Perhaps you shouldn’t judge a bookshop by its façade but the row of green pots outside ArtQpie Library in Taichung’s west district is as inviting as any beautifully designed dust cover. The shop is the brainchild of Argi Chang, who came up with this space for sharing rare books with friends after completing his English literature studies in the city.
Since 2009 the shop has moved three times but this isn’t mere bad luck: it’s part of his mission for the business. Chang intentionally picks locations that are soon to be redeveloped in an effort to raise awareness of the effects of urban change or, as he puts it, “the pros and cons of replacing old buildings with glossy new ones”. The name ArtQpie is a play on the word “occupy” and the sense of settling in a space for a limited time.
Chang has published 13 books over the past four years and founded the independent magazine Let’s Zine, which focuses on social issues. But the bookshop is his true passion: “We want to make our space cosier and our shopfront greener to let people feel more comfortable in this neighbourhood.”
Tokyo Winery was the first vineyard to set up in Japan’s capital. Agricultural graduate Miwa Echigoya founded the business in 2014 after working at the city’s Ota vegetable market. “I discovered that Tokyo has a lot of produce and I met many farmers,” she says. That’s when the idea struck her. After learning about winemaking at a vineyard in Yamanashi prefecture, she opened her own in the Tokyo suburb of Nerima. Last year she produced 10,000 bottles of wine.
Today about 200 people support Echigoya’s business. They each invest ¥10,000 (€85) a year in exchange for wine and vegetables. “Financially, perhaps I give more than I receive,” she says. “But it is important to keep spreading the word and increasing the number of supporters so I can continue.” On weekends you can find her serving her rich red wine at the café adjacent to the winery.
Fedonas Fedonos, the new mayor of Paphos in Cyprus, has started pushing through a raft of new infrastructure projects to get the town ready for business by the time it’s made Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2017. This much-needed rejuvenation is bound to attract entrepreneurs to the island, including Andrew Pyne, who launched new airline Cobalt in 2015 to fill the void left by the bankrupt national carrier Cyprus Airways. “We want to keep Cyprus connected all year round and build a new tourism season,” says Pyne, whose airline offers low-cost routes across Europe and plans future long-haul flights to help the island flourish once more.
Adora Cheung and Sam Altman from Y Combinator – a seed-funding platform for start-ups – are designing the perfect city to house the expected global influx of 2.5 billion urban-dwellers from rural areas by 2050.
Michael Burtov is a US-based entrepreneur and the inventor of a wheel that turns a regular bicycle into an electric-powered one. The GeoOrbital wheel costs $950 (€870) and can be installed on virtually any bike in under a minute using no tools.
How did you start out?
Launching GeoOrbital two years ago was a risk; I left my own company to pursue this idea. It took six months to build the first prototype in my kitchen. After that I met some great people, including our CTO, who took the design and made it more practical.
You broke records on Kickstarter. Are you encouraged by how quickly you raised the funding?
It’s a huge validation of our product and our team. Being a start-up means entering an untested market. Our electric wheel resonates with people. We met our funding goal within an hour and we’ve had 1,500 pre-orders through Kickstarter. We’re currently making a first batch of 2,000 to be delivered in November.
What makes a good start-up?
Having a team that believes in you and your product is a good sign. How big is your idea? How much does your idea change things? If it changes things quite a bit and chimes with what people want it means your business will succeed.