Tokyo Office Tour: Grooves wants to create new startup hub in Tokyo’s...

Tokyo Office Tour: Grooves wants to create new startup hub in Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées

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See the original story in Japanese.

This is part of our ‘Tokyo Office Tour’ series (RSS), a modest attempt to better understand how folks in the local startup scene are working every day.

Startups in the growth stage are often forced to relocate their office due to the rapid increase of their employees. As I wrote in this story before, since every district in Tokyo has its own characteristics in terms of property size or public transit access, it is common for startups to move to other district as they grow. However, Grooves, a Japanese startup providing human resources technology (HR tech) solutions, has been relocating its office only in the Omotesando district, sometimes referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées or Rodeo Drive, for over ten years. We recently visited Groove’s newest office facing a main road in the area to speak with their founder and CEO Yuhikiro Ikemi.

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He said that the this area’s presence as a startup hub has been gradually growing amongst Tokyo’s other major startup hubs like Shibuya and Roppongi. Our readers may recall that MerryBiz, Japanese crowdsourced bookkeeping startup, established its office last year in this area which we also called a fintech startup hub in Tokyo.

Since a typical office floor is about 200 square meters wide at most in this area, medium-sized companies move to towering buildings in subcenters of Tokyo such as Otemachi or Shinjuku when their office is to small for the increased number of employees. Because these companies typically leave furnishings or amenities when they move, the next tenant startup can take them over when renting these office without additional renovation or furnishings. When moving to the next location, these tenant startups would not need to restore the venue interiors to its original condition if they can find the next renter which can be satisfied with using it without changing the environment. This merits an original tenant company, a new tenant startup as well as an office room owner in terms of cost saving and renovation construction unneeded.

Guiding me inside his new office, Ikemi told us in a modest way that the new venue was far beyond their means but he could luckily rented the one having brilliant interiors and furnishings thanks to a real estate agent that he has known long.

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L to R: Yukihiro Ikemi (CEO and founder), Minoru Kuriyama (MD, management strategy), Yuka Ouka (programmer), Akira Matsuda (MD, R&D), Takafumi Ohata (MD and co-founder)

Earlier this year, the company appointed Dr. Kenji Hirata, who has been involved in HR-XML (Human Resources eXtensible Markup Language) and standardizing the competence model for human resources development, as principal for the new research unit. And this time around, the company announced that Minoru Kuriyama, former McKinsey consultant and MBA lecturer, and Akira Matsurda, Japan’s only committer on Ruby and Ruby on Rails committer, have joined the board. Going forward, the company will more focused on expanding Forkwell, a platform helping engineers find new jobs by registering their skills portfolio, and CrowdAgent as channels for connecting general job seekers with recruitment agencies, in addition to developing HR technology solutions in the research unit.

Ikemi started the Omotesando Start-up Hub Project this year, encouraging as many entrepreneurs and startups as possible to run their business here together through organizing meet-ups at Apple Store Omotesando which is located in the very heart of the district. We are looking forward to seeing the high rise of the new startup hub, slightly different from conventional startup hubs in chaotic townscape like Shibuya or Roppongi.

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Lovely array of books in the meeting space with clients.
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Staffers are aggressively working in cubicles.
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Engineers discussing in serious manner, surrounded by user voices on post-it notes.
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With a sheepish grin, Ikemi said “there’s even a room for me” and guided me inside it.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda