Japan: Web Startups Present at WISH 2010

The second edition of the web industry event WISH [ja] was held on August 28th.

The brainchild of Agile Media Network‘s Motohiko Tokuriki [ja], this event derived from a heated debate last year about how to perceive the Japanese web. Global Voices covered the debate in a three part series that collected responses to the question, “Is the Japanese web disappointing?”. The inaugural WISH 2009 attracted four hundred people on a weekday night and the event hashtag #wish09 became a Twitter Trending topic. (read the Techcrunch report)

This year, several hundred people gathered in Roppongi to attend the half-day event, while thousands more tuned in to watch the presentations on UStream and NicoNico Douga.

From the organizer's website:

昨今、「ガラパゴス」という言葉の流行にも見られるように、一般に日本の製品やサービスは国内だけの市場に最適化され、グローバルに展開しにくくなっていると言われています。 ただ、実際には、個人やベンチャーから大企業まで、世界を狙える新しいサービスやガジェットが生まれ続けてはいるものの、なかなかその実態を利用者に知られる機会がなく、利用者を増やすのに苦労しているのが実情です。

「WISH 2010」では、ウェブ関連の 「サービス」や「端末」を開発されている様々な企業・個人の皆様に、多数のメディアやブロガー、ツイッターユーザーに対し てサービスや端末をアピールするプレゼンテーションの機会を提供することにより、まだ知名度が低いけれども可能性のあるサービスや端 末が飛躍するきっかけとなることを目指しています。

As the recent spread of the word “Galápagos” shows, it’s said that Japanese products and services are optimized solely for the Japanese market, which makes it difficult to appeal on a global level. Actually though, many new services and gadgets that have this potential are produced by entities of all sizes; individuals, venture companies and large corporations. However, this situation rarely has the chance to make itself known to us, and enterprises face an uphill climb in growing their user base.

WISH 2010 provides an opportunity for individuals and corporations developing web-related services and devices to reach out to the media, bloggers, and Twitter users. They have the potential but not the visibility, and the event aims to help them take flight.

Struggles with isolationism continues and one expression of this might be is how the phrase Galápagos Syndrome has taken a firm root in our vocabulary, as mentioned above in the WISH 2010 introduction. Galápagos Syndrome is a term, self-deprecating at best, that was coined to describe how Japanese cellphones have evolved in its own way, incompatible and increasingly irrelevant to the rest of the world. The concept has broadened to explain unique development in other industries and generalized to include describing an inward looking mindset.

WISH 2010 started with a panel discussion [ja] between Yoshikazu Tanaka (founder and CEO of Gree), Akinori Harada (COO of Mixi) and Hiroki Eda (manager at Digital Garage and the project manager for the business development of Twitter Japan) to the topic of “how the Japanese web should aim to go global”.

Should a company start out aiming to reach a global audience, or first focus on capturing the local market? This talk is especially interesting as Mixi is spurring their overseas efforts. Japanese startup culture and the difficulty of getting funding were also discussed. Harada brought up the fact that many of the suicide victims in Japan are small business owners; Japanese business owners are literally running their companies at the risk of their own lives.


原田:腹をくくれというサムライ精神で起業させるという考えではダメ。リスクをとらないというのもどうかと思うが、大企業に入れるような人間が、起業に目を向けるような環境が必要。 #wish10

Harada: “Of course there is some element of risk involved, but asking for a do-or-die samurai spirit to start a business is not acceptable. We need an environment where people that would normally enter large corporations would consider starting their own company.”

Tanaka thrilled the audience with tales of overcoming financial hurdles in the early days, while both he and Harada encouraged startups to be more agressive and open-minded about raising funds.


徳力「サービスが流行るのと,お金が入ってるタイミングにはズレがある。GREEが流行り始めた時期はAdsenceで?」田中「全然。GREEにはクレカのキャッシングで凌いでいた時期がある。楽天のボーナスで返済。」 #WISH2010 #WISH10

Tokuriki: “There is a gap in timing from when a service becomes popular and for it to make money. Did you use revenue from Adsense to support GREE in the beginning?”
Tanaka: “Not at all. I used credit on my credit card at times to pay for the server fees and returned it with my summer bonus from Rakuten [where I worked at the time].”


原田「24時間没頭できると思ったら、まず資金調達するべきです。資金調達で3年没頭できるということを想像してみて欲しい。」 #wish10

Harada: “If you find something that you want to pour your energy into 24 hours a day, go raise funds. Imagine this – you can find enough funding to devote yourself for three years [without worrying about money].”

Next were fourteen presentations and demos. Head over to Asiajin or Techcrunch to read a full list of the services.

The winner was the e-book publishing platform Puboo by paperboy & co.. As an expansion of their popular book review community site Booklog, Puboo allows anyone to write and publish a book online. Their name comes from the word “publish” and the sound of a baby, or something new, being born.

Mainichi Shimbun's @norimineshigeto, one of the judges, tweeted:

#wish10 「ブクログのパブ-」は現代のガリ版だと思う。誰もが簡単に自分の表現を形にでき、発表の場がある。そこで人と本が出会い、人と人が出会い、人が世界とつながり、新しいものが生まれる。戦後ガリ版刷りの同人誌などによって多くの優れた文化が生まれたのと同じことが今後起こると思う

I think Paboo is like a contemporary mimeograph. Anyone can have their thoughts take shape and have a place to publish it. Once out in the wild, something new is born because it brings together people and books, people and people, and people and the world. I think we'll see a revolution in the same way that many remarkable cultures arose from mimeographs and doujinshi (self-published works, mostly by amateurs) after WWII.

A performance [ja] by singer Kohmi Hirose, one of the first celebrity figures to embrace Twitter in Japan, followed the presentations. Coordinator Hiromi Okuda explains [ja] that they are looking to innovate the music publication platform and this event was an experiment to bring Hirose and engineers, who have the potential to build that platform, together in the same room.

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