Bit Valley spirit reviving in Shibuya

The Yomiuri Shimbun

“Shibuya’s appeal is the ties among people,” Takahiro Ito, the head of start-up Palmie Inc., said near Shibuya Station on July 5.

The Yomiuri ShimbunPeople with similar ambitions gather, compete with one another and help members of younger generations grow. This positive cycle has been making itself felt in the central area of Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, which was once nicknamed Bit Valley.

Starting in the latter half of the 1990s, IT start-ups gathered in Shibuya. Because there were few office buildings there with wide amounts of space in a single location, office rents in Shibuya were lower than in other famous business areas in Tokyo, such as Shinjuku and Marunouchi.

This lack of spacious offices became a disadvantage when new companies rapidly grew on the waves of the IT boom, and those that became successful and famous relocated their offices to high-rises in other areas such as Roppongi.

In recent years, however, the trend has been changing. Large office buildings have been completed one after another in Shibuya due to urban redevelopment of the area, and a number of major companies, including IT firms, have returned.

The Japanese unit of Google moved from Shibuya to Roppongi in 2010, but it plans to relocate its main office back to Shibuya this year, leasing whole floors of a new high-rise office building.

Why are IT companies attracted to Shibuya?

“There are many people there who I can casually ask for advice about management, both people who started before me and my contemporaries,” said Takahiro Ito, representative director of start-up Palmie Inc.

In 2014, Palmie launched a website that distributes video clips on how to draw manga. Ito has faced many hurdles in the business, such as procuring funds and hiring employees.

Support has come from his fellow entrepreneurs in Shibuya. Though Ito sees them as his rivals in some respects, they are also colleagues with similar ambitions. As a result, they can share their concerns as pioneers, tell each other about their experiences and know-how, and assist each other.

Ito himself said, “I want to help younger people on similar paths to mine.” He has talked about his experiences, including his failures, at events for young people who want to be entrepreneurs.

If Shibuya becomes a place with only the latest high-rise buildings as a result of redevelopment, office rents will soar and start-ups will have to leave the area.

To prevent this from occurring, venture capital company Apricot Ventures Inc. and Tokyu Land Corp. have jointly managed the Guild Shibuya office building from May last year.

The companies refurbished an old building and set low office rents. A lounge where entrepreneurs can gather was created in the building so they have more opportunities to exchange and develop ideas.

“The human resources in Shibuya are highly diverse, and include people who want to be independent from major companies and people who start brand-new businesses,” said Tomoki Shirakawa, representative director of Apricot Ventures. “I wanted to make a place where they can help each other out.”Speech

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