World Focus

What businesses want

GOOD LOCATION

"Being based in Fukuoka allows us to not only cover the whole of Japan, but also the Chinese and Korean markets at the same time. Taiwan, which is also near, is also ramping up its start-up activities."

SINGAPOREAN ANGEL INVESTORS STEVEN LIEW AND DEVIN TAN, who launched their firm, Cosmic Cafe, in January with the aim of helping other entrepreneurs turn their visions into successful companies. Mr Liew is 49 and Ms Tan is 48.


BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

"Despite the mayor's vision to promote a start-up culture, property prices were still very undervalued. If more start-ups come, there is bound to be greater demand for rental offices and for short- to medium-term accommodation."

SINGAPOREAN ANNIE HO, 37, who started real estate firm Fukuoka Properties in September 2013. She first lived in the city in 2010 when she took a sabbatical from work to study Japanese.


GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

"We use the Startup Cafe a lot for its free space and Wi-Fi, and we got free consultations with lawyers and accountants. We also benefited from the Startup Visa - without it, we wouldn't have been able to start our company as we didn't have the 5 million yen (S$61,500) or two employees that is required upfront to get a business licence."

FRENCH COUPLE THOMAS POUPLIN AND YASMINE DJOUDI, of Ikkai, which connects students to ad hoc job offers. They are aged 28 and 29, respectively.


AFFORDABILITY

"The cost of starting a company in Fukuoka was much lower than in Tokyo. The rent was - and is - much lower; living here is much cheaper."

MR SHUNSUKE NAKAMURA, 41, who founded his firm Shikumi Design in 2005. He designs interactive digital advertisements for corporate clients, and develops apps like Springin' that introduces coding to young children. He hopes to be able to inspire a new generation of creators.


QUALITY OF LIFE

"I had no intention of starting my firm in a big city. What I wanted was a good quality of life and for my kids to grow up in a good environment. Fukuoka is special. It is compact, with both a city and a countryside, and mountains and the seas."

MR MASANORI HASHIMOTO, 41, of Nulab, which creates communication software. Founded in 2004, it is the city's first tech start-up and now has offices in Tokyo, Kyoto and New York.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2017, with the headline 'What businesses want'. Print Edition | Subscribe