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How A Failing Music Startup in Japan Pivoted to Global Success – Nana

By Tim Romero: Serial startup founder in Japan and indomitable innovator

It’s hard to make money with music apps. The competition is intense, and most people simply are not willing to pay much for music apps; either because music is something they only do casually or because if it’s something they do professionally, they probably don’t have money. Akinori Fumihara of Nana, however, is succeeding despite the odds. Nana is a collaborative music creation app, where different users upload and submit different tracks to a song, which can be edited and remixed by others to create an unlimited number of arrangements. Today Nana has a highly engaged global user-base that numbers in the millions, but it almost did not work out that way. Three months after the initial release, Nana was running out of money and was watching new installs trend towards zero. How Aki and his team managed to turn things around is an amazing story, and one I think you’ll really enjoy. Show Notes for Startups Why "casual music" is important How to develop an overseas user-base by word of mouth Why teenage girls form the heart of Nana How a YouTube video inspired an iPhone app Why it's hard to monetize a music app Why startups in Japan (outside of Tokyo) struggle The difference between Tokyo and Kansai startup founders Links from the Founder Everything you ever wanted to know about Nana Friend Aki on Facebook Check out Nana on Facebook [shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="7994466"] Leave a comment Transcript from Japan   Disrupting Japan, episode 80. Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I'm Tim Romero and thanks for joining me. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for music apps. The competition in this space is intense, and almost every niche seems to be filled. So trying to differentiate a music gap calls for a lot of creativity. But it’s usually their quixotic quest for business models that is the most interesting. The problem is that people just don’t want to spend money on making music. The amateurs and the dabblers don’t spend enough time on the hobby to invest much. And the professionals, well speaking as a former professional musician myself, I can tell you that professional musicians never have money in the first place. Well today, we sit down with Akinori Fumihara of Nana, and they might have just cracked the code. Nana is a collaborative music creation app where different users upload and submit different tracks to a song. Which can be edited and remixed by others to create an unlimited number of arrangements. Now Nana has become a huge hit with its millions of users. And just like Google, the name Nana itself has become a fully conjugatable verb in Japanese. “Nananu Nanateru, Nanata.” “I use Nana. I’m using Nana. I used Nana.” Now I’ll warn that Aki’s English is not as good as some of our other guests. But the man is really excited about reaching out to foreign listeners and so he decided to make it work and come on the show. Nana is a very cool app, and Aki’s a pretty cool guy. He’s got an amazing life story, and he started a fascinating company. But you know, Aki tells that story much better than I can, so let’s hear from our sponsors and get right to the interview. [pro_ad_display_adzone id="1411"  info_text="Sponsored by"  font_color="grey"  ] [Interview]  Tim: Cheers. Akinori: Cheers. Tim: So I’m sitting here with Akinori Fumihara, the CEO and founder of Nana. Thanks for sitting down with me today. Akinori: Nice to meet you. Tim: That’s great. Now Nana is a social music platform, but can you explain what is social music? How does Nana work? Akinori: Nana is music collaboration. I’ve found and enjoyed that biggest feature is collaboration and over dubbing. For example, like the base line, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Next, with the base add drums, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. So with the beat it adds piano.

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