Student-established company Branchism, Inc.
The impetus for developing an event-based matching application to accelerate encounters
In the summer of 2021, amidst the Corona disaster, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were held in Japan for the first time in 57 years. In Fukushima Prefecture, baseball and softball games were held in Fukushima City, and many people cheered for the athletes from Japan and abroad, creating great excitement. However, there were no real spectators in the stadiums, and all that could be seen on the screens of TVs, smartphones, and tablets at home were the athletes' dynamic movements. Not only at the Olympics, but in our daily lives as well, we were greatly affected by requests for self-restraint, such as restricting outings and keeping activities to a small number of people.
"When I was on my own, my days and nights were reversed, my meals were irregular, and I had no discipline, to the point where it wasn't good for me psychologically. It was to the point where it was not good for me psychologically. I had to start doing something". The first thing Miss. Hashimoto thought of was meeting people in real life. "In order to meet people, you need to prepare for it and get yourself ready for it. I strongly felt that meeting people is important for maintaining one's humanity and sociality. That is what made me want to start this service".
He created a prototype application that focused only on "meeting people" and launched it to her friends and acquaintances around him. The response was better than expected, with approximately 60 people responding in one week and a usage rate of 25%, giving him confidence that she could meet everyone's needs and solve their problems. However, in order to actually operate this service, they realized that it would not fit within the relationships they had around them, due to human, operational, and systemic issues. she consulted with an IT company in Sendai with whom she had long been connected and her surrounding acquaintances, and they gave him a push to try commercializing the service. This was the moment when Miss. Hashimoto was shown the road map to starting her own business.
"Splannt", a service of Blanchism Inc.
The idea sparked for Miss. Hashimoto in October 2021. After getting a good response from the prototype application, she decided to start a business in November and established a company with a staff of five in December. The members of the company seemed to be made up of her classmates and juniors from the University of Aizu, whom she was comfortable with. "I felt that I absolutely had to do this, and my desire to do it outweighed the risk, so I got the staff involved in the momentum (laughs). I was one of them (laugh)," replied Mr. Sukegawa, who enjoys Miss. Hashimoto's trust. Mr. Sukegawa is currently a senior at the University of Aizu. I myself was involved in various projects at the University of Aizu and actively participated in training programs and study abroad programs. Among them, the Silicon Valley internship experience was a great learning experience". The more she learned, the more insatiable her desire to take the next step grew, and what opened the door to a new challenge for Ms. Sukegawa was the fascinating and unknown word "entrepreneurship" that Miss. Hashimoto suggested to her. The more realistic social experience of starting a business seemed like an unparalleled opportunity to test my experience," Sukegawa said. The driving force behind the start-up was the exquisite teamwork between the two university students, with Mr. Sukegawa providing substantive support for Miss. Hashimoto's vision.
'The company name "Branchism" is a combination of the words "branch" and "ism," expressing our desire to develop our services in many different directions, just like branches'. Hashimoto and her team's goal is to create a world in which young people feel free and happy in their free moments. 'We want to create a service that can solve the mental problems of young people. Rather than reaching out to them, as young people and parties involved, we say, "Let's do it together! I imagine it as a high-five'.
'In order to realize the goal of starting a business, I devised an event-based matching service for students called "Splannt. We are working on developing an application that will help create "opportunities" for students to go out with peace of mind in today's restrictive environment'. An important business that will become a pillar of Branchism's foundation has begun to take shape. 'The name "Splannt" is an acronym for "S", which stands for School and Student and means for young people, and "Plant" is a plant linked to the "branching" of the company name "Branchism", as well as "Plan" and "Net (network)". We are currently gathering needs through demonstration experiments in preparation for a full-scale launch in April'.
Demonstration experiment to verify demand for matching services
So what exactly is the event-based matching service "Splannt" that Miss. Hashimoto and her team are aiming for? It is different from "general dating services. What we have in mind is 'event-based matching. College is about entering a new community, but today's college students are mainly taking online classes and not participating in circle activities or events, so they lose the opportunity to make friends in the first place, and have to start from the beginning to figure out how to find their own place in the world. To do this, we interview users about 'what kind of people they would like to meet,' such as people with whom they have a good conversation, or who share their hobbies, etc., and then offer suggestions to users according to their objectives of 'what they would like to do. We call this "event-based matching. In addition, by cooperating with stores in town, we would like to provide a place where mutually approved students can meet each other in real life in town. We have heard some local residents say, "I don't see students in town," and we are convinced that Sprunt can provide an opportunity for the town and its youth to connect, and can also be a service that will revitalize the town after the Corona disaster. Currently, we are using existing platforms on social networking sites to collect feedback from people who say they would like to participate in the project, and we would like to use this data to develop an app for the project. According to the questionnaires obtained from the demonstration experiment, the overall result was a large number of people seeking to meet people, and they are aware of the high demand for the application.
In the midst of this Corona disaster, the University of Aizu has begun to offer online and real classes in parallel, and has been shown to keep a proper log of what they do and where they go with a minimum number of people, "By keeping a log distribution of behavioral history, we do not limit 'opportunities to meet' and 'look for new connections. The results of our demonstration tests tell us that our matching service, which can meet their needs, can definitely reach out to students and young people," she said. The demonstration test is an essential mission for the release of the app. The demonstration experiment that Mr. Sukegawa is working on is the key to our success". The demonstration experiment before the release of the app in April will also serve as advance PR for the matching service, and we believe it will be effective in increasing the number of users after the release.
The challenge here is to raise funds. Another important aspect of getting the business off the ground is how to generate sales by providing a place for students to meet each other as an "event-participation matching" service. We are now working on the business model with guidance from various people in Sendai and Tokyo, including IT firms and university professors. One is a fee for the use of an official account that allows companies to interact with students. Small and medium-sized companies in particular want to engage with university students, but in reality, they cannot approach students unless they know them, and there is no place to hear their voices. Students also said they want to interact with working people to gain experience and learn about what industries exist outside of the job hunting arena. We will build a platform that not only connects young people with each other and with stores in town, but also allows young people and companies to easily connect with each other in an unprecedented SNS-like way. The second is to create a database of the real and diversified preferences of the participating youth and students, including current trends and interests, to be used for corporate marketing and other purposes. says Miss. Hashimoto.
Thoughts at the time of enrollment open the door to a new approach to "entrepreneurship
On February 22, Branchism Inc. was certified as a venture company originating from the University of Aizu and the award was presented to the company on campus. A ceremony was held to celebrate. The ceremony was held at the school's office in the city of Kure, Tokyo, and was attended by the students and faculty. We are one of them. Looking back on her time at the University of Aizu, Miss. Hashimoto said, "Ever since I was a child, I liked meeting people, but I was not good at conveying my thoughts or putting them into a coherent sentence. I was thinking about it," she said. At that time, she had an opportunity to learn about the field of "bio-signals," and intuited that she might be able to create something that could communicate externally using brain waves, electrocardiograms, etc. Hashimoto entered the University of Aizu, which has a laboratory in the Bioinformation Engineering course that uses IT to analyze data related to people. "In the future, I wanted to become a researcher who could create something that would allow people who feel limited to exercise their own power. At that time, I never dreamed that I would start my own business (laughs)".
The University of Aizu has an academic culture that respects and fully supports students "what they want to do," and this is true not only in research but also in entrepreneurship. This school is recommended for students who want to try something even if they have no knowledge of the subject. I hope that when you enter the school, you will use our application "Splannt" to find and connect with new friends," said Miss. Hashimoto with a smile.
Shihomi Hashimoto, President and CEO
First-year master's student at the University of Aizu. she started Branchism Inc. based on her own experience. she has commercialized her desire to "realize a society in which young people can live their lives in their own way.
Takuya Sukegawa, COO
Fourth-year student at the University of Aizu. As one of the founding members of Branchism Inc., she is mainly responsible for the demonstration experiments that are important for the realization of the business concept.
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