Japan’s Loftwork unveils hardware startup community site at SXSW

Setting up FabCafe at SXSW 2013 (courtesy of Loftwork, reproduced with permission)

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South by South West (SXSW) in Austin, Texas is always a fun event for digital enthusiasts, and more than a few Japanese people and companies make the long haul to attend. The folks behind FabCafe, a community venue for designers and hardware manufacturing entrepreneurs in Tokyo, have a presence at SXSW this year, where they provided hot coffee and communicated their concept to other exhibitors and attendants. But they also have some good news to share, as Tokyo-based digital production company Loftwork, which owns FabCafe, has launched a portal site called Factory.org where people can share information on hardware startups, manufacturers, venues for gatherings, and events.

The startup aims to share the information not only with the Japanese community but also with hardware communities around the world. In my own SXSW experience, Japanese startups have been always been proficient makers of hardware, even before the digital manufacturing industry became trendy. So I’m really glad to see a Japanese company trying to take the lead in the global movement in this way.

There are more than a few websites that profile startups, most notably CrunchBase, AngelList, and Japan’s Creww.me come to mind. Here at SD Japan, we’re also developing something like that, which you can find at data.startup-dating.com. But as far as I know, there hasn’t been any such database service specializing in manufacturing and hardware startups. These companies often crowdfund from sites like Kickstarter, Indiesgogo, or Campfire. And while those sites usually keep you up to date on the fundraising aspect, they lack deeper information like what the startups are doing now, or what products they might have developed in the past. It’s good to see Factory.org making an effort in this way. For Japanese startups out there, you can consider Factory to be a media hub to transmit your presence overseas.


moonspeechpartyMeanwhile, to mark FabCafe’s presence at SXSW2013 and its launch of Factory.org, Loftwork is now planning to hold something called a ‘Moon Speech Party‘ on the evening of March 11th (local time in Austin), where Japanese entrepreneurs can come together and make speeches to other SXSW-ers. Japanese watch maker Seiko is sponsoring this event, serving complimentary Japanese sake to everyone there. Joi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab is invited as a special guest. As I write this the event is fully booked, and that should mean great opportunities to connect with the global community.

On a related note, Korean startups are also planning to hold a party called Geeks from Gangnam at the same time, but a different venue in Austin.