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growth next's first anniversary

As growth next turns one year old, let's look back at how this hub helped Fukuoka's startup community to grow.

One Year at growth next

Alexa Huth

Writer/Editor for Fukuoka City

Alexa is a communications specialist currently living and working in Fukuoka, Japan.

Click here to find out more about Alexa.

Shaping a Community

When I used to walk past the former Daimyo elementary school, it always seemed like such a beautiful building. The unique construction, the huge windows, and the central location made it such a perfect space for...well something. I never got further than thinking that much. Luckily, innovators in our community had an idea for the building.

The team behind growth next had a vision. They knew our city’s startup scene needed a central place to meet, collaborate, and learn from each other. While the original Startup Cafe in the Tenjin Tsutaya was always busy with entrepreneurs, the community needed a bit more space. We also needed offices, a place to prototype ideas, and spaces to hold seminars and events. From this need and some excellent strategic planning, growth next was opened in the Daimyo elementary building in April of 2017. 

Getting Inspired

Whenever I take people on tours of the facility, they are struck by how much was done to create a positive vibe within the startup hub. We all know startups have a lot of energy to begin with, but the pastel paints on the walls, interesting art donated by global communities, and decision to keep some of the elements of the original school keeps growth next feeling like a place to learn and grow, no matter your age. 

As the one-year anniversary of the growth next building came near, I wanted to write a bit about the people behind the space as well as the anniversary party. For me, growth next has created a solid community feel. If I’m stuck writing, I’ll stop by Honey Coffee and sit in Startup Cafe for a bit. It’s hard to feel writers' block for long when you watch so many inspired people exchanging ideas and creating the future of their businesses and our community.

We’re Creating Something Big

All of the startups, advisors, entrepreneurs, and staff members that keep growth next running certainly needed a day to reflect on the year and see how much they’ve done. This anniversary was a great chance for everyone to mingle. Startup life can be so full of travel, pitches, and hard work that some people never end up meeting even though they work in the same building. 

During the day-long festivities, there were discussions, informational sessions, and even a pitch contest. We were able to hear how much of a difference Fukuoka city’s support made to many of the startups in our community. I think Ian Liao from Golface put it best when during a panel discussion he communicated just how much seeing and experiencing Fukuoka for yourself can change your perspective. He brought his team over from Taiwan to get a taste of Fukuoka for themselves and found out how easy it was to convince everyone that moving here was the right choice.

It's Much More Than a Building

I wanted to dig deeper into this sense of community, which has only been strengthened by having such a central startup hub. Fortunately, I was able to sit down with Junichi Anazawa and chat about the developments we've seen in Fukuoka's startup scene.

Anazawa san understands Fukuoka’s startup community inside and out. He’s been a Manager since the Startup Cafe opened in 2014. The Startup Cafe helps respond to questions and advise anyone who wants to know more about starting up, or who needs assistance with their startup company. They help with everything from giving advice and making introductions to creating informational events that bring the community together. Currently, Anazawa san is the Section Leader at Startup Cafe and has worked to help shape the heart of growth next. 

During our discussion, Anazawa san brought up a really simple but critical point - it's about more than just the building. We all love growth next's charming and vibrant feel, but it's what is happening inside each and every day that actually makes it a hub. We've all grown closer now that we have a large central place to congregate and exchange ideas. Getting the chance to watch other startups succeed, seeing enthusiastic entrepreneurs coming back from pitch events with great new leads, basically, everything that happens here has the potential to inspire. 

Anazawa san also pointed out that so many people stop by growth next just to get a peek at what we are doing. They look around for a bit and take some photos, but they leave without getting the true message in his opinion. "I just want everyone to understand that creating a startup is both easier than you would expect and incredibly worthwhile," he shared. In order to really help those who are casually interested or curious about why Fukuoka's startup scene is so popular, he plans to create events that will pull the community and the city closer together. In the future, he'll be working through Startup Cafe to develop sessions where current founders and anyone who wants to know about startups can connect. He hopes that will spark inspiration on both sides and help everyone learn that they too can create startups.

A Significant Milestone

While we were talking, I started to realize just how much soul our startup community has coursing through it. Many times, enthusiasm is fleeting while people are chasing the next unicorn. But a recurring theme I see in Fukuoka is how dedicated the community is to helping. Not just helping themselves or their friends, but genuinely pitching in to make our city better. Nearly a year ago, I wrote a piece on why I chose to call Fukuoka home. Without getting sappy, I just want to say that a year later I'm happier with my choice than ever. I'm excited to see what our second year at growth next has to offer, and how Fukuoka's startup community will evolve in years to come.