11 February 2010

Episode 23 Any competitors of iKifu?

Yes and no actually.

Part of the business plan is to do some researches about  my competitors and I have found a website really close to what I want to build. The website is www.ammado.com . The founders are Irish and started the website in 2008. After two years, the website has only a little more than 12'000 members, so I don't consider it as a success story but I think it gives valuable lessons:

1) I must give credits to the website's developers, who have done an excellent job. I think this that in terms of functionalities, Ammado.com has most of the features I was thinking about and the ideas of having the profiles of majors companies in there is also very good.

2) Donation process: I found it quite well done for standards payment means. Major debit and credit cards are listed, allowing donations to be made from many countries but nothing really specific to Japan. Also, there is no way to make a mobile donation by sending SMS. In other words, the process is far from being quick.

3) Numbers of members: looking at the supporters population of the website, we can see that the 3 major countries are Ireland, the USA and surprisingly China.  Compared to the 350 Mios users oon Facebook,  a total 12'000 for Ammado.com is like a drop in the ocean. I don't know the exact reasons why the website is not so successful, but I think the problem might have been the business strategy of the website. Most of people using Social Networks ( SNS) are on Facebook or Mixi in Japan. It is then really difficult for a new SNS to rise, unless it gives something revolutionary to its users. iKifu will face the same challenges than Ammado.com, so I believe that we need to add something that no one is doing. Adding the mobile donation feature to iKifu is one thing, allowing the NPOs to manage the communication with their supporters is another, but I think that providing entertainment for the users on the website is also essential and I think that what really lack in Ammado.com there is very few incentive for the users to come back.

I think the lesson to learn from Ammado, is that the success of a website is not strongly correlated to the numbers of features but to the benefits a website gives to its users.  I will keep on searching some ideas for iKifu, so that people want to come back.

Episode 22 NPO or not NPO?

NPO or not NPO, that is the question...
After doing some researches about NPO creation in Japan, I found out that the process was rather complicated.

First, you need to download a 10 page NPO application form from the Tokyo government website, then explain in Japanese, what is the purpose of your NPO, nominate 3 directors, 1 auditor and find  6 other members.
Then, after sending the application, you have wait to for 4 months before your organization can be approved. The good point is that the application process is free but as you see not very simple.

After consulting different lawyers and balancing the advantages and disadvantages of the two options, I have finally decided to go for a normal company. The reasons are multiples, but one that was important, was that I had originally planned to go to Japanese foundations in order to apply for grants for my project. However, I found out that it was quite difficult to get one and that the process would also take 3-4 months before any funds could be unlocked.

Because my organization we be  providing a service to the NPOs,  I came to realize that there is not really good reasons why I should go for an non profit organization. I think that I should rather consider myself as a social entrepreneur, whose goal is to reach win-win solutions for all the players in the NPO sector.