Bridge, based in Tokyo, is a provider of mobile communication and retailer information service that caters specifically to international tourists in Japan. The startup, founded in January earlier this year, has announced that its tourist information service platform, Trip Free has managed to secure a funding round from iSGS Investment Works.
What appears to be interesting is that the funding group, in October, has also invested US$12 million in a startup of a similar nature, that is a mobile application for restaurant reservation management called TORETA. The details of this investment amount or payment date, however, were undisclosed.
Though both startups deal with restaurant reservations, Trip Free, in essence, is a free SIM card service for foreigners who are visiting Japan. The Trip Free service distributes 50MB data SIM cards for free to inbound tourists to provide them with tourist information via the company’s portal website. The SIM cards are also available for usual internet use as well. But if the data communication amount exceeds the free capacity of 50MB, users will be charged for additional capacity, or obtain such capacity for free by booking a restaurant via the Trip Free website.
According to Bridge CEO Yusuke Matsumoto, he has in mind a business model charging retailers for each completed reservation, aiming at information provision for 40 million inbound tourists in 2020, in line with the Japanese government’s goal for the Olympic year visitors.
“Through questionnaires to foreign visitors in Japan, we discovered that many of them have similarly faced troubles in terms of the language barrier, internet environment as well as the understanding of maps. So, at first we came up with a solution, a kind of taxi service which takes them directly to the restaurants first,” Yusuke Matsumoto, Bridge CEO tells about the story behind the commencement of Trip Free.
However, he later gave up that method due to the bad cost balance to the service and instead prioritized the improvement of Japan’s mobile Internet connectivity. That idea led to free SIM card provision and associating customer guidance that was seen as a business opportunity to grasp the route of information provision which visitors are likely to use.
“We perform intermediation of guidance or reservation for restaurants because restaurants are often concerned about last-minute cancellations by foreigners. Preventing the occurrence of cancellations by adopting advance payment with credit cards, we allow users to use this service for free by charging restaurants 10% of the sales amount as commission” Matsumoto added.
The additional capacity will be available with about 2,000 yen (about US$18.7) per GB. Since the service adopted Soracom SIM card, Soracom’s price fluctuations might alter the final pricing. Currently, Trip Free has been distributing SIM cards at about 10 hotels or youth hostels accepting inbound tourists in and around Tokyo, and been reaching 15,000 users.
For more information, please visit http://www.trip-free.com/register
By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media