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Softbank, SmartAge.com JV Looks to Japan's Small Businesses

Softbank and SmartAge.com Monday joined for a venture to bring SmartAge's small business-oriented site to the Japanese marketplace.

The SmartAge Japan Corp. will launch its sites in April and will offer online tools to help small business incorporate the Internet as a means of expanding revenue. SmartAge's free ad banner exchange service will also be brought along in the deal.

Bill Lohse, founder of SmartAge and previous Softbank employee, expressed his excitement at rolling out SmartAge's first international site.

The two companies also pointed to IDC research which forecasts the doubling of Japan's online population, from 9.1 million this year to 2.3 billion in 2003. Softbank President and CEO Ken Miyauchi also indicated that the marketplace is ripe, with the growth of the small business sector in Japan on the rise.

Softbank made a secondary investment in SmartAge.com last year, adding $39 million to its financial injection. At the same time, SmartAge.com announced its intentions to enter the market in Japan, the U.K., and France through joint ventures.