#Asia #Japan 76: Japan’s Return Path to Innovation – Tim Rowe – CIC


There are no shortage of startup accelerators, innovation spaces and startup community hubs, and sometimes it can be difficult to put your finger on what makes one a success and another a failure.

Today, Tim Rowe the CEO of the Cambridge Innovation Center walks us through what he believes will make or break a startup community.

The CIC started as a small co-working space for a handful of startups, and now is the biggest facility of its kind on the world. They’ve expanded to several locations and are now int he process of setting up their Tokyo facility.

Tim lived in Japan for a few years in the 1990’s and he understands that Japan is different, and that’s a good thing.

It’s an interesting interview and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Show Notes for Startups

What makes one startup space succeed and others fail
When you need to turn down the money to support the  mission
How NGOs and governments can sponsor innovation
A blueprint for a successful innovation space
What approaches to innovation might be particularly effective in Japan
What three things all innovation communities need to succeed
What Japanese universities can do to foster innovation

Links from the Founder

The Cambridge Innovation Center
Follow Tim on twitter @rowe
WCVB-TV’s video on Kendall Square and CIC

 Leave a comment

Transcript from Japan
Welcome to Disrupting Japan- straight talk from the CEO’s breaking into Japan.

You know, I’ve always been a bit skeptical about coworking spaces, innovation centers, and startup community hubs. Some of them are well intended, but too often, the organizations that put these facilities together have a bit of a field of dreams mindset, where, if they just build the office space, the innovative entrepreneurs will come, and then the organizers will find themselves at the center of a thriving ecosystem.

Sometimes that actually happens, but usually not. But when it works, when all the pieces really do come together, amazing things happen. And a community develops that is far greater than the sum of its parts. So what’s the real difference between the innovation spaces that flourish compared to those that stagnate?

Well, today we get a chance to sit down and talk to Tim Rowe, CEO of Cambridge Innovation Center, or CIC, the largest innovation center in the world. And we have a conversation about what’s really involved in building an entrepreneurial community, and the process of building a very large-scale innovation center right here in Tokyo.

It’s a truly insightful conversation, so let’s hear from our sponsors and get right to our interview.

Romero: So I’m sitting here with Tim Rowe, CEO of the Cambridge Innovation Center. This is a pretty incredible space that you have been running for 15 years now. So rather than having me explain it, can you tell us a bit about what CIC is and how it came to be?

Rowe: Sure. CIC is the world’s space for startups, that is our Cambridge Space, specifically. We’re also in Boston, Miami, St. Louis, Rotterdam Netherlands, at the moment and we’ve got some more in the works. We call ourselves a community of startups. So we’re not an accelerator where we’re telling people how to build their business or investing in them. We have brought 15 venture capital funds into our location in Cambridge and some of our other locations, so there is access to money, but it’s more of an open platform.

Romero: So the VCs actually have offices there?

Rowe: Their entire firm is there.

Romero: In terms of business, though, it’s a real estate business. You’re renting office space. You don’t make money by making investments or…

Rowe: Yea. So we don’t think about it that way. You could argue that a university is mostly made up of real estate, but that’s not its purpose. It makes it’s money by charging people to live there and go to classes, but, it’s in the same way our mission is to make the world better throu…

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