Tag Archives: Japan

AI is bringing back balance to Japanese workers

The “Japanese economic miracle” is a term used to describe the fast-paced growth that Japan saw in the second half of the 20th century. Along with the rise to the world’s second-largest economy came a strong mentality for success, and much like other advanced economies, that left a side effect: work-life imbalance, resulting in an overworked population. 

Japanese entrepreneur Miku Hirano founded her startup, Cinnamon, to address this challenge to help relieve the burden on the Japanese worker. Using artificial intelligence, Cinnamon removes repetitive tasks from office workers’ daily responsibilities, allowing more work to get done faster by fewer people. Cinnamon recently participated in Google Developers Launchpad Accelerator Japan. We asked Miku to reflect on her path from becoming an entrepreneur and the challenges she faces in her work. 

When did you realize you wanted to make an impact on Japanese workers? 

I founded my first startup when I was a student in 2006, and it was successfully acquired by mixi in 2011, so entrepreneurship is not new to me. Just three years ago, I read a news story about a young woman in Japan who committed suicide after working too much. I did some research and found this was not an isolated incident, and in fact, we have word, karoshi, which means death from overwork.. 

I was pregnant at the time, and I started to think we should change this current working style for the next generation. Work-life balance isn’t just a “nice” aspiration to have. Consistency with your family, pursuing hobbies and spending time in nature is directly related to health and happiness. 

So how does Cinnamon help restore work-life balance? 

he majority of the time-consuming work that Japanese workers face is the result of “unstructured data.” For example, legal contracts are often 400 pages long, and without a way to quickly summarize it, workers are left to read the entire document, a task that can take up to a week to accomplish. Cinnamon uses artificial intelligence to quickly summarize the document in minutes.  

What we’re building at Cinnamon is a way to use AI to remove repetitive tasks that can give workers back hours of their life each day and increase the quality and output of their work. Advanced technology is the core component that makes Cinnamon work, and Google’s AI tools like TensorFlow and Firebase have been an easy way to allow computers to read and understand a lot of text very quickly.  

Why did you choose to participate in the Launchpad Accelerator? 

We were facing a block on how to develop large, quality AI models effectively and how to build strong teams.  Google’s program was supporting exactly that. 

During our time in the accelerator, we received hands-on mentorship for complex AI model development. We also got to participate in a program called LeadersLab, which gave us in-depth insight into our leadership styles.

What advice do you have for future entrepreneurs?

Start your business today!  There’s no reason to wait. Talk to potential customers immediately and get a sense for if they find your idea valuable. Most importantly, find your inspiration. For me it’s my kids, because they always inspire me with their genuine, fresh eyes and minds.

A new home for Japan’s startups

Google CEO Sundar Pichai meets Japanese founders from Sansan and Cinnamon

Japan has always been a nation of forward thinkers. From the bullet train and the walkman to the lithium ion battery, Japanese ideas have shaped the modern world—and now a new generation of Japanese entrepreneurs is carrying on that legacy, building businesses around technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning.  

To support these talented founders as they grow and scale globally, we’re opening the doors on a Google for Startups Campus in Tokyo. Joining a worldwide network with locations from London to São Paulo to Seoul, it’s a platform for Japanese startups to develop their ideas, access Google resources, and build connections with like-minded entrepreneurs.  

We’ve been supporting Japanese startups for some time now: Cinnamon uses AI to help businesses work more efficiently and Lily MedTech is working on a device that could better detect breast cancer at an early stage. The new Campus means we’re better able to help many more founders as they take their ventures forward. It’s co-located with our new office in Shibuya, so we can offer Google training, mentoring and tools. And it’ll provide a welcoming, inclusive environment for startups from all backgrounds. Over 37% of our Campus members globally are women—a higher percentage than in most other parts of the startup community, but one we’re working hard to increase every year. 

Starting in 2020, the Tokyo Campus will also be home to a new Google for Startups Accelerator, an intensive three-month boot camp for startups working in AI. The goal of the Accelerator program is to give founders with established products the tools to prepare for the next phase of growth, and ultimately contribute to a stronger Japanese economy. We’re confident the program’s focus on AI and machine learning will advance ways of applying technology to tackle social, economic and environmental challenges—an area where we believe Japan can lead the world. Applications open today.

The launch of a Google for Startups Campus in Tokyo is part of a bigger story, with Japan making technology, digital skills, and AI central to its ambitions for the future. Eighteen years ago, Japan was where we opened the first Google office outside the United States. Today, our team here is much bigger, but we're just as focused on making sure Japan has the digital tools and services it needs. We're helping Japanese businesses adopt cloud computing. We're supporting AI research at academic institutions and universities. And we've committed to train 10 million Japanese workers in digital skills by 2022, through the Grow with Google program we launched earlier this year. 

We’re looking forward to Campus contributing to these efforts, giving Japanese startups the opportunity to make their ideas real—and continue shaping the world like so many of Japan’s entrepreneurs before them. 

TerraTalk is changing how Japan’s students learn English

With increasing classroom sizes, more paperwork than ever and new mandates from the ministry of education, Japanese teachers face an uphill battle in their mission to teach their students. 

Yoshiyuki Kakihara wanted to use technology to figure out a solution, with an emphasis on English language education. He created TerraTalk, an AI-powered app that allows students to have audio conversations. TerraTalk’s artificial intelligence can hear and process what the students say and give feedback, removing this burden from teachers, and reinvigorating the classroom by creating an atmosphere filled with conversation and English learning games. TerraTalk was recently part of Google Developers Launchpad Accelerator, a program that provides mentorship and support to early-stage startups.

With nine acceleration programs and 341 startup alumni, we at Launchpadhave seen firsthand how  entrepreneurs around the world are using technology and startup innovation to solve the world’s biggest problems. In the third installment of our series, “Ideas to Reality,” we talked to Yoshiyuki about why he started TerraTalk, and where he hopes it will be in the next few years. 

TerraTalk app

A look at the TerraTalk English learning app.

When did you realize you wanted to make an impact on the education field? 

I grew up on the outskirts of Tokyo as a science-savvy kid and became super interested in foreign culture. I ended up leaving my high school to study in the United Kingdom. I did well academically back home, so it was quite a shock how my English fell short of being comprehensible at all abroad. It turns out that I wasn’t alone; in Japan, very few people reach conversational level at the end of secondary or university curriculum.

I feel that this is the result of an outdated methodology where too much emphasis is placed on explaining the grammar and little to no attention on putting the language into use. To make matters worse,  80 percent of teachers in Japan are putting 100 hours of overtime per month. They don’t have time to investigate, experiment with and transform the way they teach. When I learned this, I realized that I could help by creating a new technology to ease the burden on teachers, and make learning English more engaging for students.  

Who are your customers? How is your company positively affecting them?  

We do business directly with education institutions and local education councils. With our TerraTalk app, students can engage in role-playing style conversation lessons with their mobile devices. This enables teachers to ensure their students get enough speaking time, which is difficult to achieve with conventional classroom methodologies.

We are seeing students teach each other on how to tackle the exercises, sometimes creating their own competition out of it. In some ways, the technology we are bringing is humanizing classrooms, as it frees teachers from the standard lecture format.

How did you use Google products to make TerraTalk? 

BigQuery has helped us crunch massive user data to discover how people are using our app. Google Analytics is our go-to tool for marketing and search engine analysis. We use the TensorFlow family of machine learning tools and other numerous open source projects maintained by Google. We also use G Suite as a primary business tool, because of its reliability, security and ease of use.

Why did you choose to participate in Google Launchpad?

Google is a leading company in machine learning and cloud technology applications, which we heavily rely on. The prospect of receiving support in these areas was extremely appealing, especially when you are running a startup and saving time is everything.

What was the most memorable moment from Launchpad? 

We attended Launchpad Tokyo, which had seven startups in total. In a session called Founders Circle, founders from the startups got together and shared their biggest failures to date in a fireside-chat style. It was the moment where we became a true community, and many of us are still in touch after the program.

What advice do you have for future entrepreneurs? 

Don’t quit. Find a business or market where you have a natural advantage over other people. Whether your competition is other startups or established companies, it is the people you work with who make the difference.

Grow your indie game with Google Play

Posted by Patricia Correa, Director, Platforms & Ecosystems Developer Marketing

Google Play empowers game developers of all sizes to engage and delight people everywhere, and build successful businesses too. We are inspired by the passion and creativity we see from the indie games community, and, over the past few years, we've invested in and nurtured indie games developers around the world, helping them express their unique voice and bring ideas to life.

This year, we've put together several initiatives to help the indie community.

Indie Games Showcase

For indie developers who are constantly pushing the boundaries of storytelling, visual excellence, and creativity in mobile we are announcing today the Indie Games Showcase, an international competition for games studios from Europe*, South Korea and Japan. Those of you who meet the eligibility criteria (as outlined below) can enter your game for a chance to win several prizes, including:

  • A paid trip and accommodation to the final event in your region to showcase your game.
  • Promotion on the Google Play Store.
  • Promotion on Android and Google Play marketing channels.
  • Dedicated consultations with the Google Play team.
  • Google hardware.
  • And more...

How to enter the competition

If you're over 18 years old, based in one of the eligible countries, have 30 or less full time employees, and have published a new game on Google Play after 1 January 2018, you can enter your game. If you're planning on publishing a new game soon, you can also enter by submitting a private beta. Submissions close on May 6 2019. Check out all the details in the terms and conditions for each region. Enter now!

Indie Games Accelerator

Last year we launched our first games accelerator for developers in Southeast Asia, India and Pakistan and saw great results. We are happy to announce that we are expanding the format to accept developers from select countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, with applications for the 2019 cohort opening soon. The Indie Games Accelerator is a 6 month intensive program for top games startups, powered by mentors from the gaming industry as well as Google experts, offering a comprehensive curriculum that covers all aspects of building a great game and company.

Mobile Developer Day at GDC

We will be hosting our annual Developer Day at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Monday, March 18th. Join us for a full day of sessions covering tools and best practices to help build a successful mobile games business. We'll focus on game quality, effective monetization and growth strategies, and how to create, connect, and scale with Google. Sign up to stay up to date or join us via livestream.

Developer Days

We also want to engage with you in person with a series of events. We will be announcing them shortly, so please make sure to sign up to our newsletter to get notified about events and programs for indie developers.

Academy for App Success

Looking for tips on how to use various developer tools in the Play Console? Get free training through our e-learning program, the Academy for App Success. We even have a custom Play Console for game developers course to get a jump start on Google Play.

We look forward to seeing your amazing work and sharing your creativity with other developers, gamers and industry experts around the world. And don't forget to submit your game for a chance to get featured on Indie Corner on Google Play.

* The competition is open to developers from the following European countries: Austria, Belgium, Belarus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland).


How useful did you find this blog post?

Fuji Bokujo Dairy Farm: milking the best of the internet

fujibokujo2

As part of our series of interviews with Asia-Pacific entrepreneurs who use the internet to connect, create and grow, we chatted with Yuichiro Fujii, President of Fujii Bokujo Inc., a dairy farm based in Hokkaido, Japan. Founded in 1904, Fujii Bokujo runs the entire process of dairy product production—from milking, to breeding, to feed production—and needs a regular supply of seasonal workers to keep the farm going. In 2016, Fujii Bokujo was ranked as the third most popular company in Japan for employee welfare.


Can you tell us a bit about your farm and how your business works?

We have 900 cows at our farm in Furano, Hokkaido. We use the most cutting-edge technology and practices available in the dairy industry, such as fully automated milking machines. And we’re proud to export our homemade cheeses and ice creams worldwide. Business is booming and we’re eager to hire new employees each year, but farming isn’t everyone’s first choice of career. Each year, it gets harder and harder to attract new graduates. Most young people want to move to the cities and there’s a shortage of talent in the countryside.


What’s it like working on the farm?

Working life on the farm is fun, but it takes a lot of energy! Most of our 24 employees are in their twenties. Many come into the business with no experience of farming, but our motto is “We nurture our cows and our people.”  We’re constantly trying to create an environment where our people can grow professionally, and maybe personally too.


fujibokujocow

One of the residents of the Fuji Bojuko dairy farm.

What difference has the internet made for your business?

We are the descendants of pioneer dairy farmers in Hokkaido. A man named Edwin Dan, considered to be the father of modern day dairy farming in Hokkaido, coined the phrase, “Kaitakusha tare” (meaning “the pride of the pioneers”). We continue to practice the pioneer spirit today by always trying out new things.


So this year, to deal with our manpower crunch, instead of waiting for responses to wanted ads in newspapers and magazines, we decided to go online. To drive interest and awareness of Fujii Bokujo and the dairy industry, we used YouTube video ads and banner ads on the Google Display Network. In particular, we hoped that young people attending universities near us that had dairy farming courses would see our ads.


We got 260 enquiries for the three positions we had open and attracted 80 participants to a seminar we held to introduce our company. I was surprised by how far the message reached—we got responses from students not just from Hokkaido but also well-known schools in Tokyo and Osaka. In the end, we offered five students jobs, completing our hiring process three months earlier than last year.


What’s next for your business?

I’m looking forward to meeting next year’s graduates! We are in an age where domestic milk production cannot keep up with demand. In line with the spirit of Fujii Bokujo, it’s my life’s dream to develop and train the next generation for the dairy business.


I am also eager to use video not just for our corporate brand and hiring but also our product marketing efforts in the future. We are developing content that will help to entice the young people to the world of dairy.


Finally, with the Olympics coming up in 2020, nothing would make me happier than contributing to athletes winning medals through food. My dream is to have the athletes of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics enjoy the high quality milk we carefully produce at Fujii Bokujo.