Remote Mail Venture Remains Robust; IPOed in September

Back to Contents of Issue: November 2002

by Sumie Kawakami and Daniel Scuka

TOKYO-BASED VENTURE NET Village's services are by no means fancy; they allow users quick access to their email messages anywhere they go. The company's "remote mail" service allows a user to access messages sent to almost any account via any Web-enabled keitai. The company has 330,000 subscribers. Despite the planned withdrawal of Nasdaq US from Japan, some companies --like Net Village -- went ahead with plans to go public on Nasdaq Japan.

But why IPO now? CFO Hiroyuki Miura said before the IPO: "The amount we are scheduled to offer isn't much; basically we've raised enough through third-party allocations. The IPO is more for our credibility."

Credibility aside, for a small company with only 27 staff, Net Village is doing well. While other venture firms continue to suffer from the economic downturn, Net Village became profitable in fiscal 2002 -- the first time since its establishment in 1998.

While the company depends on the remote mail service for about two-thirds of its revenue, the service costs subscribers only JPY200 per month.

Unlike regular keitai email offered by wireless Internet provider portals like NTT DoCoMo's i-mode, NV's remote mail -- based on Java technology -- allows users to receive messages of unlimited length: It can also transfer messages to a fax or print them at a convenience store printer terminal.

If remote mail subscribers use an email account provided by the company, the service allows the user to send and receive ecards including music or images. NTT DoCoMo 504i-series Java handset users can also save packet data transmission fees, since remote mail compresses messages by up to 90 percent.

Miura downplays the belief that the mobile market has been saturated.

"The mobile market is entering the age of maturity, and re-streamlining of the industry is inevitable; there will be winners and losers. But, as prices go down, there will be more corporate demand." The company's game plan is to grab that market.

Net Village is also eyeing the development of new keitai technologies. According to Miura, services will soon allow cellphone screens to have portal-like functions. DoCoMo's 504i-series handsets, released in May 2002, featured an increased Java application download size (i-Appli Java application download limits were boosted from 10KB to 30KB). "There will be more things one can do with i-Appli, such as run email and games on one screen," says Miura. Net Village already offers some keitai game software and the company may soon incorporate its email service into games.
-- Sumie Kawakami & Daniel Scuka

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