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Forging a partnership with Yahoo! Japan

Forging a partnership with Yahoo! Japan
Technology:Indoor positioning
Targets:Map companies, retailers, brands
Result:Partnership with Yahoo! Japan

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Oulu, Finland, Indoor Atlas offers an innovative indoor location solution. Instead of GPS, it uses a combination of the Earth’s magnetic field, steel building structures and built-in smartphone sensors to enable users to track their location indoors within a 1 to 2-meter radius.

Having secured a deal with Baidu in China, Indoor Atlas saw Japan as its next target in Asia due to the country’s many underground malls and train stations that are unnavigable via GPS.

The firm had some initial discussions with Sumitomo via one of its investors, but wanted to understand all the options, so it asked us to arrange a roadshow in Japan to identify other interested parties.

We spent several weeks liaising with potential partners and set up a week of meetings with systems integrators, internet companies, tech firms and navigation solutions providers.

The feedback was positive, so Indoor Atlas asked us to act as their Japan representative office with a view to securing partners and, importantly, revenues.

Two candidates

We appointed a bilingual Japanese/English speaking team from our Tokyo office, whose first job was to learn not just how to pitch the technology but how to demonstrate it. This entailed mapping indoor locations around Tokyo and providing live demos to prospective partners.

Over the course of the next 18 months, we met a wide range of prospects and hosted Indoor Atlas on numerous trips to Japan. Fast forward through endless back-and-forth, false starts, karaoke nights and the like – the upshot was two companies who appeared to tick the right boxes. 

While one had more weight in terms of size and global presence, the other - Yahoo! Japan - was willing not only to help adapt the technology for the Japanese market but to pay a six-figure dollar sum to become Indoor Atlas’ exclusive partner in Japan.

Serious negotiations

We supported Indoor Atlas’ lawyers through long and sometimes tortuous negotiations, and terms were ultimately agreed. As a final due diligence step, we flew with the Yahoo! Japan decision makers to Finland to finalise the deal.

We weren’t quite out of the woods yet, though. While in Finland, we received the unwelcome news that a key Indoor Atlas manager had suddenly left the company. That delayed the signature of the contract as Yahoo! Japan needed time to digest the news and understand how this would affect the relationship

Then, to our horror - as part of Japan’s yearly corporate reshuffle – our primary contact at Yahoo! Japan changed group and a new person was put in charge.

We had to go back to stage one and re-sell the whole idea to both sides!

Partnership finalised

Fortunately, we managed to get the process back on track and, after more drawn-out negotiations, Yahoo! Japan and Indoor Atlas signed the deal and the development and integration process began.

A year later, Yahoo! Japan’s maps incorporated an indoor location feature powered by Indoor Atlas, and we stayed on-hand to support our Finnish client until the final solution went to market.

Yahoo! Japan ended up investing twice in Indoor Atlas since then. And, thanks to Indoor Atlas, the Japanese corporation’s maps are now used indoors by thousands of people every day.

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