On Our Radar Screen

Back to Contents of Issue: July 2001

This month: Venture Republic, CA Mobile, APAS, Net Seeds.

Venture Republic www.v-republic.co.jp
This 7-month-old Tokyo-based venture comprises two Web services: Paso coneco (www.coneco.net) is a vertical information portal focusing on technology-related products and services including PCs, PC peripherals, and broadband. The site's market data aggregation service (previously operated under the name NET de Tsuhan) presents the latest sales information from over 150 Web merchants and service providers. The other vertical portal is travel.co.jp, which provides air tickets and tour packages targeting frequent travelers. The site claims to offer a comprehensive marketing solution for travel agents and businesses through its use of a Web-based reservation system. Harvard MBA--holding CEO Kei Shibata cut his e-com teeth at Mitsubishi, where he headed up the Lawson konbini chain e-biz integration project, which eventually gave birth to the Mobile e-Kiosk system deployed by a $20 million JV between DoCoMo, Matsushita, Lawson, and Mitsubishi. The Internet in Japan is finally sophisticated enough that potentially world-class B2B and B2C services can be launched by smart, young, bilingual entrepreneurs.

CA Mobile KK www.camobile.com Established in May last year, this wireless startup aims to bring enhanced advertising functionality to a small screen near you. The company's iClick service (www.iclick.ne.jp) is a guaranteed, pay-per-click advertising system for mobile phones that distributes text ads via email. It also offers Pakeo, a viral-marketing service that adds advertising text to wireless email messages exchanged between friends. The company claims greater attention is paid to such ads, since they are attached to a mail from a personal acquaintance. Both iClick and Pakeo are being ported to EZWeb, J-Sky, i-mode, PHS, and other networks. The company also acts as a mobile ad sales agent and offers media planning, content production, and banner ad production services. As Japan's wireless webs become more sophisticated and complex (i-mode is now 29 months old), opportunities for secondary and tertiary content, application, and service providers like CA Mobile will undoubtedly grow. Click-through rates on mobile ads are reported to be quite high, so CA Mobile may just be sitting in a sweet spot. And who are the customers? How about online mall Rakuten Ichiba, whose sales via its wireless Web site reached some ¥70 million last December. The company says email advertising sent to cellular phones has contributed to this windfall.

APAS www.apas.co.jp
While this small, 35-person GIS/GPS (Geographic Information Systems/Global Positioning System) solutions provider is hardly new (it was founded in 1989), it has recently struck some wireless gold on J-Phone, and seems destined for big things. One of the most popular services on J-Phone's J-Sky wireless web is J-Navi, a sophisticated database system in which a user enters, for example, the telephone number or address of a company, and the database will then serve up a keitai-sized map showing the location and surrounding area of the destination. Searches can also be conducted by company name, partial address information, or other data. The service enjoyed a peak of a million page views per day during its pre-April 2000 launch trial, but since then has settled back to a still-respectable 300,000 PVs daily. APAS is the company that built the system for J-Phone, and the system has since been improved and ported to other platforms (including Palm). APAS now has offices in Australia, Korea, and the US, but core development work is still done in Tokyo. Global Venture Capital, Jafco, and Oracle, among others, have invested in the firm.

Net Seeds www.net-seeds.com
This Shibuya-based software developer opened in October 1999, and one of its products is the Ad Seeds Internet advertising system. Ad Seeds is a sort of sales and marketing outsource service for which the advertiser doesn't pay until the advertising result is proven and a sale made. The Ad Seeds server is linked to the advertiser's site, where the customer's activity is tracked and collated. For example, say an online cosmetics shop wants to boost e-memberships: Ad Seeds will place banner ads on suitable related Web sites (women's community portals, for example) that link back to a registration page on the Ad Seeds server. When a new member completes the registration, Ad Seeds forwards the data to the online cosmetics shop, which is only invoiced for valid new registrations. There's no up-front risk to the advertiser, and the Ad Seeds system bills only for actual sales, so this could be a good value for certain types of merchants. The company has four full-time and 10 part-time staff, and is active in software development, eCRM, and systems integration. The company has also been out stumping for venture capital, and is presently recruiting software developers.

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