How to Start a Business

Inside the Vision of a Young Japanese Entrepreneur: Building a Business Around Indoor AR Technology

Venture Café Tokyo
May 20, 2024

In this issue of HAPPEN story, we introduce Shota Imamura, CEO of "Nefront", a company developing the indoor AR cloud service IndooAR. Besides his involvement as an ambassador for TSUKUBA CONNÉCT and a session commentator, he has also been selected for an acceleration program through connections from Venture Café.

(Source : Nefront)

|Developing services that never existed before

--I heard that you started your own business during your undergraduate years; Please tell us about the background.

Although I am currently enrolled in graduate school at the University of Tokyo, I founded the company in June 2021 when I was a third-year student in the Information Science department at Tsukuba University. 

It was a period when "students starting businesses" was trending, and I was inspired by various startup-related events, which led me to start my own business. (laugh) 

Initially, the business aimed to develop student interactions at events into a social networking service. However, that did not go well, so we pivoted significantly to developing augmented reality (AR) applications and solutions that overlay information onto real spaces.

The company name was changed to Nefront in June of this year, when initial technological development had reached a certain level of progress.

The technology of image-based location identification has been gaining attention for about a decade. Google and other companies are also working on it, but most of it is for outdoor location information. 

In fact, it is surprisingly difficult to pinpoint a location inside a building. This can be achieved by installing a large amount of hardware, but that would be prohibitively expensive. There is still no definitive service that utilizes location information inside buildings. 

We are developing an indoor AR cloud service that uses a smartphone camera to pinpoint where you are in a building and allows you to be guided there or easily present AR content. 

(Source : IndooAR)

| Wanting to be on the successful side after seeing successful speakers

--How did you become involved with TSUKUBA CONNÉCT?

It all started when I participated in an industry-academia collaboration event held by the University of Tsukuba during my first year. There, I met Yumi Ato, the current program manager of TSUKUBA CONNÉCT

TSUKUBACONNÉCT had not yet been launched at that time, but I was invited as a student commentator when it started in 2020, and that led to me becoming an ambassador. I helped set up the venue, and initially, when it was online, I supported ensuring smooth interaction in the online space. 

While I'm not involved in every event, I also pitch and comment during sessions. I participated in a panel discussion this September.

--Is there a connection between starting your own business and participating in TSUKUBA CONNÉCT?

Even if I had not participated in TSUKUBA CONNÉCT, I think I would have started my own business. However, I was very inspired by them

At TSUKUBA CONNÉCT, I was close to the speakers, many of whom I wanted to model myself after.  At the sessions, I openly talked about what I was doing, and when I saw cases where businesses were successful, I was struck by the thought;

“I want to be on that side, too.'' 

It's not like it's a story from a faraway world, but the fact that it's happening in my own area of ​​life in Tsukuba gives me a different sense of reality.

(Credit : ICT Startup League Special Feature)

|A place where you can easily participate and create new connections

--What do you think is the appeal of TSUKUBA CONNÉCT?

I think it's significant that there is a place to meet people in Tsukuba without having to go to Tokyo

It takes about 2 hours one way from Tsukuba to Tokyo by train. It's not very far, but it's not exactly casual either. 

Also, although Tsukuba has various institutions such as universities and research facilities, they are physically far apart from each other, so there are surprisingly few opportunities for everyone to gather in one place and interact. 

Therefore, a place like TSUKUBA CONNÉCT, which is held regularly every month and where you can just drop by casually, is valuable.

A personal experience that I think was great was when I was allowed to participate as a commentator at TSUKUBA CONNÉCT, which was held in September. 

On that day, there were panelists from well-known university-launched venture companies. After the event, I went out for drinks with them and had the opportunity to hear their stories. Hearing first-hand about the process and struggles of getting a business on track was stimulating and motivating. The ability to create new connections like that is also a big attraction.

Additionally, having pitched and commented several times, I appreciate the opportunity to gain a lot of practice speaking in public.

--It seems that there was a new development from the connection with Venture Café.

IndooAR, an indoor AR cloud service developed by our company, has been selected for the TechBiz2023 overseas deployment promotion business by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. 

From November 15 to 17, 2023, we exhibited and demonstrated IndooAR at the TechBiz exhibition area at "INTER BEE IGNITION X DCEXPO" held at Makuhari Messe, a venue for matching cutting-edge content technology with creators and development partners from Japan and abroad.

Actually, it was Ryusuke Komura, Program Director of Venture Café Tokyo, who told me;

“There's a program called TechBiz, so why not apply?'' 

I hadn't been aware of TechBiz until he mentioned it, so if he hadn't approached me, I might have missed out on this opportunity. It would be very grateful and helpful if you could introduce me to information that might be a good match for my business.

(Refer to : Time to Change? Director of the most vibrant startup community in Japan reveals signs of Japanese venture trends

|It's important to ride the trend for growth

--Please tell us about your future vision and aspirations.

As mentioned earlier, when I first started my business, we tried to run a social networking app, but it was not well received by VCs. It was quite challenging. 

Thinking about it, both smartphones and social networks are outdated trends. Smartphones have reached a plateau for several years, and various companies are searching for the next breakthrough, with growing interest in next-generation devices like smart glasses and HMD (head-mounted displays). 

Major social networks that are now well-established appeared between the 2000s to 2010s. The same goes for Facebook and YouTube. Recently launched ones, like Clubhouse, may garner attention temporarily but then quickly fade.

On the other hand, AR became a buzzword when the metaverse trend emerged, and there is still room for growth in this field

It has been an area that I have been interested in for a long time. After boldly pivoting our business towards futuristic thinking, positive expectations and attention increased, and we began to be recognized at various events. 

(Refer to : 8 Technologies for TechBiz2023 have been selected! | TechBiz by DCAJ

Of course, as a business, we are still in the early stages, and we are still in the run-up phase to get things off the ground, but changing the field has helped things go more smoothly.

(Source :

--What have you learnt from all these journeys and stories as a starting team?

What I've learned through trial and error is the importance of riding the trend. I believe there is a high possibility that crucial changes will occur within the next five years or so. If we can successfully ride this wave, I think that our business can grow significantly. Our team is currently making solid preparations for that.

We are working hard with the goal of expanding solutions that have never existed before into a variety of situations and growing them into products that can be used on a daily basis.

TSUKUBA CONNÉCT is an innovation promotion/exchange program sponsored by Ibaraki Prefecture and operated in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture by Venture Café, which originates from Boston and operates in 16 cities in 6 countries around the world.

Written by Venture Cafe Tokyo (Link)

Visit Venture Cafe Tokyo website :

*Original Post : HAPPEN #23: Nefront 今村翔太さん - Venture Café Tokyo 


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Venture Café Tokyo
Venture Café Tokyo
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