Japan-US Business Report Logo

No. 357, June 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


DIGITAL SIGN CORP., a Kanagawa prefecture company that specializes in buying and developing electronic commerce-related intellectual property, acquired for stock PAWNBROKER.COM, INC. and took the Reno, Nevada company's name as its own. It also raised $3 million through a private placement. This money will be used for additional hardware and software requirements as well as for marketing and working capital as Pawnbroker.Com attempts to become the leader in the sale of high-quality goods at reasonable prices through the Internet.

On top of an initial investment of $30 million, companies affiliated with SOFTBANK CORP. put another $35 million into INSWEB CORP. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 352, January 1999, p. 7). The Redwood City, California company, which bills itself as the Internet's leading insurance marketplace, helps people shopping for insurance save time and money by offering free, multiple quotes from 33 insurers providing automobile, term life, homeowners, renters, individual health and short-term medical coverage. InsWeb will use part of the Softbank money to develop a variety of additional products and services for its site. In the meantime, the two companies are moving forward with their plan to develop an on-line insurance marketplace for Japanese consumers.

The venture capital fund affiliated with SOFTBANK HOLDINGS INC. was one of two major participants in an $8 million initial round of financing for ANYDAY. COM, INC. The goal of the Cambridge, Massachusetts business, which had a June launch date for its site, is to put people in control of their day by offering them easy-to-use management services integrated with a comprehensive event directory, group calendaring and scheduling — all of which can be synchronized with leading personal information management and PDA products.

Four international heavyweights have agreed to combine forces to create a "robust, secure, flexible and scalable" infrastructure for the distribution of digital music and other media over the Internet. The project to develop and test what is being called electronic media distribution technology brings together MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. with AT&T CORP., BMG ENTERTAINMENT, a unit of Germany's BERTELSMANN AG, and UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP, a SEAGRAM CO. business. MEI will contribute technology to thwart illegal copying. It also will develop consumer electronics products to store and retrieve media, something that the EMD technology will allow. AT&T will provide its a2b music compression and encryption technologies, while BMG Entertainment and Universal Music, both biggies in the recorded music business, will supply content. The four partners hope to begin a U.S. trial of the EMD technology, which will provide access to graphics, video, lyrics and links to Web sites in addition to digital music, before yearend.

So impressed was the Deloitte Consulting unit of DELOITTE & TOUCHE LLP with HITACHI, LTD.'s TradeLink that it tied up with HITACHI COMPUTER PRODUCTS (AMERICA), INC., the U.S. marketer of Hitachi's software products, to offer the suite of Internet commerce software to the world's biggest corporations. The focus of the partnership is to integrate and streamline companies' business-to-business and business-to-consumer Internet commerce solutions while preserving their investments in legacy and enterprise resource planning systems.

The Torrance, California marketing unit of ALPINE ELECTRONICS, INC., which bills itself as the pioneer of navigation systems for cars and trucks, has released the fourth generation of software for its in-vehicle GPS (global positioning satellite) route-guidance system. The new version, priced at $150, includes such added features as points of interest category searches, autodialing a destination and receiving wireless data and text messages.

An exchange rate of ¥122=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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