Railroad Museum And Tokyo University Open “Digital Railway Museum”

Public-interest Foundation East Japan Railroad Culture Foundation Railroad Museum [J] and the Tokyo University graduate school information technology graduate course are organizing the “Digital Railway Museum,” aligning with the specially planned “Time Travel Exhibit” on display at the railroad museum.  They will use new exhibition techniques as a result of both parties’ collaborative research.

The main features of the exhibit are as such:  When you point the portable display towards the exhibit railcars, the “Train memory peep window” allows you to see the appearance of railcars active these days superimposed over the exhibit railcars; make the pushcar of the train that appeared in the display case via LCD become transparent or make it run; observe from various angles with “Digital display case ~ Pushcar GO! ~;”  “Take time seat” makes your self from several seconds in the past coexist with your current self as a 3D space that appears before your eyes when you sit down in the train seat; The “Navilog” guide system uses the application in the portable display and concerns the history zone’s exhibit railcars; “Digital memory notes” use digital technology to reproduce “Memory notes” placed in unmanned stations and so on.  It is an exhibit tying together the present and the past using plenty of AR (Augmented Reality) technology.  Also the same exhibition’s “Hayabusa Board” (falcon board) is digitally archived and appears on the internet.  The Post-Visit HAYABUSA Board [J], where Hayabusa Board Messages written by the spectators themselves can be seen by other eyes and at home, is also open to the public.

Translation authorized by VSMedia

Presentation: Innovation, Imitation & Hyper-Localization (Sparxup 2011, Indonesia)

Last Friday, I was invited to Jakarta to give a keynote presentation at the Sparxup Awards 2011 event for Indonesian startups.

The presentation’s topic was “Innovation, Imitation & Hyper-Localization In Asia”, and assuming some readers might be interested, I embedded it below.

Here are the slides (direct link):

Event Wrap-up: Echelon 2011 And More, A Visit To Singapore In June

Almost a month ago, there was an international technology and start-up showcase event, which is called Echelon, at the National University of Singapore. Because of many things to do remaining after the event, I delayed making a write-up on it.

I think this year’s Echelon was its second edition, and that took place on June 16 and 17. Here’s a brief wrap-up.

Startup Launchpad (Part 1)

  •  Cardinal Blue (a photo collage app for iPhone/iPad) – Taiwan
  • WorkCrowd (a free social network for your workspace) – Malaysia
  • SixReps (a social network for fitness and sportenthusiasts) – Indonesia
  • JellyBus (a developer of Android-based funny apps) – Korea
  • Fetch Fans (A web-based assistant to help your Facebook/Twitter designs) – Singapore
  • Bouncity (A location-based gaming platform where users can hunt for bounty from participating brands and get rewards)

Startup Launchpad (Part 2)

  • Moglue (A desktop platform that allows publishers, amateur authors to create interactive stories for iOS and Android devices) – Korea <See this story for more>
  • Second CRM (A web-based CRM software especially for SMEs in Asia) – Malaysia
  • Price Area (A shopping search engine to help you find the best deals) – Indonesia
  • LocoBuzz by Spatial Ideas (an analytics, query and communications platform which integrates news and tweets onto a geographical map) – India


  • [The Launchpad Winner] PlayMoolah (a web service for kids to master their money) – Singapore

Exhibitors’ Booths…


Garbs, a Tokyo-based start-up that helps you recruit potential colleagues using their Facebook app.


Compath.me, a location-based smartphone app that allows you to find discoveries near-by that the other users have posted and you may be interested in.


Makible, a Hongkong-based start-up for making niche products.  They connect with online communities to pre-order-crowd sourced products they make and distribute.  Founded by Jonathan Buford and Nicholas Wang.



I was invited to Lisa Katayama’s panel featuring Japanese tech scene, and we talked about the latest developments on the Japanese web industry.  Also I gave some words to Asian start-ups who eagerly go into Japanese market.  From left to right, Lisa Katayama (Tokyo Mango), Ian McFarland (Digital Garage), me, Jon Yonghook Cockle (CookPad) and Brian Ritchie (Mind Valley, Malaysia).  Photo courtesy: e27.


After the event…


Penn Olson, a Singapore-based tech blog which I’ve been contributing for, had a party in the central Singapore, where four Japanese start-ups including Cacoo, Fashion Style Japan, Compath.me and Moso had an opportunity to present. You can find videos shooting it here[J].

Just heard Asiajin co-founder Akky is planning to stay in Singapore for several weeks next month. If you’re interested in meeting him and making friendship, I recommend you to drop him a line.

GMIC 2011 Beijing: Where Are Social Media Going In The World’s Largest Mobile Population?

The Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC), one of the world’s largest annual conference featuring mobile and social app trends, took place at China’s national convention center, which is located the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, Chinese capital.  The two-day event celebrated its fourth edition this time, and it has been solely organized by Great Wall Club, a team of CEOs and executives of telcos, social network service providers and mobile app developers in Japan and Mainland China.   I had another assignment in Tokyo, and I could make it only on Day 2.

Just in front of the venue, China Telecom’s base station van was standing by for burst mobile traffic which might be generated by an enormous number of the event attendees.

The Day 2 started with a keynote speech by Charles Zhang(张朝阳), CEO of Sohu.com(搜狐), where he reviewed what he had done during the last ten years and poured out his regrets including the acquisition of Chinaren[C] or the largest online alumni club in China with over 80 million registered users. (video by Tech163 [C])



G-Startups Competition

Between panels and speeches by Internet business tycoon and celebrities from China, Japan and the rest of the world, there were on-stage live demos by the G-startup competition winners who had been chosen from 20 start-up finalists.  The both winners will won the prizes including participating incubation programs by Innovation Works (Beijing-based incubator founded by Kai-Fu Lee, the ex-president of Google China), China Accelerator (Dalian-based incubator founded by angel investor Cyril Ebersweiler), and Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley.

The 1st place winner of the seed/early-stage category:

SmarTots (Beijing, China)

SmarTots is a mobile education platform for children aged 2-7. It brings together educators, parents, and developers to create an interactive, fun, and manageable learning experience for kids through mobile apps. The company strives to unlock the true educational value of mobile devices by providing parents with reports, parental tools and personalized recommendations across many hardware and software ecosystems.


The 1st place winner of the growth-stage category:

Word Engine (Tokyo, Japan)

Word Engine is the fastest way to permanently memorize up to 99% of all the vocabulary required for important subjects. Word Engine is fast, inexpensive and mobile. They offer vocabulary courses for test preparation and special business needs.  The app is a proven scientific solution already in use at hundreds of universities and multinational corporations around the world. They very much look forward to entering the China market.

After those demos, Takeshi Natsuno(@tnatsu[J]),  the inventor of Japan’s mobile web standard for feature phone i-Mode and the president of GWC (Great Wall Club) Japan, was interviewed on the stage by Plus8Star‘s Benjamin Joffe(@benjaminjoffe) who is very familiar with the Asian tech scenes.  Mr. Natsuno explained what has been happening on the Japanese mobile industry during the last few years, saying Japanese manufacturers once quit the development of feature phone handsets requiring a bunch of costs, but got back to develop additional features for the global cost-free mobile platforms such as Android.

He emphasized it is very important to have this kind of event in China, furthermore, organized by Chinese and Japanese industry players.   (YouTube Video by Asiajin)



Peter Vesterbacka, Marketing Manager of Rovio Mobile (Maker of Angry Birds) interviewed on stage.

In association with the event organizers, Chinese mobile game portal d.cn[C] presented the Global Mobile Game Awards. The following ten games won the awards. (YouTube Video by Asiajin)   Angry Birds captured an audience’s extra attention because they reportedly had earned USD2M in their 1Q.  Beijing’s Global Times reported they would partner with a certain local game platform operator to launch their business in Mainland China.

The awards went to:



DeNA makes a big announcement at GMIC

Isao Moriyasu, the COO of Japan’s leading social app platform operator DeNA, unveiled they would partner with Fujian-headquartered Net Dragon (listed on the HK Stock Exchange), running mobile app store 91.com in China, and start co-developing social apps in the both countries. Furthermore, he announced the company would launch a CNY10M (USD15.4M)-worth foundation to encourage Chinese app developers to bring out more social apps to their platform.


After the Event

After the event, Asiajin contributor Hiroumi Mitani and I had a chance to join a dinner party with Japanese businessmen who are actively working with the Chinese mobile industry in Beijing. (Thanks to Jin Uehara(@ueharajin[J]) of MyNet Japan[J])   They insisted that we put our eyes on two emerging Chinese companies – Dianping.com(大众点评网)[C] and Vancl(凡客诚品)[C].  Dianping.com is an Yelp-like local search and reviews online service.   Vancl is China’s largest e-commerce retailer that delivers fast fashion clothing to online consumers nationwide, and a noteworthy fact is that they have a distribution network of their own for a better user experience such as the rapid delivery of merchandise.   A number of great internet entrepreneurs were seated around the party table, but I won’t tell you who they were because it was a private opportunity for all of them.


In The End

Smartphone handsets are not inexpensive for average Chinese people, I couldn’t see a lot of people carrying the iPhone or the Android phone on streets in Beijing where workers get comparatively higher income.   (Regardless to say, everyone at the event had s smartphone of some kind.  That circumstance did not reflect the average of what’s going on in the country.)   That’s why Chinese and foreign handset manufacturers are competing one another to introduce inexpensive range line-ups of smartphones which can be easily accepted by Chinese consumers.  (But I know “average” makes no sense in the country.)   It’s volume zone business that intends to earn the market shares of the average-income workers.

For social app and mobile app developers, to achieve a great success in the country having the world’s largest mobile population, their products should fit not only the user interface of typical smartphone handsets but also that of China-made simple but intelligent handsets that are ranged between smartphone and featurephone.

Daily deal site ads at Beijing Subway: Groupon.cn[C] (upper-left), Lashou.com[C] (upper-right), 24quan.com (lower-left) and Nuomi.com(lower-right)

During my stay in Beijing, I often used the subway to go somewhere, and I found a great number of the daily deal site ads at stations and on trains.   Reportedly there are more than 4,000 Groupon-like daily deal sites in the country.   In addition, it is surprising that a company running “Groupon.cn” site has nothing to do with US-based Groupon.     4,000 deal sites and 800 million mobile users – these numbers have the power to change the global standard, which sometimes badly affects our business and scares us, but they mean the country has a great potential.


Author’s note: The event’s official media sponsor Tech163 has a great special coverage[C] which are filled with transcripts of keynote speakers and a bunch of interviews with celebrities in the industry.

See Also:

NCC 2011 Spring: How The Net Behaves When The Earthquake Hit Japan?

Digital Garage, Japan’s Internet conglomerate known for operating price comparison portal Kakaku.com and helping Twitter’s business operation, held a semiyearly conference event last week, which is called the New Context Conference 2011 Spring, where Japanese well-known tech investor Joi Ito and the world’s Internet authorities came together, most of whom have expertise in social media, radiation measurement and disaster prevention.

Dr. Chowdhury of Twitter started his speech with the first slide of Namazu, a giant catfish which causes earthquakes in Japanese mythology.

Starting with a keynote speech by Abdur Chowdhury (@abdur), the chief scientist of Twitter Inc., he explained how Twitter work had worked efficiently to communicate among people when the massive earthquake had hit the Tohoku Region on March 11, by showing us some animated infographics of how many tweets being exchanged across the globe during the time.

In the first session, five panelists from Japanese and foreign media discussed how mass media should tell the society what happened in the disaster while Twitter and other social media succeeded to deliver up-to-the-minute voices from the devastated areas. Hiroyuki Tsuruta[J], a student entrepreneur who had developed a website collecting tweets supporting our relief efforts, Pray for Japan[J], also joined the panel.

From left to right: Joi Ito (Digital Garage), Abdur Chowdhury (Twitter), Hiroyuki Tsuruta (Pray for Japan), Hiroko Tabuchi (New York Times Tokyo Correspondent), Tomoya Sasaki (Digital Garage) and Tatehiko Koyanagi (Nikkei Inc.)

In the second session, which was titled hardware and sensor network, four experts from radiation measurement device development and crisis response, they talked about how we can obtain parameters to protect ourselves from the invisible enemy when the government and a power company don’t disclose everything on the nuclear powerhouse accident. They introduced RDTN as a web mash-up that helps us learn a lot about what’s happening.

From left to right: Joi Ito (Digital Garage), Jun Murai (Keio Univ.), Ray Ozzie (ex-Chief Software Architect, Microsoft), Aaron Huslage (Crisis Response ICT Specialist) and Dan Sythe (CEO, Iospectra)

The third session, which is about speed and agile software development. In the crisis time of disaster, web apps helping people are needed to developed as rapidly as possible. Joi concluded that a variety of open source resources and cloud services made it easier to launch a web service very quickly, which contributed a lot to providing disaster-related information to the people having no chance to check out news updates on TV.

From left to right: Joi Ito (Digital Garage), Paul Campbell (HyperTiny), Michelle Levesque (ex-Social Product Manager, Google), Phil Libin (Evernote CEO)

Following more than a dozen of unconferences arranged by the attendees, there was an opportunity for four start-ups being incubated at Open Network Lab[J] to present what they had made for the last several months. Open Network Lab is a seed acceleration program by Digital Garage and intends to be Tokyo’s version of Y-Combinator. All services introduced are currently under development, and I will try to let you figure out what they are, but no details are available at the moment.

GroupeLago by Yuta Okazaki (@kenzan100)

Groupelago is a web service that allows you to aggregate social feeds of people you are interested in. Two guys developing the service graduated from Keio University, and they believe it can be used to encourage freshers to join a school club, because it can show them what kind of people the club consists of prior to joining it. The service is currently running in beta and available only among Keio students.

– – – – – – – – – –

Frenzee by Masaru Murata (@m_murata[J])

Frenzee is a social web app that allows you to discover new digital content. It helps you connect to someone having the same interest with you by choosing pictures that have been posted on the service. The following video helps you learn how it will work.

– – – – – – – – – –

Compath.me by Hiromichi Ando[J] (@hirorimet[J])

Compath.me is a location-based smartphone app that allows you to find discoveries near-by that the other users have posted and you may be interested in.

– – – – – – – – – –

Wondershake by Satoshi Suzuki (@Doubles9124)

Satoshi has grown up in Nigeria and London and is currently attending the International Christian University in Tokyo. His app Wondershake is a location-based smartphone app that visualizes your inner taste and connect you with like-minded people around you in the real world. He plans to launch the service at the end of this month, not in Japan but in the US. A judge asked him why he would launch it in the US before Japan, and he answered he believed this app would fit the US market despite average Japanese are considered to be shy and it’s hard for them to make friends with someone else. His answer called a big laugh from an audience.

Finally, Joi proposed a toast to the successful event and expecting more entrepreneurial challenges to come. DJ Amiga started playing music to entertain the gathering crowd.

See Also: