Transforming Maps into Creative Art — Creativity Meets Technology

A truly innovative company, Stroly developed a platform to create, upload, share, and even design unique, original maps. Bridging the world of technology with the world of art, Stroly provides an ideal interface for artists, that is equally useful for the everyday user. By matching the user's location with localized maps, Stroly makes the world of art more accessible and convenient for users.

Together with a collaborative team, founder Machi Takahashi Masuoka was able to realize her vision and make Stroly the official map service for the city of Kyoto with over 300 different maps. Beyond this accomplishment, the company has also been featured on Forbes Japan and TechCrunch Japan — not just once, but twice.

And recently, the company secured its first VC Series A funding! Currently, the company is around 15 employees and actively hiring. By thinking globally and acting locally, the team at Stroly has developed a unique, avant-garde platform.

The Inspiration for the Idea

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While Machi worked at Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR), she met co-founder Toru Takahashi — an information technology researcher. Both founders had an avid interest in connecting the offline world to the online world, thereby providing more value to users. With the help of a similarly-minded team and the financial backing and support of ATR, the pair began their first technology venture — Stroly.

Asked by the Toei Kyoto Studio Park (Eigamura) — a tourist attraction in Kyoto where they film Japanese period movies — to produce interactive maps for visitors, Stroly realized that they could do more. Soon, the company was ready to provide captivating maps of all kinds — 3D aerial views, handmade, historical, disaster prevention, etc.

Now, users can walk through the city of Kyoto, while displaying an Edo era map. And through corporate sponsorships — such as Keihan, a major train company in Japan — Stroly was also able to make the service 100% free for its users.

Like a True Silicon Valley Startup

Not only did the company strive to make the platform as user-friendly as possible for both its users and designers, but it also promotes its flat, non-hierarchical management structure, its open-door policy, and its openness for new ideas. After all, without the support of a collaborative team, Stroly could not have achieved its current success.

For users and designers, Stroly simplified the entire process. By scanning a QR code, users can quickly access and view original maps. Similarly, map creators can hand-draw their creations, upload them, and finally, share their masterpieces with the world.

Seeking to build a company that would showcase artists by making their unique designs available to the public, the team at Stroly worked tirelessly to merge the offline world with the online world. One of my personal favorites is the hand-drawn, sweets map of the best dessert stores in Kyoto.

Insightful Advice from Machi

For those who are considering to establish their own business in Japan, Machi offered the following words of wisdom.

A. View Responsibility as an Opportunity

But Machi strongly advises those who want to start a business in Japan, to view responsibility as an opportunity; rather than a risk. By taking on more responsibility, people will have more opportunities, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling life.

B. Take the Initiative

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No matter what your position is in a company, group, or organization, Machi recommends that each person takes the initiative.

In Japan, people expect the leader to take on more responsibility. But in fact, Machi believes that everyone inherently has the potential to become a leader, regardless of their position. Even without an official title in a group, individuals can provide value to the group by offering to complete a task that no one else wants to do, for example.

And for women, it's even more important to take a risk and assume leadership responsibilities. By doing so, women can steadily gain the much needed confidence to achieve their life goals. 


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