Radar Screen

Back to Contents of Issue: August 2001

This month: Bio-Xcelerator, Solid Information Technology, Cognitive Research Labs, i-drive.com.

i-drive.com www.idrive.com
"On our Radar Screen" normally zooms in on Japan-based ventures, but San Francisco-based i-drive.com caught our attention with its April press release announcing a tie-up with Tokyo-based Access, maker of the Compact NetFront microbrowser that sits on the majority of i-mode cellphones (see "Hard Cell," July 2001). The deal will see i-drive.com provide enterprise-focused online storage functionality to Access's browsers, while it gives the small US software house an opportunity to climb aboard the i-mode platform, one of the first foreign companies to do so. i-drive is also providing its Enhanced Storage Platform (ESP), which enables developers to quickly create storage-centric applications atop the foundation of i-drive's storage infrastructure middleware. The ESP targets next-gen mobile Net devices that lack adequate native storage. It's great to see an original B2C service make the shift to (revenue-generating) B2B, and also grab wireless by the horns. Of course, to do that, you have to be in Japan, and that's where i-drive found its first Asian partner.

Solid Information Technology www.solitech.com
We told you last month that the Japanese are fast morphing into multimode surfers, using wireless platforms to access the Net sometimes, and traditional wireline-connected PCs for access at other times (see Statistics, July 2001). Solid Technology intends to help boost this phenomenon. Its Solid FlowEngine helps mobile content providers and corporate database owners enable users to access data from multiple platforms and devices. The solution is embedded in portable devices (phones, PDAs, et cetera) or other components of the network, and enables smart, dynamic data exchange. Think of it as synchronization on steroids. Since the solution is embedded, the target customers are the handset and portable device OEMs, as well as the infrastructure vendors. Solid has reeled in Jun Takemori to open its Tokyo office. Takemori's a veteran of Centura Embedded Systems Japan, Microsoft, and Wind River Systems. Until now, the software on Japanese cellphones has been dominated by the Japanese makers, but they're having a lot of trouble with onboard systems integration. There's opportunity for players like Solid to carve out a concrete piece of this market.

Bi-Xcelerator www.bio-xcelerator.com
Dynamic VC and company builder Eugene Satoshi Takagi (See "Biotech VC," January 2001) may have scored another hit with the May 2001 launch of Bio-Xcelerator, a 60/40 JV between B2B heavyweight ICG Japan and Bio Incubator. Capitalized at ¥100 million, the firm plans to hunt for promising biotech businesses in Japan and overseas and match them up with mainly Japanese corporations and VCs (who participate on a membership basis) by providing evaluation systems backed by academia, as well as consulting services. A fair slice of work will involve introducing US biotech technology to Japanese companies (the firm already has Silicon Valley and Toronto offices). Hideto Kaneshima, MD, is also onboard as director, and brings his expertise gained as head of research at a Silicon Valley bio VC (he now heads up Tokyo University's Silicon Valley information office). Biotech has huge potential in this market, and the drug and pharmaceutical side is starting to open up. ("Equipment is still tightly regulated," says Takagi. Oh well.)

Cognitive Research Labs www.crl.co.jp
Roppongi, fabled home to generations of nightclub-hopping gaijin hedonists, is also a fertile proving ground for the very best in Japanese artificial intelligence (AI). Founded by the ultrasmart Dr. Hideto Tomabechi, CRL is a sort of think tank rolled up with a software development house and streaming video development center. For commercial products, CRL has developed a one-to-one dynamic shopping mall system that tracks client usage of an e-commerce site and produces product recommendations, a system for electronic software distribution with built-in rights management, a Web casting system, and a Java-based mobile mail solution (Freedom Mail) that provides access to corporate mail systems, among other products. CRL also produces the iPop server (coded in the LISP AI programming language) that acts as an intelligent mobile gateway interface for Freedom Mail. Not bad for a 50-person company that was largely a dormant, one-man show until three years ago. Tomabechi defines the word eclectic; the pony-tailed entrepreneur/AI guru meditates regularly and belies the image of a buttoned-down business drone. His vision of the future Internet includes a "hyperself architecture" that allows netizens to extend their bodies into cyberspace itself. Far out? This is one company worth keeping an eye on.

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