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February 26 2014


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February 13 2014

How Frontback Is Getting Popular in Japan
Frontback CommunityWhile today’s update is a significant one for photo-sharing app Frontback, something unexpected is happening as well — Frontback is blowing up in Japan, China and Brazil. In fact, the app is now more popular in these countries than in the U.S. “In the U.S., people are using Frontback for important events like the Superbowl to make a statement and share what they are doing,” co-founder and CEO Frédéric della Faille told me in a phone interview. “In Japan, people found a way to express themselves through the app, and it’s very different,” he continued. A Frontback post is a very restrictive form of expression. In some way, taking a Frontback is the visual equivalent of writing a Haiku. There are some artistic rules that you need to follow — it’s short and self-contained. But after that, the sky is the limit. In Japan, the community has recently decided to self-organize. On February 24, there will be a Japan Frontback meetup. One of the attendees will be Himesora, a Frontback power user who really took advantage of the platform. She loves art, cartoons and graffiti. She always carries with her a binder with fake paper eyes. Every time she wants to take a Frontback, she pulls the appropriate pair of cartoon eyes and put them on her glasses. In other words, she has created a character for Frontback. You can see the result at the top of this article. And with the global feed, people all around the world noticed her. They started interacting with her. In the U.S., Mexico and South America, Frontback users have engaged with Himesora — they reply using selfies and captions. “The non-product team is composed of two persons right now, that’s a quarter of the team,” della Faille said. “We are realizing that when you are dealing with a public graph, you need to provide inspiration to fight timidity. That’s why we are doing staff picks as well. We want to show the true face of the world, with a smile.” Other users are using Frontback for very specific purposes. For example, Tamkai transforms his daily life into drawings. Willie Myers wants to tell stories using only two pictures. While Frontback created a new medium, the team is only realizing now the power of this photo format. “There is something deeply personal about the experience sharing and viewing community member profiles daily in the

December 20 2013

Messaging App Line Launches C2C Marketplace Line Mall In Japan
line-mallMessaging app Line began the limited rollout of its new C2C e-commerce platform Line Mall today (link to TechCrunch Japan via Google Translate). The app, which is now available for download in Japan's Google Play store, is a sign that the service is doubling down on its efforts to increase engagement among users as it competes WeChat, WhatsApp and other popular messaging apps. Line Mall will officially launch next spring with an iPhone app and more features.

December 17 2013

Linkify’s SDK Wants To Make Mobile Searches Less Cumbersome
Linkify example 2Performing Web searches on a mobile devices is often a fiddly experience that involves flipping between multiple apps and tabs in a single window. (I often end up juggling my smartphone and tablet to use an app and surf the Internet at the same time). Japanese startup Studio Ousia wants to make mobile searches less tedious for users with its new SDK Linkify.

December 04 2013

Sunnycomb Forecasts How Each Day's Weather Will Make You Feel
Tokyo-based Weathernews Inc (WNI) already makes Japan's top weather app with over 10 million downloads to date. So why does the company, one of the largest weather service providers in the world, want to enter the English-speaking market with a new iOS app called Sunnycomb that will vie for users against a hoard of other weather apps?

November 13 2013

Japanese Personal Finance App Moneytree Raises $1.6M To Expand Into The U.S.
Moneytree, a personal finance iOS app, has received $1.6 million in seed funding led by DG Incubation (Digital Garage's investment branch), with participation from private investors, including senior executives from PayPal, MasterCard and Morgan Stanley. The Tokyo-based startup will use the proceeds to expand into international markets, including the U.S., in 2014. An iPad version and responsive Web app are also in the works.

November 12 2013

Pinterest Launches Japanese Version 18 Months After Rakuten Investment
The Japanese version of Pinterest is now live as the site ramps up its global expansion. The launch comes 18 months after Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten became an investor in Pinterest.

November 11 2013

TechCrunch Tokyo 2012 Winner Whill's Sleek Wheelchair Alternative Is Ready For Pre-Orders
Founded by former Sony, Olympus and Toyota engineers, TechCrunch Tokyo 2012 grand prize winning hardware startup Whill not only wants to redesign the wheelchair, but also combat stigma by creating sleek and modern mobility devices. The company's first retail model, the Whill Type-A, is now available for pre-orders and will be ready for delivery within the U.S. early next year.

October 07 2013

NTT Docomo Finally Gets The iPhone, But Subscribers Still Flee Due To Low Stock
Japanese carrier NTT Docomo has revealed that it experienced a record monthly drop in subscribers for September, which is somewhat surprising given that the company was the lone remaining major Japanese carrier without the iPhone on offer until the release of the iPhone 5s and 5c, also in September. The mobile operator blames the iPhone as the reason behind the dip, however, in a twist that shows that when it comes to iPhone, customers are looking for immediate satisfaction.

August 08 2013

MessageMe Introduces Stickers To Keep Pace With Competition
Carrying the weight of expectation attached to securing $11.9 million funding in your first few months of operation, MessageMe has switched on the ability to send and receive stickers -- the increasingly popular communication medium which has sparked a gold rush for messaging apps.

July 25 2013

Japanese Cloud-Based Accounting Software Startup Freee Raises $2.7M In Series A Funding From DCM And Infinity Capital Partners
Japanese startup freee, which provides online accounting software for small businesses, announced that it has raised $2.7 million in Series A funding from DCM and Infinity Capital Partners. Founded by Daisuke Sasaki, who previously led Google's small- to medium-sized business marketing in the Asia-Pacific region, freee targets Japanese SMBs that don't want to purchase expensive packaged software. freee will use its new funding to accelerate product development.

July 19 2013

This is the worst email our tips line received today. I look forward to having a drink with this dude.

July 10 2013

Japanese Ticketing Startup Peatix Raises $3M Series A To Fund Expansion To US, Singapore
Japanese e-ticketing startup Peatix just closed a Series A round of $3 million, led by Fidelity Japan. The company is seeking to be the Eventbrite of Asia, and provides a platform for event organizers to manage ticket sales. It says it’s already had 10,000 events listed on its platform since it launched in May 2011. This new funding injection builds on its seed round of $1 million that it closed almost exactly a year ago. Its seed was provided by a number of investors, including 500 Startups, DG Incubation, Itochu Technology Ventures, and SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg. 500 Startups and Itochu also participated in the Series A round, which will see Fidelity Japan’s David Milstein joining Peatix’s board of directors. Along with the funding, Peatix is expanding to Singapore, with co-founder Emi Takemura moving, family in tow, to the island state to head up Asia. The company also launches its services in the US today, and is looking to hire there, as well as in Singapore and in Japan. Peatix has 20 staff in Japan, three in Singapore and six in New York. Takemura told us that the plan is to support 30,000 to 50,000 events over the next year—about 10 times the volume of events that it’s handled so far. Peatix faces a big challenger in Singapore. Sistic is the dominant ticketing provider in the country, and has a number of exclusive arrangements with large event organizers and venues. In 2010, it had about 60 to 70 percent of the market exclusively, according to The Business Times. Takemura said Peatix isn’t planning to compete head-on with Sistic. “There are incumbent ticketing companies in each country, and that is the same in the US and in Japan. We grew for the past two years with little conflict with traditional ticketing companies in Japan, because there is a large volume of non-traditional events that can benefit from online registration,” she said. Examples of such “non-traditional” events include those at smaller venues, and meetups and parties by independent organizers. The volume of these events are growing in the three markets that Peatix has targeted, she said. Some other Asian startups have decided to co-exist with the big players. VNTIC, from Vietnam, connects directly with Southeast Asia’s big ticket platforms. It allows people to buy from Sistic, Ticketcharge in Malaysia and Kiostix in Indonesia, rather than try to court event organizers over from them.

May 23 2013

Square Starts Mobile Payments In Japan, Its First Country Outside Of North America In Partnership With Visa's Ally
Square has announced that it is now publicly available in Japan, its first country outside of the U.S. The iPhone is very popular in Japan, which makes it a strong crossover market for the iOS-launched Square.
Tags: TC square japan

August 04 2011

Japanese Service Lets You Stick Your Head On A Doll’s Body
Screen Shot 2011-08-04 at 1.38.54 PM
Danny Choo, culture hound based in Tokyo, visited a service called CloneFactory where he had his head scanned, printed, and stuck onto the body of a Storm Trooper. The service uses multiple DSLRs to take snapshots of your head, render it in 3D, and then print it out in plaster using a 3D printer. Hair, make-up, and coloring are added and then your head is stuck on a little plastic doll. You can then take said doll home and, I presume, stare at it until it starts to move.

July 22 2011


Sony Pulls The Plug On 8MM Video

Sony is discontinuing yet another format: after killing the cassette Walkman last year and deciding to stop producing MiniDisc Walkmans just 2 weeks ago, the company today announced [JP] in Japan they won’t be supporting the 8mm video format anymore. Sony was one of the several Japanese and American (i.e. Polaroid) tech powerhouses that established the format back in the 1980s.

To be more specific, Sony will discontinue the production of the GV-D800 (pictured above) and GV-D200 (below), two digital 8mm video cassette recorders, in September. These were the last pieces of 8mm video hardware the company was manufacturing. Sony will continue producing 8mm tapes for the time being.

Below is the first 8mm video camera ever, the “legendary” Sony CCDーV8 from 1985 (Sony stopped producing 8mm cameras in 2008):

Sony says they decided to pull the plug on 8mm video because of the rise of flash memory formats and the shift in demand among consumers to HD video cameras and recorders. The company sold a total of 57 million 8mm video cameras and recorders through March 2008.

Via AV Watch [JP]

July 21 2011


Casio CA-01C: 3D Feature Phone And Digital Camera Rolled Into One

Japan’s mobile carriers are currently releasing a number of interesting handsets, which are all part of their summer 2011 line-up. While smartphones, the iPhone and Android in particular, are taking over the Japanese market, there are still some cool feature phones coming out, too.

Case in point: the Casio CA-01C [JP], which NTT Docomo (Japan’s leading telco) started distributing a few days ago. Technically, the device can be called a feature phone, but it outshines the one or other smartphone out there when it comes to some specs.

Here’s the main spec list:

  • 3.4-inch/naked-eye 3D touch display with 480×854 resolution
  • 0.8-inch OLED sub-display
  • 16.3MP CMOS sensor
  • camera: special mobile Exilim engine, full HD video recording, 3D picture display, 3x digital zoom, LED flash
  • DLNA support
  • YouTube connectivity
  • Wi-Fi IEEE802.11n, Bluetooth, infrared connection
  • e-wallet function
  • digital TV tuner
  • dust-and waterproof body
  • microSDHC slot, HDMI interface
  • battery: 220 minutes continuous talk time, 560 hours stand-by on 3G

It sounds crazy, but this specific model is basically a phone and digital Exilim camera rolled into one. Just one of many examples: its so-called business shot function automatically corrects shots taken diagonally in conference rooms or event halls, like so:

April 21 2011


Move Over iFund: DCM, Tencent, GREE, KDDI Launch $100M A-Fund

We’ve all got iPhone mania in the Valley, never mind that Apple tracks our every move and won’t explain why or that AT&T users can’t actually make calls.

But in Asia– and much of the rest of the developing world– the anticipated mobile giant is Android. Android phones are just starting to hit Japan and China, and a flood of cheap new models are expected to come on the market within the next year. Expect a flood of new apps to follow that, particularly in China where venture capital is flowing like water.

The rise of Android is as close to a no-brainer prediction as you can make with always volatile and uncertain emerging markets. Combine the market size of countries like Japan, China, Indonesia and India with cheap, increasingly-sophisticated devices and a massive base of gamemakers and hackers and someone’s going to make a lot of money.

Silicon Valley companies have a long track record of screwing up in Asia, especially China. But Google would have to screw up so monumentally badly to blow Android’s Asian future. It would have to screw up worse than eBay, MySpace, Amazon, AOL, and, ahem, Google already screwed up in China, combined.

So it’s not a surprise that DCM has launched a $100 million Asian A-Fund to support early-stage Android entrepreneurs. The surprise is that more firms haven’t been creating funds like these. Android development has already been a huge thrust of Innovation Works, the incubator started by former head of Google China, Kaifu Lee, for about six months. (Innovation Works is also our partner in producing TechCrunch Disrupt in Beijing, so expect to see a lot of Android innovation at the conference this October. More news on Beijing Disrupt is coming soon.)

DCM general partner David Chao says the idea developed over dinner in Beijing with DCM, GREE and KDDI about three months ago where the group couldn’t stop talking about Android’s opportunity in their requisite countries. “There’s this explosion of freedom coming,” Chao says. “It’s probably the first time people all around the world feel like they can do something simple on mobile and unleash their talent. If we just did this in the US, it’d be incredibly restricting.”

DCM’s fund will focus on startups in Silicon Valley, Beijing and Tokyo and investment decisions will be jointly made by partners in all three locations. Mostly, that will be DCM’s existing staff, with a few extra hires. That may sound inefficient, but DCM has long been an outlier with its China strategy, making all its investment decisions as a single firm, not a Valley firm with international franchise offices. And, so far, it’s worked well for the firm.

DCM has partnered with some big Asian heavyweights including gaming giant Tencent, Japan’s largest mobile gaming social network GREE and Japan’s second largest mobile operator KDDI. DCM has additional partners in the United States that it will be announcing in coming weeks.

Chao described the role of the strategic partners as an advantage startups could chose to take advantage of if they wanted distribution help in China and Japan, or refuse if they were worried about those bigger competitors squashing them in the market.

Worries about competition are just one of the headaches with an undertaking like this. While Android is undoubtably a huge opportunity, there are a lot of cooks in this $100 million kitchen– not only across different time zones and cultures, but across different industries. Already, there was a dispute on the part of the various partners on when the news would be released. I woke up to DCM moving the news release up by about five hours, thanks to a promise a Japanese partner made to the Japanese media. Let’s hope the coordination gets better once investments start, because it’s a huge opportunity for startups to leverage these massive markets at once.

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