Connecting innovators to make things happen in Nagoya & Tsukuba/ Ibaraki

This Summer (2020), Venture Café expanded to two new locations in Japan, Nagoya city and Tsukuba city. The two regions are already hubs of industry and innovation, but they will now benefit from the cohesive presence of Venture Cafe as the “space” for local industries and innovators to come together and make things happen!

The two new events named NAGOYA CONNÉCT and TSUKUBA CONNÉT respectively, will quite literally connect talent and ideas locally and globally — by leveraging Venture Café’s international network, to shine a spotlight on the great potential of both regions. Find out everything you need to know about the CONNÉCTS in this blog post, including insights from organizers in Nagoya and Tsukuba.


Every month, NAGOYA CONNÉCT and TSUKUBA CONNÉCT hold events inspired by Venture Café’s signature Thursday Gathering in their respective cities:

NAGOYA CONNÉCT — every 4th Friday of the month, 5PM — 9PM

TSUKUBA CONNÉCT — every 1st and 3rd Friday of the month, 5PM — 9PM

The Tsukuba and Nagoya programs offer innovators a space to get together and participate in lively networking sessions and seminars led by experts in their field. Both communities also bring unique flavors to their events by leveraging the strengths of the cities in which they are based.

What makes Nagoya and Tsukuba choice locations for the CONNÉCT programs?


Tsukuba is the largest science city in Japan. It is home to approximately 300 private sector research centers and educational institutions, including the University of Tsukuba and AIST (the national Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). This makes the city a thriving potpourri of students, researchers and business people, all in pursuit of innovation.

Tsukuba city has been active in creating an environment where innovators and innovation can thrive. In 2018 the city launched the “Tsukuba City Startup Strategy” to accelerate the establishment and growth of startups coming out of Tsukuba. Venture Café Tokyo have also regularly partnered with Tsukuba city and institutions based there since our launch in 2018.

With strong support systems for startups and a very high concentration of innovators in once place, there was a clear opportunity for a catalyst that could bring them together to interact, react and birth new ideas. Enter TSUKUBA CONNÉCT.


Nagoya is Japan’s industrial powerhouse, home to Toyota and other leading global manufacturers of automobiles, ceramics, and aerospace technology. The concentration of high tech industries means the city and its home prefecture of Aichi attracts plenty of innovators. This has led to a recent boom in innovation in cutting edge fields such as AI and IoT that leverages industrial robots. Contributing to this wellspring of big ideas are some of Japan’s best educational institutions such as Nagoya University and Nagoya Institute of Technology.

NAGOYA CONNÉCT will provide a platform for the regions cutting edge technology industries to mingle with burgeoning ideas from students and startups, creating the seeds for new ventures.

How are NAGOYA CONNÉCT and TSUKUBA CONNÉCT making things happen?

Nagoya and Tsukuba have all the necessary components for innovation: the people, the passion, the tools. As in most large cities however, organizations and institutions often operate separately to each other. Opportunities for innovators to interact are limited by business objectives, competition, and concerns about intellectual property, creating silos that prevent the free flow of creative ideas.

What Nagoya and Tsukuba were missing was a “space” where innovation enthusiasts from different backgrounds, different organizations and institutions, could get together, share ideas and experiment within each other freely. The CONNÉCT programs have been welcomed by both cities as a platform to bridge this gap.

We talked to TSUKUBA CONNÉCT’s Yuumi Atobe and NAGOYA CONNÉCT’s Akira Yanagihara to find out more about their visions for each city and their future plans for connecting innovators.


Yuumi Atobe outlines the vision for Tsukuba’s CONNÉCT program with 2 key missions.

The first is to break down barriers in Tsukuba that are hindering the city’s many innovators from collaboration. Barriers being the physical separation that naturally exists between organizations and institutions. In addition, modern day innovation faces barriers in terms of narrow avenues for output; thesis or ideas for specific business applications.

TSUKUBA CONNÉCT can break through these barriers however by being what Yuumi eloquently describes as a “mobile catalyst”. With strong connections in Tsukuba, the CONNÉCT program can move between organizations and institutions to host their monthly events, bringing with them external innovators from across the city and creating opportunities for fusion of ideas. Organizations are being incredibly supportive of creating opportunities for exchange in Tsukuba.

Yuumi details a second vision for the program, that is to create an environment where innovators can rediscover and reconnect with the roots of science and innovation. Science originated as a highly creative endeavor that sought to improve society and people’s lives. Overtime as businesses and institutions have sought to refine the innovation process, it has become restricted by systems and rules. This has certainly produced many positive results, but it has also put limits on the ways we view and think about innovation.

TSUKUBA CONNÉCT’s programming is being designed to help liberate innovators. Starting with a core concept for innovation: failure is okay and a portal to discovery. In Japan especially, failure is feared and even stigmatized by society. TSUKUBA CONNÉCT aims to be a community where innovators can gather and be creative, welcoming failure as a quintessential part of the process and an opportunity to create something new.

As well as building a positive outlook towards failure, TSUKUBA CONNÉCT’s programs will also encourage attendees to approach innovation from different, creative angles.

Looking ahead to the next TSUKUBA CONNÉCT, the 6th such program, there are some fascinating sessions that realize Tsukuba’s vision. One session will focus on outer space as a new frontier for which anyone can launch an endeavor. The session will include an interactive brainstorming session with the audience considering what kinds of businesses could be developed for the emerging space sector.


Akira Yanagihara took time out to explain how innovation is part of Nagoya’s DNA and NAGOYA CONNÉCT’s plans for its activation.

NAGOYA CONNÉCT’s mission for its first year is to “connect Nagoya”. Nagoya has a rich network of bright minds that is waiting for links to be soldered between them. Akira passionately believes the result will be flying sparks of innovation.

Akira’s vision for Nagoya is rooted in the city’s history. Nagoya has always been Japan’s key stone of industry. It’s products and expertise have evolved alongside raw materials used for manufacture them. Nagoya has been manufacturing with wood, clay, cotton, iron and more for centuries, all the while developing leading technologies to simplify and streamline the processes. Innovation has been central to these processes, in fact it is the life blood of the city, its “DNA”, according to Akira.

With plenty of know how, Nagoya both produces and attracts a lot of innovators. The task for NAGOYA CONNÉCT is to ensure talent can mix and mingle so new ideas can be born. This is what Akira refers to as activating the city’s DNA.

NAGOYA CONNÉCT’s programming will activate the city’s bright minds in two ways. The first is by encouraging residents to interact with people they would not normally have the chance to interact with. For Akira this means building an innovation community that is flat and open.

NAGOYA CONNÉCT is then focusing on introducing Nagoya’s innovators to the world by promoting global interaction. In doing so the city’s industry leaders, outstanding research institutions and many trailblazers will be introduced to the world to begin a new era of collaboration and opportunity.

Upcoming NAGOYA CONNÉCT events will begin introducing various innovators to the broader Nagoya community including local startups and entrepreneurs. The next program will feature…….

Bringing it all home: Thoughts from Venture Café

The team at Venture Café are stoked for the opportunities the CONNÉCT programs will create for innovation in Tsukuba and Nagoya, and for collaborations with the global VC network.

Speaking about the new programs, Venture Café Tokyo’s Program Director Ryusuke Komaru, one of the main architect of the CONNÉCT programs, said:

“When the opportunity to launch the CONNÉCT program’s came up we jumped on it. The CONNÉCTs share the VC philosophy, but they are organized independently. Frankly we’re really excited to see what dynamic changes come out of the two cities driven by the same principle of “action trumps everything”!

Takuo Urushihara, Operations Director for VC Tokyo shares Ryusuke’s enthusiasm:

“The CONNÉCT programs combine Venture Café’s ideology with the local flavor of Nagoya and Tsukuba city. This kind of fusion is inspiring. In fact, we’re already looking to some of the original things the CONNÉCT programs are trying and considering how to implement them for VC Tokyo. Likewise we are working hard to help the CONNÉCT programs get off the ground with our expertise!”

Messages for the Venture Café Community from TSUKUBA and NAGOYA CONNÉCT

Yuumi Atobe, TSUKUBA CONNÉCT: “Please enjoy the serendipitous collision with the newcomer from Tsukuba ecosystem, that have different tastes, background, flavors, that of Tokyo.”

Akira Yanagihara, NAGOYA CONNÉCT: “Seeds of innovation you never knew you had await you here! Join us with your heart racing.”

Ryusuke Komaru and Takuo Urushihara, Venture Café Tokyo: “JOIN US”!

Learn more about Venture Café and its sister events NAGOYA CONNÉCT and TSUKUBA CONNÉCT on our website or by connecting with us on social media:

Venture Café Tokyo Web site:
Venture Café Tokyo Facebook:



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