#Asia 10 of the biggest stories from Japan in 2015


michelle phan tokyo japan youtube

2015 was an exciting year for the steadily-growing Japanese startup ecosystem. The country doesn’t have the huge investment amounts seen in China, the youthful demographics of Southeast Asia, the government support of Korea, or the sheer scale of India. But as the corporate tech sector struggles to innovate and entrepreneurs break away from the safety net of lifetime employment, startups are finally getting noticed on the national and international stage.

Largely gone are the days when outsiders would ask, “Does Japan even have startups?” That’s been replaced by the much more common question: “What are the hottest Japanese startups?” You’ll come across a few of them on this list. Notable funding rounds and the entrance of some foreign heavyweights into the country are on there, too. There may even be a couple of surprises, in the form of profiles or other quirky discoveries that you saw first here on Tech in Asia.

Here are 10 of our most popular stories from Japan over the past year, in no particular order:

Raksul makes printing sexy, more than 30-million-dollars sexy

In a digital world, a startup that focuses on printing might not sound like the smartest idea out there. Well, anyone who’s been to Japan understands that you can’t go to a meeting without a big stack of business cards in your bag. Raksul connects its users to nearby brick-and-mortar printers so they can print namecards and much more for the lowest price, and it raised US$33.7 million to do so.

Read the full story here.

X Japan’s Yoshiki disputes the music subscription model

Japan’s biggest rock god made a surprise appearance at the New Economy Summit in April to talk entrepreneurship with Rakuten founder Hiroshi Mikitani. He also dropped a pretty controversial bombshell about his reluctance to embrace artist-owned streaming services like Tidal – saying instead that ISPs should charge customers who stream more and give that “tax” back to content creators.

Read the full story here.

Line joins the ride-hailing race

Move over, Uber. Japan’s hottest messenger, in a bid to morph into an all-encompassing lifestyle app, added a taxi hailing service to its roster way back in January.

Read the full story here.

Gumi’s ‘IPO hangover’

As Gumi geared up for its IPO, many expected to see the emergence of yet another Japanese mobile gaming unicorn. The company instead was forced to revise a US$10.6 million profit to a US$5 million loss post-exit, largely on poor performance in international markets. Shortly after that announcement, Gumi’s South Korean operation was caught up in an embezzlement scandal.

Read the full story here.

Japan gets its own Xiaomi

UPQ came out of nowhere in August, unveiling 24 consumer electronics products that went from idea to production in just two months. With a budget phone, an action cam, and a slew of accessories included in its initial release, it felt a lot like the Japanese version of Xiaomi.

Read the full profile here.

upq gadgets

Stripe enters Japan

Silicon Valley-based payments darling Stripe announced its entry to Asia – via Japan – in May.

Read the full story here.

Metaps raises a rare series C round to the tune of $36m

Popular app monetization startup Metaps challenged the norm and raised a massive (at least for the local market) US$36 million series C round in February. Metaps topped our most recent list of the 15 most-funded Japanese startups before filing for IPO in July.

Read the full story here.

Vietnamese-American YouTube celebrity Michelle Phan brings her businesses to Asia

Michelle Phan, one of the world’s most-viewed YouTubers, told us last Spring that she’d be launching two companies in Asia – Ipsy, a cosmetics bag subscription service, and Icon, a multi-channel network that seeks to bring similar online personalities like herself to the television screen and beyond.

Read the full profile here.

Moneytree raises funding from all 3 Japanese megabanks

In October, personal finance app Moneytree raised an undisclosed amount of series A funding from Salesforce and a trio Japanese megabanks. While banks investing in fintech is nothing new, Moneytree says it was the first to even attract investment from Mizuho Bank, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation at the same time.

Read the full story here.

Awful startup offers wakeup calls from underaged girls

This opinion piece called out a recently-announced startup, JKMorning, that promises to provide wakeup calls from highschool girls. To ensure girls employed by the venture are truly under 18, the startup’s founder told us he would check their school IDs. Similar services that involve men and schoolgirls have a history of being abused.

Read the full story here.

2015 in review, 2015 tech news, 2015 tech highlights, EOY

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