Mr. Masashi Nishitani, Representative Director of A’s Child Inc.
Note: This article was originally published on the website of the INCF (the predecessor of ICF) in September 2020.
A’s Child Inc. is trying to solve social media-related issues with education and IT at its core. We interviewed three people from the company: Mr. Nishitani, Representative Director; Mr. Iijima, Educational Strategist; and Mr. Fujita, Engineer.
―Could you tell us what societal issues you are addressing?
Nishitani: We are working to solve various societal issues in the field of education through IT. We would like to solve social media problems to help the next generation. This began because I became worried about the social media conditions my children would grow up in. Particularly, bullying via direct mail (DM) or in a group on social media, which third parties cannot see, had become a problem because it was closed and difficult to recognize. I believed that I could reach the problem from the standpoint of an engineer.
―Please tell us about your business activities to solve societal issues.
Nishitani: We first developed Filii with the concept of protecting smartphones while using them. It is a service that monitors children’s use of social media to avoid trouble from them. It provides a system that informs parents when social medias receive a dangerous message that may lead to crime or bullying. Children also appreciate the service because it allows them to only see that the message contains dangerous keywords while the message itself remains invisible. Currently, the number of users is about 18000, and there is no similar service in Japan.
When conducting a Filii demonstration experiment in Kashiwa City in Chiba Prefecture, we created a consultation service using LINE, which later led to our social media-based consulting business. At that time, there were hardly any LINE-based consultation services, but since then, social media-based consulting on societal issues has been expanding, including the establishment of a suicide counseling service through LINE by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the establishment of an education counseling service by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Social media-based consulting is additionally easier to manage than traditional consulting services, as access to the client is easier than just over the phone. We have built Tsunagaru-Soudan as a social media-based consultation platform that provides segment distribution, a bot function, and other functions. We provide the platform as SaaS.
―What goals do you have and how successful have you been so far?
Nishitani: We have earned a certain level of recognition with the launch of Filii, which I deem an achievement. However, there is the issue of information ethics in the first place. Since leaning information ethics should become a matter of course, we give lectures about 100 times a year. We would like to incorporate what should be done at home and school into our solution.
Fujita: The biggest issue is that Filii is not compatible with iOS. Achieving the compatibility is not technically impossible, but the investment required for hardware development and the risk of inventory troubles are problems that prevent us from taking steps to address the issue.
|Company name：A’s Child Inc.|
|Number of employees：10|
■Development, operation, and deployment of child security Filii
■Development, operation, and deployment of Tsunagaru-Soudan, a consultation service platform supporting multiple social media
―What feedback have you received during the COVID-19 pandemic and what are some challenges for your business?
Nishitani: In a world with COVID-19, I think that a significant keyword is “remote” support, although it may sound mediocre. As for social media-based consultation, we have been receiving many inquiries about activities such as information dissemination via local government social media, including the use of bots, and about safety confirmation regarding COVID-19. We prioritize and respond to them, starting from what we can do.
Iijima: Our policy is to meet a request for a system that is aligned as close as possible with the actual conditions of schools through repeated dialogue with the Board of Education and schoolteachers. We also wish to promote development in order to help reform the way teachers work. One of the efforts is to provide Tsunagaru Renraku, a system that utilizes LINE functions to communicate and share information with parents. In the future, we expect to implement support functions for online classes in addition to those for school affairs.
―How are you involving stakeholders?
Nishitani: We do not do walk-in sales to schools or education boards but sell mainly by responding to inquiries. We pursue business growth while placing importance on building relationships in which teachers, including managerial-level teachers, can share their requests and ideas with us, saying, “We wish we could do this with your help!” We may start with a demonstration experiment or, in some cases, may approach a person with decision authority.
It is also important to involve carriers and mobile phone shops. For example, UQ mobile offers models for children that we were able to partner with in order to offer an optional Filii contract at the time of purchase. It is also introduced in AEON Mobile.
―What are your expectations and aspirations for the future?
Nishitani: I would like to “upgrade” education in Japan. While it is said that Japan’s public education expenditure is the lowest among OECD countries, I think teachers have too much to do. IT work is not supposed to be their primary job, so I would like to make efforts so that business operators can enter schools to let teachers concentrate on their main job, such as teaching children and taking care of children’s problems.
|The smartphone penetration rate among junior high school students is more than 60%. Preventing trouble and promoting proper use of smartphones are major educational issues in the digital age. The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the need for online education. We look forward to the company’s further contribution and success toward the update of education in the future.|
This article is part of a series of articles introducing venture companies working together as INCF members to resolve societal issues.