JETRO Global Connection -Accelerate Innovation with Japan-

Spatial Pleasure, the Japanese startup aiming to use data to makes cities more sustainable

Mar 12, 2024

In 2007, the world hit a landmark momentExternal site: a new window will open.. For the first time in human history, the number of people living in cities was greater than those living in rural areas. It was a sign of just how rapidly urbanization had been growing, particularly in the developing world.

Since then, the number of urban dwellers has only grown, and with it, unprecedented challenges as cities cope with unplanned or haphazard development, and, often, environmental or social challenges. To deal with this, cities around the world are turning to technological solutions to chart a path towards a more sustainable future.

One innovator in this space is Spatial PleasureExternal site: a new window will open., a Japanese startup founded in May 2019 by Soma SuzukiExternal site: a new window will open.. Their vision is to build a meaningful urban civilization. Suzuki had studied urban analysis and wanted to create a startup that could directly address growing urban issues, especially around data and sustainability.

"I've always been interested in how to parameterize cities,” recalled Suzuki. “Currently, the urban analysis models being used just quantify, for example, how much traffic or how many hospitals are in a city. But there are so many more features in a city, so I wanted to find a way to quantify all of them.”

After many iterations and learning experiences, they’re now focusing on building their software platform, called DMRV (for Digital, Measurement, Reporting, and Verification), which certifies and measures carbon credits for transportation operators contributing to the decarbonization of an area.

Spatial Pleasure’s platform uses data to better understand sustainability and climate impacts in cities
(Image provided by Spatial Pleasure)

Spatial Pleasure is currently testing their software and model in a country dealing with numerous urban challenges – Indonesia.

Like much of the developing world, Indonesia’s cities are urbanizing at a rapid rate. The biggest one, Jakarta, is, by some measurements, the second-largest city in Asia after Tokyo, and one famous for gridlock and traffic-related pollution.

“I went to Jakarta and saw the traffic jams, and it is insane,” said Suzuki. “To us, as a startup, the bigger the problem is, the better because there are more things we can solve. So since then, we have focused on expanding in Southeast Asia.”

Spatial Pleasure participating in the 2023 Carbon Digital Conference Indonesia (photo provided by Spatial Pleasure)

They are currently working with two partners: Jakarta Smart CityExternal site: a new window will open., a public-private partnership, and with Sinar Mas LandExternal site: a new window will open., one of Indonesia’s largest conglomerates. For the latter, JETRO Indonesia helped make the initial connection, but Suzuki’s tenacity played a role in developing the partnership.

“I want them to trust me, so I decided to spend one month at a hotel next to Sinar Mas Land’s office, going to their office every three days and meeting,” said Suzuki. “Only then did they start to trust us, and now we have a deep connection.”

Sinar Mas Land is one of the largest developers in the country and is working on building eco-friendly developmentsExternal site: a new window will open.. In them, they are encouraging residents and visitors to use shuttle buses instead of private cars or taxis. Currently, Spatial Pleasure is developing calculations to determine the impact of those shuttles, which can be used to claim carbon credits.

An example of one of Sinar Mas Land new, eco-friendly development projects. (photo provided by Spatial Pleasure)

Designing this model, and ensuring that the carbon reductions can be verified, is a challenge, but Suzuki is confident that they’ll be able to soon show proof through the first issuance of carbon credits. Then, they can adapt this model to other projects, or companies, across Southeast Asia.

Carbon credits are important, but they, says Suzuki, are just one area where data can drive sustainability in cities.

“We want to expand our business into a broader sense of sustainable financing, not just about carbon credit. Because Sinar Mas Land, in their city, they provide more positive amenities, like pedestrian walkways or the planting of trees,” said Suzuki.

With the opening, in 2019, of a Japan-supported subway system, transit-oriented development has become a buzzword in Indonesia, as cities look to build around new rail, bus, or shuttle systems. This is also an area that Spatial Pleasure plans to expand into.

“We are not the developers and don't create cities, but we can measure their impacts and support them with data,” said Suzuki.

It’s a space that is ever-growing, with a dire need for better ways to analyze urban challenges and solutions. In fact, there’s increasing global attention on the need to make cities, particularly in emerging, fast-growing economies like Indonesia, most sustainable and equitable.

The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and other international agreements all emphasize the need for more investments, from the public and private sectors, into creating better cities for the millions who inhabit them now, and also in the future. And Suzuki, having found a model that works, is ready to play a role in that transition.

“I'm finally at the starting line of where my passion is,” said Suzuki. In the future, he hopes Spatial Pleasure’s data analysis can help change cities, literally.

“In current cities, 40% of the urban spaces are used for transportation infrastructures like roads or parking lots. We want to help re-optimize cities to better use that space, using sustainable parameters.”

Profile of Soma Suzuki, CEO of Spatial Pleasure

Born in 1993 in Osaka, Japan. Graduated from the Department of Physics at Kyoto University. After graduation, Suzuki studied urban spatial analysis in the Master's program at the Institute of Spatial Analysis, University of London (UCL Bartlett School) and founded Spatial Pleasure in May 2019.

Report by:
SASAGAWA Saki, Startup Support Division, JETRO
Report by:
WATANABE Keita, Startup Support Division, JETRO

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