Updated: Aug 31
A community that creates impacts
We launched Impact HUB Tokyo seven years ago, and the number of members has been fluctuating between 200 and 250+. If we include the members who have reached the next stage in their business and relocated, our community has grown to 800+ members. Most of these members remain connected online or offline.
We believe that the heart of co-working is the human connections our members make. Since our opening, we have followed a management policy of ‘People first, Space later’ whereby every decision made has prioritized the human experience of using our space (knowledge sharing, for instance) over facade considerations. We design for our members and for our members first.
Community Builders who enliven the community
Community Builders are the cornerstone of our community. They act as catalysts that connect members organically, constantly observing the ‘shifts’ of the community and optimizing our space.
The role of Community Builders, including our two founders, is to keep in touch with members and grow the community organically. We learn about members’ business, current growth stage, motivations, problems, vision and needs. This is what allows us to connect them with the right people within the community, improve our space or service accordingly, and create opportunities for members to share experiences and collaborate.
Community Builders are constantly looking for ‘what the community is looking for right now’ and create events and meetups that are tailored to these needs. As a result, Impact HUB Tokyo hosts several public and community-only events and meetups per month. We are also always happy to let members host their own events, insofar as the event contributes to our community, and offer advice on hosting when requested. These are some of the ways in which we have kept our community energized and impactful.
Diversity as our strength
Our community is diverse: one-third of our members are non-Japanese speakers, and a fourth are women. Some are entrepreneurs; some are NPO managers and leaders. Others are strategy or marketing consultants, freelancers, programmers, designers, researchers, or employees. Some members have moved in with their entire team, typically departments in IT companies or business development units that were dispatched to our co-working space to try out new ways of working.
The average age of our members is 36, so it's not a place where only young startups gather. A number of our members are in their early 30s, having built the first career, and are seeking new connections outside of their field of expertise and pursuing new challenges or work opportunities. We have found that this mix of age groups and backgrounds has stimulated collaboration among members, by allowing for more fruitful give-and-take.
Business growth as a shared goal
We have been blessed and stunned by the collaborations that members have undertaken within the community, and after many years, a pattern has begun to emerge. A new member joins the community with a great business idea, which they are committed to bringing to fruition. They find collaborators, partners, employees or clients within the network of our community, thanks to the help of Community Builders. Typically, we have seen members find the resources they need to get their business off the ground within their first three to six months at Impact HUB Tokyo.
The average time spent with us from idea to the next business stage is eighteen months. That can be short or long depending on the entrepreneur’s expectations, and we pride ourselves on being a stepping stone for all these budding entrepreneurs. As a result of this constant influx and outflux, our community is constantly metamorphosing. Sometimes a member needs to leave because their business has grown to a stage where we are not able to accommodate them anymore: while seeing them leave is always saddening, we also feel deeply, at that moment, that we have accomplished our mission.
We also support the growth of our members’ businesses through a variety of programmes targeting not only new startups but also steadier businesses whose owners want to reevaluate their value proposition. This common focus on growth is a key feature of our community and a crucial part of what makes it effective.
Co-learning as our culture
At Impact HUB Tokyo, we are not satisfied with only talking about going public or reaching financial milestones. Many of us are interested in creating a work-life balance for ourselves and building a close-knit community around our services and products. Building a business or organization is a marathon: It requires sustained efforts over a long period of time, and self-management is a substantial challenge for many entrepreneurs. By sharing time management tips, productivity hacks or life advice, our members also help each other keep strong along the way.
We emphasize the real value of a business or activity and the practical ways in which this value can be expressed and shared (the ‘impact’), rather than a mere focus on funding milestones. And this is where community diversity is key: Sometimes it takes an outsider to be able to identify and articulate the unique value of your business or activity.
Co-learning is valuable enough that some of our members have joined in order to work remotely while exploring our community. As such, Impact HUB Tokyo is not simply a place to work; it is a base camp for Impact MAKERs to expand their horizons and reach new heights, and find value within and outside.
*As of March 2020.
(Interview and composition: Toshiaki Ishikawa)