Shingo is a co-founder of Impact Hub Tokyo and is currently working on bringing cities, businesses and entrepreneurs together to work on democratic innovation solutions. He advises city councils on city-wide innovation models to empower businesses and citizens to solve big systemic problems. He also co-founded OISYS, a research company that focuses on visualizing and quantifying the interdependencies that exist in large complex social systems. Through this work, he hopes to unlock many more ways for the stakeholders of large social systems to better share resources and collaborate. He recently co-founded w00rk, which manages a portfolio of innovation communities around the world. For an innovation community to thrive, it needs bespoke space to incubate ideas as well as community management content and a sustainable business model. W00rk helps in these areas.
Hey Shingo, thanks for taking the time to answer our 5 questions! Let’s get started: Can you tell us the name of your coworking space, and what makes it special?
Our space is called Impact Hub Tokyo. As you know, running a sustainable business by running a coworking space is very difficult if empowering the entrepreneurs is your main goal. There are many coworking spaces now, and I don’t know of many that are sustainable. We are not only sustainable but also able to share our know-how with many innovation communities and help them bring innovation to their communities.
What does the term “coworking” mean to you?
Coworking means trust-based sharing of ideas, know-how and resources. For us, the physical space is just one of the many tools we use to allow our community to cowork. We have programs, many events and a team to facilitate interaction between the members and guests inside and outside of our physical space.
What’s a trick or best practice that you learned through running a coworking space — one thing that every space operator should know?
There are many tricks to this, but one thing I would say to anyone who is about to start a coworking business is to keep your space humble. Especially nowadays, you are likely to be starting your business in an area where there are others like you. If you aim to be better equipped than them, it will be a hard start for you. So, focus on the people. People will bring people.
What’s a great coworking project or initiative we should be aware of?
For many reasons, we should be paying attention to WeWork. Their business model is certainly different from ours, and if they can become sustainable, I would be curious to know how. They definitely undermine the hard work many of us put in to actually empower innovators around the world. At the same time, they are definitely changing the ways in which corporations work. I don’t look to them for ideas, as I don’t find anything new there yet, but I am observing how different businesses take the first few steps to think about innovation more seriously by choosing to rent a space from WeWork.
What makes the coworking scene in Tokyo or Japan in general special? What do you love about it?
We currently focus a lot on regional cities. Regional cities are becoming inhabited by innovators that moved out of large cities like Tokyo. These regional cities are innovating, and they are connecting with other cities. This is how I think societies change, in a democratic way. Japan is trying to change through regional cities. The next 10 years or so will be critical, as many cities face extinction. If they can’t form active and sustainable innovation communities, the future of these cities will be very tough. That makes our challenge very interesting and very worthwhile.
And finally, what is a message or advice you like to share with the readers of our blog?
I see a future in inclusive and democratic innovation. There are many spaces, including very large ones, that offer “coworking,” but some of us go beyond what these highly commercial and capitalist 1.0 businesses offer. Look out for like-minded operators, and let’s support and learn from each other.
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