Category: Startup

Trip Free Secures Seed Funding To Offer Free SIM Card Service For Tourists In Japan

Bridge, based in Tokyo, is a provider of mobile communication and retailer information service that caters specifically to international tourists in Japan. The startup, founded in January earlier this year, has announced that its tourist information service platform, Trip Free has managed to secure a funding round from iSGS Investment Works.

What appears to be interesting is that the funding group, in October, has also invested US$12 million in a startup of a similar nature, that is a mobile application for restaurant reservation management called TORETA. The details of this investment amount or payment date, however, were undisclosed.

Though both startups deal with restaurant reservations, Trip Free, in essence, is a free SIM card service for foreigners who are visiting Japan. The Trip Free service distributes 50MB data SIM cards for free to inbound tourists to provide them with tourist information via the company’s portal website. The SIM cards are also available for usual internet use as well. But if the data communication amount exceeds the free capacity of 50MB, users will be charged for additional capacity, or obtain such capacity for free by booking a restaurant via the Trip Free website.

According to Bridge CEO Yusuke Matsumoto, he has in mind a business model charging retailers for each completed reservation, aiming at information provision for 40 million inbound tourists in 2020, in line with the Japanese government’s goal for the Olympic year visitors.

“Through questionnaires to foreign visitors in Japan, we discovered that many of them have similarly faced troubles in terms of the language barrier, internet environment as well as the understanding of maps. So, at first we came up with a solution, a kind of taxi service which takes them directly to the restaurants first,” Yusuke Matsumoto, Bridge CEO tells about the story behind the commencement of Trip Free.

However, he later gave up that method due to the bad cost balance to the service and instead prioritized the improvement of Japan’s mobile Internet connectivity. That idea led to free SIM card provision and associating customer guidance that was seen as a business opportunity to grasp the route of information provision which visitors are likely to use.

“We perform intermediation of guidance or reservation for restaurants because restaurants are often concerned about last-minute cancellations by foreigners. Preventing the occurrence of cancellations by adopting advance payment with credit cards, we allow users to use this service for free by charging restaurants 10% of the sales amount as commission” Matsumoto added.

The additional capacity will be available with about 2,000 yen (about US$18.7) per GB. Since the service adopted Soracom SIM card, Soracom’s price fluctuations might alter the final pricing. Currently, Trip Free has been distributing SIM cards at about 10 hotels or youth hostels accepting inbound tourists in and around Tokyo, and been reaching 15,000 users.

For more information, please visit http://www.trip-free.com/register

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Chinese Bike-Sharing Startup Mobike Is Riding To Its First Stop In Singapore

China’s bike-sharing startup Mobike is exploring new opportunities as it plans to introduce its bike-sharing services in Singapore. Co-founded by a former Uber executive, Mobike is offering a new mode of transportation for short distances traveling using the electronic bike.

Mobike is also the world’s first station-less bike sharing service, where users can just book and pick up an electric bike, ride it for short distances before returning it to any public bicycle parking. But ultimately this is enabled as the bike-lock is activated by scanning a QR code.

With Mobike, it will not only solve the individual’s personal transportation problem but more importantly, the electric bike will incarnate a revolutionary lifestyle which is much healthier, reducing congestion and pollution that is caused by transportation.

This also goes in lieu with Singapore’s development as the city-state is pushing to become a cycling-friendly city, evident with the government National Cycling Plan that aims to create a cyclist-friendly, extensive well-connected off-road network that will provide safe and healthy cycling for all.

Florian Bohnert, Mobike’s Singapore general manager who has moved to the country for its expansion said that it has been in talks with universities and polytechnics in Singapore to start the service on their campuses.

“Students can cycle from classroom to classroom within the campus, or from the campus to a nearby MRT station, or even a neighboring town.” Florian Bohnert told The Straits Times.

Mobike uses their own manufactured bikes whereby the bikes consist of a full aluminum frame which will prevent rust, airless tires and a crank-and-shaft transmission with the drivetrain concealed, that will prevent users to deal with the traditional issue of chains popping off. Furthermore, the bike locks charge themselves when the user pedals. These features result in the bikes being maintenance-free for 4 years.

In China, the startup is locked in battle with local rivals like Ofo which are backed by the support of Xiaomi and Didi Chuxing, the most dominant ride-hailing. However though Mobike has only found its footprints in four cities of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing, but the startup has found favor with investors like Tencent, Sequoia Capital, and Singapore Vertex.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Singapore Startup Cafebond To Make Australia’s Specialty Coffee More Easily Accessible

A great cup of coffee can boost productivity. It is also the stuff in which team culture are made of. Thus, having a great cup of coffee in the office is always a good investment for both employers and employees. However, the purchase of an expensive coffee machine though exciting at first has always ended up with the machine sitting there to collect dust. People just get bored if it is not with the right coffee taste.

A Singapore startup founded by Eugene Chen and Keyis Ng on May 25 intends to change just that. By opening a new web and mobile platform – coffee lovers can shop for Australia’s best coffee beans, freshly roasted with just a click. This startup is known as Cafebond and it targets Singapore growing market for specialty coffee, aiming to be the supplier to this demand by making specialty coffee more accessible.

To date, Cafebond has made accessible the taste of coffee from 14 of Melbourne’s top cafes-cum-roasters, such as Small Batch Roasting Co and Code Black Coffee Roasters. On another list, the startup also include deliveries from World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic’s Roastery and Cafe as well as Ona Coffee in Canberra.

Cafebond.com offers a web and mobile platform that crosses geographical borders as it connects coffee lovers with the best coffee brands in the world. It aims to bring better coffee tasting experience to office workers, so that they can taste and buy unique specialty coffee beans and blends from roaster-owned cafes from London to Melbourne, Singapore to Beijing, in one easy checkout process. But above all, these coffee beans are sold at an affordable price.

“What Cafebond does is bring the shipping cost down to make these beans more affordable,” said co-founder and CEO Keyis Ng, “Because to ship a 250g bag of beans from Australia to Singapore using DHL or TNT will easily cost up to S$30 to S$40 dollars, which is more than the cost of the beans,” Ng shared, explaining that the flat delivery fee regardless of the size of the order, is made possible using a consolidation shipping algorithm.

The startup is invested by Quest Ventures, China’s leading venture capital firm and is incubated with Infocomm Investments, the investment subsidiary of Singapore government’s tech agency IMDA (Info-communications and Media Development Authority).

Cafebond.com is also one of the four startups hand-picked by Microsoft Singapore to be co-located within its Asia Pacific Headquarters and is currently part of DBS Hotspot 2016, the startup support programme by DBS Bank which is one of Asia’s largest bank.

For more information, please visit https://www.cafebond.com/

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Japanese Startup, HOMMA Secures US$4.1 Million In Seed Funding To Create “A Tesla-Like Home”

Looking to redefine the standard of living, California-based HOMMA is a startup that sets out to innovate our concept of housing. It aims to craft the vision of a new lifestyle and reimagine our daily living. But for the sake of a better picture, just think of it as “a housing-version of Tesla”.

To accomplish this, HOMMA looks to create an AI-based software and service that will connect homes. The startup is founded by Takeshi Ted Homma who has been an entrepreneur since his student days working with the early internet doing web design and development. Following this, he also played an active role at Sony and Rakuten. It is later in 2015 that he made the decision to quit and pursue this startup, named after himself, HOMMA.

“It took 100 years for the telephone to become the IPhone. 100 years later and Ford Cars have evolved into Tesla. But what about homes? Have they changed in the course of a 100 years?” Takeshi Homma, the founder of HOMMA explained in an interview with The Bridge, “Actually, I really thought someone would appear and solve this problem, but no one showed up so I’m going to do it.”

Thus, with the motto written on their website, “Redefining our standard of living,”, the startup aims to work on an ambitious project that will create a new vision of the future with regards to the necessities of life. Additionally, they also aim to solve the connectivity issue that arises due to devices from different manufacturers and multiple apps for different purposes.

The startup recently launched their seed round funding on October 24. The seed round was participated by Mistletoe, B Dash Ventures, Genuine Startups, 500 Startups Japan, East Ventures, Draper Nexus and architectural firm KMDW. On the other hand, individual investors included Hiroshi Mikitani, the co-founded and CEO of Rakuten, Tomohito Ebine, the founder of Opt, Shintaro Yamada , CEO of Mericari, Hirokazu Mashita, founder and director of M&S Partners, Hiroaki Yasutake, Kotaro Chiba, co-founder of Colopl, Hollywood-based film producer Masi Oka.

For more information, please visit http://hom.ma/

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

EXA Global Is Building The First Ever Immersive Virtual Reality Theme Park In Malaysia

Following The Void in the United States and Zero Latency in South Australia, a company based in Puchong, Malaysia is about to bring the world a new reality – First ever Virtual Reality theme park in Malaysia.

EXA Global – a wholly owned subsidiary of Havson Group Berhad – is working towards bringing immersive virtual reality  gaming experience to Southeast Asia. The company which has a licensing model for retailers, malls, cinemas and theme park operators has recently announced their upcoming plan to open the country’s first virtual reality attraction that will commence early next year.

The gaming experience in EXA is completely jaw-dropping. Players are put in an essentially empty room, wearing headset and carrying gaming equipment, and before they knew it, they are fighting critters, scurrying through an unknown environment , handling incoming attacks, assist and interact with each other, and completing goals. Best of all, the equipments are untethered, movements are not restricted, hence giving a “free roaming” immersive experience to the players.

To be a frontier at VR, pioneering hardware and facility research in-house is unavoidable. EXA’s hardware research is provided by their wholly owned subsidiary, Dutajaya Media (DJM), an ASEAN leading VR tech company and the first VR R&D center in Malaysia.

Another notable sister company is Mediasoft, responsible for the VR gaming content in EXA Global. Founded in 2012, Mediasoft has grown to be the no.1 game company in Malaysia with more than 50 original titles. Mediasoft along with Tomotech, their Singapore-based arm that develops PS4 games, have developed and published successful games including JumpSmash and Rollspike series which have combined 10 million downloads worldwide.

Recently, Havson Group as a Malaysian representative, won Create@Alibaba Cloud’s Start-up Contest (CACSC), rising above 12 selected startups from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia as the Champion. The event is the first ever global entrepreneur contest organized by Alibaba Cloud in partnership with Infocomm Investments, held earlier on 26th of August this year.

The company has thus far raised 3 seed rounds and plans to raise Series A soon.

For more information, please visit http://havsongroup.com/ or contact us.

by Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media.

Scroll to top