Central prefecture of Aichi kicks off prep for Japan’s entrepreneurial superhub

Teams selected for PRE-STATION Ai’s FY22 batch with Hideaki Omura (Governor of Aichi Prefecture) on center right and Hirotaka Sahashi (CEO of STATION Ai) on center left). They took mask off for photo.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

See the original story in Japanese.

Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, located in the very center of the archipelago, held a kick-off event for PRE-STATION Ai, the preparation initiative for their startup hub and community STATION-Ai which will be totally rolled out in 2024 in Nagoya. Nagoya is the prefecture’s capital and most populous neighborhood, and also known as the country’s third largest city.

This is based on the strategy which the prefecture formulated in 2018 to help bring more startups from the central Chubu Region. With a total floor area of approximately 23,000 square meters, the 7-story hub is scheduled to be completed in 2024 in south of Tsurumai Park of Nagoya. In reponse to the prefecture decision to entrust SoftBank for managing the facility and community, the telco and investment giant established a special-purpose subsidiary called STATION Ai last year.

Until the official launch of the hub, the prefecture will have been conducting PRE-Station Ai, the preparation initiative, at WeWork Global Gate Nagoya for the next two years. Launched last year, it selected 85 startups (43 in-person and 42 work-from-home participating teams) its FY22 batch this year followed by letting 34 startups graduate from its previous FY21 batch last year. They expect to qualify 140 startups by the end of this year, aiming to have 1,000 startups be based in the hub by 2029, five years after its official launch.

(As a side note, Station F, the Paris-based entrepreneurial hub which STATION Ai is modeled after, has revealed that 1,034 startups consisting of 4,882 people had been resided there during its first year of 2017.)

This is an area reserved for selected teams for this year’s PRE-STATION Ai batch in WeWork Global Gate Nagoya. You can see Nagoya station skyscrapers through the windows.
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

The prefecture says it’s offering over 200 startup support program centering on the aforementioned strategy, having partnered with Station F, the University of Texas at Austin, Tsinghua University-affiliated Tus Holdings for supporting global expansion, building cross-border community as well as sharing practices for better incubation. The initiative has appointed experienced entrepreneurs as supervisors / community managers to support budding startups and entrepreneurs.

The Japanese government has selected several cities in the central Chubu region as as “Global Hub Cities, including Aichi Prefecture, Nagoya City, and Hamamatsu City. The prefecture launched a local VC firm network to help investors and entrepreneurs better connect each others. Startup Guide, the global brand of startup local ecosystem guides, published its Nagoya edition last year in association with Nagoya City and the Chubu Region Innovation Promotion Organization, which made Nagoya become the second Japanese city covered by the publication after Tokyo. In the region, local universities has been jointly organizing an entrepreneurship program called Tongali to encourage their students to launch startups.

Conceptual drawing at completion of STATION-ai.
Image credit: Startup Promotion Section, Bureau of Economy and Industry, Aichi Prefectural Office