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Why The Sharing Economy is Different in Japan – Spacee

By Tim Romero: Serial startup founder in Japan and indomitable innovator

Spacee has staked out an interesting position in the sharing economy. Spacee enables companies and individuals to rent out unused meeting room space to people who need to hold a meeting. It's an interesting take on applying a sharing economy model to business. I’m generally very skeptical of startups who define themselves as “Uber for X” or “Airbnb for Y”, particularly in the B2B space, but Spaceee has already been in business for several years in Japan, and they are seeing strong traction and increasing revenues. They might really be onto something. Taku has some fascinating insights on why Japan, and Tokyo in particular, might be far more fertile ground for sharing economy startups than almost any other place in the world. It’s a great discussion and I think you’ll enjoy it. Show Notes for Startups Why the basic business case makes sense How large the meeting space market can grow The challenge of expanding outside of Tokyo Why Spacee turned down venture financing to bootstrap for three years Whats wrong with the current fundraising environment in Japan Which other companies are coming into the meeting room rental space Why Japan is uniquely suited for the sharing economy Links from the Founder Learn about Spacee Follow them on twitter @spaceejp Friend them on Facebook An interview with Spacee CEO on fundraising [shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="7994466"] Leave a comment Transcript from Japan Disrupting Japan, episode 59. Welcome to Disrupting Japan - straight talk from Japan's most successful entrepreneurs. I'm Tim Romero and thanks for joining me. You know, the world is full of start-ups that define themselves as “the Uber of X” or the “Airbnb for Y.” Frankly, most of those business models don’t really make sense when you dig into them. Spacee, however, might just be onto something. Spacee rents out unused space around Tokyo to salesman, co-workers, or people who just need a quiet place to conduct a little business. As Takuya Umeda explains in the interview, it’s not just meeting rooms that are being rented out. The sharing economy is relatively new in Japan and Takuya and I talk not only about some of the problems its facing here, but why, in the long-run, Japan might be better suited for sharing economy companies than anywhere else in the world. He also explains why Spacee decided to delay taking outside investment for almost three years while they built their business and how that turned into an advantage later on. But you know, he tells the story much better than I can, so let’s hear from our sponsor and then get right to the interview. [pro_ad_display_adzone id="1404" info_text="Sponsored by" font_color="grey" ] [Interview] Tim: So I’m sitting here with Takuya Umeda, co-founder of Spacee. Thanks for sitting down with me. Taku: Thank you, Tim. Tim: Spacee is kind of like Airbnb for meeting spaces, but that’s a really overly broad description, so why don’t you tell us a bit of how it works. Taku: Spacee is really like the Airbnb of business. In Japan, wherever you have a meeting, if you have an outside meeting, the only place you go is like Starbucks or a café. Tim: Right. Everyone meets in coffee shops. Taku: If there is a professional conference room, it costs really expensive. It’s probably like 5,000 yen per room, per hour. And at that price you can’t really do much, like brainstorming and start up some business plan. Stuff like that you can’t really do. And a café is not really good at it too. So we found that there is a gap between an expensive conference room and a Starbucks, so we fit into the gap. Tim: So something a little more formal and private than a coffee shop, but not quite as formal as a hotel meeting room or a service office. So tell me about your customers. Who is it that’s renting out these spaces and why are they doing it? Taku: You know, there is a lot of salespeople around and they stay l...

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