Irish Mobile Tech Rocks Shibuya
In Shibuya – the heart of Japan’s wireless revolution – the mobile Internet is high-tech, uber sophisticated, and cutting-edge. It’s also… Irish. Normally, we wouldn’t make much fuss over three Ireland-based outsiders trying to break into the mobile market here, but one of them – e-settlement software developer Network365 – recently inked a break-through deal with the local heavyweight, NTT DoCoMo; the other two (Parthus Ceva and Polar Lake) also appear to have some real prospects. Our program provides an interesting, behind-the-scenes look at how out-of-town players are making a dent in Japan’s mobile market.
Today’s program focuses on three mobile technology players based o’erseas in the Emerald Isle but now being nurtured at Sunbridge’s Venture Habitat, a unique startup foundry located in Shibuya’s Mark City complex. The three, Network365, Parthus Ceva, and Polar Lake, provide mobile e-payment infrastructure, digital signal processor (DSP) designs for use in portable devices, and XML-based content management systems, respectively.
The three have also received a significant helping hand from the Irish-government-funded Enterprise Ireland Tokyo office, run until recently by Declan Collins, one of the most energetic and well-connected (and hence effective) of the foreign-government-funded “Old Japan Hands” working in Tokyo.
Since taping our show, Declan has moved on to other challenges while Enterprise Ireland has been taken over by the highly capable Anne Balfe. Also, Parthus Ceva is actually based in Silicon Valley – it was formed in 2002 Q4 through a merger of Dublin, Ireland-based Parthus Technologies plca nd San Jose, USA-based Ceva Inc.
Parthus Ceva is deeply involved in providing DSP core design to handset makers, and this is the one of the few times WWJ has been able to speak to accompany involved in the fundamentals of wireless technology.
Polar Lake is a successful XML development house that creates content management infrastructure for content owners of all sorts – principally targeting the mobile space. Their site claims they have over 200 customers in Europe, Asia, and North America, including Vodafone, Orange, CSL (Hong Kong), and Midwest Wireless (US). Polar Lake pointman Lee Fitzgerald gets a good slice of camera time in our program and explains why XML works well for mobile.
Finally, we got to speak at length with Philip Greenan from Network365. At the time of our taping, he would only hint at Big News to come for the company’s mobile payment software in Japan. Sure enough, in May, NTT DoCoMo and Network365 announced that the Irish company had been selected to provide payment infrastructure for Big D’s “Dcommerce” mobile payment system.
The two said that DoCommerce’s functionality will enable DoCoMo’s customers to make payments from their mobile phones using a choice of payment options (HP Japan was named as a co-partner with Network365). The announcement probably didn’t hurt Network365’s closing of a 10-million euro round of financing about a week later. Not bad for a bunch of foreigners salted away on a 17th-floor nest in downtown Tokyo!
We also spoke with Sunbridge founder and principal Allan Miner, ex-head of Oracle Japan on the unique challenges facing mobile-related startups in Japan.