Saturday, 23 May 2015

創業特区一周年サミット (Special Zone for Start-Ups Summit)

As part of one of my seminars, I was told to go to this summit, which I can only translate as "Special Zone for Start-Ups Summit (One year anniversary)", which I think is the full name. I went there not knowing what to expect, or where the place really was, but when I got there, found out it was about entrepreneurship, which is definitely my area of interest.

Background knowledge: Fukuoka has been designated a Special Economic Zone (特区 tokku - a word that was said many, many times) for start-ups. If you're interested, Fukuoka city has a English PDF explaining it, and I found this article from TechInAsia which does a pretty good job explaining it.

So apparently, it's been a year since Fukuoka was given this special designation, and Kaizen Platform (which was actually founded in America than came to Fukuoka), and Tsutaya hosted a one-year anniversary summit, which my friends and I were told to go to. The summit took place at 博多百年蔵ホール, which is a really cool building that looks like this:

The summit basically consisted of a few speeches, four presentations by start-ups (and I could see me/my friends using three of them) and two talk-show sessions. I could go into detail about what happened, but I suspect a lot of you would find it boring, and anyway, I'm not writing a report. So I'll just talk about two things that particularly interested me.

One: Government support at the prefectural level for this is really, really strong. Ok, so the mayor of Fukuoka showing up might be normal, but I was quite surprised at the things that they're doing. There is this Hack for Women event (which caught my eye) that aims for get more women to start businesses, Fukuoka is trying to get Tokyo to pass a few new laws/change a few laws to make it easier for startups, especially those focusing on wearable tech, to operate, I'm pretty sure a Hackathon has happened, and there's something called Innovation Studio Fukuoka. And soon, they're going to enter Phase 2.

The mayor talking. I sneaked a photo. 

Two: Start-Up Cafe. This is actually a real thing, and I can't believe I've never heard of it. It's on the third floor of Tsutaya in Tenjin, and they have free consultations for people who want to start businesses. Apparently, you can talk to them about anything - paperwork, emplyoment, etc and in pretty awesome surroundings too. It's like a cafe, but one where you brainstorm about making money. There are also seminars, and that means I should really see how much time I have and whether I can attend one.

Oh, and ok, this technically makes it three, but as an observation, a significant number of the entrepreneurs that spoke at the summit once worked at a company called Recruit. It made me wonder whether something in the company culture encouraged entrepreneurship, or if it's the type of place that will make you desperate enough to take the risk of starting a business just to get out.

Although I was a bit reluctant to go to this, seeing as it was from 6pm to 10ish pm (we ended around 9.30 and then skipped the name card exchange), it turned out to be interesting.

Basically the entire front half of the room stood up to grab a photo of this.