What are your reasons for living in Japan

Establish in Japan ?! "The challenge appeals to me"

Michel May has lived in Japan for several years. Now the emigrant is starting his own startup with Aizome Bedding. The young company, which delivers worldwide, relies on hypoallergenic bed linen that is produced in the Japanese tradition. “Aizome, the Japanese art of dyeing with natural indigo, has been used for centuries to cure skin problems. Aizome Bedding therefore works with traditional aizome dyers in Tokyo, ”explains May, who most recently worked for a German neuro-software company in Tokyo.

The concept works! The Aizome Bedding maker was recently able to collect $ 30,000 in advance orders in 24 hours via crowdfunding. “This is already the most successful lifestyle crowdfunding of the year in Japan. Money is easy everywhere, but in my experience, many founders spend a little too much time replenishing capital. I've saved myself this time so far, ”says May proudly.

The bedding start-up is not afraid of competition: “There are many online bedding retailers. We have to compete with some of them first and that shouldn't be underestimated. Most of them outdo each other with creative advertising appearances, as the distinction mainly takes place on a psychological level. As a company based in Japan, we are committed to high quality standards and believe that we are unique with our pure indigo dye ”.

In addition, May does not only rely on B2C sales. He also wants to sell directly to hospitals, clinics and hotels as well as work with scientists. All in all, the Aizome Bedding founder raves about the startup location Japan to a large extent: “Japan has never been particularly difficult for me. Or maybe the challenges have always attracted me. Japan is rich in culture, which is what particularly inspired us ”. In a mini interview with deutsche-startups.de, May also talks about punctuality, payment practices in Japan and formaldehyde.

What problem do you want to solve with Aizome Bedding?
There are more people with skin diseases today than ever before. Psoriasis and atopic dermatitis are almost normal today, especially in children. Every year people buy more medicine than the year before. Medicine almost always aims at cure, but not at prevention. Many skin diseases are caused by a complex interplay of endogenous and exogenous factors, but ultimately people suffer from hypersensitive skin. A strong source of irritation that many people and also dermatologists ignore is the strong chemical coloration in textiles. These are made with heavy metals or by-products of the oil industry. In addition, substances are heavily treated chemically: formaldehyde, chlorobenzene or flame retardants are standard treatment agents. This plays an important role, especially in bed linen, which we touch for a third of our lives. At Aizome Bedding, we manufacture bed textiles entirely without chemical additives. We use a groundbreaking technical process that allows us to produce color-fast textiles with plants such as indigo. In this way we help people who either suffer from skin problems or who simply value a non-toxic sleeping environment. And in doing so, we protect the environment, as we do not use synthetic chemicals in any single step of our production.

You have lived in Tokyo for a few years. How easy or difficult is it to set up a startup in Japan?
Smart people are everywhere and you don't necessarily have to be in the same room. Capital used to be in Silicon Valley. That has changed today, and the pressure to live in California is no longer so great. Sofbank's Masayoshi Son Tech Fund is by far the largest and the money is flowing everywhere: Tallinn, Tel Aviv, Mumbai, Berlin, Manila. There are creative startups everywhere. In Japan, in addition to Tokyo and Kyoto, Kobe and Fukokoka are also rich in brain capital for startups. Japan has never been particularly difficult for me. Or maybe the challenges have always attracted me. Japan is rich in culture, which is what particularly inspired us.

Which German founding characteristics are well received in Japan and which are not?
Punctuality. But personally I can't really impress with that. Good payment behavior and sticking to agreements is very important. We have never had any outstanding payments so far and I make sure that we pay too early rather than too late.

Dozens of new startups emerge every week, why is Aizome Bedding, of all things, a success?
The key to success is our extremely international team and our diverse professional paths. Our founding team comes from five countries and everyone at Aizome Bedding speaks at least three languages. We have experience in the essential areas of dermatology and textiles, but also cosmetics and quality management. This know-how can assert itself on an international level. Aizome Bedding has quite a large team and we spent a lot of time doing market surveys about skin diseases as well as our product. The test phase has paid off: We have already received orders from 40 countries with our first crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and we are currently more than 400% financed.

Where will Aizome Bedding be in a year?
We will work closely with hospitals, retirement homes and mother and child clinics. The e-commerce business helps us get on our feet, but we've already started our first collaborations with doctors, and that's actually where we are at home. I think that working together is the most important and there is a lot to do here. The Swedish government recently carried out an investigation into textiles in Europe and found that 10% contained substances that pose a health risk and are actually regulated. The controls are inadequate.

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Photo (above): Aizome Bedding

Alexander Hüsing

Alexander Hüsing, editor-in-chief of deutsche-startups.de, has been working as a journalist since 1996. During the New Economy boom, he volunteered for the Kressreport industry service. During this time he was already working with young, aspiring internet start-ups. In 2007 he started deutsche-startups.de.