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4 Years From Now

Posted by Danny Choo On Tue 2014/03/18 10:38 JST In Doll
 110  1126033 ja zh

The Mobile World Congress (MWC) - the worlds largest exhibition for the mobile industry held in Barcelona where manufacturers, carriers, tech providers, content producers and investors gather from all corners of the world to check out the latest and greatest in the industry and seek new business opportunities.

As part of the WMC, an event called 4 Years From Now hosted by startup accelerator Wayra took place where euntreprenuers from all over the world attend to network with investors, mentors and folks in the industry.

Last year they had guest speakers such as Dennis Crowley, founder and CEO of Foursquare - this year they invited me along with entrepreneurs such as Razmig Hovaghimian who founded Viki.

I was invited to talk about Smart Doll and how I bootstrapped my company - will talk about that further down the post but first will show you around the Mobile World Congress that took place at the end of February 2014.

I wasn't too familiar with the WMC but did hear about it on tech blogs. When I was invited, I thought it was a business and consumer event but it turns out that its only for industry folks - and even so over 80,000 people attended this year @.@

Passes all have NFC chips inside and each entry to the venue is verified with a passport - they made an exception for Mirai-chan ^^

WMC is held at Fira Gran Via - its huuuuge! Up until now I've mostly attended anime events which I thought were big but this is something on such a grander scale - this is going to be another stage for Mirai Suenaga in the very near future ^o^

Looking out at just half a hall filled with vendors.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also popped into give a talk too.

By just walking around the event, one is filled with inspiration and desire to do more in a playground that reaches out to the world. Communications is big business.

A load of manufacturers showing their wares - but a distinct lack of Japanese participation compared to Korea, Taiwan and China. Did see just a couple of companies like Sony and Fujitsu though.

Samsung giving a pitch for their new hardware.

The Samsung booth was huge and the whole event pretty much had Samsung all over it in terms of branding.

Not having to been to many other events other than anime ones, I was surprised at how much was being spent on booths at MWC @.@

Without looking up at the ceiling, one would think they are literally walking around a city - the booths are kitted out just like shops @.@!

Lots of gadgets to play with at the venue.

Met a load of folk at MWC who were all interested in the mobile communication aspect of Smart Doll Automatic Version.

Not many folks at the venue without a suit ^^;

Having not seen anything like it, Mirai seemed to be a popular girl throughout the event. Looks like the world had been waiting for something new and different.
The ironic thing is that 60cm tall class dolls have been around for ages - its just that they have always been isolated to a small niche market.

Smart Doll Manual Version is due out this May and am aiming to have the Automatic Version out by the end of this year if things go smoothly. But then again, things never go as smooth as we would like eh? ^^

Together with wifey and photobomb-san outside the venue. Hopefully be back again soon with a booth to pitch Smart Doll as a communications device to more telcos - already have telco's in 3 different countries interested ><

Now its off to the 4 Years From Now (4YFN) venue just around the corner.

I've just notices that Mirai's beanie ends up looking like this when I take her our of the bag - it should be placed on her head with more fringe showing ><

Where do you want to be 4 years from now? Goals heh? As for me by 2018...

  • I would have made Smart Doll as the industry standard doll worldwide.
  • Smart Doll will also have a share of the global telecommunication device market.
  • Smart Doll Automatic Version will be the standard home persocom.
  • I would have decreased the cost to build Smart Doll by using injection molding for the whole shell and thus lowering the price for the consumer to reach a wider market. Smart Doll will be the first ever 60cm class doll where the shell is completely injection molded.
  • Mirai Suenaga will be a globally recognized brand.
  • I hopefully should still be alive to make it all happen ^^;

Some photos before stage time.

Together with future partners.

Heading to the main stage.

On the way to the main stage we come across the mini stage where more entrepreneurs are giving talks to help inspire others.

Love the seating arrangement - nice in simple.

Arrival at the main stage - audience here is made up of entrepreneurs, investors and press folks.
Was surprised to see myself being picked up on a web tech blog that I frequent - The Next Web ^o^

Gary Stewart - Director of Wayra UK and previously Director of Wayra Spain who transferred to UK right after MWC.

And we are on!

This is Jeffrey Char - a Serial Entrepreneur who resides in Tokyo. In addition to his entrepreneuring, he is also a lecturer and mentor for those who are looking to follow in his successful steps.

In the previous A Week in Tokyo, I mentioned that I gave a talk at Jeff's venture incubator. After listening to my talk, Jeff invited me to Barcelona to give a similar talk.

Moderated by Jeff, I talk alongside entrepreneur and founder of Viki - Razmig Hovaghimian.

We both talk about how we bootstrapped our companies. Razmig did make a point of how bootstrapping can take us to critical mass but investment is usually needed to take the business further and beyond.

I had to cover everything I do in 5 mins which was a good challenge as it forced me to focus on what matters and I think I managed to get the message across.

As part of my talk I cover Smart Doll and what plans I have in store for the line.

There is a recording of the event on YouTube but does not show my slides - I'm on at the 28min-ish mark.

While I've given talks to non-anime crowds such as at Cannes to advertising folks, Hamburg to Marketing folks and in Tokyo to government folks, I still do get butterflies in the stomach when speaking away from familiar turf ><

The mobile and startup crowd in Barcelona however were really warm and were great to network with.

Razmig sold Viki.com to Rakuten for a reported 200 million USD.

Just some of the points about Culture Japan that I shared are:-

  • 500K USD revenue in 2013
  • 6 full time employes (including me and wifey)
  • No investors
  • Bootstrapped with:-
    • Amazon+Microsoft wages & stock options
    • Amazon affiliate earnings
    • Income from web development side business
  • Sustained by:-
    • Income from Mirai Suenaga merchandise
  • Growth from:-
    • Direct sales of Smart Doll
    • Licensing of Smart Doll body
    • Initially work with telco’s in Malaysia

I'm prepping a post on how I bootstrapped a company in Japan but you can read some of it in the How Discovering Japan Change My Life post.

Even though I didn't have any intention to take investment any time soon, Razmig and many other folks who I met at the event made me realize that I can only go so far on my own capital.

While I do believe that I can continue to bootstrap, I feel that as I will soon reach critical mass with Mirai Suenaga, I would be ready to take investment with a condition that I maintain autonomy and control of operations.

I feel that the lack of funds up until now has forced us to innovate with the resources and the technology that we have at hand - rather than try to solve everything with cash and rent flash offices right out from the beginning as many startups do for some reason.

Through projects like the Wonder Festival where I literally moved the whole office to Makuhari just for a one day event to save on exhibition costs, we continue to demonstrate that we use cash wisely and always make use of resources at hand.
I feel that investors can rest assured that the sensible decisions are being made so that the company can grow as fast as possible while I ensure that they benefit from their support of my vision.

A load of startups gave a pitch for investment. Here are folks from La Mas Mona talking about their online dress rental service.

My Twin Place has an interesting service a bit like Airbnb and Home Away - the difference is where you swap homes for the duration of your vacation.

You tell us what MVP stands for.

Later on that evening its time to network with executives and CEO's from the mobile and telco industry, investors and so on.
The gentleman to my right is Gonzalo Martín-Villa who is the current CEO of Wayra - the startup accelerator owned by Telefónica. Jeff is also a mentor at Wayra who has helped me broaden my global vision.

I'm going to stop here and leave you with the rest of the networking photos as I go and catch up on writing a load of other posts. As you go through these photos however, you will notice something about them.

My belief has always been that there is a much bigger market for the 60cm tall class doll - The Rest Of The World which is a market tens of thousands of times (if not millions) bigger than the anime market that other doll manufacturers currently target.

While I acknowledge that many Mirai-chan fans want to have a Mirai Suenaga Smart Doll - the target market is actually folks who have not seen this class of doll before.
This is the reason why Mirai-chan does not come in default with her Summer Uniform.

Mirai-chan comes in her casual wear which is more accepted by folks who don't know what anime is - they just know that they like what they see and that is my observation - they don't know that they want it until they see it.

While I have no plans to develop anime licensed dolls, MiraiFrame and MiraiShell is open to individuals and manufacturers to develop their own products.

After my talk during the networking sessions, I was approached by many investors who were ready to discuss options regarding investing in a product that they have never seen before - the future of the global doll market and persocoms!

Diego Molano Vega the 2nd and current Minister of Information Technologies and Communications of Colombia serving in the Administration of President Juan Manuel Santos since 2010. He also likes Mirai-chan ^o^

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