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

Digital Garage, Japan’s Internet conglomerate known for operating price comparison portal 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.

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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.

– – – – – – – – – – by Hiromichi Ando[J] (@hirorimet[J]) 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.

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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:

Teclosion 2011 Spring: Wondershake Wins The Grand Prix Among 15 Finalists

Design IT[J], a Tokyo-based UI-focused media consultancy also known for previously maintaining TechCrunch’s Japanese edition (its management was switched to AOL earlier this month[J]), held the first conference in Akihabara on Friday, for discussing the future of Japan tech industry and introducing great start-up stuffs.

In the morning session, CEOs from Mixi, GMO Internet Group, NHN Japan and Evernote made their keynote speeches.   After a lunch, Four venture capitalists, including Taiga Matsuyama (East Ventures, Kronos Fund – known as a seed investor for Zynga Japan) and Masashi Kobayashi (IVP or Infinity Venture Partners known as a seed investor for Groupon Japan) , had a panel discussion to look around Japanese start-up trends and its future.

In the final session, there was a presentation competition titled Startup Battle, where 15 start-ups presented their brand new web services to win the Grand Prix prize.   Let’s see each of them. by Nobot

Nobot is a smartphone ad optimizer and also work with several major foreign ad networks. is a program for developers to promote their smartphone apps by using social media.   It allows users of a smartphone app participating the program to recommend the app to their friends via social media. (see these Asiajin articles for more about Nobot.) by tattva

Tokyo-based Tattva just introduced an object-based check-in service called in.ter.est.   I wrote about it here on the Startup Dating website.

zaim by Takako Kansai (The Excellent Award Winner)

Takako is a well-known female system developer working with a Tokyo-based tech start-up UserLocal[J].   Apart from her job at the company, she individually developed this social app that helps you keep household accounting on the iPhone.   She introduces it can be also considered as a money stuff version of popular document sharing app Evernote.

Musavy by Musavy, Inc.

The company is named after Mutual Savvy.   This web app helps you to learn more about a topic by having a debate on the topic online.   It has a feature to recommend users to take another topics that they may be interested in.   They intend to launch the service in North America prior to Japan.

forkN by Seesaa[J]

Seesaa is a blog platform company, and they developed a e-publication platform called forkN that allows users to convert documents to ePub/PDF formats and publish them online for PC, smartphone and tablet users.    You can share several experiences with other users on the service, such as writing, reading, commenting and purchasing the publications.

(The Excellent Award Winner)

MoSo by MoSo

MoSo is a desktop app for Macintosh that helps you create your videos instantly.   It allows you to publish the videos on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube without any additional procedure.   The app ranked in the first place in the free app section at most AppStores within just three days after the release.

(The Excellent Award Winner)

Midonet by Midokura

Earlier this week, the company fundraised JPY100M (USD125M) in its seed round from some VC firms including NTT Investment Partners[J], 1st Holding[J] and datacenter company Bit Isle[J].  They are a cloud enabling tech company, and currently planning to introduce the alpha version app very soon.

shopping+ by Insight Plus

Shopping+ is a smartphone app-based object check-in service that helps you learn realtime quotes and check inventories for what you are about to purchase by sharing them with the other users.   Users can communicate with the others who have the same interest in buying something.   Insight Plus was founded by Takeo Yagi, he previously co-founded TrafficGate[J], a Rakuten-backed affiliate provider and now LinkShare Japan.

4-Treasure by Alpha Do

4 Treasure is a location-based service that allows you to check in restaurants, diners, cofee shops etc.   Unlike other location-based services such as Foursquare, users can gain experience points corresponding to how much you have paid at a specific location.  For shop owners, it allows them to collect information on what kind of customers visit, and to issue discount coupons to potential customers that they wish to invite. by MyNet Japan is a social app for smartphone and helps you find companions who can hang out and dine with you.   MyNet Japan is known for having developed a variety of restaurant supporting services, and the app is expected to integrate with them.

kizna by Kizna

Kizna is a social CRM (customer relationship management) app that Hitoshi Nakamura has developed.   He is currently running several restaurants in Tokyo, and he has developed it to interact with his customers more often more easily via social media.   The app includes a key feature that shows you a list of interactions with your customers via Twitter and Facebook.

(The Excellent Award Winner)

Livlis by kamado

Our buddy Serkan wrote this story about Livlis.


fmob is a fashion-focused social app that allows you to shoot pieces of clothing when you find them while walking on shopping streets, and share them with your friends online.   They intend to extend their global reach through the mobile app.

(The Grand Prix Winner)


Wondershake is a social app that allows you to learn what the people around you are interested in, and helps you start talking with them very easily.   They plan to launch the service in the US.   Wondershake was founded by Satoshi Suzuki who previously worked with Tonchidot, the inventor of Sekai Camera.


Caffein / Nota Inc.

Nota Inc., a Silicon Valley-headquareted Japanese tech start-up known for its library book search service Calil[J], has developed a video communication service called Caffein, which allows you to communicate with multiple users in a virtual room.


Finally, on behalf of all judges who have chosen the award winners at the event, Mr. Allen Miner from Sun Bridge Partners commented on what 15 finalists had delivered.  He pointed out all they have potentials to achieve their success not only in Japan but also in the world, encouraged them to develop more new services from a global point of view.