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Nikkei BP Announces the Sixteenth Japan Innovators Award Winners

The Grand Prize Goes to Shintaro Yamada, President & CEO of Mercari Inc, for Developing the Flea Market App.

Tokyo – November 14, 2017 - Nikkei Business Publications (President & CEO: Suguru Niinomi; Tokyo) has announced the winners of 16th Japan Innovators Award 2017.

Established in 2002, the award aims to stimulate the country by shedding light on unique and innovative individuals. This will be the 16th time. The nomination was made from individuals in a broad range of fields who created new industries and business models, new technologies for the future, and new universal values. The final selection committee was held the other day, and the winners of the Grand Prize, Excellence Award, and Special Award were decided.

The awarding ceremony will take place at 5 p.m. on December 5 (Tue.) at the meeting room “Kazanami” of Conrad Hotel in Minato-ward of Tokyo.

[Winners]

Grand Prize

Mr. Shintaro Yamada
President & CEO, Mercari
“For creating a new distribution market for second-hand goods by developing the smartphone app mercari”

Excellence Award

Mr. Eiichi Kawamoto
Representative, Kawamoto Institute of Technology
“For innovating the technology of the cleaner head Switle that attaches to and transforms the ordinary vacuum”

Excellence Award

Mr. Shintaro Naganuma
President, BAKE Inc.
“For establishing a new business model to confectionery market by producing only one product under one brand (store) and making the deliciousness and management efficiency possible at the same time”

Special Award

Ms. Chizu Nakamoto
RICCI EVERYDAY COO
“For establishing a local workshop in Uganda to sell handmade bags made out of fabrics and helping the local single mothers in Uganda towards their independence”

Soft Power Award

Mr. Yusaku Furuya
Screenwriter
“For improving the motivation to learn for many elementary school students by incorporating unko (poop) in his Unko Kanji Doriru (Poop Kanji Drills)”

[Comments]

Grand Prize

Mr. Shintaro Yamada
President & CEO, Mercari
Mr. Yamada has lead the development of smartphone app “mercari,” turning it into a service highly acclaimed by the young generation. He expanded the flea market economy online, and the app has records of more than 60 million downloads in Japan and 25 million downloads in United States. Mercari is one of a few unicorn companies (an unlisted company with a market capitalization of more than $1 billion) in Japan, and overseas expansion in US and other areas is anticipated. The company also launched “Mercari Fund” to invest in startups to speed up the expansion of C2C market.

Excellence Award

Mr. Eiichi Kawamoto
Representative, Kawamoto Institute of Technology
Mr. Kawamoto invented the technology of “Switle” which is a cleaner head that turns an ordinary vacuum into waterjet cleaner. Switle launched for sale in April 2017 by Sirius, a startup company of home electronics founded by a former Sanyo Electric employee. Mr. Kawamoto has been researching on wet cleaning technologies for more than 20 years, and invented aqua cyclone technology, a function of nozzle that injects water while sucking up the dirty water, and the special fan that completely separates air and wastewater. This technology is not yet established in Europe and Untied States where water vacuum cleaners are popular, and has obtained patent in Japan, China and United States.

Mr. Shintaro Naganuma
President, BAKE Inc.
BAKE Inc. showed its rapid growth by producing only one product under one brand (store) such as a cheese tart or nama-dorayaki (Japanese pancake with Western cream). This turned out to be a revolutionary idea during the current time in which people’s tastes are thought to be diversifying. By minimizing the number of products, the unnecessary steps in the supply chains from procurement of the ingredients to the production stage and sales are eliminated and efficiency is enhanced. The semifinished products are shipped from their factory in Hokkaido to stores in Japan and overseas (China, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and so on), and then, the finishing is done in the stores. Therefore, the deliciousness of the freshly baked products is kept well, while maintaining the efficiency in management. After 4 years since the establishment, the business has spread into more than 60 store locations, and has also brought new business models to confectionery markets.

Special Award

Ms. Chizu Nakamoto
RICCI EVERYDAY COO
Ms. Nakamoto established RICCI EVERYDAY in 2015 to sell bags in Japan, the bags which are made out of fabrics handmade by single mothers in Uganda. In order to provide a workplace and pride to single mothers in a country under the high unemployment rate, she established a local factory in Uganda to produce bags made out of fabrics using African prints. Ms. Chizu Nakamoto, who currently resides in Uganda, is in charge of running the workshop in Uganda, and her mother, Ms. Ritsue Nakamoto (CEO), who resides in Shizuoka, Japan, is in charge of the sales. The startup company run by a mother and daughter who aim to solve the social challenges across the nation will give courage and hopes not only to women but to many others.

Soft Power Award

Mr. Yusaku Furuya
Screenwriter
An idea to incorporate unko (poop) into a workbook for learning was never heard of. This bold idea shocked everyone. The six-book series “Unko Kanji Doriru” (“Poop Kanji Drills”) containing more than 3,000 example sentences targeted for 1st to 6th graders of elementary school incorporates “unko” (poop) in every example sentence, such as “My father pooped in his pants at work and came home (from the book for 2nd graders).” While covering 1,006 characters that students are required to learn over six years at elementary school under Japan’s school curriculum guidelines, they broke the taboos of workbook for learning, and turned boring studying into entertainment. The series is now a bestseller with total sales of 2.6 million copies only 3 months after the release.

[Selection Criteria]

A prospective winner must exhibit originality in his/her idea, ability to put the idea into action, and potential to significantly affect Japanese industries with the idea, as well as a certain level of results already made. Individuals of any genre, whether he/she is a corporate engineer, academic researcher, or corporate manager, are eligible.

[Points of Evaluation]

  1. Whether the idea has given rise to new and original value born in Japan.
  2. Whether the value has been regarded highly both in Japan and overseas.
  3. Whether it has spurred the country in some way, directly or indirectly.

[Selection Procedure]

Candidates were sought through the Nikkei Business magazine, Nikkei Business Online, and other key medium of Nikkei BP. Of these candidates, 33 people were nominated for final selection.

[Selection Committee] (Honorifics omitted)

Chairman

Hiroshi Komiyama Chairman, Mitsubishi Research Institute
28th President, University of Tokyo

Members

Ken Sakamura Dean, Information Networking for Innovation and Design, Toyo University
Mari Matsunaga Representative, Mari Matsunaga Office
Yoshihiko Miyauchi Senior Chairman, Orix
Akira Morikawa CEO, C Channel
Seiichiro Yonekura Professor of Hosei University Graduate School and Specially-Appointed Professor of Hitotsubashi University

Organized by: Nikkei Business Publications
Sponsored by: Daiichi Sankyo

For further details, please contact:
Global Business Division
+81-(0)3-6811-8311
http://www.nikkeibp.com

This press release may contain forward-looking statements that reflect the company's current views with respect to future events and business performance. Those forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties and the company's actual results could differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, among other factors, general business and economic conditions, rapid or unexpected changes in technologies, cancellation or delay of customer orders.

About NikkeiBP

Nikkei Business Publications is part of The Nikkei group, which has newspaper publication as its main business and three additional business divisions of digital media, publishing and broadcasting under its umbrella. Covering a wide variety of specialized areas including business, computer, electronics, construction, services and medicine, Nikkei Business Publications, in July 2008, merged with its sister company, Nikkei Home Publishing, to also bring consumer magazines into its portfolio.

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