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Tuesday, April 28, 2009
WHERE IT'S AT
Tokyo 2.0 a buzzing hub for online communities, entrepreneurs
By ALEX MARTIN
For one night every month, Roppongi's artsy underground event space SuperDeluxe turns into a networking hub for the Internet junkies dwelling in the capital's vast urban sprawl.
With cell-phones, PCs, meishi name cards and glasses of beer in hand, the "tweeting" denizens of cyberspace gather to exchange knowledge and share new concepts and projects and, if they're lucky, leave the venue with a pleasant buzz and a pile of useful contacts.
This is Tokyo 2.0, the nonprofit bilingual community event hosted by a steering committee led by co-founder Andrew Shuttleworth, a 32-year-old "connector" who said he hopes the event can act as a catalyst for the city's online community.
"We wanted a place where the Japanese Web community and international Web community and entrepreneurs can interact with each other," said Shuttleworth, a U.K. native who was involved in initiating the event two years ago after mulling the idea for years.
"A lot of people talk about how the Japanese venture industry is not as active as it should be, and I want Tokyo 2.0 really to be a forum for people to start to discuss these issues," he said.
Tokyo 2.0, which used to offer only a few presentations per event, last month redesigned its format and began featuring multiple 10-minute presentations based on set themes, followed by a few five-minute "lightning talks" by those wishing to brief the crowd on their activities.
Self-confessed "Apple freak" Peter Mears from the U.K. — one of the techies who dropped by to check out the event — said he discovered Tokyo 2.0 through Twitter's micro-blogging service.
"Twitter is my revolution, Facebook is my agony," chuckled Mears while he sipped on his draft waiting for the presentations to begin. He said he arrived in Japan one year ago and was currently setting up a new Mac-based PC system at an international school in Tokyo.
Jawaad Mahmood, another online entrepreneur who was attending the event last month, said he was preparing to launch a love-hotel search site, www.pinki.jp, and said a friend from the American Chamber of Commerce referred him to the event.
"I was looking for other guys who code and it was an awesome place to meet them and to feel some real creative energy," he said.
Once the venue became suitably crowded, the lights dimmed and Shuttleworth gave an opening speech, followed by a brief introduction on the night's presentations by Rob Cawte, one of Tokyo 2.0's core organizers, with Toyo Yokota of UltraSuperNew Inc. helping out as interpreter.
The first Powerpoint presentation of the night was by Ryo Katsuma of Utagoe.com, who introduced the audience to his new online video meeting service, www.meeting24.tv, where participants can communicate via Web cam for free and without complications.
This was followed by James Tudor of MusicFanTV, who explained how its Web site www.musicfantv.com was a video-on-demand Web portal — supported by advertisement — that pays labels and bands for the right to stream their music videos.
"We want to create a legitimate business model that gives artists their rightful share of royalties," Tudor said over a beer after his time was up.
Three more 10-minute presentations by representatives from Brightcove, Sprasia and Mobalean followed, then switched over to the five-minute "lightning talks" by presenters from Bluebridge, Genkii and Weblish.
Paul Papadimitriou, one of the main members of the steering committee, said that Tokyo 2.0 had become a very sought-after networking event, as "person-to-person contacts are key, especially in Japan."
"The bilingual approach of our events helps us shape bridges between the locals, the expats and the international community," he said, adding that an increasing number of people were joining the steering committee, helping them raise interest in the event and finding speakers.
Papadimitriou said the May forum was expected to concentrate on women in the industry.
After the presentations wrapped up, attendants resumed networking late into the night.
Shuttleworth, who also runs his own company CVP, said he noticed that people attending Tokyo 2.0 were inspired to start their own events, which was one of the main objectives of the project.
"We're always here to be a support network, and we're always open to people if they have ideas and they want to get them off the ground," he said.
Information on both past and future events can be obtained from www.tokyo2point0.net.