Building Startup Community and Startup Accelerator in Kyoto
Building Startup Community &
Startup Accelerator in Kyoto
• More than 45 million people visit Kyoto annually.
It’s almost same size as NYC that hosts 48 million visitors annually.
• 1/50 of above visitors are foreigners.
This results in roughly 1 million international visitors per year.
• Yet, there is no startup community & accelerator in Kyoto that is
open to international entrepreneurs and even to locals. Why?
• Osaka is a bit ahead of Kyoto trying to attract international
entrepreneurs through its institutions and venture funds.
e.g. Knowledge Capital at Grand Front Osaka.
e.g. Hack Ventures closely working with 500 Startups.
What we have and what we don’t have
– Great venues where likeminded people can hangout and
collaborate. All venues are super Kyoto-ish. e.g. Cowaki, Machiya
Studio, HUB Kyoto, 47 Ronin.
– Events for entrepreneurial people. Some of them are imported
from US. e.g. Startup Weekend, Machiya Bar.
– Top class universities and students.
• Don’t haves
– Startup community being recognized nationally and
– Startup accelerator. We only have incubators.
– Serial entrepreneurs who are Kyoto residents.
Read this book before you proceed
Community ﬁrst, everything else later
• Community is a core part of startup ecosystem.
• Everything else will be built on top of healthy, well-recognized, self-
• Community must be built with bottom-up approach, not top-down.
• Community must be built by people within community. This is the
only way as bottom-up approach.
• Government, state, city, university, VC cannot build community
since this is considered as top-down approach. Many attempts in
the past, but none succeeded.
• Leaders in community must be entrepreneurs, not government
oﬃcials, university professors, venture capitalists.
Phase 1: Building Foundation for
Community Without Spending Money
Random lecture by startup people
• People at startup give lecture about any topic they are good at.
• It could be anything from web design, programming to social media
marketing, legal work.
• Every lecture is held at one of venues in Kyoto, and preferably
scheduled after work hour. For example, 7pm to 9pm.
• Lecture is provided at no cost so everyone can participate as long
as he/she has time.
• Participants can interact with a person who is giving lecture during
Q&A session or after lecture is ﬁnished.
• Consider this activity as “give before you get.” No expectation from
• Lectures must be provided for free.
• Venue owners are expected to provide their space for free at least
for a couple of hours.
• A person who gives lecture doesn’t have to be A-class talent.
• Organize those lectures once a week or once every two weeks to
keep awareness amongst people. This awareness creates
foundation for community.
• Have a central location where people can look for upcoming
lectures and events.
e.g. StartupDigest http://startupdigest.com/tokyo/
e.g. Google Calendar, Facebook page
What is going to happen
• People start seeing each other at various lectures on regular basis.
This creates healthy relationship between members in community.
• Students can learn the latest skills used at actual startups.
• Startups can connect to students who might want to work as intern
or full-time employee in the future.
• Students may decide to stay in Kyoto by joining local startup rather
than relocating themselves to Tokyo after graduation.
• People begin to feel existence of community by belonging to same
group of people.
• Word-of-mouth starts spreading nationally and internationally,
which attracts potential members of community from inside and
Case Study: General Assembly
General Assembly is a collaborative workspace and startup incubator. Startups
incubated by GA are not required to pay for their rent. Instead, they are
required to give workshop for members in community. GA makes money by
selling those workshops that in return cover the entire rent fee for startups.
Phase 2: Turn Community into
Foundation for Accelerator
What works and what does not work
Hey, I’m an startup accelerator and
I have money. Want to join me?
THIS DOES NOT WORK
Startup Accelerator as a place
where community member gathers
Community Member Community Member
Community Member Community Member
Desired form of accelerator
• Coworking space + incubation oﬃce.
• Coworking space is a place where any community member can
stop by, work and collaborate.
• Incubation oﬃce is a place where select group of startups work.
• The startups are not required to pay for their rent, but required to
give lecture on regular basis. Same model as General Assembly.
• Lecture is held at coworking space and it is given by the startups in
• Coworking space and incubation oﬃce must be in walking distance.
Preferably within same building.
engage / intern / part-time / full-time