/18/2013 [en]

  • GREE recently announced downward adjustment for forecast in FY2013 ending June. It still has many hit titles on smartphone, but comparing feature phone age in which GREE and its rival Mobage literally ruled the world, the competitive situation becomes much more difficult along with emerging hit native apps like Puzzle & Dragons as well as a smartphone-native platform like LINE. While, since a change of management team in the last year, Yahoo has been accelerating partnership to focus on mobile. So, for both companies, the joint venture would be a very big challenge. It is interesting to see how DeNA will respond to the move.

Feb 18, 2013

CoffeeMeeting Operator, Le-Le-Le Raises 20M Yen / Cnet Japan

Le-Le-Le announced allocation of new shares to Incubate Fund and East Ventures. It plans to spend the 20 million yen for hiring engineers to strengthen development of the service.

Le-Le-Le launched CoffeeMeeting in February 2012, which enables to have a coffee with someone whom you cannot meet usually. It has currently 23,000 registered users and over 10,000 meetings have been taken place. ...

Cnet Japan 2/18/2013 [jp]

  • Several matching services through coffee, lunch, or dining have appeared in the last few years. CoffeeMeeting may be one of the most popular one in the category. Another popular service, Social Lunch was acquired in December by social game developer, Donuts. It seems that these services are still looking for a way to monetize, but it is also proven that an exit by acquisition would be possible. It is interesting to see what strategy, such as focusing on growing user base or starting trials for monetization, Le-Le-Le will take in the future.
  • http://coffeemeeting.jp/ 

Ad Platform, Geniee Raises Capital From YJ Capital / Cnet Japan

Geniee announced fundraising by allocating new shares to a fund operated by YJ Capital, Yahoo Japan's investing arm.

Geniee is an ad tech company launched by members who developed ad network business at Recruit in April 2010. It provides Geniee SSP, Internet ads revenue maximization platform.

The platform connects with DSPs, ad exchange, and ad network in 10 countries including Japan. The company established a subsidiary, Geniee International in Singapore.

Cnet Japan 2/18/2013 [jp]

  • Geniee announced a partnership with Yahoo Asia Pacific in January, which allows advertisers in South East Asia to place ads in Japan. The fundraising could aim to bring reverse direction of collaboration with Yahoo Japan. 
  • http://geniee.co.jp/

Feb 13, 2013

With 10M "Like", Tokyo Otaku Mode Fundraises From YJ Capital, ITV, and DG Incubation / TechCrunch Japan

Tokyo Otaku Mode, a popular startup distributing Japan's Otaku culture to the world, announced a new fundraising. Investors include Yahoo's investing arm, YJ Capital, Itochu Technology Ventures, and DG Incubation. The deal was done with Convertible Note and the amount is not disclosed.
Tokyo Otaku Mode launched as a Facebook Page to introduce Otaku contents like Japanese anime, manga, and related goods. The Facebook Page has over 10 million Like! and it is so popular as a post has from several to hundreds thousands of Like!.

TechCrunch Japan 2/13/2013 [jp]

  • The company launched a web site, a camera app in addition to the Facebook Page and plans to open online shop, with which it may monetize the service. The web site looks like Pinterest or Fab.com focusing on artwork such as figures or posters based on manga or anime. It would have great potential to succeed with so many fans even though it targets a niche market.
  • http://otakumode.com/

Feb 8, 2013

designclue, Allowing To Place Orders For Designers Around The World In Japanese, Raises 15M Yen / Venture Now

PurpleCow, an operator of a crowd sourcing site, designclue, which allows anyone to order design work for designers around the world, revealed fundraising of 14.7 million yen with allocation of new shares to IncubateFund and East Ventures.

The startup plans to use the capital for recruiting of engineers and designers as well as marketing. ...

PurpleCow was founded on June 5, 2012. The team received awards at Kigyo (startup in Japanese) Challenge organzed by Skylight Consulting. ... It launched the closed beta version of designclue in the last September.

Venture Now 2/8/2013 [jp]

  • Crowd sourcing service has been hot area in Internet services in the last few years. Other services in this field that users can outsource tasks like design include CrowdWorks, Lancers, or MUGENUP. designclue tries to differentiate from them by allowing to order in Japanese to designers outside of Japan utilizing automatic translation system. In order to minimize issues caused by communication gap, the order sheet has many items with well segmentalized. 
  • http://www.designclue.co/

Oisix Goes IPO On Mothers At March 13 / Cnet Japan

Oisix was approved for IPO by Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers market. The date is planned on March 13th.
Oisix was established as Kohei in 1997 and launched online food shopping site, Oisix in 2000. The company entered into capital alliance with Recruit in 2010. In 2011, it subsidized Wellness, online gift shop focusing on flowers and gourmet, which it merged in 2012.

The revenue in FY2012 ending March 2012 is 1.27 billion yen with 332 million yen of net income.

Cnet Japan 2/8/2013 [en]

  • Oisix sells vegetable, meat, fish, egg, or other foods. There are many such membership based food delivery services including traditional organizations such as Co-op. Among them, Radish Boya, which started a food delivery from 1988, was acquired by Docomo last year. Oisix is one of the first company to provide the service online. It is great that it continues the growth over 10 years since its launch reaching to IPO.
  • http://www.oisix.com/

Feb 7, 2013

[Sd] NHN Japan to subsidize Line app business, hopes to intensify international push

Japanese several news resources report today that NHN Japan, most known for its wildly popular Line messaging app, is considering splitting the company into two entities corresponding to its business fields. Its online game portal Hangame is expected to be handled under the existing company but may change its name to Hangame Corporation (tentative), and the Line app, search portal Naver, and news portal and blogging platform Livedoor (acquired from Livedoor Corp in April of 2010) will be handed over to a new company called Line Corporation (tentative title). The split is expected to take place on April 1st, 2013. 
In the interests of intensifying international marketing efforts for the Line app, the company is also planning to set up a special company called Line Plus Corporation, which will be jointly funded by Line Corporation and NHN Corporation (the parent company in Korea). 
Sd 2/7/2013 [en]

  • Games on LINE platform such as LINE POP or LINE Bubble will go to Hangame corporation. Considering that LINE games are making a large part of revenue on LINE platform, it looks bit weird to separate the games from LINE itself. Also,  Livedoor and Naver are still mainly PC-based services which do not seem to have a great synergy with LINE. Maybe NHN has a secret strategy behind the split of the company.

[Sd] Japanese social games developer Alt Plus set to IPO in March

Tokyo-based social games developer Alt Plus was approved on Wednesday to be listed on the Mothers market, a stock exchange for emerging companies. 
The gaming company was founded in May of 2010 by Takeshi Ishii who formerly worked at a VC firm as well a gaming companies such as Genki Co., Ltd. and AQ Interactive (acquired by Marvelous AQL in 2011). It has developed several gaming titles for the GREE platform, such as Bahamut Brave (not to be confused with Cygames’ Rage of Bahamut for Mobage), The Spirit of Fantasia, and Legend of Derbies King. 
Sd 2/7/2013 [en]

  • An exit of social game developers of either IPO or M&A has continued for the last several months. The industry is becoming a power game more and more. Top ranked games in grossing chart on both App Store and Google Play are occupied by large publishers recently.
  • http://www.altplus.co.jp/

[SD] NTT Docomo launches startup incubation program, partners with 500Startups and B Dash Ventures

Japan’s largest mobile telco NTT Docomo (NYSE:DCM) today announced its new incubation program called ‘Docomo Innovation Village’ (first alluded to back in October) has launched. Its goal will be to intensifying business partnerships with startup companies. 
In connection with the start of this program, the company is planning to launch a new 10 billion yen fund (approximately $107 million) (called Docomo Innovation Ventures) by receiving all shares of NTT Investment Partners, a fund management company belonging to NTT group’s stock holding company. The fund will be established in late February. 
Sd 2/7/2013 [en]

  • The second largest telco in Japan, KDDI launched a similar type of initiative last year combining incubation program (Mugen Labo) and venture fund (Open Innovation Fund).  But it is interesting that Softbank, which must be the most entrepreneurial company among the three, does not have the type of program or even looks not interested in startups in Japan although the company invests in several startups outside of Japan. 

Feb 6, 2013

[TechCrunch] On-Demand Taxi Startup Hailo Raises $30M From USV And Others, Including Strategic Funding From KDDI To Launch In Tokyo

On-demand taxi service Hailo is looking east. After successful launches in cities throughout Europe and North America, the startup is intent on bringing its e-hail application to Tokyo. To do so, the company has created a Japanese subsidiary, and it’s raised some strategic funding from Japanese telco KDDI, in addition to Union Square Ventures, Richard Branson, and others. The funding plans were previously reported by AllThingsD. 
Hailo is one of a growing number of e-hail applications that connect passengers with rides, relying on GPS location to find the nearest driver and in-app mobile payments to facilitate transactions. The startup first launched its service in London in 2011, and has since been slowly adding new markets that it operates in. 
TechCrunch 2/5/2013 [en]

  • Tokyo does not seem an easy market to enter for such services as Hailo because of lots of small taxi companies including individuals and also I am not sure but probably some regulations specific in Japan. So, partnering with telcos like KDDI would be one of the best strategies for Hailo considering not only pre-install of the app but also KDDI's credibility as a public service for taxi industry.
  • https://hailocab.com/

[Sd] News curation app Gunosy raises $342,000 from angel investors

Gunosy, a Tokyo-based startup which runs a news curation service, announced today it has raised 31.6 million yen (approximately $342,000) by allocating new shares to several angel investors. 
The service pulls your interests and favorites from your social media accounts, and creates news updates that will likely fit your taste. It delivers a notification e-mail including links to your favorite news at a time of your convenience, usually once a day. With the funds raised this time, the Gunosy team plans to develop an Android app and refine their overall service quality.
Sd 2/5/2013 [en]

  • Along with exponential increase of any type of information, "discovery" has been a hot keyword recently to find something like apps or fashion items utilizing "social" technologies to analyze interest of users. News may be one of these things that people find it more difficult than ever. It might be not so easy to monetize with the current service, but there would be more various opportunity to succeed with their technology to analyze social data.
  • http://gunosy.com/

Feb 5, 2013

[Sd] Rakuten to take 32.5% stake of fashion commerce site Stylife for $5.37M

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten (JSD:4755) announced today it would acquire Stylife (JSD:3037), one of Japan’s largest fashion e-commerce sites. Stylife is currently listed on the JASDAQ market, a stock exchange for emerging companies, but will be delisted because Rakuten will take 32.5% of the fashion site’s stakes. Two of Stylife’s largest shareholders Burnedest Japan (female clothing) and Parco (a fashion department store) have approved of the acquisition, and will give the shares over to Rakuten. ...
Sd 2/4/2013 [en]

  • NTT Docomo announced acquisition of fashion EC, Magaseek for TOB just a few days ago. Since fashion EC is considered to be the high growth area, the competition is becoming more fierce recently. Maybe the M&A trend is also related to transition of main devices for EC from PC to smartphone or tablet. For followers like Stylife or Magaseek, it would be difficult to manage the transition with maintaining the revenue and profit. It is expected that only several big players such as Rakuten, Amazon, or Zozotown and niche players with an edge in competitive advantage can survive in the next few years in fashion EC.

Yahoo Invests In Minna No Wedding, CGM Of Wedding Info / Nikkei Business Online

Yahoo Japan invested in Minna No Wedding through investing arm, YJ Capital to hold over 10% share. It aims to increase users of the service by utilizing Yahoo's user base.

Yahoo acquires shares of Minna No Wedding from existing investors. The amount is not disclosed.

Minna No Wedding runs Internet site with information of wedding centers and wedding ceremony. In addition to users' experience of wedding, it discloses quotation or statement of costs related to their wedding ceremonies. It is popular with these actual figures, because users can refer when choosing a wedding center.

Monthly visitors to the site is around 1.1 million with over 200,000 reviews of 5,000 wedding centers in Japan. ...

Nikkei Business Online 2/5/2012 [jp]

  • Minna No Wedding was spin-out from DeNA on October 2010. It was reasonable for DeNA at that time to focus its resource on mobile games. It is also natural for Yahoo Japan to invest and partner with the company. Yahoo Japan has been very actively developing partnership with vertical consumer services from the last year to take advantage of its current huge user base. Traditional industries represented by consumer electronics in Japan seem still not good at concentrating on core business or partnering with external companies, however the Japanese large Internet companies are more dynamically changing their business domain or strategy.
  • http://www.mwed.jp/

Feb 4, 2013

Ad Tech, Dennoo Raised $2M For Additional Money Of Seed Round / TechCrunch Japan

Dennoo develops a technology allowing publishers to count impressions only when ads are actually displayed and to charge display ads cost based on displaying time. The product will soon be released.

The current financing is $1.17 million, which finalizes $2 million seed round along with $0.83 million fundraise before. Investors are Nissay Capital, CyberAgent Ventures and individual investors including new persons and existing shareholders. ...

TechCrunch Japan 2/4/2013 [jp]

  • There are several hot topics regarding display advertising recently such as RTB or re-targeting in which several players from both large companies and startups have appeared in Japan basically copying services developed in US or Europe. However, Dennoo's technology seems more unique. It sounds reasonable even now, but will be more relevant if rich video advertising becomes more popular, which is expected to be very near future.
  • http://www.dennoo.com/

iQON Operator, VASILY Raises 300M Yen / Cnet Japan

VASILY who operates a service, iQON allowing users to coordinate photos of cloths, announced allocation of new shares to Globis Capital Partners, Itochu Technology Ventures, and GMO Venture Partners. ...

The amount for the series B round is 300 million yen in total. ITV and GMO Venture Partners joins following the series A round of 140 million yen in May, 2011.

A number of coordinate since the launch in April, 2010 reaches 300 thousands and monthly "like" entries surpasses 1 million. Users can buy fashion items found on iQON at EC site from which the items are refereed. The service is expected to lead customers to fashion EC sites. Actually, some shops have more than 20 million yen of sales per month through iQON. ...

Cnet Japan 2/4/2013 [jp]

  • The smartphone app launched in February 2012 accelerated the growth rate. More and more people are using a smartphone at home instead of a PC. Keyword search or category search mainly used on PC is not the best way to discover fashion items particularly on a smartphone. So, iQON's value proposition, fashion discovery based on other users' taste will work more effectively on a smartphone. This kind of combination of vertical social networking service and E-commerce will be one of the hottest area in 2013.
  • http://www.iqon.jp/