The “neighborly” global firm from Fukuoka
In 2014, Fukuoka City was designated as a National Strategic Special Zone for Global Startups. The city has many support systems for startups, and even women in their sixties come for advice on starting a company. It’s at such a city that Nulab was created ten years ago, by the hands of Masanori Hashimoto and two others. Now, Nulab is Fukuoka’s top global ICT firm. They offer three services including their project management tool Backlog, which has over 1 million users. All of their services help teams work efficiently and achieve results. Beginning with their Singapore expansion in 2011, they’ve opened global offices in New York in 2014, and in Amsterdam in 2017. Nulab currently has six branches in and outside of Japan, with headquarters in Fukuoka and offices in Tokyo and Kyoto. Soichiro Takashima, the mayor of Fukuoka City, has focused much on cultivating a foundation for startups ever since he took office in 2011. Hashimoto empathized with his policy and has helped the city with several projects through Nulab. We ask him about the projects Nulab worked on with the city, but his answer isn’t what we expected. “I’ve worked with the city personally, but not as Nulab,” says Hashimoto, much to our surprise. We knew this couldn’t be true, and point out projects such as Fukuoka Directive Council’s “Smart Work Project Plan,” the “San Francisco/ Silicon Valley Global Entrepreneur Training Program” for Fukuoka’s entrepreneurs and hopefuls, and his cooperation as a lecturer at “FGN Jumpstart Program” aimed for supporting the growth of startups and entrepreneurs. Hashimoto hides a smile and says, “Oh yeah, we did do that, didn’t we? Yes, we did that as Nulab. I forgot.”
Founded in 2004. Their services are Backlog, a project management tool, Cacoo, a visual collaboration tool, and Typetalk, an enterprise chat tool. They currently have branches in Fukuoka, Tokyo, and Kyoto along with three global offices including New York. Besides their main business, they’re active in bonding with the local community and committed to bettering the work style of their employees. The company implements fixed overtime pay, full-flextime with no core periods, paid vacations, and childcare leave. Nulab ranked in at eighth place in Great Place to Work(R) Institute Japan’s 2018 list of “Best Workplaces in Japan,” which is based on global standards.
He must’ve forgotten about past projects due to his hectic schedule, but more than that, it also meant Nulab had once worked on creating a good environment for startups together with Fukuoka City, but that it had already moved on to a different phase. “I believe Fukuoka has made the foundation for startups to get going. But we can’t let this end as just a passing fad. We need real success stories, and I hope Nulab can become one of them. So now, I’m more focused on the development of my own company.” But of course, it doesn’t mean that Nulab’s relation with the city has abruptly and completely ended. Nulab continues to support the city’s projects, such as the “Engineer Friendly City Fukuoka” project. The relationship may have shifted, but their mutual respect will never waver. It isn’t just in Fukuoka that the company has created firm ties with the locality. In Kyoto, they built their office together with the locals. By communicating with the people through such activities, they will remember Nulab as “the place where I helped to lay the floorboards,” even if they don’t understand what Nulab does. “I don’t do it because I want to be loved by the people around me. I might even be more of a nuisance for them,” says Hashimoto of such activities. But building a friendship, even if we are nuisances sometimes, is what being a good neighbor is about. Nulab works to become a good neighbor everywhere they go, to make a great working environment for their staff.
Gathering and joining in Fukuoka
Nulab has a scheme that defines them as a global company. Once a year, employees from around the world gather at the headquarters for a General Meeting. They share business plans and other company information, but the main goal of the meeting is to make positive and vivid memories. It helps in communication and team building. “Our global workforce is on the job at different time zones. Most of our communication is done online, so gathering once a year in person helps to enrich the emotions of interacting. If we have good memories of someone from a real meeting, and of how much fun we had with that person, it makes it easier to work with them during the following year.” Lastly, we ask Hashimoto about his next goal. “Once our company grows a bit bigger, I want to host our own conference. I want people from around the world to come, and not just the locals. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have people actually pay to buy a plane ticket to hear you speak? It’ll make us proud to work at Nulab. I bet it’ll be so much fun,” envisions Hashimoto. He adds, almost to himself, “To do that, we’ll need Fukuoka to build more hotel accommodations and…” As a true leader of the Fukuoka community, Hashimoto can’t stop thinking about ways to better the city. It seems like Nulab and Fukuoka’s supportive relationship will continue, as they help each other grow.