On Our Radar Screen

Back to Contents of Issue: May 2001

This month: E-Timing, AboveNet Japan, Giga Networks, Index Digital, Capion, and 724 Solutions.

E-Timing www.amano.co.jp/e-timing
A key requirement for establishing reliable and trusted B2B e-com is fixing the precise time when, for example, a contract was digitally signed. Amano's E-Timing time-signaling service is secure (time signals are digitally signed), auditable, and highly accurate. E-Timing links to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) time servers and permits Web events to be fixed to within 100 nanoseconds. Can be accessed via POTS (plain old telephone service) dial-in, dedicated line, or the Net; fees are billed on usage. Time is money, and Amano will provide ¥100 million insurance through Lloyd's in case it fails to deliver. Leave it to the ever-punctual Japanese to be serious about the business of time.

Giga Networks www.giga.co.jp
So far, e-commerce on Japan's wireless Web has primarily brought wealth only to NTT DoCoMo; most third-party content providers haven't made much money despite i-mode's stellar usage numbers. One exception is Giga Networks, which has built itself into the No. 1 ringing melody site. It now claims some 2 million-plus i-mode users, who download Giga's MIDI-format sound files to personalize their keitais (three tunes for ¥100, or seven for ¥200). Parent Ricoh's database of karaoke tunes served as the seed, and Giga has worked hard to make sure artists' rights are respected; it pays ¥5 to JASRAC (local version of the RIAA) for every 30 songs that users download. (JASRAC reportedly has some 300 inspectors watching for illegal download sites. Yikes!) Giga's service looks to be scalable and low-cost, precisely what a successful Web startup should be.

Capion Inc. www.cash.ne.jp
Many say Japanese prefer cash over credit cards. While this is debatable (we think Japanese are just as credit-card happy as anyone else; it's the merchants -- faced with fees up to 9% on CC transactions -- who encourage cash), Capion hopes its cash-alternative Electronic Clearing System will turn into a pot of gold. The service works much like eCharge and other third-party, real-time escrow systems (see "Charging Into Japan," page 70, April 2001); shoppers register with Capion and arrange to have purchases billed directly to their postal savings account. Merchants also register and are provided a "C-Box" payment option for their e-com--enabled Web pages. No word yet on the number of merchants or surfers opting to use the ECS, but the firm won the Kansai New Business Conference Award in February 2001; it's also offering escrow auction services on Rakuten, Japan's leading online shopping mall. Nomura and the usual crowd of VCs have provided funding; ongoing revenue comes from building Web sites and developing database software. Must be doing well: the site is currently trolling for lots of new staff, including designers and programmers. Who says Japan has an unemployment problem?

AboveNet Japan KK www.jp.above.net
Tokyo's data center biz is in a miniboom right now. Those smart enough to set up operations last year, including Digital Island and CRC Research (see "Host Nation," page 22, January 2001), are having no trouble finding clients; AboveNet Japan KK, the local arm of US-based AboveNet Communications Inc. (which claims to be one of the Big Three in the US data center industry), is one. The firm launched its Japan hosting operations last June, featuring a 750-Mbps feed to the Net. Jointly owned by its US parent (90%) and old-line Japanese venture capital firm TransCosmos (10%), it's located in partner Global Access's facility in Nihombashi. In January, AboveNet announced a tie-up with big-name player Hitachi to host subsidiary Hitachi netBusiness's Storage Services Access Point (SSAP) system. Wireless has boosted the ASP model in Japan, and developers are rushing to bring enterprise applications to wireless intranets; disk space is not a limitation.

Index Digital www.mailstyle.com
We told you that email marketing in Japan is effective (July 2000), but if you don't believe us, just access Index Digital's site. The Osaka-based startup (it launched in September last year) aims to bring some intelligence to the mechanics of mail marketing. Instead of spamming all recipients with the same boilerplate message, the firm provides marketers the ability to customize message text, titles, and salutations while boosting security and privacy. Its POEM (private, opt-in email) system can be used as a stand-alone application or via the Web as an ASP service, with price based on the number of addresses being accessed. It can also target mobile addresses, and offers eCRM (customer relationship management) services as well. Rakuten is one of the investors -- a natural fit, we think, with Rakuten's killer Web shopping portal. We're also impressed with the mobile focus. There are at least 25 million mail-enabled keitais bouncing around in peoples' pockets here; sending a customized message to each one would make most marketing managers drool.

724 Solutions www.724solutions.com
In March, this Toronto- and Austin, Texas--headquartered wireless solution developer released its Wireless Internet Platform 3.0, which allows financial institutions to offer integrated and secure data, notification, m-com, and other services to popular WAP-based (and Palm) mobile clients. The firm will also provide a localized version of its LiveClips technology to a new NTT Data-Nomura Research Institute JV, enabling it to offer mobile customers Web content personalization, a consolidated view of their Web-based accounts, and personalized alerts. The firm thinks this combination of aggregation and alerts will become the killer app for the financial services industry, and it could be right -- 724 already counts Bank of America, Citigroup, and Bank of Montreal among some 20-plus paying global financial clients.

Note: The function "email this page" is currently not supported for this page.