Updated: Aug 31, 2020

The basecamp that enables mountaineering

What makes Impact HUB Tokyo different from a regular co-working space or an incubator? Our founders describe its function and role as a ‘base camp in a mountain’. Impact MAKERs, who question the status quo and take action for the future they envision, are mountaineers who take on big mountains to ‘see the view on the other side of the mountain’. In the same way, a base camp is essential for a literal mountain climb, Impact MAKERs need a base camp to reach the summit they have set out to attain.

What features are required for a base camp that caters to Impact MAKERs? First of all, it should allow Impact MAKERs to be as productive and creative as they aspire to be. To this end, our workspace has been designed to allow for both quality concentration and creativity. In addition, the space is designed to not only foster productive work but also to allow members to relax. Lounges, kitchen areas, and café spaces play an important role in replenishing their spirits and allowing them to tackle their work with renewed vigour.

Tangible and intangible inputs for quality output

Quality input is essential to quality output. No matter how determined you are to climb a mountain, if your climbing plan is incomplete or if you lack the required tools and know-how, you will not be able to reach the summit. That's why our founders focused on crafting great programmes for entrepreneurs. The HUB’s programmes were designed to reflect the specific needs of entrepreneurs building a business in Japan and are the result of thorough research on the local context as well as the latest entrepreneurs theories from around the world.

In addition, quality learning often comes from sharing experiences within a community. This is one of the key features of Impact HUB Tokyo. The support you need when you're just starting up isn't simply related to funding and advice on business plans. Community members can learn from one another by sharing their struggles and the solutions they came up with (For instance, how you dealt with applying with a company credit card just after establishing your business, managing limited back-office resources, or drafting Japanese contracts). A community is a place where every member feels free to share their experiences and failure while learning from those of others.

Indeed, at Impact HUB Tokyo, you will observe people sharing experiences, ideas and professional expertise daily. These may take the form of small talks in the lounge space or speeches at a formal event. Some of these events are hosted by HUB staff, while others are casual events organized by the members themselves. This is a true testament to the organic nature of the community at Impact HUB Tokyo.

Core concepts common to all Impact HUB Tokyo programmes

Let's take a closer look at our programmes, which our founders see as ‘the best part of Impact HUB Tokyo’. What are the key principles upon which all of our programmes were built? Let us share the three pillars of the organic design that enables our community to serve as a base camp for Impact MAKERs.

1. Team Learning

We wanted to challenge the status quo in developing our programmes. Currently, many accelerators offer old-school programmes where the ‘teacher’ imparts best practices on how to create a business plan. Frankly, this knowledge isn't very useful to a generation of people who are trying to make an impact using the latest tech or the latest fundraising avenues. Entrepreneurship is not about producing documents.

You will also find programmes that bring in prominent entrepreneurs as mentors to critique and advise on business plans. Again, while this may motivate entrepreneurs temporarily, such programmes are unlikely to have a lasting effect on the business of the entrepreneur, and some of the advice unnecessarily confuses entrepreneurs.

Our founders have hence focused on continuous team learning. They believe that a steady process of ‘knee-to-knee competition’ with benevolent, moderate pressure from peers leads to better results than top-down advice from a star entrepreneur. It is about allowing entrepreneurs to learn from each other, commit to goals in front of their peers, encourage each other, and brainstorm solutions as a group. Throughout this process, entrepreneurs create deep relationships that will remain an asset for the rest of their lives.

2. Uncovering the core value of the business.

When preparing to start a business or in the early stages of starting up, we tend to worry about money and sales. It's easy to get caught up in the perceived urgency of immediate profits and fundraising and to forget about the value our business can provide. If we have built some momentum, we can continue for a while, but gradually we are likely to lose sight of why we are doing what we are doing and why our product or service is important.

As a result, the core of our business becomes fuzzy, which impedes our ability to innovate and ultimately leads to a high probability of failure. Grit comes from focus, which in turn comes from clarity. That's why we offer programmes that aim at building up a solid core for your business and supporting the process of creating a business that exists for the long run while steadily growing in the near term.

Our role is to nudge Impact MAKERs forward. No matter how determined an Impact MAKER is, they will always need to confront their fears when launching a business. In order to overcome these fears and take the first step beyond the limits they have unconsciously set, they need a companion. And that companion should ideally be an Impact MAKER themselves.

3. Team momentum as the most powerful driving force

Once the programme begins, the effect of ‘team continuity’ is remarkable. We have seen some of our graduates decide to continue team learning beyond the program, in what they called a ‘second helping’. Their growth over the year that followed their graduation was astonishing, demonstrating the effectiveness of continued peer pressure when provided within a supportive team.

That's why we pay special attention to how our programmes end. A business plan that has been developed during the programme will go down the drain without the necessary follow-through, even after the programme has ended. So we follow up on our alumni to ensure that they are still making progress.

Impact HUB Tokyo, in both its software and hardware aspects, is meticulously designed to serve as a ‘base camp for mountaineering’, a place where we add value to our entrepreneurs' output, enrich tangible and intangible inputs and allow them to rest and recharge.

(Interview and Composition by Toshiaki Ishikawa)

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