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Startups in Japan

Posted by Danny Choo On Fri 2008/03/14 03:20 JST In Japan
 140  320482 ja

It gives me great pleasure in announcing that Hector Garcia has joined Mirai Inc as our Chief Technologist.

Hector brings to Mirai many years of technical experience and know-how on delivering high traffic sites like Technorati and at the Digital Garage Group.
Before he left Digital Garage, he launched the Hyobans digital news blog portal which has gained millions of page views within a short time.
Prior to Digital Garage, Hector lead projects as an engineer at Asahi Kasei and CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). For those who dont know, this is where the Word Wide Web was born.

In his spare time, Hector enjoys gaming on his Wii, taking photos around Tokyo and is currently reading the Haruhi novel and catching up on his Haruhi anime watching. And when Hector is not reading books - he's writing them. Hector's first publication will be released in April entitled "A geek in Japan" - will initially be in Spanish.

The typical startup

I talk about the reasons why I set up Mirai Inc in this article but today I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk a bit about how the company has progressed nearly a year after startup.

*Most* startups follow the same pattern:-

  • 1. A need is identified and a company/site is created to fulfill that need by creating a service or product. The end goal is to gain value by fulfilling that need and then sell the company.
  • 2. Venture capital is acquired from investors.
  • 3. Capital is used to hire staff (engineers/marketing/product managers etc). Capital is also used to buy/rent office, furniture and equipment needed for daily operations.
  • 4. Company either sinks or swims - if it sinks, the owners will probably try to sell it off.
  • 5. Company is swimming rather well and is acquiring value regardless of whether its making money. A web company can be valued at the amount of registered users it has for example.
  • 6. Company is valued at 10 million dollars - the owner sells.
  • [li] 7. Repeat steps 1 through 6.


Mirai Inc the startup

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with the above, I set up Mirai Inc for different reasons - none of the reasons being "set-up-company-with-goal-of-selling-it."

One of the main reasons for setting up the company is because I look at the reality of how short life is. Theres not much of it left no matter how old/young we are and we should make the best of it by doing what we enjoy the most.

Unfortunately, just living the rest of our lives enjoying ourself is not realistic because of our economic commitments - we still need to pay the rent and feed ourselves - the first two layers in Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

But what if we can fulfill those economic commitments and have fun at the same time? This is possible through working in a field that one is passionate about - thats what Mirai Inc is about. It's a business entity which allows us to do what we love and know best - building large scale web platforms. Most of our clients are in the figure, anime and eroge industry which makes what we do even more fun.

Mirai Inc the first year

So what has the first year been like for Mirai Inc? As I talked before, I've always had other forms of income while I was serving at Amazon and Microsoft and you can read all the reasons why it's dangerous to have only one form of income.

Since Mirai Inc started up as a business, I've been approached by several investors offering X million dollars of investment but have declined all offers for these reasons.
I was running the company from savings made through affiliate earnings (Amazon, Google Adsense etc) and from the monies I gained through side projects while I was a salary man. Up until Hector joined, It was my wife as Finance Director, my developers who sit overseas and myself.

The first year was spent mostly on consulting for other internet startups, building up the client base and of course working on this site. Not only does this site enable me to publish subjects that I'm passionate about, it also brings in money through advertising, affiliate earnings and also brings in much business client too. The most important thing however is that it enables me to meet other Japan/otaku who are thousands of miles away in different countries. I learn a lot about your region through your participation and hope that other members feel the same. Its also great to meet up and connect with readers too.

Mirai Inc the mission

The mission has changed just a little since I started the company. Before the company was set up, I was building different solutions for different clients. So company "Moo" gets a website made just for "Moo," company "Boo" gets a website just for "Boo." This is how a typical web development solution company operates and can only scale by adding more staff to maintain what could lead to hundreds of websites all running different code.

Mirai Gaia

Using knowledge gained from my years at Amazon, I decided take all the platforms that I previously developed and merge them into one platform called Mirai Gaia. Now all clients get the same platform but is flexible enough to adapt to many different client needs.

The diagram below shows how Carrot (consumer generated/SNS), Nav2.0 (blog publishing) and Gaia (e-commerce) merge to form the Mirai Gaia platform.

Mirai Gaia consists of the Client and Core. The Client is a directory where clients update their skeleton files and CSS. Its also where all the consumer generated media is kept. All this is separated from the Core. The Core is where all the functionality of the platform lives.

What we do at Mirai Inc is push updates to the Core directory on each of our clients servers - a bit like how you get updates to your Windows or Mac OSX - leaving your personal files and settings intact.

This model means that we can maintain hundreds (thousands) of websites running on the platform with the minimal amount of staff and cost.
This is also great for the clients too as it means they constantly get updates to their website which improve the user experience.

Mirai Gaia is initially being licensed to Japanese corporations.

Due to the unexpectedly high number of requests to be on the platform, taking time out to move office has been put on hold - we decided to continue to work out of my house until we complete a few major launches this year. We moved from the 3rd floor down to bigger space on the first floor and this is how it went.

Pic of the office that my wife and I shared.

The glass tables are from good ol Ikea - going back tonite to get some more glass shelves for the figures and Gundams.

Just some of the lovely cables. Waiting for an age when everything is wireless. You is being having a load of cables all over the place?

Kitchen/dining room full of junk.

Third floor clear of tables.

Back room on the first floor fitted with some Ikea carpet which you saw earlier on here.

Making holes in the wall for the glass (Ikea) white board.

The office as of yesterday - getting a glass shelf to stick above the glass whiteboard. Going to have a light above that and figures on display.

Hector at the controls. Dell gave us a business account and while I wouldn't buy another Dell computer again in my life, the monitors are pretty decent - this 20" wide screen @ about 1400px wide was about 200 USD.

Looking through my site stats I see that 40% of readers are viewing the site through a 1280x1024 display. You is be using which resolution screen and which brand is you a recommending?

Theres more room in the new office for figures which is great!

Figures help relax and stimulate the mind ^^;

We've had many queries about jobs at Mirai. I will announce positions for full time, part time and internships when we move to a larger office.


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