Geeks on a Plane Tour - Tokyo Day 2: Startonomics Tokyo

Original Post by Girls in Tech (Many thanks to Tina Tran for that!)

The part with the presentations comes from Serkan Toto's Techcrunch Post. Cheers Man!

Day two of The Geeks on a Plane tour had us at the offices of KDDI Web Communications for a full day of presentations on topics ranging from the state of venture capital in Asia and the US, to an overview of the Japanese online games and virtual goods market, to US platforms and social networking. Eric Ries closed out the day with a dynamic presentation about how to run a Lean Startup.


Eric has led two startups - the first startup failed fabulously, and the second startup, IMVU, is profitable and making millions in revenue. The difference? Startup #1 spent $40 million and employed 200 people before there was a launched product. Startup #2 launched a beta product quickly, and continuously released newer and better versions while engaging with customers early and often.


Take Away: The biggest source of waste in any startup is building something nobody wants.

Tina Tran, Mark Hendrickson, Eric Ries, Larry Chiang, Joyce Kim
Tina Tran, Mark Hendrickson, Eric Ries, Larry Chiang, Joyce Kim

Presentation: KDDI Web Communications's service Webnica, by Teppei Takahata from KDDI Web Communications

Background and key points:

  • KDDI Web Communications is one of Japan's leading hosting companies and serves 40,000 corporate clients.
  • The company's new "Webnica" web OS consists of two services, a cloud computing system and a recommendation engine.
  • Webnica is especially suitable for creators, i.e. web designers or programmers.
  • The cloud computing system automatically adopts to traffic without users needing to do anything.
  • The recommendation engine analyzes user behavior in the background (communication with others, buying behavior etc.) and recommends actions based on the history it recorded.


Slides of the presentation:

Presentation: Overview of the Japanese online Market: Web, by Tsuruaki Yukawa from Jiji Press

Background and key points:

  • Generally speaking, Japan is a huge online market, even by global standards.
  • Japanese broadband is about 50% fiber (making it the world's No. 1 nation in that area according to the OECD).


Slides of the presentation (partly Japanese):

Presentation: Overview of the Japanese online Market: Mobile, by Gen Miyazawa from Cirius Technologies

Background and key points:

  • Japan boasts 100 million 3G users (size of the population: 127 million).
  • 3G penetration rate: 96% (3.5G penetration rate: 35%).
  • iPhone is doing relatively well in Japan, but it's not killing.
  • Japan's mobile web traffic still grows faster than the PC traffic.
  • Size of the mobile e-commerce market: around $1.2 billion (data from July 2008).
  • Biggest players in the mobile web only-field: Mobagetown (13 million members) and GREE (10 million members).


Slides of the presentation:

Presentation: Overview of the Japanese online Market: Gaming, by Shuji Utsumi from Q Entertainment

Background and key points:

  • Japan's game industry was born in the 1970s.
  • The sector grew quickly and internationalized heavily, starting in the 1980s.
  • Japan used to be the world's leading gaming nation but loses influence rapidly.
  • Microsoft's XBOX360, for example, is managing to beat Sony's PS3.
  • Japan loves RPGs and family games, while Americans rather play FPS and music games.
  • The gaming industry is now bigger than ever as non-geeks nowadays play, too.
  • Developers from China, Korea and Eastern Europe start entering the gaming market.

Presentation: Success Story - DeNA, by Shin Ikeji

Background and key points:

  • DeNA is listed at the Tokyo stock exchange (current market cap: $1.5 billion).
  • Revenue in 2008: $200 million, 70% profit margin.

Presentation: Kris Tate - American entrepreneur living in Tokyo

Key points:

  • Tate started photo sharing site Zooomr as a teenager four years ago (in Silicon Valley).
  • Tate's new company is called BlueBridge (in Tokyo).
  • BlueBridge successfully launched AM6 (a Japanese email news delivery service) and just started Keireki (a Japanese-only community "for grown-ups").
  • Foreign entrepreneurs have better chances regarding PR in Japan because they stand out.

Presentation: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Key points:

  • The majority of start-ups fails miserably.
  • Those that survive are often completely different in nature when compared to the initial vision of the entrepreneur.
  • The key difference between success and failure is the number of iterations (agile (lean) product development).
  • Ries' former company IMVU pushed to production up to 50 times daily.
  • Instead of doing PR work, companies should focus on customer feedback before they launch services (customer development).
  • Start-ups building something no one wants will fail.
  • Instead of multiple departments, start-ups should have a problem and a solution team.


Slides (highly recommended to get the whole picture of Ries' approach):

Panel: Japan investment overview

Panelists: Shinichiro Fukushige from Mitsubishi UFJ Capital (moderator), Masashi Kobayashi from Infinity Ventures, Brian Nelson from Value Commerce and Yozo Kaneko from ngi group


Background and key points:

  • Similar to the US, the investment climate in Japan is currently "difficult", with valuations dropping drastically.
  • 49 IPOs in Japan last year, after about 100 in 2007.
  • Majority of Japanese VCs are structured like corporations/banks.
  • Compared to the US, competition among Japanese VCs is weaker, leading to lower valuations.
  • Before going public in Japan, the PE ratio should be higher than 60.
  • Japanese VCs end up owning about 10% of their portfolio companies (US: 20-40%).
  • Two attractive business fields in the future: mobile gaming and "graphical content".

Panel: US Platforms & Social Networking

Panelists: Dave McClure from Founders Fund, Bradley Horowitz from Google and Dan Gould from Fox Interactive

Key points:

  • Monetization and distribution are more important than features.
  • Facebook is making a mistake in its attempt to copy Twitter, which is a less "personal" service.
  • The US must try and take over Japan's social payment infrastructure.
  • America's leading payment gateways are e-commerce sites like Ebay or Amazon (not social networks) because they offer "shit people want to buy", meaning they don't need social networking functionalities.
  • Japan's stored-value cards are very effective in linking the offline and online worlds.
  • McClure sees huge opportunities in building a social network focused on families/moms/children in the US.
  • Mobile: Horowitz views Android as work in progress and in an early stage in the product life cycle, that's one of the reasons it currently has trouble following the success the iPhone currently sees.

Panel slides:

Panel: US investment overview

Panelists: Dave McClure from Founders Fund, Joyce Kim from Soompi, Ryan Pipkin from Angelsoft and David Troy from Popvox


Key points:

  • The recession has hit the American VC scene harder than the start-ups, meaning VCs have a tougher time raising money now relative to the start-ups that have to live with lower valuations (minus 33-50%).
  • It takes VCs 50% more time currently to close deals.
  • Main focus is now on revenue and getting to break even, less on user acquisition.
  • From an ROI point of view, the downturn means better news for seed funds, incubators and angels than for VCs.
  • Start-ups can now get to proof of concept stage with less than $50,000.
  • Micro-seeds ($100,000 max.) will gain ground in the near future.
  • Only the good VC companies will survive over the next years.

Panel slides:

Lightning Talks

Lightning talks were held by a total of five Japanese start-ups. These were J-Magic (a mobile service provider image focusing on image recognition technology/more info here), AdLocal (a mobile advertising platform whose heat map geographically shows advertisers where they get impressions), Scigineer (recommendation engine provider/more info here) and Cerevo (an innovative photo sharing system/more info here). Jon "Yongfook" Cockle resisted the urge to pitch his social media ROI tracker Peashoot but delivered a presentation of the usage of mascots in Japanese web services instead.

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