A Brand Development Platform with Ryo Kikuchi from ZeBranding

Establishing a compelling brand is one of the most important challenges every company must face. We know that it’s much more than just whipping up a cool logo and starting an Instagram account—it takes a lot of planning and effort. And yet, there’s very little guidance on how it’s done.

Ryo Kikuchi is offering help with his company ZeBrand. Based in New York City, ZeBrand is a platform that gives companies a process for crafting their story, developing their look, and delivering their brand, allowing emerging startups to define themselves quickly and get to market faster.

More information:

Ryo Kikuchi is the founder and CEO of ZeBrand. With their vision of “Brand Your Way”, he wants to continue to create new value within the branding market and continue to actualize his vision.

He studied graphic design and digital media as a research fellow at Rhode Island School of Design, under the leadership of John Maeda. And he also holds an MBA from NUCB Business school in addition to spending time at the EDHEC in France.

ZeBrand is a brand-building platform built to help emerging businesses brand their way to growth by generating a solid brand identity and voice at a fraction of the cost

The current user count is 55,000+. We won the TechCrunch Pitchers & Pitches Competition and the championship of the American Express x WeWork pitch contest.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Ryo Kikuchi 0:00
We use brand strategy framework. So entrepreneurs input their salt and vision into their frameworks. So after that design process, so our organism and bi generate your original brand elements, and that’s been good. I love all the photons, bonds and pitch decks and social media assets.

Alexander Ferguson 0:29
Welcome to UpTech Report. This is our apply tech series UpTech Report is sponsored by TeraLeap. Learn how to leverage the power of video at Today, I am joined by my guests Ryo Kikuchi, who’s based actually going back and forth between Tokyo and New York, and is the CEO of ZeBrand. Welcome, Ryo. Good to have you on. Yeah, great. Now, Zebrand, if I understand correctly, is a brand building platform, you’re focused on helping startups and small business? Basically brand their way to growth? Is that as you say it on your website, but you’re all about branding, branding. So help me understand you started two years ago? 2019? Correct. October, October. And right now you got 12 full time employees 13 part time you get a lot of opportunity growth based in New York. Why did you start? Like what was the reason for for zebra in the first place? Okay, so

Ryo Kikuchi 1:31
I think, actually, I study graphic design, and digital media and branding in Rhode Island School of Design six years ago. So I realized brandings totally important for everyone. However, branding is especially important and challenging, could be a challenging and expensive process for startups and small businesses. So I would like to tackle this problem we created as a brand.

Alexander Ferguson 2:08
And you’re trying to tackle it with with technology, right? Using technology. Now, if I understand z brand, came out of one of the major investors is more solid, right? So correct. Yes. And that’s based in in Tokyo.

Ryo Kikuchi 2:26
Yes. They have Tokyo and San Francisco office here.

Alexander Ferguson 2:30
Okay. And 300 people they’re working, but it’s all more so is all focused around. branding. Yes. But it’s specifically typed. typography, correct?

Ryo Kikuchi 2:43
Yes. And just focus on typography. Yeah, not for branding. Yeah,

Alexander Ferguson 2:49
gotcha. So but out of this, obviously, the overall team and you from Marcella saw an opportunity to play a role in branding overall, not just typography. Yes. Obviously, typography plays a role in branding, being able to choose the right font type and the right type. But it’s more than that. What I mean, obviously, we all know that branding is essential. People recognize right companies, by their logo, by the way, they they look at creating it, that’s that’s hard, creating, like, what’s the first step to creating a brand? What do you see that as the first step, like, what do you start with? When you say I want to make a brand and like a small business comes to you? What, yeah,

Ryo Kikuchi 3:40
that’s process. Okay. Yes. So the most important things is my scenes and your scenes. So it means what do you really want to do? And this kind of things for myself? Or yourself? Yeah. So, our process has three process. So define in design deliver. So define is the zero to one branding. So it’s, we use brand strategy frameworks. So entrepreneurs, input their souls and vision into their frameworks. So after that design process, so our algorithm and AI generate your original brand there tournaments, and that includes a logo, photos, fonts, and pitch decks and social media assets. And after that, deliver means we have brand story and this kind of landing page for SMS or something. Yeah. So this is our brand new process.

Alexander Ferguson 4:55
So how much of that is truly automated right now? I actually create does it? does it create the logo? does it create your, your, your font type and, and colors for you?

Ryo Kikuchi 5:11
Yeah, actually, we, we have original algorithm. So we have a lot of typeface and logo icons. And we gather and suggest, and you will be provided, do you see like lots of options, if

Alexander Ferguson 5:29
you go through it, and you’re like, here are different options you can choose or is it just come with one option, like here is what we think you should have?

Ryo Kikuchi 5:38
Actually, first, first, MVP, we provide only one, but you don’t like. So we improve this process? We suggest three, and now we suggest a six to eight. So end users can pick one of them. Yeah, nice.

Alexander Ferguson 6:03
How did you come up with the algorithms like to know? Are they just like writing? Alright, this is what I do. And this is what I like. And then from words, basically, like, Is it just writing out a survey filling out a form? And then you’re pulling your answers from that?

Ryo Kikuchi 6:22
Sure, actually, answer the letter is created by design brand designers, by buy brand new agency. Go. So and we have our top data. So we updating an everyday Yeah.

Alexander Ferguson 6:43
So is there’s a person involved in there before the AI gets involved? You have you have a person, I think easier you have a coach. So you still have a person involved that works before the AI comes involved.

Ryo Kikuchi 6:58
Here. So first, we have to say we suggest the humans solution. And after that, we analyze and we get feedback from users. And we updating? Yeah,

Alexander Ferguson 7:16
always update that, that algorithm. Okay. The when you look at branding, choosing a font doesn’t matter. I’m going to push a little bit Does, does does? Does it matter?

Ryo Kikuchi 7:40
So we’re actually Actually, I, I found the geek I love. Yeah, so we’re actually typeface is under under the words, character, so. So character means my character.

Alexander Ferguson 8:06
Yeah. It’s like our energy. It’s like you’re saying that our type has reflects who we are the type?

Ryo Kikuchi 8:13
Yeah. Interesting. Actually, I, I have some national clients and regularly clients, so they want to localize their fonts to Japanese Asian fonts. And so actually, I consulted their typeface. So actually, so I first I just know, more deeply as your company’s history and character. So I suggest typeface or so yeah, this is like, branding process. Yeah.

Alexander Ferguson 8:58
Right now for z brand. Are you only doing typography in English? Yes. Now? Yeah. Do you have plans to eventually do other languages as well? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. I imagine that has its own challenges.

Ryo Kikuchi 9:16
Yes. Yeah. But yeah, sir. It’s a fun process.

Alexander Ferguson 9:23
I’m imagining I, I feel that your type, typography options. Are they coming from morisawa has what’s been developed at morisawa?

Ryo Kikuchi 9:35
You actually not. Actually, we don’t have any racial type typeface. Okay. Yeah. So this is because we just focus on users and not for business. So yeah, we now we just provide an Some free fonts, not not paid for. Yeah,

Alexander Ferguson 10:04
no. Okay, so the only ones that you’re pulling in NZ brand are just free fonts that are available for everyone. Yeah. Okay. And there’s enough of those to be able to pull from the logo, though. You’re, you’re helping with the logo design. Yes. How does that work?

Ryo Kikuchi 10:23
Actually, I don’t have good confidence for creating logo. So this is because we just suggest icon from our many, many logos. And we suggest logo type. So we just convert

Alexander Ferguson 10:47
it to it’s it’s an icon with a certain type of font for the words. Yes.

Ryo Kikuchi 10:54
Actually, I, I, I, I cannot live when, from my heart. So yeah, I have I created a new option. So logo creation with human designer. So that’s not a great.

Alexander Ferguson 11:16
You still need a human involved in that? Yeah, yes. Yes. And then you’re you’re choosing for the brand, a monthly approach, right? People can sign up monthly? Yes. isn’t some isn’t branding a one and done? Like, don’t you just you do it once? And then it’s, it’s done? Right? Yes. So is there any reason why someone would be wanting to to be looking at their branding on a regular basis and paying you guys monthly?

Ryo Kikuchi 11:48
Huh? Yeah. So yeah, it’s good question. Thank you so much, sir, actually, when it calls COVID-19. So we have to change my our mind and so dramatically. So, for example, setups can change their mind from COVID-19 and post COVID-19 however, traditional company, it is too difficult to change their mind. So we think we believe the we we should change and update the branding for appropriate situation and society. Also, we would like to challenge and branding subscription service. And now we are we are struggling.

Alexander Ferguson 12:53
Interesting. So you feel that people should change their branding based on the situation and the environment, how things change, if I must. Yeah. So interesting. I could see an argument for that, though, I feel like a lot of people say they want to keep their branding, recognizable, like they would want people to always recognize it. And if you’re always changing your brand, isn’t that a challenge then to, to, for people to remember you and remember your brand, if it’s always changing? I’m seeking a new concept.

Ryo Kikuchi 13:33
So it’s not the only advance, but also evolution. So it is a little different. So so we would like to this kind of not just subscribe, but kind of the branding. Yeah.

Alexander Ferguson 13:54
I imagine there’s many things one could also brand it’s like you think of branding your business as a whole, like your whole business, but you can also you have personal branding. And you also can brand, a product, like and create a product or brand around a product. How do you see the difference between those like personal brands, a business brand and a product brand? What’s the difference between them? Or are they all usually the same? When you create it,

Ryo Kikuchi 14:34
okay, so we focus on startups and small businesses in us. So this is because the founders vision equal the company’s vision. So it is very easy to create the company’s visual and company’s branding. So however, nowadays our corporate branding is totally difficult for So yeah, we just focus. And we do like to hear from that voice. So we forecast branding for startups.

Alexander Ferguson 15:12
Gotcha. I feel like some of the other options right now for creating a new brand for startups, they can hire like a bunch of freelancers on like 99 designs or something like that, or other options and just have a whole bunch of things, you with your technology, or in some ways competing with that as a different alternative, right.

Ryo Kikuchi 15:33
Yeah, I think a different alternative. So this is because so 999 and, and freelance, so, I’m not sure their designer is just graphic designer or branding designer or branding project or I think. So, branding is totally deep and sophisticated market. So, actually, we hire the brand designer, and especially is part of typography or brand strategy. So so we direct to create the platform, the brand building platform. So nine nine design and Freelancer designer will become not only just designer, but graphic design, not brand designer and art director. So so we direct to enhance their skill to branding approach. Interesting. Yeah.

Alexander Ferguson 16:48
Do you? Do you see? The What do you see the future of branding? Is branding always going to be the same? Is it always just gonna be alright, get a logo, get a font, get a color. And then that’s branding. What’s what do you see as the future of branding?

Ryo Kikuchi 17:10
Oh, interesting. Yeah. So future branding. So our vision is Brandy away. Brandy away means branding for everyone. So now, we have to ask the branding agency and design firm, if we would like to create some branding. So However, in the future, they’re everywhere everyone can use the brand. So they create the own branding. So personal branding and company branding and project branding. So yeah, we Yeah, we believe it, it may become totally different castration.

Alexander Ferguson 18:07
It’s bringing branding to everyone that you don’t have to rely on a branding professional, but people want to go to professional because the professional usually knows, know something, they have expertise. So in this case, you were actually more you are relying on the algorithms that you’re building, to, to make the right suggestions. That’s where you feel that technology can play a role. So that means all the branding experts won’t have a job. Well, we won’t need branding agencies anymore, we’ll just use technology.

Ryo Kikuchi 18:44
Oh, sorry. It’s, it’s not. So yeah, that’s great aspects. So actually, our, our stance is we can enhance one to 70% of branding. So we can automatically one to 70% if people want to over 70% of branding, they rely on branding agency and brand designer and zero to one direction is only can create the human so so we believe humans possibility and design as possibility. So we’d like to this just

Alexander Ferguson 19:32
during this process, that that’s actually a great stance that you guys are focused on the first 70% of grant and get your 70% of the way which I feel like AI technology it right now gets is overall gets you 70 80% there and people you still need people to get the rest the rest of the way. Yeah, I feel like you guys might be a good solution for brands. Meaning agencies or branding people, that they use it for their customers to get them to answers faster and be able to to help their own clients. Have you thought about that?

Ryo Kikuchi 20:13
Yeah. Ah, I wish I could. Yeah. And yeah, if it, each feature is accomplished. So every agency and designer want to create a new director of branding. So it is totally interesting to work. You Yeah. Not adjusted logo, typeface, blah, blah. But other aspects. So, yeah, I really looking forward to this.

Alexander Ferguson 20:50
Yeah, I could see a branding expert agency would would sign up and be paying monthly for your service, because then they can get, they can get designs out faster for their own clients, their own customers. It’ll give them 70% of their, and then they can choose from the options and customize and go further. I’m seeing a lot of technology right now in the business areas playing a role like this, where it helps the professional do their job, even faster, even better. But then the end consumer, like someone who’s trying to create their sort of their own startup, they usually, you know, they could take advantage those who are savvy, those who love design, but maybe needed to get something started could use your service. But you guys have built in a branding coach, right, as another option. So if people wanted help to go further, you you have consultants, I guess, on staff that you can bring in when somebody pays for that. Yeah, so I believe that AI and humor is the best. Not only just AI, yeah. Do you think in the future? Yeah. AI will be able to do it? 100%?

Ryo Kikuchi 22:09
I don’t think so. So this is because zero to one. So direction is only can humans only can create an order to one direction. So I hope so zero to one accurate. The founders and human and 70% is the brand. And after that zero to Well, now Cuba and Xena and 70%. So, so it’s over 100. So,

Alexander Ferguson 22:45
so never in the future you think AI will be able to just say someone could say, hey, make me a brand logo and design etc. And it just gives everything and it’s it’s it’s gold. It won’t you don’t think AI will ever get there?

Ryo Kikuchi 23:01
Yeah, so I believe AI can create past things, but not future things. So human can only create the future.

Alexander Ferguson 23:13
So, so really what an AI is doing is looking at a data set looking at a library of options and saying, here’s an option that you could work for you. But they can’t AI can’t create more options to pull from.

Ryo Kikuchi 23:30
Yeah, yeah. And actually, I believe AI prover for property. So so if I create zero to one, so in same station, AI can do same things. So however them to one is only can human. Yeah. Sorry. Yeah, yeah. It’s totally gripped by

Alexander Ferguson 23:58
AI is still is dependent upon artificial intelligence and algorithms are dependent upon that initial step of a human needs to take. Yeah. And then it will only take so far. Well, a fun question I like to ask AM, is there any other software you as a consumer are using, and even just a cheap one, a cheap software technology that you like, and use anything that you’re using that you can think of? Oh, no. So Ah, I love using altaria do you know? Yes, the transcription? Yes. Right. transcribing was our soap app. We also use otter so it’s not a promotion of otter, but we do like them. So I love it. I love it. Thank you so much for taking some time helping us understand a bit more about what you’re doing at z brand. And where branding is going. I think it’s very exciting. For those that want to learn more, you can go to that’s And you can take a little bit more about their platform. And if you’re a startup or somebody wanted to try some new brand designs, this might be an option for you to check out. Thanks so much, Leo, for your time. Thank you so much. I will see you all on the next episode of UpTech Report. Have you seen a company using AI machine learning or other technology to transform the way we live, work and do business? Go to UpTech and let us know


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