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‘Cloud matching’ inspiring startups

Wedge

Cloud matching, the practice of matching buyers and sellers from a large pool of people, organizations and companies, is a field entrepreneurs are seeking out as a new business opportunity.

Voyagin Pte., based in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, is one such company.

It sells domestic package tours to foreign tourists. It collects package-tour products from individuals and companies, with a short sales blurb like, “Tsukiji guide, two hours, $50.” Voyagin’s website is a place to match tourists and those who want to offer touristic experiences.

This does not mean the website is full of random guides, because Voyagin interviews tour providers, checks tour offers and ensures the quality of the tours, President Masashi Takahashi said.

Takahashi, 31, founded Voyagin in August 2011. He entered consulting firm A.T. Kearney after graduating from Keio University.

He originally wanted to start his own business, but decided to work for a company because he thought “it was necessary to acquire know-how to create a company that keeps generating value,” he said.

He worked for the consulting firm for two years. He went to India for two months between A.T. Kearney and the next job, but the trip changed his mind. Instead of the new job, he began working for his friend, who founded his own company, for three years.

The three-year period gave Takahashi an inspiration.

“I found an idea only I could find. Then, I should do it because I found the idea,” he said of the moment he decided to establish his own company.

The idea came to him as he rented foreign tourists a room in his house. He learned they have niche demands such as having lunch with maids and conversations with young Japanese entrepreneurs. Answering these demands would become a business and make it possible for many people to encounter different cultures, he said.

A year after starting Voyagin, an Indian man joined the company. It expanded its service to Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. It also began the service in Taiwan and Hong Kong around the end of last year.

He first spent his own money to start the company. Then he collected ¥40 million in investments from third parties in March 2012. He is planning to raise money in Singapore sometime soon and shift the headquarters to the island country.

Search Field Inc., based in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, connects people from the same hometown. The company aims to vitalize communities by offering cloud funding services.

Cloud funding collects money from anonymous people on the Internet. The company runs a website called FAAVO for people living away from their hometown but are interested in helping their economy. This is a private-sector version of “Tax Payment to Hometowns.”

The company began the service in June 2012. Currently, 13 prefectures are covered, from Niigata to Okinawa. People can post their ideas about how to help the local community, and those who like them can invest ¥500 or more with their credit card.

FAAVO gets 20 percent of the money collected as a service charge. Customers are individuals, small local companies and municipal governments.

“Once you are away from your hometown, you are disconnected,” company board member Ryuta Saito, 29, who initiated the idea of FAAVO, said.

Saito, who is from Miyazaki Prefecture, has lived in Tokyo since he attended Hosei University. He wanted to stay connected with his hometown and help it economically, he said.

The reason the company wanted to do something with local communities is connected with its main business: creating illustrations for publications, social games and others. Search Field was founded as an illustration business in 2008.

“Many creators live in remote places and we felt we wanted to help them. That’s how we thought of helping local communities,” company President Takuma Kobayashi said.

Kobayashi, 29, from Tokyo, graduated from Rikkyo University, after which he began working for USEN Corp., which airs mainly music on the radio. He was an ad salesman and goes to many places by night bus and spends time in Internet cafes.

Saito was his colleague at USEN. He invited Saito to start the company with him.

This section, which appears every second and fourth Monday, features translated stories on hot national topics from the monthly magazine Wedge. The original article was published in the February issue. To see Wedge’s website, go to wedge.ismedia.jp