On Our Radar Screen

Back to Contents of Issue: March 2001

e-Publishing Group, Animobile, ipTrend, and FORBiS.

e-Publishing Group KK www.e-shuppan.com
After the dot-com crash, many admit that doing content on the Web is tougher than rocket science. So what did the content gurus at e-Publishing do? Call in a rocket scientist, of course: co-founder Sunil Deshpande has a PhD in space sciences and came to Japan in 1995 to oversee post-flight investigations of Japan's Space Flyer Unit (a microgravity research spacecraft). e-Publishing is extraordinarily mum on plans, though the Web site states the soon-to-launch u-model service will offer a unique view of fashion from "the eyes, the creativity, and the bodies of those who actually wear the items." Hmmmm. While at Japan's National Aerospace Laboratory, Deshpande developed new and novel scanning methodologies and a Web-based image and data archive; can we guess u-model is an electronic sizing and modeling system, like the My Model service on Lands' End?

Animobile Inc. www.animobile.com
Animobile aims to offer an animation and character download service to wireless devices, a sweet spot to target since entertainment, especially music, games, and animation, is the mobile Web's killer app. We think the brave little toaster and the purple puppy will be popular with the teen kawaii crowd. Hey, don't smirk! Bandai's pulling in a cool million bucks a month for a similar but much simpler service. This US-based startup will open their Tokyo office this year. It's great to see foreigners grabbing opportunities on Japan's wireless Web.

ipTrend Inc. www.iptrend.co.jp
For SMEs, low to non-existent IT skills, little spare cash, and lack of time mean that building an in-house network is a major challenge. But bandwidth limitations, data ownership, and cost are serious limitations on the traditional software-only ASP model. Ergo! Why not outsource the entire LAN? ipTrend provides the server, the software, and all necessary maintenance and support for a low monthly fee. The first target is the 2,000-plus bento makers utilized by one of Japan's largest konbini chains. COO/CFO Mahendra Negi was ranked No. 1 on Institutional Investor magazine's list of Japan Internet analysts while he was at Merrill Lynch, so expect this startup's business plan to develop smoothly and by the numbers.

FORBiS Inc. www.randi.co.jp
Builds open-protocol data transfer middleware platforms for ASPs, corporate portals, and e-commerce Web sites; focuses on multiplatform-compatible XML. FORBiS, founded in 1994 (as Randi Corp.), appears to have a head start; its Dynamic Server series (soon to be available in English) helps integrate existing EDI, CRM, SFA, and ERP systems for access from anywhere. CEO Shintaro Ienaga came from NTT's Musashino Research Lab, said by some to be the closest thing Japan has to a Skunkworks. The Net gurus at the451.com recently said the company that succeeds in dominating the mobile-enabled middleware market will "make a lot of money." Maybe this'll be the one.

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