Introduction to Companies in Osaka
Interviews with foreign investors in Osaka 2019.10.8
General Manager, West Japan, WeWork Japan
QCan you tell us about WeWork and WeWork Japan?
WeWork is a co-working space that we offer those several services, but in general, we’d like to kind of pride ourselves in three different pillars.
One benefit is flexibility, second is accessibility, and third is really just community.
In terms of flexibility, we actually provide a lot of space, a huge amount of volume in which we allow the big companies and even small companies to allow to contract or expand at their will, so basically a “living ecos” for the buildings to grow with our tenants, our members.
With that, we also have a very flexible contract where we don’t do typical lease contracts of ten, five years, but in our case you can do maybe like three months, and so on. So, very, very flexible in that sense.
The accessibility aspect of it is that our members can actually access anywhere from Namba over in Osaka all the way to New York or London or Beijing. So our presence all around the world becomes a huge asset for us.
And then lastly community. I think this is very, very conducive to the Osaka community. We conduct a lot of events and we try to also create a lot of connections between members. This all around is really just the pillars that WeWork is able to provide our members which is the reason why we continue to grow all around the world.
WeWork started roughly about nine years ago, so we are going on our tenth year I believe. In Tokyo, in Japan, which was our first location, was in Ark Hills. That was in 2018, February. Since then we opened our first location here in Namba in December 2018. We have grown another two more buildings, and we continue to do so in this region.
QCould you introduce yourself?
My name is Stewart Tudor. I am the GM of West Japan for WeWork. I am originally from Tokyo. Actually I was born and raised there until I went to high school and college in the States. Basically, I kind of stumbled upon this opportunity while I was in my last company, Nike, where I worked at the headquarters in Oregon. I got a call for a very exciting opportunity and I’ve come over. The opportunity was to expand WeWork across West Japan. Although I’ve had some experiences in my last company overseeing the region, this was an opportunity to actually oversee it within Osaka so I am actually here in person. This was a tremendous opportunity for me to take on.
QWhy did you choose Osaka as the start point of your WeWork Japan West?
What do you think the attractive factors in Osaka and Kansai area?
I think Osaka is a city that is really pent up with potential. It has lot of opportunities. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the density of Osaka is tremendous, whether it is in terms of being top 10 GDP or top 10 population. You have quick access to two cities: Kyoto to Kobe. Osaka being the kind of epicenter becomes a geographic location that is an amazing opportunity for any company. That in combination with a lot of efforts that the government has done whether it be the IR or the G20 Summit and then we have the upcoming Expo. The city is well positioned to become a major global city and that for us is extremely exciting. We’ve been in close partnership with the government as well, and they have been very supportive. We are very happy to be involved in this level of growth because we are growing; so is Osaka, so it’s super exciting for us.
QAfter 12 months’ operation in Osaka, what do you think about the current activities and future vision of WeWork Japan West?
I think the way we have scaled so far is at a very, very expedited pace. We start from Namba and then in quick – I think 11 months we have been able to expand within the region, three more locations. Our biggest priority was to focus really on what makes Osaka tick. There is no doubt about it. What makes Osaka tick is the Midosuji Avenue. And so our thought was to be front and center starting from the downtown, what I like to call “downtown” of Osaka through Namba and generally build our way up to Umeda which is again the CBD of business. I think we are really excited to be able to open these locations so quickly. As you can tell this building itself is 20 floors, 2900 desks. We wouldn’t have taken that volume if we didn’t have unbelievable confidence and excitement for the city. Shortly we will be opening up in Umeda and that really was the game plan. Our strategy of executing our brand presence in the marketplace has gone exactly accordingly, mainly because of the way the Osaka membership base has taken to us.
Q“Links Umeda” and “Midosuji Frontier” have been selected to be parts of the “Subsidy Program for Establishing Innovation Base” by Osaka City Government. What do you think about this kind of support from local government?
It is really exciting. I met them a couple times and they described what they were looking for, what kind of companies that they were looking for to support that sort of subsidy and they essentially described exactly what we were trying to do. The act was really to focus on the ripple effects, positive effects that we can have in a local region, or a local city, and that’s where the alignment happened. They were very, very excited for what our concepts can do and what we were able to present with them in terms of opportunity for our presence here in Osaka. That has been a tremendous achievement in terms of this close partnership with Osaka in that sense. We have also in turn partnered out with Osaka Innovation Hub. The idea is that we get the support from the government in this way, we will then also extend our support to other companies who are growing and trying to start up their businesses whether that comes in the form of events or spaces or maybe us taking part in a pitch contest. All around it’s all about collaboration.
QWhat do you think the life in Kansai?
First of all, I really enjoy living in Kobe and working in Osaka. It has been a surprisingly unexpected experience. I never thought in my life that I would live in this region and it has been extremely rewarding. I think that the basic differences I can tell is that this area, Tokyo is a little bit like this too, but this area is very much a relationship type of environment or community. The more you are here and the more you speak with them, the more warmth you get. In general, everybody is very, very polite and very, very open, and extremely warm. That has been fantastic for not just myself in terms of business but also for my family, my children who live in this region. My son is picking up Kansai-ben which is not an accent that I can do, but it will be interesting to communicate with him in the future. I think for me another major difference just geographically speaking is that Tokyo is a massive city. But you’re in Tokyo, it’s actually very difficult to get out of Tokyo because it’s so big. You feel somewhat removed from the rest of the country. Whereas I think Osaka you have a quick access to literally every city, including Tokyo, but every city across West Japan. This is where the culture of Japan really sits not just for business but also just culturally speaking an amazing way to get to know Japan all over again. To see it through the lens of Tokyo is one way, to see it through the lens of Osaka and the rest of Japan is a whole other way, so that has been a tremendous blessing for me.
QWhat do you think are the characteristics about people and the community in Osaka?
I have opened up many locations across Japan. One of the salient things about opening in Osaka has been the quick solidification of the community. Usually it takes many weeks, many months, but in of course Osaka style it does not here. The amount of members that we have that attend is significant compared to other regions, the amount of events that we have per week. We are now going on four per week. We have a long line of events. So you can tell that the event is very, very conducive to Osaka culture specifically, because of their kind of generally friendly, warm approach to everything. Because of that actually in this building when we used to have just one screen for an event for any given building – this is the first building in which we actually have three screens. You can actually do three events simultaneously, and that is still not enough. You know we actually have to take a larger office and convert it just like we did for O-BIC. It’s actually incredible to see how excited people are to attend events or to lead events, to host events, and that is actually a very, very signature cultural connection I feel WeWork has with Osaka.
QCan you give any meesage for foreign companies considering making inroads into Osaka?
I encourage all of you guys to consider Osaka. Osaka actually has been a region that has kind of been typecast as if it was tourist friendly, and it is, but mostly the history of Osaka is actually more about entrepreneurship. If you look back into Osaka history whether it be the likes of major brands like Panasonic or Nissin, like Cup Noodle, and then you can go right over to Kyoto for Nintendo and you can go over to Kobe for ASICS, the brands are all here and a lot of the companies that have been extremely successful in Japan actually started in Osaka region even the ones that say they’re headquartered in Tokyo. A lot of that has to do with this mindset, this entrepreneurial mindset. A very great saying that they have over here, a question they would ask each other is, “Mokarimakka?” which means, ‘Have you made any money today?’ This spirit of making money and trade has been synonymous with everything that is Osaka. If you take a look into that and then the amount of emerging businesses that are actually expanding here. I believe in the 2016 study Osaka was actually higher than Tokyo, and it continues. Commercial land price has almost doubled in the last two years.
The momentum is significantly here and I am extremely excited to be part of it. I encourage all of you to join me over here in Osaka as well, thank you.
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