Kyoto’s emerging IT sector

More and more Tokyo-based software companies are establishing a presence in Kyoto city in an attempt to grab local talent. Tokyo has become a highly competitive market for sourcing young graduates, making Kyoto, with its many reputable universities, a hot spot for hiring. 

In October 2018, Sansan, the developer of business card-based software for corporate clients, opened an innovation lab in a 110-year old, restored traditional machiya town house in central Kyoto. The lab is in charge of research and development of their AI system. Their decision to set up a branch in Kyoto was to access the city’s young and creative workforce, as well as foreign staff. 

In September, Livesense, a Tokyo-based internet and media company and operator of a job seekers site, set up a Kyoto branch office near Kyoto City Hall. This is to appeal to Kyoto-based students by offering internships. 

CyberAgent, the media company behind internet TV station AbemaTV, opened their Kyoto Global Creative Center in the Kyoto Research Park in June. The department hires designers from south-east Asia to help grow their online advertising division for the Indonesian market.

This spring, Money Forward, a Tokyo-based developer of a budget-managing app, plans to open a branch in Kyoto’s Nakagyo ward to focus on development. They hope to attract students, foreign staff and other staff who want to make the move to live and work in Kyoto. 

Fukuoka-based Nulab has had a branch in Kyoto since 2010 but recently relocated to a larger office in the city in February. 

Start-up community

To support the growing start-ups involved in AI development and data analysis, LINE holds a monthly networking event for IT professionals in their office in Shimogyo ward. Over 100 people attended a mobile app-themed event held last December. 

LINE’s development center in Kyoto, which opened in June 2018, is the company’s third location in Japan. The other two are in Tokyo and Fukuoka. Although Osaka was a close contender, Kyoto was ultimately chosen due to the desirable lifestyle it offers young workers, and the potential ease in attracting foreign hires. Of the 19 staff employed at the center by LINE, 10 are foreigners. They hope to expand to over 100 staff in the next three years. LINE has already been overwhelmed by job applications, with over 80% of the 1,000 applicants coming from overseas residents. 

It’s not surprise that IT-related companies are targeting Kyoto, with the city having some of the best universities in the country and having the title of the city with the highest share of students. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) estimated that there were 147,000 students in the city in 2016, the highest number in history, and 10% of the city’s population. Conde Nast Traveller ranked Kyoto in second place in ‘The Best Cities in the World: Best Big Cities’ list, with Tokyo coming in top spot. 

The Kyoto Shimbun, December 18, 2018.
The Sankei Shimbun, December 23, 2018.

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