The Hub is the world’s largest network of co-working spaces, with venues at more than 40 locations worldwide, and 100 more coming soon. At its most recently-launched branch in Tokyo, a ‘Spark Plug’ meet-up event was held yesterday. Five startups pitched their ideas to an enthusiastic audience.
Hub Tokyo was officially launched on February 11th of this year. I’ve met with some of the people behind the co-working space, but I visited the venue for the first time just yesterday. Most Hub locations around the world are located in the very heart of a given city, typically in a nicely designed or renovated building. But this Tokyo branch is surprisingly a 10-minute walk from Meguro station on Tokyo’s central Yamanote line, a cozy space set up in a former print factory.
The venue’s co-founder, Shingo Potier de la Morandière, explains:
Unlike our other locations in Europe or the rest of the world, we need to pay much more to rent a venue here in Tokyo. Even with some sponsorships from big companies, it’s very hard to make our business sustainable and keep operations running. However, we are really keen to help Japanese entrepreneurs connect to the global community. We’ll intensify interactive community-based activities with our global network, including person-to-person exchanges with foreign startups.
Hopefully we can see more great work coming out of this space in the future. But for now, let’s hear about the five startups that pitched at this Spark Plug event.
Some of our readers may recall that we featured this startup in our recent coverage of Samurai Venture Summit.
Gamba is a corporate communication platform that facilitates the submission of daily reports. It has deployed short status message input on its business communication platform, which helps office workers share what they are doing with colleagues and management. Interestingly, the app is not only used among SMEs or startups but also bigger companies.
This (somewhat oddly named) startup wants to establish a portal of online resources for people who are depressed. In order to overcome many of the problems they face, they typically need to contact a variety of professionals, like a social worker, a labor/social security attorney, a medical doctor, etc. Currently there’s no one-stop solution for these patients, and they usually have to consult a variety of bulky books to find useful information.
The Pint team has developed an online portal that allows patients to easily find information, tagging many resources that contain advice from medical and consulting professionals. They aim to help create a society that helps depressed individuals get better and return to a regular and healthy life.
LaunchApp by Zaoria ¶
LaunchApp is a crowdsourced usablity testing service that allows app developers to oursource usability testing. It’s available for testing Android apps, iOS apps, and web apps, and allows you to set a deadline (24 hours at the minimum) to get feedback from crowdsourced testers.
It is thought that the usability testing market in Japan will be worth 35 billion yen (approximately $340 million) in three years, and the startup believes this market has big potential.
In terms of differentiation from other competitors like Japan’s UI Scope or Malaysia’s Netizen Testing, LaunchApp focuses on providing clients with more insightful, text-based reporting and conducting focus group interviews.
Some of our readers may recall when I wrote about an interesting new bar back in March. When you step inside the bar, you receive an iPad upon which you should sign in with a username and password. Every order of beverages, alcohol, and appetizers is to be made on the iPad. You can also interact with bartenders and other customers on the app, which have been specifically designed for the bar.
Almost two months have passed since the launch, and the Yoshida explains that no visitor has not enjoyed interacting with others using the app.
They are planning to hold a casual meet-up event at Mixi headquarters in June, and they will also hold a 1000-person gathering in France in July.
Sukima Chu-ring (bicycle parking lots) ¶
For Japanese people living in urban areas, it’s hard finding a space to park your bicycle, especially at train stations. Local governments provide parking lots for bicycles, but they are typically not close to stations and thus are inconvenient to access.
If you park your bicycle in a prohibited area, it will likely be taken away by a patrol officer. When you get your bicycle back, you will be typically have to pay a penalty money of more than $50.
What this startup aims to do is partnering with housing or apartment companies, providing them with simple equipment to set up bicycle parking lots. They also established a website that allows you to easily find a parking lot nearby, thanks to Google Maps integration.
As of July 1st, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will enforce a new act for bicycle usage which obliges companies or retailers to provide bicycle parking lots for their employees or customers. That’s why the startup is planning its launch on that date.
The Spark Plug event will take place every month. If you have a chance to visit Japan’s capital, Hub Tokyo should be a must-see spot if you’d like to connect with local entrepreneurs.
Check out their website for more details and event updates.