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Google opens startups campus in Tokyo's trendy Shibuya district

Tokyo

GOOGLE chief executive officer Sundar Pichai was in Tokyo on Tuesday to inaugurate the relocation of the company's Japanese head office to an expansive new complex in the trendy district of Shibuya.

Taking up the majority of the gleaming new 35-floor Shibuya Stream skyscraper, Google has put its name on the building and dedicated two floors to a newly launched Google for Startups Campus, which is its seventh in the world and second in Asia after Seoul.

Agnieszka Hryniewicz-Bieniek, the director of Google for Startups, said that the company will run an accelerator programme early next year that will select 12 startups looking to scale up their work on artificial intelligence and machine learning, both critical aspects of Google's current and future operations. She also stressed the importance of inclusiveness at an event where the Wi-Fi password was BuildInclusiveTeams.

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"We would like Campus Tokyo to support women founders," she said, and that Google is proud that 37 per cent of its Campus participants are female entrepreneurs, a higher proportion than the wider startup ecosystem. "So when they go to the next stage of growth, we're behind them, we're supporting them."

The Campus initiative extends Google's effort to combine education and training for startups with evangelism for the use of its cloud and business services. Co-location with Google's main office will make it easy for experts from Google's developer relations and web marketing teams to make themselves available to help budding entrepreneurs, Google said.

Joined by Japan's Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Sanae Takaichi on stage, Mr Pichai said he had toured some of the venues for next year's Tokyo Olympics, which Google will be supporting through its various services like Google Maps and Translate.

"Ultimately, we want to make sure the legacy of technology innovation extends far beyond 2020. This Google for Startups Campus is one part of that," he said at the opening.

AI has been topical in Japan recently, with SoftBank Group Corp announcing plans to combine its Yahoo Japan internet business with Naver Corp's Line messaging service in an effort to create an AI tech leader capable of rivalling US juggernauts like Google and Facebook Inc. On Monday, Peter Thiel visited Tokyo to introduce Palantir Technologies Japan Co, which will use AI to make sense of large volumes of unwieldy data in the fields of health and cybersecurity.

Google has said the move to Shibuya Stream will double its employee headcount in Japan to beyond 2,000. The company's first office outside the US was in Tokyo, opening in 2001. It said it has "invested heavily" in Japan over the years and earlier in 2019 committed to training 10 million people in digital skills by 2022. Its so-called Grow with Google programme is the Campus equivalent for individual job-seekers and students.

"At Google, we are deeply committed to fostering Japanese startups," Mr Pichai said. BLOOMBERG