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  • Brandon K. Hill

    CEO of btrax, Inc.

    - Design Mentor to Startup Weekend - Contributor to TechCrunch Japan - Guest Speaker at UC Berkeley Asia Business Conference - Guest Speaker at Social Media Week Tokyo - Guest Speaker at 500Startups Japan Day

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  • May 8, 2009

Japanese Start-up Koebu Revives Web Voice Recording

koebuThe Live Audio Recording Question
btrax often gets requests involving recording and publishing voice using a computer’s microphone – from people such as educators and musicians.

Given all the demand for tools to create, edit and distribute images or videos, it would seem a third-party solution for audio would already exist.

But amazingly no one seems to have tried since Odeo (previously run by the Twitter founders Evan Williams, Jack Doresey and Biz Stone) gave up on recording podcasts and reverted to being a multimedia playlist portal four years back.

Odeo used Adobe Flash technology, which has since become even more sophisticated.

Solutions Outside the English Sphere
It turns out my mistake was researching for solutions only in English. Once I started digging around search engines in Japanese I found a fantastic voice recording and publishing start-up called

Koebu is more than a glorified online tape recorder, having created an engaging social network for people’s voices. As a site member you can broadcast your stories, sing songs, introduce yourself, or even just vent.

Imagine if you could publish a blogFaceBook with just your voice? Or publish your music on MySpace straight from your microphone? Or you can also use the site to search people’s voices through categories or theme, etc.

Japan’s Social Networking Habits
For Japanese audiences Koebu is not just a novel distraction – it has taken off in many areas with potential business applications. One example is for aspiring voice actors for Anime movies.

Many members record themselves reading lines from anime to use as their portfolio. Musicians are using it to record songs for auditions. This saves time (and money) on the aspiring side and those casting parts.

To give an alternate view of Koebu, I’ve attached one of their widget players:

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Back to Privacy?
Another key aspect is that Japanese people like privacy. Few users of Mixi, Japan’s largest social network at 16 million users, put their real name on their accounts or even real profile details. The trend worldwide, however, has been toward verified identity and real user names.

However, there is some good sense in the Japanese approach – new paid tools like People Search allow anyone (bosses, potential bosses, ex-girlfriends, etc.) to extract photos and other data from your social networking profiles with little more than your email address as a starting point.

On the other hand, your voice doesn’t reveal anything about you except for what you sound like, which makes it palatable to Japanese users.

Koebu’s Quirky Background
Koebu is run by Kayac, whose formal legal name is “Omoshiro Hojin Kayac,” which translates into “The Interesting Company Kayac, Inc.”

The offbeat name matches their location – unlike the vast majority of Japanese companies and startups, which are headquartered in Tokyo or Osaka, Kayac is in the sleepy historical city of Kamakura. The town is mostly known for its giant Buddha statue and surfers.

In that sense, Koebu has more in common with the Bay Area’s well-known successful startups than their Japanese counterparts.


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