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Press Release: Venture Café Tokyo


Venture Café expands to Tokyo, bringing its unique approach to building innovation ecosystems

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI – March 6, 2018 – Venture Café was first conceived at the Nantucket Conference in Massachusetts in 2007. Since then, nearly 250,000 attendees have participated in Venture Café events in cities across the US and Europe.  Approximately 2,000 people gather every week at Venture Café events to learn about innovation going on in their cities and make connections with other entrepreneurs, scientists, students, and venture investors.  Venture Café has emerged as a kind of weekly “TEDx” conference, helping to build the fabric of the innovation community in each city in which it operates.  Each weekly Thursday gathering typically has a theme, such as “Virtual Reality” or “FinTech” and brings together innovation players focused on that topic area.

Today, we are proud to announce that Venture Café will be launching this month in Tokyo, Japan on March 22nd.  Japan’s leading real estate developer, Mori Building, has sponsored the effort, donating Venture Café space for its weekly gathering in its well known Toranomon Hills Tower, located in central Tokyo a block from the US Embassy.  Toranomon Hills is emerging as an innovation hub for Japan, with major tech companies and venture capital firms relocating to the area.  Venture Café Tokyo seeks to help define this neighborhood of Tokyo as Japan’s “innovation district.”  Typically set up as a nonprofit entity in each new city, Venture Café is closely partnered with Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), the world’s leading builder of innovation hubs.  CIC hubs typically include hundreds of startups, tech companies, investors, shared laboratories and other specialized shared space to support science and technology focused innovation.  CIC itself is also planning to expand to Tokyo.

Venture Café Tokyo is joining a growing global network of organizations with a shared mission – connecting innovators to make things happen.  There are currently five cafés globally, with several more under development.

Major Japanese corporate sponsors of Venture Café Tokyo include JT, which is investing in innovations to support people’s fulfilling lives, Sompo, which is particularly interested in working with innovators to address the needs of Japan’s growing elderly population, and Information Development, which thrives to make social contribution through IT innovation.  Other corporate partners include, TEPCO i-FRONTIERS, Greenberg Traurig, all of whom are interested in fostering innovation in their areas of activity.  Students are expected to proactively engage in Venture Café’s activities, and Waseda University, University of Tokyo, Digital Hollywood University, and  GLOBIS University, are among the many institutions already actively involved.

Leading Venture Café Tokyo will be Dr. Yasuhiro Yamakawa.  Dr. Yamakawa is a lifelong entrepreneur and tenured entrepreneurship professor at Babson College in Wellesley, MA.  Babson has been ranked by US News and World Report as America’s leading entrepreneurship institution, every single year for the past 23 years.  Dr. Yamakawa will relocate to Japan while continuing to teach courses at Babson.  Dr. Yamakawa has lectured for years on topics of entrepreneurship in Japan, including at Roppongi Academy Hills, Government-funded programs (e.g., Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry’s Kakehashi Projects, Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Acceleration Program for Women), universities (e.g., Kobe, Kyushu, Waseda, Yokohama National) and corporate executive programs.  Dr. Yamakawa has become especially well known for his work on “failure.”  He intends to apply this expertise to help Japanese innovators overcome the perceived stigma of failure, which is seen as a barrier to the growth of entrepreneurship in Japan.

Dr. Yamakawa comments, “It is a great honor and pleasure to take on this leadership role to spearhead the efforts of bringing entrepreneurial mindset to Japanese business and society.  In particular, I hope to cultivate the positive growth mindset to help better the societal perception and its tolerance for failure.”

“We are thrilled to officially have our first launch in Asia by welcoming Venture Café Tokyo into our growing network of global Venture Cafés,” said Travis Sheridan, President of the Venture Café Global Institute, the organization that supports the global network of Venture Cafés. “We look forward to working together to strengthen ongoing innovation efforts in Tokyo to help it become one of the strongest  innovation gateway cities in the region and the world.”

Tim Rowe, the Founder of both Venture Café and CIC notes, “I have had a life-long love affair with Japan, and I can’t say how excited I am about this global institution becoming established in Japan.  Many people mistakenly believe that Japan cannot be strong at entrepreneurship.  In fact, 11% of the world’s biggest companies are Japanese, while only 1.7% of the world’s population is Japanese.  All of these companies were once startups.  Clearly Japan can box well above its weight-class in entrepreneurship if it puts its mind to it.”

Venture Café Tokyo will begin with a weekly collaboration gathering every Thursday from 4PM to 9PM, similar to Thursday gatherings elsewhere in the world.  Participation is open to everyone, without charge, who has an ongoing commitment to the local innovation ecosystem.


“The success of CIC as a physical platform with the mission of fixing the world through innovation, relies on our ability to converge the right stakeholders and programming, and cultivate serendipitous and intentional connections amongst the right people,” says Rowe. “Venture Café is a core piece of that puzzle necessary to turn cities into mature innovation ecosystems.  I know Venture Café Tokyo will enrich both our CIC and local innovation communities as its peer members have done successfully around the world.”


Venture Café’s mission is to connect innovators to make things happen. Conceived in 2007 and launched  in 2009 by the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), Venture Café is now a global movement of local nonprofits working to build stronger and more inclusive innovation ecosystems and accelerate and enhance the innovation process, in cities around the world. It does this through its use of programming, physical spaces, storytelling, and broad innovation engagement.  There are currently six Venture Cafe members, comprising the Venture Cafe Global Network, with several more in development around the world.

The Venture Café Global Institute is a public benefit company, housed within CIC and operated as a nonprofit, that supports the network of non-profit Venture Cafes in each city. VCGI provides support in key areas including staff training, knowledge sharing, fundraising, shared systems and services, intellectual property, and guides expansion to new sites. It also deploys our flagship corporate-startup connections program, Captains of Innovation, around the world.


CIC builds and operates innovation hubs around the world.  Each hub typically houses hundreds of technology-driven startup companies, shared laboratories, and other innovation facilities. Our mission is to “fix the world through innovation”, by helping create powerful innovation ecosystems. We do that by helping innovators and entrepreneurs launch new ventures quickly and efficiently, giving them a resource-rich environment in which to succeed. We serve approximately 1,800 companies across seven buildings in Cambridge, Boston, St. Louis, Rotterdam (the Netherlands) and Miami (and more on sites on the way!). Our mission is to change the world through innovation by developing innovation ecosystems that enable exceptional entrepreneurs to create new products and companies better and faster. We do this by creating world-class infrastructure and programming for innovators, including high quality, flexible office space; shared wet-lab facilities; public, civic innovation spaces; and targeted initiatives to help entrepreneurs grow their companies.


For statements on behalf of Venture Café Tokyo:

For statements on behalf of the CIC Venture Café Global Institute


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