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On Worldwide VC Rankings February 28, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Japan, VC.

The FT published a story (15th Feb) noting that the UK tops Euro VC deals, based on VC investment data for 2006.

Jason blogged about this, linking to a blog written by the people at Library House, the venture reseach company.

Library House’s blog noted that it missed signficant countries “such as South Korea, Japan, South Africa” citing their inability to find public data.

I thought I might help them out and point them to the source of Japanese data. The Venture Enterprise Center compiles the annual Japanese VC investment data. Unfortunately, the data is compiled by financial year (ending March), and it apparently takes them the better part of a year after the year close to compile the report. The latest report for the year ending March 2006, was made available on 5th February 2007. Should it really take this long to compile the report?

Anyhow, this is the best we have to work with. The report is here, but you’ll need to be able to read Japanese (and you probably need Japanese fonts for Acrobat installed too).

Given the promise to blog more about VC related issues this year, this seemed like a good an opportunity as any take some data out of the report and make it more widely available, and give the wider world a better idea of the VC scene in Japan. It is already the last day of February and I don’t think I’ve been doing many VC related topics. I think I’ll target once a month at the very minimum, and this is my February contribution. Having said that, I don’t have much time this evening so this is a teaser post outlining the headline numbers, with a promise to present more detailed analysis at a later date.

I’ll use the current Euro/Yen exchange rate rounded to an easy number (1Euro=160Yen, because I’m lazy) on all conversions to allow easier comparison with the Library House report statistics.

VC Investments by Japanese VC firms for FY2005 (April 2005-March 2006) totaled 234.5billion yen, which is 1.47 billion euro. That would put Japan below the UK but above Texas which was 4th on the list as far as investment sums were concerned.

Total number of deals was 2,834, which is more than double the number of deals done in California (1,367). The number of deals is broken down into principal investments(787) and fund investments(2,047). (But see below about overseas investments)

Historically, in Japan, it has not been uncommon for VC firms to make principal investments alongside fund investments (though not all firms do this – clearly there are potential conflict issues, and our firm no longer makes principal investments because of this), so there might be some overlap in the investments quoted above. Even if there was perfect overlap (with principal investments only ever occuring alongside fund investments – this certainly is not the case in reality) that would still mean 2,047 deals, assuming each VC fund was putting up only cash from one fund
at a time – again not a certainty by any means, but I don’t think the numbers would be impacted greatly and I don’t doubt that in terms of deal numbers, Japan is roughly on a par with the top 5 US states combined.

New investments accounted for approximately 80% of investment, with 20% being follow-on investments. A start contrast to the US scenario where new deals account for 25%(by sum) and 35%(by # of companies) according to the NVCA yearbook for 2006.

50% of invesments were made to companies within 5 years of founding, 20% made to companies within 2 years of founding.

IT related sectors accounted for 35%, bio/medical/healthcare for 18% (still down 5% from the previous year, but mainly due to the rise in  investment in other sectors), the 3rd most active sector was in consumer related goods and services.

Investment amounts showed little industry-to-industry variation, and the average was around JPY50million, or Euro310,000.

For new deals, overseas investments were 20% of the total by investment sum(total of JPY24B or Euro150M), but just 6.7% by number of deals(127). This translates to a larger deal size for overseas investments, which averaged JPY189M, or a little under Euro1.2M.

That leaves the domestic component – 1,781 new deals (for companies who responded to this survey), totalling JPY102B, or Euro0.6B.

Those are the headline numbers, more next month….

Japanese mobile internet venture sells off overseas businesses at a significant loss February 28, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Internet, IPO.

For-Side.com, originally one of the big Japanese mobile content providers (ie ringtone merchants – though they have branched out into other things like content (music, video) creation and distribution) has announced that it is selling its overseas operations which operate under the iTouch group banner to concentrate on domestic activities.

It had purchased the iTouch operations (which previously was a member of the FTSE 100 Techmark index) in May 2005 for 184million pounds in cash……..

The company is being sold to a group led by the ex-CEO of iTouch for 7.6B Yen, which today is about 33million pounds.

I don’t think I need to bother commenting any further….

The company had grown through an acquisition strategy, which clearly hasn’t worked.

Shares were trading (on Jasdaq) at JPY6670, off nearly 80% compared its 52-week high of JPY32,300. It had traded at over JPY200,000 back in the middle of 2004.

To end this post, I’ll leave you with Reuter’s one line comment about this company:

Rapidly selling its acquisitions. Mobile contents business minimal. If overseas businesses are sold, what remains is basically just a consumer loans business.

And this is the state isn’t unique for a listed Japanese “internet” company. Like Livedoor before it, this company probably doesn’t deserve to be called an internet company, if that definition is to have any meaning. Consumer loans (read:  legalised loan sharking at up to 28% APR) and an M&A vehicle seems to be the right characterisation of this company.

And another example of a failed attempt by an young Japanese company to expand overseas. Hint: You need a real business to succeed….

Some more Wii related thoughts February 28, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in games, technology.

Gizomodo (via *michael parekh on IT*)

A picture speaks a thousand words, the picture captures the brilliance of the Wii. Blue Ocean Strategy indeed. (And it wasn’t a one off fluke either, the DS’s strong sales performance is built on the same fundamental philosophies)

And on a more business oriented note, Wii Remote + RoR + SAP BW!!!, a demonstration of the Wii Remote as the UI device for a business app. I can certainly think of uses for supporting multiple UI devices on a shared large format screen , complete with tactile feedback of clickable UI rollovers (though most of my ideas don’t involve SAP backends). No more fighting over the mouse, and you can walk around whilst you do things on screen…

Looking at the way the Colgate-Palmolive guys were able to lash up a IR triangulation bar thingy so easily, led me to think that an IR bar + bluetooth dongle set (and a business version of the Wii remote?) with requisite drivers etc would probably be a marketable proposition. I think a standalone (bluetooth or USB) Wii Nunchuk is pretty close to an ideal mouse replacement for portable laptop users who don’t like trackerballs and don’t always have some flat surface to use a mouse on. On that note, JVC/Victor had a device which was probably a little ahead of its time. The Nunchuk probably wouldn’t have sold very well as a mouse replacement on its own, but as many users become used to manipulating the Nunchuk through their exposure to the device on Wii, the learning curve is slashed. I’d like to see one with a retractable cable, and perhaps a slimmer form factor. It is probably mostly just empty space inside anyway. I guess the guys who OEM the Nunchuk for Nintendo can have this idea for free.

I’ve noticed that the IR bar seems to move from its precisely positioned spot on top of my TV. (I’m still lumbered with a 32inch CRT, partly because I am apparently overly fussy about image artefacts which plague LCD and PDP screens (which are becoming very negligible), and HDTV broadcasts in general, which are often butchered somewhere in the production/broadcasting process and exhibit compression alogorithm artefacts which become annoyingly noticeable once your eye and brain notices them, also partly because our TV works fine for now and it has been deemed inappropriate to buy a new toy at this time.)

Yes, I should probably use the included sticky pads, but I’m afraid it will leave a nasty stain when (if) I remove said device from my old TV to a new one (when that will be I don’t know).

I was thinking that getting the bar to sit on the narrow ledge of a LCD/PDP would be even more precarious, and the cable dangling from the IR bar is rather unsightly. So, I suggest that Nintendo offers a co-branding opportunity to the highest bidder to produce a flat panel TV with integrated IR bar. I guess integrating a Wii into the TV is going a bit too far. (But then Sharp does have a TV with a PC integrated into it. Or is it the other way around? The so-called Internet Aquos series)

Newsflash: Human rights are bad for you February 26, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Japan, Politics.

in excess, anyway…. (according to a Japanese Cabinet Minister, PM Abe appears to agree)

(Alternative Title: The thin end of the wedge – Why Japanese people should be worried about racism)

Our Minister for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (wow that’s a mouthful – the domain is http://www.mext.go.jp, so the x is probably a contraction for Culture, Sports and Science, interesting to note they are regarded as worthy of relegation to an anonymous x, but as I can’t be bothered to type or cut and paste the full title each time, I guess I’ll go with the MEXT contraction too, let’s see it it sticks like the METI (but at least here they had the courtesy to represent all 3 activities equally)), one Bunmei Ibuki, made some interesting comments over the weekend. Japan Times has a short piece here. They pick up on the “extremely homogeneous” bit of the talk, which is not that interesting.

The Yomiuri and the Asahi have more coverage, but in Japanese only thusfar.

MutantFrog makes a good stab at the translation of the quote in the Yomiuri article:

[Ibuki] went on to compare human rights to butter. “If you just eat nothing but butter every day, then you will develop metabolic syndrome. Human rights are important, but if you eat too much of it, then Japanese society will develop “human rights metabolic syndrome.”

[For those of you who do not keep up with the health fads which come and go in Japan, “Metabolic Syndrome” is the health bogeyman du jour in Japan. I guess it is something about intestinal fat buildup being bad for you. I don’t really keep up with these fads as I don’t watch or read material relating to health fads and snake oil crap like “minus ion” or Vanadium/Platinum water or Germanium baths and other such pseudo-scientific nonsense. I think Ben Goldacre who pens the Bad Science column at The Guardian would have a field day if he spent some time in Japan. Anyway, more on such matter some another day.]

Vincent, a commenter on the MutantFrog blog linked above, made a reference to a similar analogy Ibuki made back in December, this time comparing human rights to eggs, saying how eggs were touted as being good for you back in starving post-war Japan, but now doctors recommend that you don’t eat too many for fear of sending your cholesterol through the roof. [I’m guessing that pissed off the egg producers so he has switched to another foodstuff which he hopes will not incur the wrath of the producers’ lobby. (The Japan Dairy Association are the ones with the interest in butter)]

I think I recall hearing the same quote from Ibuki, which appears to have been made last December 15th. There wasn’t much on the internet about the statement, I found one page where the quote appears, and can’t vouch for its authenticity, but he makes the comparison between rights and eggs, noting that too many eggs in your diet will cause metabolic syndrome, so excess consumption is not good. Then he goes on to say “it is the same with rights and freedoms”.

I guess by extension of his analogy, it is possible for a healthy society to function effectively without any rights or freedoms, as neither butter nor eggs are vital to our diet. Please, I would like to see one, and no, the DPRK doesn’t count. Unless we want to be eating barks and roots of trees. Not much of a life, that.

According to Ibuki, we have too many rights and freedoms, and it appears he is happy with restricting them using legislation.

I can sort of see his thought process, though I cannot agree with it. There are plenty of abuses of the system where people who claim to stand up for rights and freedoms basically milk the system for personal profit. The problem isn’t unique to Japan, any system will be gamed by the unscrupulous. He’s probably fed up of the people who go on about rights without regard for the responsibilities that come with those rights, and he does have a point in that there are lots of people who assert only their rights when it suits them. Me! Me! Me! Me! All the time….

But to confuse the issue of selfish people with the validity of fundamental human rights and liberties is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Is this guy really that stupid that he can’t make the distinction? Or is he using an issue which resonates especially with the more conservative and traditional types (read old people and/or people who live in the countryside (whose votes are worth upto 3 times a vote in the city in the lower house, and 6 times in the upper house and therefore hold more electoral influence in Japan)) to push Japan towards a limitation on personal rights and freedoms?

In either case, it is scary that someone who is that stupid or has a wanton disregard for such fundamental values is a member of the ruling cabinet.

The Asahi shimbun has another choice quote in its article, which has him saying that the Basic Education Act was overhauled (last year) to include text about respecting the value of public-mindedness in the preamble because “Japan has over-emphasised the status of the individual hitherto”.

I guess he means we should be grateful for what we the unwashed masses receive from the corporate-bureaucratic complex who runs the country and should stop complaining about “the little things”.

He is unfortunately probably typical of the bureaucrat-turned-politician genre who arrogantly think they should be left to run the country without interference from the commoners, they probably believe they serve the country but do not think that means they are obliged to be public _servants_ accountable to an electorate. He and his ilk appear to think the commoners are too stupid know what is good for them, and will basically do whatever they please. (The multiple generation political dynasties share the feeling that they are also chosen to lead the nation, no doubt)

I really didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at such a  perspective on individual and minority rights being made public by a government official, when such rights are routinely trampled upon in Japan by the government and corporations at every opportunity.

The media is also complicit by usually turning a blind eye to such events, or even when they do pick up on it, gets bored of such issues so quickly they can’t wait to jump on some bit of crappy celebrity gossip to spend their time dissecting – I guess experience tells them that this is a better audience draw, so the public only has themeselves to blame, their apathy towards politics being a root cause of the politicans and bureaucrats getting away with blue murder.

I guess when you have only the NHK (which is on a short leash, especially since all the scandals) and small handful of whoring commercial media empires running the TV and newspapers, and with politicians and bureaucrats wielding powers (via the press club mechanism) to starve media outlets of first hand news reporting, what else can we expect? Oh to have a BBC or PBS type media outlet in Japan, and a press accreditation scheme immune to political pressures….

Ibuki’s comments appear to be in line with the recent trend towards totalitarian and fascist ideologies being gradually reintroduced into the Japanese political debate.

Sound far-fetched?

I’m not saying that Japan is a fascist or totalitarian nation. Yet. But the vector of the shift in political debate is most certainly directed towards a decrease in individual rights and freedoms, the thought being there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and it is preferable for people to make certain sacrifices.

When the government has multiple voices bemoaning the lack of public-mindedness, and suggesting that a focus on individual rights is to blame, that can only be interpreted in one way. The individual should be subjugated to the greater good. Prime Minister Abe certainly has no problems with Ibuki’s speech, as he made clear in today’s press briefing.

If that isn’t the basic philosophy behind totalitariansim and fascism, I don’t know what is.

We are probably seeing the thin end of the wedge, the small snowball which has not picked up much snow. If we let the momentum build unchecked, I fear we might be transported back to something eerily reminiscent of the pre-war era. It will no doubt happen slowly so that most people do not notice their eroding rights, until it is too late.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. (attributed to Benjamin Franklin)

I am also reminded of Pastor Niemöller’s poem (one version reproduced below)

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

To round off this post, a quote from Peter Drucker (via Nivi):

The truly important events… are not the trends. They are changes in the trends.

I fear that we may indeed be witnessing a change in the tide.

And that is why the “homogeneous” Japanese population should not brush aside racisttreatment of foreigners in Japan.

Because they could be next.

The Digg effect and some additional thoughts on Japan and Racism February 23, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Japan, Society.

Thanks to some link love from my friend Matt, whose post hit the Digg’s World News page and the top page of Digg, the post I wrote on the way the same statistics are described by Japanese and English versions of the same newspaper has been getting a ton of hits. I hope at least a few of them stay around or check in once in a while…..

Whilst Matt’s personal story seems to have struck a chord with Digg readers, I wonder how many of the wider population, especially those who questioned the existence of racism in Japan, were aware of the recent incident where an offensively racist magazine was widely sold in mainstream stores in Japan. (I wrote about that here)
Having read the comments on Digg and on Matt’s site, I would like to point out that I don’t think Matt is the paranoid type who sees a racist motive behind every unpleasant act he is subjected to.

Nor is he a boorish, loud, annoying, Roppongi type gaijin – I’ve observed these types of individuals violating Japanese social protocol (or at least the tradional protocol) many a time, acting like they own the place, and could be said to be responsible for the confrontation to a significant degree. When in Rome…..

Matt isn’t a newbie to Tokyo either.

I know that people like Gen caution reading too much into two random events (Was it my physics teacher who told us you should have 4 data points before attempting to speculate about a trend?). Gen is correct when stating that the comments are indeed a trainwreck. But I personally feel that Matt’s unfortunate experiences are a result of a worrying trend.

For the Japan apologists (and there were plenty of them too), I would like to offer my belief that racism is widespread in Japan, but most of the time it isn’t the kind of overt in-your-face racism which is thankfully less visible than in many countries. It is often a more subtle type of racism, and it is indeed difficult to distinguish between plain unease with dealing with a foreigner, and racism. We don’t have many reports of hanging foreigners by their ankles from a tree, or dragging them behind a pick-up truck, or generally lynching them.

The spread of the racist ideology is, I believe, also on the increase. I certainly sense a swing to the right in the general tone of political and media debate, and with Japan having plenty of issues with its neighbours (N Korea, the Chinese red peril jeopardising the Japanese economy, etc), it is just too easy to crank up the nationalist line, scream for a renewed sense of patriotism, and generally point the fingers of blame at outsiders. Japan is facing a difficult future, and not much has been done to prepare for it. Politicians and bureaucrats are getting ready to blame anyone but themselves for when things get rough.

I would not underestimate the level to which the general Japanese population values/believes in the racial and cultural homogeneity of its nation (or the belief that such a phenomenon exists). Such beliefs must inherently be due to a belief system which ascribes superiority to certain races ahead of others, or to racial purity at the very least. Such beliefs are fundamentally racist, therefore it must be concluded that racist beliefs are widespread in Japan. I think this used to be seen as an old fashioned belief, and had hoped that it was consigned to the rubbish bin of history, but it seems to have made a comeback.

Most Japanese are well aware that discussing such beliefs is not PC, and mostly shy away from discussing this topic outside closed circles of intimate friends and family, and only the most combative actually state their position to a foreigner. Many Japanese actively avoid conflict, much more so than Americans or many Europeans in my experience, and those ill at ease with foreigners are statistically less likely to stray into a foreigner’s path, especially if said foreigner hangs out in well known foreigner hangouts. (Such hangouts are signposted in ink which is visible only to the Japanese eye, so that people who don’t like foreigners can avoid) The fact is that a person’s experience can differ widely depending on the kind of lifestyle you choose to lead during your period in Japan, in the same way that a foreigner’s impression of the USA might differ widely depending on where they spent their time.

Of course, there are plenty of people who like the foreign visitors to our country, and treat visitors with equal respect.
Then there are those who seem to have a problem with their own national/racial identity and aspire to be something they are not….

To discriminate against someone (including yourself) based on some characteristic which the subject has no control over seems to be rather pathetic. [But if that discrimination is due to a flawed logic process due to the inherent lack of intellectual capacity in an individual, would I be discriminating against the intellectually challenged? Hmmm….. Perhaps, but I don’t think it requires any significant intellectual powers given that untainted kindergarten children can appreciate the wrongness of discrimination when explained to them at a level they can understand]

Final note: Yes, I’m fully aware that Japan doesn’t have a monopoly on racism, having been subjected to my fair share of unpleasant incidents in various countries around the globe. That doesn’t make racism right, nor this discussion any less valid just because it doesn’t address the situation found elsewhere.

Wii whipping ass in the US February 22, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, games, technology.
1 comment so far

The January sales numbers for games console sales in the US (courtesy of NPD via Reuters and Yahoo Japan) are being reported, showing Wii as being the clear winner for the month, with 436,000 units.

The 2nd place goes, perhaps surprisingly, to Playstation 2. Yes, two, not three. 299,000 units sold.

3rd up is Xbox360, 294,000 units. I guess having shifted more than 10 million units in 2006 having gotten to market much earlier than its rivals PS3 and Wii, maybe Xbox360 sales are running out of steam having sold to its core customer base and with Wii gaining plaudits for getting non-gamers on board much more effectively than its rivals, it may be a hard slog ahead for MSFT.

At the back of the pack is Playstation3, at 249,000 units. Too expensive and not enough games yet, in my opinion.

Internet advertising catching up to magazine advertising February 22, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Internet, Japan, Media.

[note: title and some text edited because it was pointed out that I can’t read 4 digit numbers properly…]

Dentsu, the Japanese advertising agency, has released statistics for the Japanese advertising market. Link

The total market size was just shy of 6 trillion yen (5.9954 trillion yen), which equates to around $50 billion, a 0.6% increase on the previous year.

Breakdown by medium shows that of the mass media channels (total 3.58 trillion yen), TV has the largest share at 2 trillion yen, newspapers at 999 billion yen, magazine advertising at 389 billion yen, and radio at 174 billion yen.
All 4 mass media posted year-on-year decreases, with newspapers taking the biggest hit (down 3.8%, TV was down 2%, and the others were also between 1-2% down).

On the other hand, most of the sales promotion (SP) advertising market (total 2 trillion yen), posted growth, with OOH, transportation and POP sectors posting the strongest growth of more than 3% each.

The big story is that internet advertising posted 363 billion yen in sales in 2006, 29.3% year-on-year growth, and now surpasses is on track to overtake (edited) the magazine advertising market. (The growth is down from 54.8% the previous year, though) Internet advertising accounted for 6% of the total advertising spend. The numbers for internet advertising include mobile internet, which is already a well established market in Japan.

I’ve always wondered if people not on flat rate data packages get annoyed by the fact that they are paying to have advertising displayed on their screens. I would have thought that banner ads (which is common on the mobile screen) account for a significant amount of data.

Statistics for crimes committed by foreigners February 8, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Japan.

Continuing on the topic of the foreigner crime “surge”….

The National Police Agency apparently released statistics for crimes committed by foreigners in 2006. (No sign of the statistics on the NPA page however. I guess they give some numbers to the press to circulate, and get around to posting the statstics later, once the news has done the rounds. We don’t want people dissecting the raw numbers and calling out inaccurate or biased journalism, do we?)

Anyway, the headline number is that foreigner crime is down 16.2%.

For a taste of Japanese journalism, I point you to the reporting of the statistics by the Mainichi newspaper.

The Japanese version.

The English version.

The Japanese headline reads: Foreigner Crime: Increasing in the regions (ie outside Tokyo) – Up 35-fold in the Chubu Region in 15 years
The English headline: Number of crimes committed by nonpermanent foreigners declines in Tokyo (I see they can’t even concede that it decreased on a national aggregate level)
The problem with this parroting of NPA statistics is that it doesn’t really help us understand who is causing the trouble.

Whilst foreigners are overrepresented as a source of crime (about 2% of crimes are attributed to foreigners whilst they comprise a little over 1% of the resident population – 2.2% for H1 2006, compared with 1.7% 10 years ago), so are organised crime syndicates (who are responsible for approximately 5% of crimes – I’m guessing that one in twenty people are members of organised crime syndicates) or juveniles, who are responsible for around 30% of all crimes (even that is down from just under 50% 10 years ago). Juveniles comprise round 20% of the population, but I’m guessing the 0-9 year olds don’t commit that much crime, so the majority of the 123,715 cases for 2005 are attributable to the 10-19 year olds, who comprise 9.7% of Japanese population according to latest census numbers. (Percentages are all from NPA statistics)

I’m scratching my head at the growth in foreigner crime which apparently is reported, 35-fold increase in Chubu and 21.5-fold in Shikoku. According to the statistics in this NPA report (top table on page 7) which only go back 10 years, Chubu foreigner crime has increased 3.3-fold, and Shikoku foreigner crime has increased  4.5-fold.  A significant increase, but still a far cry from the 35-fold and 21.5-fold numbers cited in the articles.  It should be noted that no other regions registered more than a doubling of foreigner crime compared to 10 years ago. This during a period where foreign residents and foreign visitors have grown significantly.

NTT DoCoMo unveils product strategy for winter 2007 February 8, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Japan, Mobile.
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NTT DoCoMo has announced (news article here in Japanese) that all phones in its flagship 90x series which are expected to hit the shops this winter will all have ISDB-T receiver to receive digital mobile TV (so-called one-seg) broadcasts. All 905 series phones will also be HSDPA compatible 3.5G phones (max download speed of 3.6Mbps), and will allow global roaming with the integration of GSM.

The phones in the stores now are the 903 series, and there will be a 903iS range out for the summer and a 904 series before the 905 series hit the stores.

One could look at this information release as an attempt to keep users on DoCoMo until the winter, and that the 903iS/904 phones aren’t going to feature anything groundbreaking. DoCoMo has struggled recently since MNP kicked in, with January subscription numbers seeing au way ahead with a net 200,000 increase in user base, compared to DoCoMo gaining just 7,000. The strategy may backfire though, because with these interesting handsets on the horizon, users surely aren’t going to switch to new 903/903iS/904 handsets which are just more of the same when the 905 seems to pack in many more features. If I were a mobile handset maufacturer, I’d throttle back on production and sales targets for the interim models.

I love people who “just do it” February 6, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Internet, Japan, Shopping.

No, I don’t mean Nike.

I blogged about my Wii here, and in the post, I wondered out loud if there wasn’t a niche market for designer Mii (the avatar you create, with which you can play various Wii games).

Seems someone thought it might be an interesting project. (That someone should probably update his blog. Whatever, I got to scoop it because he didn’t…)

Say hello to Miistation.

The creator (or one of the co-creators, as far as I am aware) of the site tells me the concept went from idea to reality in a week.

Granted, not much heavy duty web development required, and it takes advantage of existing infrastructure (payment is via Google Checkout – in fact, I much prefer using established credit card payment schemes like GC or similar than enter credit card information and hand it over to some unknown site, so the leveraging of such infrastructure makes perfect sense).

So I guess it was mainly a matter of getting the backend resources together (the sweatshop labour – I’m joking, I’m told that the designers are not children in Southern Asia but are actually located in Japan. So, exploiting starving art students then, I guess? Monkeys typing away at a battery of keyboards? No, apparently no people or animals are being exploited or mistreated according to the people behind this)

Price-wise, I guess $5 is about right, I don’t think you could really get much lower using local resources before it becomes an act of charity. (Off-shore vendors feel free to send me a quote, and I’ll pass it along. Let’s globalize another knowledge industry, I’m sure the call center/IT/accounting back office guys and gals will be feeling a little less victimised once other industries begin to feel the power of globalization….)

I hear that this is hopefully the first of several related ideas up the creators’ sleeves (I guess it depends on whether the idea catches on). [OK, I hope the fact that the site’s catchphrase is “make mii” doesn’t mean they are going to target the lucrative portion of the internet with the catchphrase “f*** mii”…. a lightweight Second Life meets the red light district…. or “whip mii” for the S/M aficianados, or….. (OK, I’ll stop now)]

I hear that they are working on some unrelated stuff as well, which I hope wasn’t delayed too much because of their decision to create Miistation.

OK, this isn’t the next YouTube, but I really like it when someone just implements an idea, however small (especially when they are small?), to address a perceived market need. That kind of proactiveness is a valuable asset. As the title says, Just do it……

I don’t have any affiliations with or commercial interests in Miistation.com, although I do count one of the co-creators of the site as a personal friend. Hi Matt!

I wonder how long it will take for Nintendo to get on these people’s cases about having “mii” in the titles and elsewhere. Still, I’m sure there are viable workarounds for that.