Radar Screen

Back to Contents of Issue: January 2002

by Sumie Kawakami

Japan has its share of disasters and accidents, be they typhoons, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, or simple train mishaps. For JPY200 a month, rescuenow.net sends you news on disasters and accidents specifically customized for you and your neighborhood. News with headlines like "JR Chuo-Line Delayed 15 Minutes for an Accident" or "Fire in 2-Chome, Shibuya Ward" will be sent to your mobile phone, giving you instant access to information on what is going on in your neighborhood.

But this is only part of what rescuenow.net plans to do. The company is hoping to become an instant source of information on disasters and accidents for local municipalities as well. "There are about 3,300 municipalities in Japan, and very few of them are capable of providing information their residents need. But rescuenow can," says chief executive officer Kenichi Ichikawa.

The Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe in 1995 got Ichikawa interested in venture businesses. At the time, he was a salesman at IBM. He watched TV everyday to get the latest news on the disaster and soon realized that there was a need for organizing grassroots information through the Internet. "Mass media repeated the same news over and over, while ignoring the potential of live information coming directly from those who were involved," he says.

Since founding the company in 2000, he has sent his staff to such disaster-stricken areas as Mt. Usu and Miyakejima, both sites of volcanic eruptions. The workers gathered information from the disaster areas to post on the company's site. The company has been building up its network of potential news reporters through the Net. Although rescuenow.net has the spirit of voluntarism, the company's operations are firmly based on the ABCs of the venture business world. Just in 2001 alone, the company raised over JPY70 million through several third-party allocations. It is also planning an IPO in a few years.

"Our business has just begun," says the 37-year-old Ichikawa. He adds that it may take another two to three years before the company will be able to use the network of information it has developed to help local municipalities. In the meantime, Ichikawa trains himself as a volunteer firefighter.

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