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Japanese Crowdfunding and Its Blooming Market

Last week cherry blossoms finally appeared on the streets of Tokyo, painting the entire landscape in shades of pink. This special and eagerly awaited time feels like a perfect excuse to write a few lines about the japanese crowdfunding market. And as it happens, this one also seems to be in full bloom right now.

Japanese crowdfunding sites allow backers to support a variety of projects. For example: you can help create anime and manga about the Okinawa region, and aid locals in teaching young Japanese about its culture and history. Fans, who don’t mind spending large sums of money, can buy “dates” with ever popular Hello Kitty character and make their dreams come true. It’s also possible to pledge money to pediatric cancer clinics and organize more sterilized rooms for young patients.

Japanese Crowdfunding Boom

Crowdfunding was slowly making its way to Japan in past decade, but the real boom happened in 2011, two years after Kickstarter appeared in the USA. The date can be easily explained. It was the year when local crowdfunding services ReadyFor and Campfire were established. According to research data there are over 170 crowdfunding services operating in Japan as of now.

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Transaction value in the local crowdfunding market amounts to 94 million USD, and specialists expect it to grow annually by 18.6%, reaching 186 million USD by 2022. Due to the growing popularity government made regulations to support local crowdfunding and make launching projects more simple.

Campfire – the Innovator

“Democratize fundraising, and create a world where anyone can speak out”. That’s the motto that the titan of japanese crowdfunding proudly displays on its webpage. At the moment they have hosted over 11.000 projects, backed by 440.000 people who managed to pledge more than 4.4 billion yen (41.6 million USD).

Platform creator, who recently came back and retook his position as CEO, keeps introducing bold and innovative ideas to Campfire. Last year the company developed a mobile app called Polca. It’s aimed at small scale crowdfunding among friends. “Friendfunding” projects (as they call them) can be shared on social media and used to finance events, trips or parties. Maximum goal is limited to 100.000 yen (945 USD). In 2017 Campfire also launched its own cryptocurrency called Firex, but is seems to be on hold for the time being.

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The site seems to host two types of projects: reward based ones known from Kickstarter, and more social cause oriented donation style. The latter seems to be more popular, although some small, symbolic reward is usually offered anyway. Kickstarter’s “all or nothing” model was removed, and creators get money even if the project isn’t funded.

Many heartwarming stories have been told on the website. Tomoko, a 27 years old girl from Kanagawa, had problems finding a partner because of her tall height complex. 72 people pledged to either help her organize traditional formal meetings, or meet her in person. The girl managed to find a proper person and they’re in a happy relationship now.

Top funded projects include:

  • anime adaptation of a popular video game
  • art exhibition by famous illustrator and comedian Akihiro Nishino held in the US
  • building a bathtub themed park in the Beppu area, famous for its hot springs
  • sci-fi inspired radio player called H!NT
  • commercial space rocket called Momo-2 (Momo-1 also came from Campfire but fell down after 20 kilometers)

Readyfor – the Pioneer

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Japan’s first crowdfunding platform was created few months before Campfire by Ms Haruka Mera, who managed to place in the “Forbes Under 30 – Asia” ranking in 2016. After finishing media design at Keio University, she spent few months at Stanford. Coming back to Japan, her plan was starting to formulate. Mera wanted to build country’s first crowdfunding site. Her efforts resulted in creating Readyfor, a reward based service operating on “all or nothing” model similar to Kickstarter.

According to studies, platform seems to be popular among women, who make more than half of the project creators. Many projects belong to social cause crowdfunding category, topping Campfire in that regard.

Most funded projects include:

  • laser cutter called “FABOOL Laser Mini”, which cuts materials with thickness up to 2mm
  • renovating a 42 year old hostel Uzu House into one of the trendiest spots in Shimonoseki City
  • reinvigorating abandoned area in Hiroshima prefecture by restoring old buildings to life
  • repairing a 91 year old whisky distillery in Toyama, so it can keep producing spirits and host tourists
  • funding special ambulance planes that can transport patients from remote islands in Okinawa region to hospitals

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What’s Next For Japanese Crowdfunding

Less than half year ago one more player appeared on the market. And not just any player, we’re talking about the king of crowdfunding – Kickstarter. Japanese creators can now host their projects without creating companies abroad, and it’s finally possible to view the site in Japanese.

Does it pose any danger to local crowdfunding websites? It doesn’t seem to, unless we’re talking about gadget and game related projects. These started popping up in bigger number recently, like the Deca Slayer Card Game from few days ago. Japanese local crowdfunding sites seem fixated on donations and charities though, and these projects are as alive and well as before.

A Challenge for You:

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Got a great Kickstarter project and need a hand promoting it? Tell us your story and let us lead you to the top.

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