“ngi group” Changes Name To “Motion Beat”


ngi group [J] has announced at today’s meeting of the board of directors that they have resolved to change their firm name to “Motion Beat,” as a condition of the acknowledgement of the modification of one section of their company statute at the meeting of stockholders to be held on June 22nd.

ngi group set up the Net Agent company in February of 1998, started up various internet related businesses, and changed their name to “ngi group” in July of 2007.  In December of 2010, they merged with the once subsidiary company Fractalist, developed internet advertising businesses as the main shaft of their business, and currently are activating internet advertising services and consumer businesses specialized for the smartphone market.  With this as their starting point, the company is actively pulsing, and they have their mind set on busting out services one after another that rock user activity, and so they have determined to change their trade name from “ngi group” to “Motion Beat.”

Translation authorized by VSMedia

Social Application Forum: Made-in-Japan apps for the world

The recession, almost no IPOs, structural shortcomings, not enough hot startups to invest in: The Japanese venture capital industry is in a critical situation. The current state of affairs forces companies that have money to pump into promising ventures to go new ways, and one of these is a joint initiative by a total of eleven companies [JP] from Japan’s Internet sector.

Dubbed Social Application Forum (SAF) [JP], the initiative is led by advertising company Adways [JP] and venture capital firm ngi group. The aim is to invest in startups working on social apps that can be distributed worldwide, for example on Facebook. SAF’s official slogan is “From Japan, to the world”.

In other words, the social application bubble just got bigger. The Nikkei is reporting that the investors are ready to start supporting up to 50 different startups working on those apps within this year. The startups will receive marketing and PR support, technical “infrastructure” and money.

According to the Nikkei, the budget for 2010 is 1 billion yen ($11 million). The 11 investors plan to get together once per month to review business plans the startups handed in and choose which ones to support.

The SAF is obviously aimed at finding the Japanese Zynga, but I have my doubts (for a number of reasons) this framework is the best approach to nurture a globally competitive app provider. But Asiajin is more than happy to cover interesting stuff (if there is any) coming out of this initiative in the future even though I believe the apps will land on Mixi and other Japanese sites.

Executives of Tokyo startup SUN arrested

Executives of SUN, a Tokyo-based “Second Life”-related startup company, have been arrested under suspicion of facilitating the escape of another man wanted by police. The suspect, a lawyer and ex-member of Osaka’s prefectural assembly, was allegedly involved in tax evasion [1], and has since been captured in Manila.

The CEO of the company was prosecuted with concealing the suspect. He pleaded guilty and was released after being fined 200,000 yen ($2000).

Internet Watch reported that the lawyer intimidated the executives by threatening to give SUN stock to the Yakuza.

SUN has a shopping mall called “Tokyo ZERO banchi” [JP] (lit: Tokyo zeroth avenue) in Second Life. [2]

SUN declared bankruptcy on 21 November 2008. The executives also allegedly falsified the company’s books. [3] A letter from their lawyers suggests that they have borrowed money from unlawful investors.

ngi group, one of the most famous venture capitalists in the Japanese IT industry, funded SUN with 190 million yen ($1.9M) on 22 October 2008. They will report an allowance for a 100% loss of the investment in Q3.

1. Internet Watch, 17 November 2008. [JP]
2. Internet Watch, 18 July 2007. [JP]
3. Internet Watch, 25 November 2008. [JP]

Q&A: What is the Japanese equivalent of [Western web service]?

Here is a list of where Japanese users usually go on the web when they want to connect with their friends, buy something or get information. I feature “made-in-Japan” sites and software only (well, almost), knowing that i.e. Google, Amazon and Firefox are highly popular in this country as well.

Some of these Japanese sites are also available in English. I linked to the English versions whenever possible and marked them with [ENG].

Note: This list is highly subjective. If you have other ideas, please let us know in the comment section.

I) General web services

What is the Japanese equivalent of Google?
Yahoo! Japan.

Wikipedia?
Wikipedia Japan.

Facebook?
Mixi.

Flickr?
Yahoo! Japan Photos.

Digg?
Minna no Topics (Everyone’s topics).

LinkedIn?
No equivalent.

Twitter?
Twitter Japan.

Youtube?
Nico Nico Douga.

Amazon?
Rakuten.

delicio.us?
Hatena Bookmark. [ENG]

dooyoo (price comparison engine)?
Kakaku.com.

Netflix?
Posren.

Craigslist?
No equivalent.

imdb (Internet Movie Database)?
Nihon Eiga Database (Japan Movie Database).

Wall Street Journal Online?
Nikkei Online. [ENG]

monster.com?
Rikunavi.

Ebay?
Yahoo! Japan Auctions.

Alexa?
Pathtraq.

4chan?
2 channel (the original).

last.fm?
Mixi Music (registration required).

Technorati?
Kizasi.

Second Life?
Meet me.

Yahoo! Answers?
Oshiete!goo and Yahoo! Chiebukuro.

II) Blogs

What is the Japanese equivalent of Techcrunch?
Asiajin. [ENG]….Joke, people!

the Huffington Post?
No equivalent.

tmz.com?
Zakzak.

Boing Boing?
Zaeega.

Gizmodo?
Gizmodo Japan.

III) Web tools and software:

What is the Japanese equivalent of Gmail?
Yahoo! Japan Mail
.

Blogger?
FC2.

the iTunes store?
iTunes Japan (Lismo for mobile downloads which accounted for 90% of all music downloads in 2007 in Japan).

BitTorrent?
Winny.

Opera?
Sleipnir [ENG] and Lunascape [ENG].

IV) Web Companies

What is the Japanese equivalent of Federated Media?
Agile Media Network. [ENG]

Sequoia Capital?
NGI Group. [ENG]

Admob?
Cirius. [ENG]

In case you want to know more, please add a comment.

Tokyo2point0 event: Venture Capital in Japan and blogging/Ecommerce platform LIMS

This month’s Tokyo2point0 event drew a huge crowd this week on Tuesday. Again, two presentations were held between and before networking sessions.

Venture Capital for Tech Startups

My friend Aki Ohashi from ngi capital, the investment arm of ngi group (an investor in and operator of -mostly Asian- Tech companies) spoke about the current state of affairs in Japan’s venture capital industry.

Aki and his 8 colleagues are investing in a whopping 60 companies at the moment. NGI capital is predominantly active in early phase and seed financing. The flagship investment is mixi, Japan’s uber social network which is valued at approximately two billion USD.

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According to the presenter, early stage investments are shrinking in size and quantity at the moment as far as the Japanese VC industry as a whole is concerned. Aki evaluated this general trend as the market getting more conservative in an unstable economic environment.

I found it interesting that ngi capital as a genuine Japanese VC firm basically values the same factors when it comes to assessing a candidate company for investment as Western ones: human resources (background of the team), technology (differentiation and IP) and market potential. Also, Aki said personal introductions or connections within ngi capital’s network are most efficient when it comes to opening doors for startups. Again, the same is true for Western VCs. In sharp contrast to the USA however, Aki commented that in Japan NDA are used frequently during the following screening process.

As to why startups should cooperate with VCs, he listed the following main factors:
– outside validation
– assistance with business plan
– assistance with recruitment
– introductions to partners, other VCs, potential new clients etc.

In ngi capital’s philosophy, a good pitch from a startup should be centered on a good “overall story”. Aki said this point almost outshadows other elements such as the solution the candidate company provides, its competitive advantage or proprietary technologies.

As a person with a business background, I found this presentation particularly insightful and interesting!

LIMS: the Multi-level Blogging and Ecommerce Platform

Robert Cawte, Kiwi and fellow IT-blogger, delivered a presentation on a multi-level blogging and Ecommerce platform. Robert became CTO of the producer of the platform, Kojimachi-based web startup eSynapse, just one week ago and had to prepare his appearance at the event on short notice.

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The service explained -which is called LIMS (Live Information Management System)- is eSynapse’s flagship product. In essence, LIMS is a commercial blog platform with integrated ecommerce functions and a mobile phone interface.

Click here for an actual site which was built using eSynapse’s technology.

As Robert decided to go for a “live” and hands-on presentation, it is recommended you watch the corresponding video (part 1 (starting at the 12:00 mark), part 2, part 3 – made by mover and shaker Andrew Shuttleworth, the event’s main organizer).

More info about the event and network can be found on the official Tokyo2point0 site, the Facebook group or on Mixi.