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GA technologies (TSE: 3491), “Japan’s Amazon in Real Estate” Powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Profitability (ROE: 27.8%) – H.E.R.O. Innovators Insights from CEO Ryo Higuchi | H.E.R.O. HeartWare | 14 January

Can artificial intelligence (AI) transform the way we buy and sell property?

AI can solve the persistent informational asymmetry problem plaguing the property industry – that “the seller and property agent always have an advantage, and individuals always have anxiety and disbelief as to whether they will be ducks. Since many people buy a house only once in a lifetime, they have no opportunity to feed their eyes with the right information,” as elucidated by Ryo Higuchi, the founder and CEO of GA technologies (“GAT”) (TSE: 3491), “Japan’s Amazon in Real Estate”.

This week, we highlight the under-the-radar listed Asian exponential innovator GAT who is the leading second-hand real estate distribution platform through “Renosy” (https://www.renosy.com), distinguishing itself from all other ad-based search portals, such as LIFULL’s homes.co.jp (TSE: 2120), REA Group’s realestate.com.au (ASX: REA), PropertyGuru.com.sg etc, as the only end-to-end matching platform in Japan that integrates (1) Search, (2) Mediation-Brokerage-Contracting, Buying & Selling (3) Renovation, (4) Rental, and (5) Aftersales Follow-Up & Asset Management to members, and utilizing AI and blockchain technologies to realize a smarter user experience at lower cost. The development and use of its own AI tools has powered GAT to achieve healthy profitability of ROE (= EBIT/ Equity) of 27.8% and ROA of 15.4% and exponential growth in which its FY2018/10 (Sep 2017 – Oct 2018) sales jumped 2.1-fold yoy and operating profit rose 90.4% yoy with positive free cashflow and a healthy net cash balance sheet.

What if the apartment that you wish to purchase faces the afternoon sun and is in a neighborhood that has high crime rates – information that the seller and the agent do not tell you. What if you do not trust the price that was offered by the agent, even if there is an estimated price based on that of the neighboring areas? What if you do not like the manipulative sales tactics of the agent who is pushing your psychological buttons of FOMO (fear of missing out) to pressure you to make a decision?

When Dentsu’s former creative director Yoshihiro Kawamura bought a property on Renosy, he was surprised that AI, and not an agent or person, was recommending and scoring the property and he was also surprised by the excellence of the system, so much so that he joined GAT, as well as 20 other customers who went on to become employees. Ken Kutaragi, the “Father of Sony PlayStation” and former Chairman and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, was also attracted by the mission and purpose of GAT to join as an independent director and technical advisor.

GAT’s AI technology include Price & Rent Estimation module based on the hedonic approach on time series data such as property and region attributes, transaction history, interest rates, etc. to support buyers’ decision-making and the Excellent Property Screening Score module in which semi-supervised learning is conducted with a large amount of data to realize the screening of highly probable properties that transactions will take place relatively early. In addition to the property information, the surrounding map information of the property, such as convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants, nurseries, kindergartens, schools, libraries, hospitals, sports facilities, banks; and population of the area, such as whether there are many children, elderly, women, single people, crime rate; and unstructured data which is generally difficult to handle, such as the apartment faces the sun; are also used for calculating the score and property buyers can estimate future profitability, living comfort and security.

CEO Higuchi pointed out that one of the major problems in the industry include the view by operators that “innovation is not considered important. Many real estate man have the idea of ‘I want to earn money’, ‘I want to make apartments’, etc, there are not many people who want to make innovative things utilizing technology.” The informational asymmetry working against the buyer and the delayed technology development in the industry have resulted in the peculiar situation of a much lower second-hand real estate distribution ratio in Japan of 70% new and 30% second-hand compared with the West where the second-hand real estate market is overwhelmingly larger e.g. US: ~90%, UK: ~86%, France: ~64%. The second-hand distribution ratio has steadily increased from 22.3% in 1998 as Japanese become increasingly receptive to purchases of resale houses. The year 2016 also marks the first time that second-hand real estate transactions exceed that of new units. The number of second-hand real estate transactions sold and handled by GAT has doubled yoy to 1,000 in FY2018/10 (200 in FY2016/10) and the number of registered Renosy members is around 32,000 (2,377 in 1Q2017). Over 37,000 and 179,000 transactions in second-hand real estate were closed in Tokyo and nationwide respectively, which has increased steadily 30% over the past ten years, indicating a potentially huge total addressable market and a long runway for growth for GAT.

There are two loss-making popular US proptech startups with seemingly similar business model to the profitable GAT: (1) Opendoor, which was valued at over US$2bn after raising US$325m in Jun 2018 and has recently pivoted to co-listing and co-branding with external preferred agents (the traditional process it is trying to disrupt); and (2) Compass Inc which was valued at US$4.4bn after raising US$400m in Sep 2018, bringing its total funding raised to US$1.2bn. Compass employs more than 2,000 agents and expects 2018 sales to double to almost US$1bn. Both Opendoor and Compass look more like traditional real estate brokers and Opendoor also charges a higher fee than the 5 to 6% of a real estate agent, typically ranging from 7% to 13% of the purchase price. Others like Zillow-Trulia, PropertyGuru.com.sg etc make most of their revenue by getting real estate agents — the ones collecting 6% of fees — to pay to advertise their houses on the site.

Renosy charges a 2.5% brokerage commission, which is lower as compared to the general brokerage commission fee of 3% + 60,000 yen. GAT also generates revenue in the planning, design, construction management in renovation with the required licenses, and earns not only a slight premium but also a faster turnaround on the renovated apartments it sells. CEO Higuchi shared: “The real estate industry is a business that has characteristics such as home construction law and high-priced products and is not complete with just only the internet. If it is a internet-based company in the real estate area, the advertisement model or subscription tends to become the majority in the composition of sales. However, I think that advertising models will not grow unless they can take to a scale like TV or LINE. The market size of real estate advertisement is only about 150 billion yen. On the other hand, real estate transactions has a market of about 40 trillion yen annually.”

Starting 2 January 2019, we are now located at 182 Cecil Street, Level 17 of the Frasers Tower building where Microsoft is one of the anchor tenants. Frasers Tower is located between the Bangkok Bank building and the Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church and is near the Amoy Street hawker food center. We welcome you to visit us over a warm cup of afternoon coffee at our new office on any day.

Our emotional labor of love over the past months in sharing openly our research ideas (to battle-test our ideas by critiques and avoid blindspots in investing) and setting up the proper regulated UCITS fund structure to protect investors’ interests has deepened our conviction for the positive change that we will make together with H.E.R.O. – and we are getting closer to giving birth in February 2019 to H.E.R.O., the only Asia SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry and guarding investors’ interests in the regulated UCITS fund structure with daily NAV & daily liquidity and no exit fees.

If you are not moving forward in this exponential world, you are going backwards. If you want to join us at the leading edge of opportunity, if you identify yourself in the values and bigger sense of purpose in H.E.R.O., or you wish to tell from your heart to your most important person, son, daughter, wife, husband, or best friend that you are a farsighted and thoughtful explorer in the H.E.R.O.’s Journey participating in the long-term exponential growth of a selected group of outstanding entrepreneurs, standing up for the embracement of the human spirit, please contact us via email or WhatsApp at +65 9695 1860. Thank you very much for your patience and support and we look forward to growing exponentially with you as we explore the H.E.R.O.’s Journey together.


“Purchasing of real estate requires five processes: (1) Learning/ Opportunity, (2) Property search, (3) Examinations/ Contracts, (4) Renovation, (5) After-purchase follow-up & Asset management. But all other real estate portal sites consider only the search part and the transaction trigger in contracting is executed by the real estate agent company. Renosy can do all these five processes on one platform and make it possible to receive immediate feedback from the customer to identify the purchasing process and user experience to be improved. Our company is a real estate digital platform that enables consumers (sellers & buyers, lessors & lessees) to realize smart and secure real estate transactions in ‘search’, ‘negotiate’, ‘contract’, ‘purchase’ online,” commented Ryo Higuchi, the founder and CEO of GA technologies (“GAT”) (TSE: 3491).

GAT is “Japan’s Amazon in real estate”, the leading second-hand real estate distribution platform through “Renosy” (https://www.renosy.com), distinguishing itself from all other ad-based search portals as the only end-to-end matching platform in Japan that integrates (1) Search, (2) Mediation-Brokerage-Contracting, Buying & Selling (3) Renovation, (4) Rental, and (5) Aftersales Follow-Up & Asset Management to members, and utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies to realize a smarter user experience at lower cost. Renosy charges a 2.5%  brokerage commission as compared to the general brokerage commission fee of 3% + 60,000 yen. The number of second-hand real estate transactions sold and handled by GAT has doubled to 1,000 in FY2018/10 (200 in FY2016/10) and the number of registered Renosy members is around 32,000 (2,377 in 1Q2017). Over 37,000 and 179,000 transactions in second-hand real estate were closed in Tokyo and nationwide respectively, which has increased steadily 30% over the past ten years, indicating a potentially huge total addressable market and a long runway for growth for GAT. In addition, the second-hand real estate distribution share in Japan at 37.4% is substantially lower than in US (~90%) and Europe (UK: ~86%, France: ~64%) and is steadily increased from 22.3% in 1998 as Japanese become increasingly receptive to purchases of resale houses. The year 2016 also marks the first time that second-hand real estate transactions exceed that of new units.

GAT also generates revenue in the planning, design, construction management in renovation with the required licenses. GAT has developed its own proprietary real estate AI X RPA (robotic process automation) support tool “Tech Series” and the “Renosy Insight” app for real estate owners. The Renosy Insight app also offers an online rental management service to members at 1,100 yen per month. GAT acquired ASSURENT Legal Co in Sep 2018 for US$8.8m and ITANDI in Oct 2018 for US$16.27m. ITANDI develops B2B SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) cloud tools using AI and big data analysis for real estate management companies and brokerage firms in the rental area. ASSURENT Legal Co provides warranty service for real estate lease.

With the circumspection and compellingness exponential edge in serving its customers, GAT achieved a 275% absolute increase in sales in the recent three years with ROE (= EBIT/ Equity) of 27.8% and ROA of 15.4%, propelling a 160% increase in market value since its listing in Oct 2018 at the IPO price of 2,510 yen per share (split-adjusted price of 1,255 yen) to US$263m. On 13 Dec 2018, GAT announced its FY2018/10 results (Sep 2017 – Oct 2018) in which sales increased 2.1-fold to 20.126bn yen and operating profit rose 90.4% to 678 yen and positive free cashflow of 361m yen. Management estimates FY2019 sales to increase 62.3% to 32.663bn yen and operating profit to rise 53.5% to 1.041bn yen. Balance sheet is healthy with net cash of 1.23bn yen (US$15.2m, gross cash 2.02bn yen, debt 794m yen), or 4.2% of market value and is inventory-light (real estate for sale of 425.655m yen, or 1.5% of sales and 9.6% of total asset).


CEO Higuchi shared his mission to revitalize the second-hand real estate market in Japan: “I have a strong desire to revitalize the Japanese second-hand real estate market. The real estate market in Japan is around 70% new and 30% second hand. In Europe and the United States, it is the opposite, 10% new construction and 90% used. OECD member countries restrain new building as an attempt to supply housing according to population growth. In the Japanese society with a declining population, 40 to 500 thousand households are supplied with new units, but around 1 million new units are being supplied currently, which has become a social problem. In contrast, the number of closed transactions in second-hand units is 179,000. Also, 70% of people have never renovated in Japan. In order to revitalize the used real estate market, it is necessary to correctly evaluate the value of second hand real estate and make it easy to buy. However, the image of real estate agency companies so far is not good. I would like to change that.”

CEO Higuchi commented that they are targeting the substantially larger market in online real estate transactions as opposed to the online real estate advertisement market: “The real estate industry is a business that has characteristics such as home construction law and high-priced products and is not complete with just only the internet. If it is a internet-based company in the real estate area, the advertisement model or subscription tends to become the majority in the composition of sales. However, I think that advertising models will not grow unless they can take to a scale like TV or LINE. The market size of real estate advertisement is only about 150 billion yen. On the other hand, real estate transactions has a market of about 40 trillion yen annually. However, if you think about doing real estate such as apartment development project, even if sales are 10 billion yen, the risk is big with debts on the same scale or half of sales. As a result, real estate companies that grew rapidly in this scheme are going bankrupt except for big keiretsu conglomerates.”

Resolving inefficiencies and problems in the analog operations and opaque information such as price estimates in second-hand real estate have been the driving force for CEO Higuchi: “Real estate platform that searches for second-hand properties have been around since long ago which has made it easier for real estate brokerage firms to attract customers. However, many tasks in the operations are still analog, such as the purchase and management of properties, preview, contract preparation and so on. As various people are involved until the contract, the cost burden increases, and it becomes an inefficient transaction that is wasteful for customers. The traditional property site can only browse properties that you are looking for, and it was difficult to understand the price quotation in the area. Therefore, Renosy also purchases information from other companies and also provides pricing information on the occupying property. It also has a function to estimate prices using artificial intelligence (AI) technology which we have learned and calculate about 250 million transaction records and interest rates in the past 10 years for residences in our service target areas to support user’s decision making.”

When asked why the second-hand real estate market with its much lower distribution ratio is so peculiar, CEO Higuchi elaborated patiently: “We did not accept the renovation value as asset value. Even after renovation, the asset value of the property and the evaluation of the bank do not change. On the other hand, in the United States, when repairing or maintaining a house, the value is re-evaluated. While the real estate investment market in the United States is 1,800 trillion yen, the present value is the about the same at same 1,800 trillion yen, but in the case of Japan, the investment amount is 800 trillion yen, but the present value is 400 trillion yen. In other words, in Japan, after buying the property, it is worth half the value. If we can increase the present value by 5% of them, we can contribute greatly to society as well. Japan is now trying to change the value of second-hand properties like the United States by recommending renovated houses with the ‘secure R housing mark’ for a house that meets certain criteria in earthquake resistance and inspection. Measures such as mandatory housing diagnosis were developed from 2018.”

“In 2016, the actual result of the second-hand condominium in the Tokyo metropolitan area exceeded the actual number of concluded contracts for the newly-built condo. The market size of existing homes and renovations is expected to grow to 20 trillion yen in 2025, compared to 11 trillion as of 2013. However, rather than saying that the second-hand market has become transparent, the reason behind this economic trend is due to the soaring new construction price. Looking back on the history, the Japanese government has pushed newly-built purchases since World War II. For example, building a property of 30 million yen is said to have a multiplier economic effect of 60 million yen. Therefore, when buying real estate, the Japanese first think about purchasing newly-built property. However, due to the soaring prices in newly-built properties due to Abenomics, many people are saying ‘it is expensive and inaccessible’ and have come to look at second-hand properties. New condominiums in the metropolitan area average about 60 million yen while the average salaryman’s annual income is about 5 to 6 million yen, which is above the appropriate price-salary ratio of 5 to 7 times. The culture that renovation and interior decoration have created added value to second-hand property that is comparable to new construction has become well established in recent years. The image for and evaluation of second-hand property have changed and purchases have increased.”

“Real estate business is really complicated and cumbersome. Many people will be involved in the transaction. People who loan, who manages properties, who manages customer data, who views finance when buying property. One person’s solution is something that is not necessary for another. Among those relationships, you arrive at five major problems lurking throughout the industry that I would like to solve with the power of real estate tech. One is asymmetry of information between the consumer and the seller, that information related to real estate is not all open and transparent. The vendor or seller side always have an advantage, and individuals always have anxiety and disbelief as to whether they will be ducks. Since many people buy a house only once in a lifetime, they have no opportunity to feed their eyes with the right information. The second is delayed technology development. We still do business mainly with paper. Due to the asymmetry of information and the delay in technology conversion, there is a third problem of a low second-hand distribution ratio compared with the West where the secondhand market is overwhelmingly bigger than newly built. The fourth one tends to be overlooked, but It is hard to good intermediary people in the real estate industry. And the fifth issue is that innovation is not considered to be important. Many real estate man have the idea of ‘I want to earn money’, ‘I want to make apartments’, etc, there are not many people who want to make innovative things utilizing technology.”

“There is no information to evaluate a renovated real estate. There is good or bad evaluation only when there is some measurement method to make a judgment, but there is no measurement method or information in the first place. No one knows the adequacy and appropriateness of the validity in estimate that came out when doing renovation. Even if shown a design drawing of the renovation, the image after the renovation does not come up, and inconsistency is born, causing trouble. In general, people do not know the whole work process when renovating their homes. In the head of the vendor, the process goes like this: Prepare the renovation estimate and the design drawing before the contract; prepare the home renovation construction standard contract; then prepare the materials for the loan contract. However, the general person suddenly received communication to prepare the mortgage repayment status confirmation material, seal impression certificate etc. necessary for the renewal loan contract by the next day, adding stress to delay or even decide to cancel the renovation work. In the meantime, the construction shop asked the carpenter, and the carpenter further asked the carpenter of the subcontractor. This is a major factor that complicates work and further costs. Companies that do renovation are getting harder to generate profits because of this inefficient mechanism.”

“We are developing a service that collectively supports ‘ to know’, ‘to buy’, ‘to renovate’, ‘to invest’ in real time, while holding a designer with a license of construction to be deeply involved in construction. Because real estate and construction cannot be separated. By directly engaging in the site of renovation, we can change what we do with the power of technology by accumulating data of the voices and tasks at the workplace, such as unclear work process or management of process and construction costs.”

Intrigued by the business model of Renosy, which is a first and the only one in Japan, we asked about the details and CEO Higuchi explained: “Our goal is to be the Amazon of the real estate industry, and do what Amazon cannot do, by offering high transparency and ease of use. Amazon sells anything but not real estate, probably because it is a high priced item and there is the problem of the home construction law. We aim to consistently realize user-convenient real estate services since our inception, establishing an end-to-end real estate distribution platform utilizing technology and aggregating diverse real estate data for next-generation real estate transactions. Amazon not only sells merchandise on the net, but it also regards all of the series of flows until reaching the user’s hands as UX (User Experience). We define ‘success’ not only in the matching of properties but also in the customer’s ‘success’ in actually establishing a highly satisfactory transaction. By handling rental management services after the delivery of condominiums, we provide one-stop services that meet customer needs. We are responsible for 10-year warranty on renovated condominiums sold by our company. We have worked actively to improve work efficiency by AI X RPA, data utilization, and work style improvement. As far as Tokyo’s 23 wards are concerned, there are over 2.6 times more property information than a major real estate portal service. By collectively managing the total of over 50,000 property information purchased directly from real estate agents and owners of 10,000 companies in the database, we will open windows in the analog real estate industry.”

“We also developed Renosy Insight, the application for real estate investors plays an important role as a point of contact for customers. Through one app, real estate owners and investors can check owned property information; consolidate management of contract documents; carry out income & expenditure simulation, visualization of yield, estimate mortgage loan potential taking into account user’s creditworthiness, and management of cash flow linked to bank accounts such as deposit processing required for various real estate investments and payment of rents & loans, which contributes to simplifying various tasks related to property ownership and improving the convenience for real estate owners. Providing data to customers can lead to peace of mind and trust. For example, we visualize the rate of decline in rent and vacancy rate for each area, and use it as a sales tool. By satisfying customers who want to know the risks properly, real estate transactions are realized with customers who are convinced. Renosy Insight also provides comprehensive rental management services at 1,080 yen per month to support our members.”

“On 12 Dec 2018, we announced that we started developing the next-generation real estate trading platform ‘Renosy CONNECT’ in which the seller receives purchase offers via LINE chat by simply registering information on his or her property. The seller will receive a property portfolio that reflects the price appraisal by AI. Based on this portfolio, it is possible to receive offers from purchasers (potential buyers) and to grasp the real-time market value of the properties they own.”

“On 10 Sep 2018, we developed the cloud construction management service ‘Rinbei’ for renovation contractors in the SaaS format, a business support service to help them realize efficiency and accuracy improvement of construction management tasks that tend to be complicated on analog paper, such as budget management and document management. The construction management process involves many contractors such as construction companies, carpenters, interior designers, water suppliers, gas suppliers, etc. Many exchanges such as ordering and contracts are still done on paper. 30 to 50 documents are exchanged per one property even at a relatively small scale. Administrative work of multiple projects is a heavy burden for people and designers. Our cloud services help shorten the time spent on the office work and our customers can focus on design, quality control, customer communication to realize high added value services.”

“Our cloud services provide (1) Unified management of various documents that include estimated orders, purchase orders, various contracts, drawings, construction photographs, instruction manuals of fixtures, etc. which are centrally managed in the cloud. It is useful not only for design and construction but also for after-sales follow-up (property management) after delivery, (2) Automatic creation of documents unique to construction companies, such as estimates, order forms, construction contracts, etc., linked with data for each project. This prevents input labor and human error, (3) Labor management of design and construction personnel linked with attendance and calendar schedule. We can confirm working hours and salary for each employee, working hours and salary cost for each project, visualize cost efficiency and labor situation of the project, (4) Image management in managing photos for each project to share to clients, teams, and instructions to merchants without data being scattered. We aim at improving the productivity and working style of the renovation industry.”

“Our KPIs to cherish: (1) sales growth, (2) membership acquisition, (3) profitability, (4) no real estate inventory. The important thing for companies to grow is to continue to ‘create customers’ as the late Peter Drucker says. We aim to be a company that keeps products and products selected for customers. The increase in our sales and membership is evidence that our products and services are accepted by customers. In order to continue to create customers, we must always stick to User First’s stance and strive to make UI/UX (User Interface/User Experience) improvement.”

“Real estate business is usually a business model to buy land and grow with inventory, and in general 50% to 80% of sales are debt. We purchase secondhand real estate in-house, sell them within a certain period of time on our matching platform, and we collect brokerage income related to the sale and purchase of real estate, as well as fee income from collecting of property after sale. Because the period from purchase of apartment to sale is short, we basically do not own real estate for sale for a long time.  We monetize real estate trading/mediation by utilizing technology and real estate inventory (real estate for sale of 425.655m yen) is only about 1.5% of sales and 9.6% of total asset. Balance sheet is healthy with net cash of 1.23bn yen (US$15.2m, gross cash 2.02bn yen, debt 794m yen). By using technology and succeeding in highly efficient matching, we realize business operation with healthy net-cash balance sheet without holding inventory. Since we treat the trading of high-priced goods called real estate as a monetization point, we consider the gross margin to be an important KPI. Currently (as of the settlement in October 2017), since the gross profit margin is 17.5%, the operating margin is 3.4%, so if you stop investment and control selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses, we can operate at 8-10% margin Since we are aiming for success in the medium to long term, we are re-investing 4 to 6% of gross profit into long-term investments.”

“Renosy is not limited to just matching used properties and renovation contents. Since March 2017, Renosy Investment Version was released. Users who are interested in investing in real estate also can proceed with the property selection and application process online. The robo advisory function proposes a real estate investment plan suitable for the user, eliminating the concern about the uncertain and opaque property proposal by real estate agents which has been considered as problematic in the past and even till now. There is also a ‘Concierge Selection’ function where users can select for themselves the salesperson that they want to talk to based on his or her achievements and field of expertise. There are also many people who are interested in investing in real estate but feel that it is annoying to talk with sales. In addition, there are people who have investment experience in the past and do not bother need a detailed explanation. By providing appropriate information to the user and controlling the number of sales contacts, we are making it possible for users to actually take action without losing interest or investment motivation.”

“In May 2018, we started the cloud-funding business in which people can invest in secondhand rental condominium for 10,000 yen per unit, concluding the investment online from application to contract and confirmation of dividend receipt upon maturity. The customer can expect a 3-8% expected annual yield with a minimum operating period of 3 months. Our cloud-funding is also introduced as a model case of the first small real estate fund specific joint project promoted by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. The number of registered members who applied to invest in a project exceeded 1,000 in Nov 2018 and the ratio of the number of applicants to each project is over 50% on average, and the high active user ratio is maintained. Renosy Finance was also established in Nov 2018 as a subsidiary and Mr. Hirofumi Gomi, the former Commissioner of the Financial Services Agency, was appointed as our technical advisor.”

We noted that GAT had made two recent acquisitions – ITANDI and ASSURENT Legal – to further complete its platform to expand from B2C to B2B and into the rental business of second-hand real estate as well as strengthening its SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) revenue model. CEO Higuchi commented on the acquisitions to take leadership in “Rental 3.0”, as well as developing its AI rental guarantee service “Renosy Forrent Insure”: “In Oct 2018, GA acquired ITANDI with the aim to create the next-generation rental service ‘Rental 3.0’. ITANDI develop B2B SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) cloud tools using AI and big data analysis for real estate management companies and brokerage firms in the rental area. The mainstream practice in the current rental market is to connect consumers from the portal sites to the physical stores and agents. ITANDI’s ‘Cloud Chint AI’ tools include Bokka-kun serving 160 real estate management companies and about 600 leasing brokerage companies with 10,000 real estate brokerage stores, or around 10% of stores nationwide, by automatically responding to the property confirmation phone calls of 900,000 times a month from the brokerage company, and AI chatbot and CRM system ‘Nomad Cloud’. The share exchange agreement to convert ITANDI into a wholly-owned subsidiary was executed on 16 Nov 2018 in which 289,855 shares are assigned, out of which are 84,520 treasury shares and 205,335 new shares issued.”

“Rental 1.0 is using real estate advertisement and exchanges on paper. Rental 2.0 is using technology to enable the search of property on the Internet with the agency store making realistic guidance correspondence. Rental 3.0 combines AI and data technology, including completing online transactions by digitization, as well as contracts and management services traditionally provided by rental services. We aim to propose an integrated rental living environment services starting from rental service.”

“While GA was buying and selling B2C services, and ITANDI was renting B2B services, I was filled with the excitement of complementing each other’s lacking points. Although the synergy on the business is clear, the culture of ITANDI was also attractive. One of the strengths of ITANDI is that the founding members have experienced business failure and bankruptcy crisis. The strength that they have overcome this becomes a very big weapon.  Another strength is their fleet-footedness in that engineers make and sell products themselves. I strongly wanted to incorporate such culture into GA as well.”

“ASSURENT Legal Co guarantees the unpaid rental risk of the lessee while working on the rental management work of the separate condominiums. ASSURENT has about 4,000 guarantee contract results. The existence of the guarantor company plays a big role in the lease contract in recent years due to the number of people who cannot establish a joint guarantor due to anxiety of social situation and various circumstances. It is this lease guarantee system that smoothly supports rental of property with peace of mind. The guarantee service is not only for residents but also for real estate companies and owners.”

“We have developed ‘Renosy Forrent Insure’, a rental guarantee service that reviews on-site rent-delinquency risk on the spot using AI based on the lessee’s attributes, past transactions and behavior data and using the scoring system to quantify the social credibility of people and companies and make a fee proposal according to the lessee’s creditworthiness. Many of the conventional rental guarantee services are likely to be expensive because they have set up delinquency risks and costs without considering the attributes of the lessor. Based on the guarantee performance data, we are promoting the introduction of examination utilizing AI, automating the warranty examination and the rent obligation guarantee business which is often executed by paper. We intend to develop valuable services from both the lessor and the lessee with the aim of greatly reducing the operating cost by introducing technology.”

On Renosy’s AI X RPA (robotic process automation) tools, CEO Higuchi commented: “Our ‘TECH SERIES’ is an AI internal business management system. These include:
(1) TECH MARKETING: DMP (Data Management Platform) for managing and utilizing various data accumulated on the Internet
(2) TECH SUPPLIER: In-house developed tools that automatically acquire and manage property information, and automatically recommend property for customers
(3) TECH CONSUL: Customer-developed CRM (Customer Relationship Management) that records and manages customer attributes and contact history and enables responding according to customers’ needs and preferences
(4) TECH MANAGEMENT: Tools to manage rental data.”

“The AI technology utilized by us in the functions include:
(1) Price · rent estimation module to support buyers’ decision-making: Estimate prices and rents from the past to the present by performing regression analysis based on the hedonic approach on time series data such as property and region attributes, transaction history, interest rates, etc.
(2) Property recommendation module: Ranked learning is performed on the search operation history of our agent and customers and displays properties by ranking to be used by the agent for proposals to customers. It increases the efficiency and quality improvement of searching and suggestion.
(3) Automatic reading and image analysis module: Digitize property information by carrying out automatic unstructured character information reading of real estate advertisement utilizing OCR (optical character reading) and automatic judgment of good or bad things in property pictures and floor plan at various angles using CNN (Convolutional Neural Network).
(4) Excellent property screening score module: By conducting semi-supervised learning with a large amount of data including our historical transaction history as input information, we realized screening of highly probable properties that transactions will take place relatively early. It contributes to efficiency improvement of purchasing work and reduction of variations in quality. With the guidance of Professor Sugiyama as our technical adviser, it is possible to achieve high precision by utilizing the unstructured data which is generally difficult to handle.”

“Since Jan 2018, we have streamlined the task of proposing high-quality real estate properties to customers by developing ‘TECH SUPPLIER’ recommendation system using AI machine learning, thereby reducing quality variations due to differences in skill and experience of purchasing personnel, contributing to improvement in customer satisfaction and performance. Employees also reduced the time to search for proposed property by 55%. It is the result of collaborative research that started with Professor Yasufumi Takama of the Tokyo Metropolitan University since August 2016. In the future, we may extend the sales of our TECH SERIES business support system for the 120,000 real estate agents nationwide. About 80% of them are small businesses of 5 people or less and it is difficult for them to invest in system development and technology.”

“Until now, sales representatives were looking at hundreds of property pamphlets they get every day and judge whether they are good or bad and this will vary depending on the employee in charge. By registering the property information gathered from the real estate broker in the database, TECH SUPPLIER narrows down the property according to the conditions specified by the customer such as price and area, then AI calculates scores for each property and ranks them. In addition to the property information, the surrounding map information of the property, such as convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants, nurseries, kindergartens, schools, libraries, hospitals, sports facilities, banks, and population of the area, such as whether there are many children, elderly, women, single people, crime rate, are also used for calculating the score and property buyers can estimate future profitability, living comfort and security.”

“By presenting the property to the sales representatives in descending order of score, time and effort for searching are saved. By screening excellent properties by AI, we will arrange a mechanism to handle instantly only good quality properties. Since we actually sell the property, we have data up to the contract. By linking with a database of how many properties are actually sold under what conditions, the AI can analyze what kind of property you can sell smoothly next. In that respect it can be said that it has good information than other portal sites.”

“TECH SUPPLIER also has its own AI X RPA (robotic process automation) tool developed by the company. In addition to automatically registering the unstructured pamphlet-like property information that is difficult to read in the conventional OCR into our database, such as the ‘apartment is a corner room’ or ‘apartment faces the sun’, it also automated some document production work. The number of man-hours required for purchasing work has been reduced to one-third of the conventional one.”

“In Aug 2018, GA entered into a business tie-up with SBJ Bank in online real estate loans. Our real estate owner management application ‘Renosy Insight’ and SBJ Bank will jointly develop an ‘online real estate investment loan review’ which allow the user to complete the process from application, contract document submission to loan screening, financial institution review and loan execution. This ‘online real estate investment loan review’ will also cooperate with TECH SUPPLIER which automatically creates property photos, map information, neighborhood information and various risks to evaluate the value of real estate subject to financing while adding various information such as price estimation. SBJ Bank will reduce the work time required from accepting applications to loan screening and loan execution by up to 75%, thereby improving the efficiency of its financial operations.”

“In TECH CONSUL, the loan examination criteria of each bank is set from the past transaction record, and the optimum financial institution and credit line are automatically selected from the registered customer attributes. It automatically outputs proposal & contract documents from the registered data that require time and effort, greatly shortening the working time per contract, and steadily increases ARPA (Average Revenue Per Agent). We accumulate high-profile high-quality customer information in TECH CONSUL, our self-developed CRM and streamline sales activities by organizing information. In addition, we learn past cases from customer attributes and propose the optimal sales approach to agents. We have marketing automation such as tracking members’ web actions, etc., and recommending projects with high contract closure. We also have a follow-up announcement function for prospective clients.”

“I invited Mr. Ken Kutaragi, the ‘Father of Sony PlayStation’ to join our AI Strategy office as an outside director and technical advisor, as well as Dr. Masashi Sugiyama who is Professor at the department of complexity science and engineering at the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences at Tokyo University and the director of RIKEN Innovation Center. In order to solve the ‘non-creative’ problem, we set up a focused department led by former Denton’s creative director Yoshihiro Kawamura who was in charge of future communication development at Dentsu’s Communication Design Center. Kawamura joined us in July 2018 and designs all user interactions and communications in an integrated manner. Kawamura was originally a customer who bought an apartment at Renosy. He was surprised that AI, not a person, was scoring the property and he was surprised at the excellence of the system. He owned multiple apartments but was finding difficulties in finding the apartments that he can buy right now. He realized the power of AI to transform the legacy and uncertain nature of the real estate industry.”

We are extremely skeptical on blockchain technology. Even McKinsey had recently reversed its earlier optimistic position to comment in its recent research “Blockchain’s Occam Razor” in Jan 2019 that “There is a clear sense that blockchain is a potential game-changer. However, there are also emerging doubts. A particular concern, given the amount of money and time spent, is that little of substance has been achieved. Of the many use cases, a large number are still at the idea stage, while others are in development but with no output. The bottom line is that despite billions of dollars of investment, and nearly as many headlines, evidence for a practical scalable use for blockchain is thin on the ground.”

CEO Higuchi understood the skepticism on blockchain technology and commented: “By implementing our patented ‘Smart Contract’ based on blockchain (distributed ledger) technology within this platform, complex real estate operations such as contracts, settlements, asset movements, registration, which have been considered difficult to digitize in the past, are digitized to low cost and are also safe and secure. Smart Contract refers to the automation in the execution of contracts. With a computer protocol intended for smooth verification, execution, and negotiation of contracts, it is possible to enter into a contract by processing transactions secured by credit without going through a third party. We also aim to revitalize real estate distribution as a whole by providing substantial business improvement and cost reduction to real estate operators who are responsible for intermediary operations.”

“As digital natives become the center of consumption and digitization is progressing in various industries, the real estate industry is still an analog industry where paper interactions such as contracts and faxes are still mainstream. In this background, in addition to industry customs, real estate transactions require complicated and highly secure acts such as contract, settlement and registration, so advanced technology is indispensable for digitizing transactions as well as financial transactions. Also, 86% of domestic real estate companies are small companies, and it is difficult for such small real estate companies to digitize within their company.”

“Blockchains are attracting attention as a technology that can manage data safely and at low cost with distributed ledger technology (technology that manages data and responsibilities distributed over the network). Along with the fields of finance and medical care, even in real estate transactions requiring complex and high security, expectations for blockchain technology are increasing, mainly in the management of registration information and contract work. Against this backdrop, we have built a real-estate digital platform that consumers and real estate agents can trade with peace of mind using blockchain technology.”

“As the first step, we have built it specialized in the field of rental transactions that can be digitized in the current legal system and we plan to implement services for rental transactions in the form of field verification in the spring of 2019. Notably, from the amendment of the Building Transaction Business Law in 2017, important explanations using the online system has been approved for rental transactions. Specifically, borrowers and lenders of rental properties can exchange contracts, complete tenancy examination, as well as services on living and property management on the same platform through smartphones and personal computer terminals.”

“As a result, in addition to improving the efficiency of rental services, such as rental contracts that are not bound by location and time, and significant management cost reductions, we also offer rental settings based on auction method and support for public infrastructure services such as electricity, gas, and water. In the past, the lender decided the rent setting based on neighboring rent prices and the value of the building etc. In this auction mechanism that we are developing, we propose the rent amount paid to the lessor by the auction method, and the lender chooses the tenant based on that, so the rent fluctuates according to the real demand of the property. This makes it possible for rental prices to rise naturally in popular properties, and to increase distribution opportunities by lowering rents for unpopular properties. We aim to create new services in the rental area. Through the realization of this real estate digital platform, we aim to develop a real estate service and a better living environment that is fair and trustable for everyone.”

While GAT is profitable and positive free cashflow generative now, CEO Higuchi shared that his personal and entrepreneurial journey to start GAT has been full of struggles. CEO Higuchi shared reflectively the inspiring story: “GA is a story that began with setbacks and failures. I was born in Tokyo in 1982. From a young age since I was in elementary school, I aimed at becoming a global football player. When I was playing soccer, I will not drink Coke, I do not eat Mac (laugh). I was chasing this dream seriously and I advanced to Teikyo High School who was the National Championship regular winner. Even in high school, I was practicing all the time. I did not go to university after graduating from high school and I was playing as a semi-professional at JEF United Chiba, a Japanese professional football club that plays in the J2 League. I entered the Tokyo · Kanto selection, but still I could not become a professional. At the age of 24, I gave up my dream of becoming a footballer. This decision is like the end of my life. For nearly 20 years, I have been aiming for a football career and my dreams were despaired. I have experienced frustration that I did not become a professional player in football. My failure in professional football is the driving force initiator. I sent my resume to more than 40 companies but there was not a single company that allowed me to be interviewed. I turned to becoming a businessman and worked for a real estate company doing sales for four years. I was blessed in working with the boss of the real estate company. I remembered the word that the Teikyo High School director told me, ‘This experience will surely live.’ Every day I worked at midnight or until 3 to 4am in the morning. I took on the manager position and managed 50 sales staff. As the real estate industry was analog, I was aware of the value of bringing technology here in this information revolution.”

“In 2013 we started from a company with three people; now we have achieved sales of over 20 billion yen and friends close to 300 people. There was, of course nothing at the time of its founding. There was only spirit and enthusiasm. In the absence of money, achievements, and companions, I first started to create the most important mission for the company ‘What we are creating for and for what purpose?’ Without this sense of mission, people never gather. Our mission is ‘technology × innovation, inspiring people’. We developed used real estate distribution business from the foundation and we wanted to revolutionize technology in the very analog real estate industry while forming a huge market.”

“I think that the two most important things in corporate management are where management are aiming and how they want to contribute to the world throughout their lives. When you learn from history, every company that can continue to grow as a result of listing has a strong vision. And it is characterized by extremely disliking maintaining the status quo. The way our company is aiming is to create a global company, global service. It is not good to have grown one year or two years, we aim to achieve great success in the medium to long term, 5 years, 10 years. While it is very important to set up a big idea, more achievements have to accompany it. In recent years, it is said that ‘people who say big things are decreasing’. It is more important to say the results. Because there should be responsibility there. So, I did not engage in PR activities for four years. I was working until midnight, so I never went drinking. I decided to go outside when the company’s sales reached around 10 billion yen. I will continue to manage the company with a strong feeling without forgetting my original intention.”

“At the time of foundation, we had to make sales. I think that I could not survive unless I clear the wall in front of my eyes. When I was establishing, I was conscious of this mission every day, I think that there were a lot of people who are not conscious. However, when making important decisions, the mission always appears in the head. It is an unchanging feeling since our foundation.”

“I have succeeded from three failures, What kind of trial and errors were there before I got to the current business model? At the beginning of entrepreneurship, I challenged the Airbnb homestay matching business. I thought that the novelty is interesting, but this did not work at all. I respect the founder of YCombinator Paul Graham who said: ’To succeed in a new business, it is about product-market fit. It is useless while you are looking for ideas and you have to solve the problem in front of you.’ I was trying to put out ideas and to overwhelm new business against what I did not feel strongly about. This is a typical pattern that does not work. I was just thinking about how to create a creative idea. Taking advantage of that reflection, when I switched to the solution-oriented way, things have advanced.”

“Initially, we failed to recruit our software and web engineers. The cause was obvious, I did not have any programming knowledge. I did not even know then that there was a difference in the programming language. I studied at a programming school for two months. Also, I put my own seat near the engineering team and I also tried communicating with the engineers. I think that the degree of understanding to development is high now. Today, there are around 300 employees and development/engineers account for around 100 of the total.”

CEO Higuchi summed up by emphasizing GAT’s management philosophy, CS (“Customer Success”) and corporate culture of making everything open to make it easy for people to make decisions: “Our management philosophy is ‘Technology x Innovation, Inspiring People’. We describe innovation” as “creating services that the user has never experienced yet and provide new value to the user and make them feel inspired. All members must be strongly aware that they are sincere professionals. We constantly pursue best practices, provide high quality and sophisticated performance to extend Win-Win many times, and have an unwavering ambition to continue to challenge to grow autonomously.”

“I think that there are two types of entrepreneurs. Type 1 is a creative person with a certain background and achievement since the start of entrepreneurship. There is credibility in the career so far even if they do not have a track record as a company, so it is easy for people to gather at the employment side. Type 2 is someone who did not have a career at the founding. Since I started the business, I knew that I was completely Type 2, so I decided that I had to develop human resources until I got a track record.”

“Our company is the only real estate company out of the 120,000 companies who hire customers who bought our products and services to become our employees. Because we are hiring people who actually use the service and understand the product and the company highly, we are able to proactively propose services from the user’s point of view. I am very glad that more than 20 people who have used our services have joined. Our CFO and personnel managers were originally GA customers. Purchasing of real estate is a big decision in life, in excess of 100 million yen in some cases. People who decided to join the company feel that ‘GA technologies helped us make such big decisions’ and ‘I’m going to grow’. It is very encouraging for us to improve the service and product when the users who actually used them are inside the company.”

“There are three points to look at by recruiting. The first is ‘a good person’. Secondly, ‘the willingness to grow’ is high. The third is ‘what you can do hard’. In a nutshell, it may be called ‘personality’. A company cannot be done by one person. Teamwork is necessary to fight in the organization, so the personality is very important. Apart from a real genius, the ability of ordinary people is almost unchanged. Thanks and gratitude will lead to performance someday. It can be said that a personality person will produce results in the long run.”

“Since I have experience in real estate sales, I understand more about the workplace than anyone, and I am still in the front as the person responsible for CS, defined as Customer Success at our company. I am strengthening AI and digital development, but I also place great importance on analog issues as well. For example, we hold a party inviting customers called GA tech Party, so that all officers of the company will attend. So I encounter it directly and listen carefully to the customer’s voice. It is analogical, but I think it is very important. We also participate in the CS site to go to meet customers who purchased real estate once a week. Of course, we will receive feedback directly which is very helpful. You can tell how much the customer is saying, including expressions and tones. I want CS to accurately grasp such a fine part. I think CS is still my important work now. The reason why Airbnb worked is said to be because the founder was responsible for CS. I think that companies in Japan are overwhelmingly less likely to listen to the user compared to Silicon Valley.”

“I think that it is not a good idea to separate engineer and sales staff. Actually, sales and engineers are working on the same floor at GA. Engineers tend to make something they want to make rather than based on thinking about the user. Even if you say ‘Let’s ask users’, they do not ask. Engineers tend not to want to meet people. Currently, sales and engineers visit customers together to conduct user hearing. Thanks to continuing this effort, sales representatives who came up with only 10 ideas for streamlining work in only half a year are now able to send 10 ideas daily. The walls of sales and engineers with different cultures and expertise were destroyed by the amount of dialogue we have.”

“From the beginning of our foundation, we are also conscious of ‘making everything open’. Every time we were in the red, we made it public, and we posted the progress of all departments on the board and made it public. Opening up the information makes it possible to quantify and reveal all the risks. Then, the feelings of anxiety and disturbance will clear up, you can make a better decision. Under the spirit of ‘There is nothing that cannot be digitized’, we make everything open and make it easy to decide.”

Always looking ahead, CEO Higuchi shared his plans to expand into the Construction-Tech, Insurance-Tech and FinTech areas with Real Estate-Tech as a foothold: “The real estate market is a huge market that exceeds 40 trillion yen, and there are still many things we can do. The second-hand renovation market is also the future market. The second-hand and renovation market is expected to expand from 11 trillion yen in 2013 to 20 trillion yen in 2025. Financial, construction, and insurance, which have high affinity with real estate, are also big markets of tens of trillion yen each. For instance when purchasing real estate it is necessary to form a loan and the structure of the mortgage is also analog. We will incorporate technology into legacy industries valued by society, and will continue to create permanent ‘customer creation’ by innovating the industry and expanding into the construction and financial industry with ReTech as a foothold.”


Intrigued and want to read more? Download this week’s H.E.R.O. HeartWare: Weekly Asia Tech News with brief highlights of the inspiring entrepreneurial stories of tech leaders in Asia whom we have been monitoring over the past decade in our broader watchlist of over 300 listed Asian tech companies and our focused portfolio of 40 HERO Innovators who reveal their problems and successes behind building the company. Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s photo-journalistic project Humans of New York which collects and highlights the street portraits and moving stories of people on the streets around us who were doing things that changed lives and made a difference in the city but often went unnoticed, we have curated a collection of Hear the Heart of the H.E.R.O. stories on our website which we aim to update with refreshing and uplifting new stories weekly. Please check them out and give us your valuable feedback so that we can improve to make them better for you.


It started with rethinking a few questions. Question No. 1: Can the megacap tech elephants still dance? Or is this the better question: Is there an alternative and better way to capture long-term investment returns created by disruptive forces and innovation without chasing the highly popular megacap tech stocks, or falling for the “Next-Big-Thing” trap in overpaying for “growth”, or investing in the fads, me-too imitators, or even in seemingly cutting-edge technologies without the ability to monetize and generate recurring revenue with a sustainable and scalable business model? How can we distinguish between the true innovators and the swarming imitators?

Question No. 2: What if the “non-disruptive” group of reasonably decent quality companies with seemingly “cheap” valuations, a fertile hunting ground of value investors, all need to have their longer-term profitability and balance sheet asset value to be “reset” by deducting a substantial amount of deferred innovation-related expenses and investments every year, given that they are persistently behind the innovation cycle against the disruptors, just to stay “relevant” to survive and compete? Let’s say this invisible expense and deferred liability in the balance sheet that need to be charged amount to 20 to 30% of the revenue (or likely more), its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lurks and lies in wait. Would you still think that they are still “cheap” in valuation?

Consider the déjà vu case of Kmart vs Walmart in 2000s and now Walmart vs Amazon. It is easy to forget that Kmart spent US$2 billion in 2000/01 in IT and uses the same supplier as Walmart – IBM. The tangible assets and investments are there in the balance sheet and valuations are “cheap”. Yet Kmart failed to replicate to compound value the way it did for Walmart. Now Walmart is investing billions to “catch up” and stay relevant. Key word is “relevancy” to garner valuation.

We now live in an exponential world, and as the Baupost chief and super value investor Seth Klarman warns, disruption is accelerating “exponentially” and value investing has evolved. The paradigm shift to avoid the cheap-gets-cheaper “value traps”, to keep staying curious & humble, and to keep learning & adapting, has never been more critical for value investors. We believe there is a structural break in data in the market’s multi-year appraisal (as opposed to “mean reversion” in valuation over a time period of 2-5 years) on the type of business models, the “exponential innovators”, that can survive, compete and thrive in this challenging exponential world we now live in. Tech-focused innovators with non-linear exponential growth potential are the most relevant multi-year investment trend and opportunity.  

During our value investing journey in the Asian capital jungles over the decade plus, we have observed that many entrepreneurs were successful at the beginning in growing their companies to a certain size, then growth seems to suddenly stall or even reverse, and they become misguided or even corrupted along the way in what they want out of their business and life, which led to a deteriorating tailspin, defeating the buy-and-hold strategy and giving currency to the practice of trading-in-and-out of stocks. On the other hand, there exists an exclusive, under-the-radar, group of innovators who are exceptional market leaders in their respective fields with unique scalable business models run by high-integrity, honorable and far-sighted entrepreneurs with a higher purpose in solving high-value problems for their customers and society whom we call H.E.R.O. – “Honorable. Exponential. Resilient. Organization.”, the inspiration behind the H.E.R.O Innovators Fund, (surprisingly) the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry.

The H.E.R.O. are governed by a greater purpose in their pursuit to contribute to the welfare of people and guided by an inner compass in choosing and focusing on what they are willing to struggle for and what pains they are willing to endure, in continuing to do their quiet inner innovation work, persevering day in and day out. There’s a tendency for us to think that to be a disruptive innovator or to do anything grand, you have to have a special gift, be someone called for. We think ultimately what really matters is the resolve — to want to do it, bring the future forward by throwing yourself into it, to give your life to that which you consider important. We aim to penetrate into the deeper order that whispers beneath the surface of tech innovations and to stand on the firmer ground of experience hard won through hearing and distilling the essence of the stories of our H.E.R.O. in overcoming their struggles and in understanding the origin of their quiet life of purpose, who opened their hearts to us that resilience and innovation is an art that can be learned, which can embolden all of us with more emotional courage and wisdom to go about our own value investing journey and daily life.

As the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused listed equities fund in the industry, we believe we are uniquely positioned as a distinctive and alternative investment strategy for both institutional and individual investors who seek to capture long-term investment returns created by disruptive forces and innovation without herding or crowding to invest in the highly popular megacap tech stocks, and also provide capital allocation benefit to investors in building optionality in their overall investment portfolio.

The H.E.R.O. HeartWare Weekly highlights interesting tech news and listed Asian emerging tech innovators with unique and scalable wide-moat business models to keep yourself well-informed about disruptive forces and innovation, new technologies and new business models coming up, and the companies that ride on and benefit from them in some of the most promising areas of the economy in Asia as part of our thought leadership for our ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund to add value to our clients and the community. Hope you find the weekly report to be useful and insightful. Please give us your candid feedback and harshest criticisms so that we can improve further to serve you better. Besides the BATTSS (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, TSMC, Softbank, Samsung), do also tell us which Asian tech entrepreneurs & CEOs whom you admire and respect and why – we will endeavor to do up profiles of them for sharing with the community. Thank you very much and have a beautiful week ahead.

Warm regards,
KB | kb@heroinnovator.com | WhatsApp +65 9695 1860
www.heroinnovator.com

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H.E.R.O.’s Journey in Tech (12 January 2019) – Apple’s Next Big Move? It Should Buy Nintendo + Why Some Platforms Thrive and Others Don’t

H.E.R.O.’s Journey in Tech (12 January 2019) – Apple’s Next Big Move? It Should Buy Nintendo + Why Some Platforms Thrive and Others Don’t

Companies

  • China’s Ctrip faces turbulence in journey to the top; Online travel giant forced to fend off rising tech rivals in uncertain economic times (Nikkei)
  • CES 2019: iFLYTEK’s Translator 2.0 works with 63 languages (Neowin)
  • No end in sight to Xiaomi’s woes as outlook dims (Nikkei)
  • Apple’s Next Big Move? It Should Buy Nintendo (Barron’s)
  • LG Chem lifts China battery investment by $1bn, eyeing exports; Company looks to Western electric-car markets as Beijing favors local suppliers (Nikkei)
  • Infosys increases revenue growth forecast amid upbeat technology spending trend (Nikkei)

BATTSS – Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, TSMC, Samsung, Softbank

  • WeChat takes on Ant Financial with new, integrated credit scoring system (Technode); WeChat pins future on Chinese users’ growing penchant for video, photo (Technode); WeChat creator gives marathon talk on super app (Investor); WeChat’s ambitious plans to reshape daily lives (Investor)
  • Alibaba launches ‘A100’ initiative to drive its evolution into a global enterprise tech provider (SCMP)

FAANNMG – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Nvidia, Netflix, Microsoft, Google

  • What Amazon’s Alexa microwave teaches us about interacting with AI assistants (TNW)
  • What Amazon’s Rise to No. 1 Says About the Stock Market (WSJ)
  • Amazon Is Becoming More Powerful Than You Realize; Retail and Alexa are just the start of the path toward total domination (Medium)
  • Apple Maps is finally getting turn-by-turn navigation in India (TNW)
  • Apple Watchers Are Already Looking Toward the Next Next iPhones (Barron’s)
  • Google vs Amazon At CES: The Battle For The Future Of Voice (And Computing) (Forbes)

Asia Tech & Innovation Trends

  • World’s most valuable AI startup SenseTime unveils self-driving center in Japan (Techcrunch)
  • China’s proptech space and 3 key takeaways (Technode)
  • Giant CES fair in Vegas shows US remains too big to ignore for Chinese tech firms even as trade war swirls (SCMP)
  • 2018: a boom year for Chinese apps in India; ByteDance and co. are a massive new force in India’s app ecosystem. (KRA)
  • Taiwan tech struggles to find growth path in fog of trade war; Onetime highfliers sink into the red — or bankruptcy (Nikkei)

Global Tech & Innovation Trends

  • Don’t overestimate AI’s understanding of human language (TNW)
  • A New Vision for the Future of Driving; At CES, car companies are showcasing new designs that will fundamentally alter the automotive experience (Medium)
  • Bose brings its noise-cancelling tech to cars; Unfortunately the vehicle won’t actually be wearing headphones (TNW)
  • This Reclusive Engineer Is Plotting The Death Of Blockchain (Forbes)
  • Postmates Adds $100 Million In Funding As Food Delivery Co. Prepares For Potential IPO (Forbes)
  • This Obsbot Tail Is An A.I. Camera Can Track And Identify Faces Even In A Crowd (Forbes)
  • Slack Sets the Stage for an Unusual Year of IPOs (Barron’s); Slack Plans to Follow Spotify on Unconventional IPO Route (WSJ)
  • What Disney’s Streaming Service Means for its Box Office Strategy (Barron’s)
  • What I Saw at the Consumer Electronics Show (Barron’s); 3 Ways Tech Will Do the Walking for You in 2019; Urban commutes can be tedious. To the rescue: Segway’s new suite of self-balancing ‘micro-mobility’ transporters released at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (WSJ)
  • Beyond Machine Learning: Capturing Cause-and-Effect Relationships; On the horizon: Pre-defined AI models delivered as a service. (WSJ)
  • Corporate investors pile into electric vehicle startups (Reuters)

Life

  • Why Some Platforms Thrive and Others Don’t (HBR)
  • The key to effective goal-setting is a little theory called “Pain + Reflection” (qz)
  • The High Cost of Financial Panics: Roman emperors and American presidents alike have struggled to deal with sudden economic crashes (WSJ)
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