COVID-19 in Japan: Startups Excelling in a Time of Crisis

By Yue Yamamoto Published on March 25, 2020

With the outbreak of coronavirus, many countries around the world have been experiencing major changes.

According to Pitchbook, “venture capital activity in China -- both in terms of the number of deals and the money raised by startups -- has fallen more than 60% compared with the same period last year.” 

How is the situation in Japan?

Although the number of confirmed cases is lower compared to neighboring countries such as South Korea and China, Japan has been extremely cautious about any activities that could further the spread of this virus. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently announced the closure of all elementary, middle, and high schools across the country. In addition, there are many closed attractions including popular museums and amusement parks. Corporations have been encouraging employees to work remotely, which goes against the traditional working culture of Japan. Japan has definitely become more agile since the official announcement made by Abe. Whether or not this new remote work style will be something permanent, it is safe to say that the startup ecosystem in Japan is shifting to meet the needs created by this new environment.

The following nine startups have made an impact in this time of crisis.

Hmcomm  

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Hmcomm is engaged in research and development on fundamental technologies, providing solutions and services based on the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology’s own voice processing techniques. The main technologies they use are speech recognition processing modeled by deep learning, natural language processing, and automatic summarization processing. 

To combat the communication jam, Hmcomm now offers their AI auto-response system “Terry” for free. With this service, they can now be available 24 hours without having physical staff available. Local authorities have been receiving an overwhelming amount of calls from the residents. They are able to sense the context of the call via their voice recognition system and provide the answers accordingly. 

Blacksands

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Blacksands’ Secure Connection as a Service solution provides dynamic encrypted point-to-point connections using a patented “Separation of Powers” architecture to enable zero-trust environments. SCaaS is designed to be simple, secure, scalable and affordable.

As previously mentioned in the intro, more and more corporations are enforcing their employees to work remotely. With the nature of Japanese culture and how business is done in Japan, many organizations are not used to the idea of having employees working from home. Perhaps, many organizations are blind to the security concerns that come with the remote working style. 

Mira Robotics 

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Mira Robotics offers services linking partner robots and robot intelligence to the cloud. They have announced their PoC with Toshiba Infrastructure Systems where they replaced human staff with a robot that reads the meter on its own.

They used to have human staff check the meters of several machines. Now they have implemented their avatar robot called ugo which auto-reads the meter. 

Holoeyes

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Holoeyes XR is virtual reality software that dramatically enhances medical treatments, procedure planning, and education. They offer remote check-ups using their tool Holoeyes XR. You can use this by downloading the VR/MR app. This is especially useful to prevent further spreading of the virus. 

Allganize, Inc.

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Allganize offers AI solutions based on high-level natural language processing and deep learning technology used for industries like finance, insurance, IT, and e-commerce. 

Since they have been seeing the need for AI chat presence rising, they are now offering their AI chatbot for free both in Japan and Korea until at least the end of April. Depending on the situation, they are also considering an extension into mid-May.

Unirobot 

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Unirobot produces educational robots that are often used at entertainment facilities or juku, which is a Japanese after school cram school. 

As mentioned in the intro, all elementary, middle, and high schools across the country are temporarily closed. Unirobot is developing its robot to be the AI homeschool teacher. 

They are still in the development phase but companies like this are preparing for the remote-based lifestyle even for families. 

XLocations 

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XLocations offers a locational data platform called “Location AI Platform”. Their solution is used for data collection and media reach purposes using the data. 

They have estimated the change in foot traffic in the central parts of the city. 

Money Forward Synca

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Due to the effects of Coronavirus, Money Forward Synca has started the online matching service between venture capital firms and startups. They have more than 20 venture capital firms joining the campaign. In addition, they are offering online consultations around fund-raising for startups. 

By using this service, startups can request to meet with prospective venture capital firms and once the request is confirmed by the firm side, they are able to take these meetings virtually. The service is offered for free. 

Eventhub

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Eventhub is a tool you can use to maximize your event attendees’ ROI and is often seen at large conferences in Japan. You are able to connect and book meeting appointments with attendees online.

They are now offering a service where you are able to stream events and participate in networking entirely online. For Plug and Play’s monthly pitch event, SIX powered by Plug and Play Japan, they partnered up with EventHub to host the event virtually. The EventHub platform allows live streaming of events and gives participants and attendees the ability to watch the pitch and chat with each other simultaneously.


COVID-19 is continuing to spread across the globe. Plug and Play is working directly with US Government Agencies to find startups and technology to diagnose and mitigate its spread. If you are a startup with technology that can either diagnose or do rapid product development and can help, please apply here.

If you are a corporation looking for solutions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact us here.

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