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How this Musical Shoe Startup is Helping Hospitals – No New Folk Studio

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

Most great startup ideas don’t grab your attention right away. It takes a while before the founder’s vision becomes obvious to the rest of us. On the other hand, the startups that immediately grab all the press attention often go out of business shortly after shipping their first product. Reality never seems to live up the to promise. And then there are products like Orphe. This LED-emblazoned, WiFi-connected, social-network enabled dancing shoe seems made for fluffy, flashy Facebook sharing, but only when you really dig into it, do you understand what it really is and the potential it has in the marketplace. Today we sit down with Yuya Kikukawa, founder of No New Folk Studio and the creator of the Orphe, and we talk about music, hardware financing, and why this amazing little shoe is finding early adopters in places from game designers to hospitals. It’s a great conversation, and I think you’ll really enjoy it. Show Notes The inspiration for musical shoes Why Yuya's first musical instrument attempt was a failure The biggest challenge in moving from prototype to production Orphe's technical specs How Orphe is being used in hospitals and other healthcare applications How small Japanese startups can achieve global distribution Where the next big startup opportunities in Japan will be Why most hardware startups fail Links from the Founder No New Folk Studio Hompage See Orphe in action Check out Yuya's blog Follow Yuya on Facebook Check out PocoPoco on YouTube [shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="7994466"] Leave a comment Transcript Disrupting Japan, episode 90. Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero, and thanks for joining me. You know, most good startups are obvious. I don’t mean that I could have had the idea before the founders did. By obvious, I mean that right away you can understand the problem the company is solving for their customers and how they’re doing it. Naturally, that makes it easier for the customers to buy. Most non-obvious startups are in reality still struggling to find the product market fit and are probably not long for this world. And then there are products like Orphe, an LED-emblazoned WiFi-connected social sharing enabled dancing shoe. Yeah, it sounds like something you would find on Indiegogo and that one time not too long ago, it was. But when I sat down with Yuya Kikukawa, founder of No New Folk Studio and the creator of the Orphe, it became clear that this was not some quirky side project or some overfunded crazy hardware startup. This was something really different. We talked about the original inspiration for the shoe and what does and does not qualify as a musical instrument and how Orphe is being used by the artistic community in Japan. But we also dive into the technology inside it, and that, well, that’s something special. That’s why this quirky little blinking shoe is starting to get used by game and UI designers, as well as hospitals and sports trainers in Japan. It’s a fascinating discussion but you know, Yuya tells the story much better than I can. So let’s hear from our sponsor and get right to the interview. [pro_ad_display_adzone id="1411"  info_text="Sponsored by"  font_color="grey"  ] [Interview] Tim: I’m sitting here with Yuya Kikukawa of No New Folk Studio. Thank you for sitting down with me. Yuya: Thank you for inviting. Tim: Now, you guys make Orphe which is an LED dance shoe but it’s so much more than that. Can you describe what Orphe is exactly? Yuya: Yeah. Orphe is kind of world’s first smart LED shoes. Smart means it has a computer inside of the sole, at the same time there are about 100 full color LEDs. The computer can control each pixel. So the user can change the color through the smartphone application. Tim: Okay. It’s always so hard to describe dance and visual effects on an audio podcast.

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