Sharing working spaces and ideas, members chase new opportunities

by Koichi Tsujimura

Kyodo

Membership co-working spaces are increasing, creating opportunities for users to think of new ideas and expand their business activities through encounters with each other.

A co-working space is a shared working environment where members can use desks, conference rooms, Wi-Fi and other office facilities and services. Users are usually work-at-home professionals and other independent workers.

Fumitaka Suzuki, 35, became a member of PoRTaL, a spacious co-working space in the busy Shibuya shopping district in Tokyo, in July 2012 when he became an independent interior designer.

Suzuki met a cartoonist at the space, who referred to the designer’s work in his manga. Suzuki also got to know other people, including a researcher of sounds in natural environments such as murmurs of streams.

Using the co-working space “has broadened my horizons as I have become friends with people in various jobs,” Suzuki said. “I’d like to design spaces utilizing natural sounds and flavors in the future.”

According to the Kokuyo RDI Center, which is studying working environments, co-working spaces began to increase in big cities several years ago and there are now some 300 of them nationwide.

“An atmosphere in favor of sharing places and ideas seems to have been spreading in our society since the (March 11, 2011) Great East Japan Earthquake,” said Atsuko Saito, senior researcher at Kokuyo RDI. “Companies letting employees use (co-working spaces) for the sake of product development and other purposes are likely to increase.”

The MOV co-working space in the Shibuya Hikarie commercial complex, which opened in April last year, has desks, including those assigned to specific members, available 24 hours a day.

In July, 13 users of the space from three different information technology companies formed the team Square Garden to help each other in such work as designing websites and advertising their products and services.

“We don’t intend to form a company, so we can maintain a comfortable distance from each other,” said Satoshi Take, 34, who heads the team. “(MOV) is like a train station where people with various purposes and destinations get together.”

Naru Takano, president of a firm producing herb-based tea, seasonings and cosmetics in Oita Prefecture, has been renting two desks at MOV for ¥300,000 per month since June last year.

Taking advantage of personal connections that the company built up through MOV, it developed a new product in four months. Usually the process takes more than a year.

Although Takano, 51, can rent an office three times larger in Shibuya for ¥300,000 per month, he continues to use MOV to “meet people with live information.”

But Takano said that eventually his three employees will have to move out of the co-working space because he plans to expand the workforce in Tokyo of his company, Find News.

But even so, Takano said that he wants to maintain ties with people and companies he has become acquainted with at MOV.