Opodz Brings Technology, Startups and Coworking To Little Tokyo

By Jason Cheng

When it comes to the workplace, the typical office cubicle is not an attractive option. Some resent its stuffy and monotonous environment, while others see its physical constraints as an oppressor of creative thought. Luckily for the artists and innovators of Los Angeles, the coworking space has become one of the hottest trends in work environments. One such space is Opodz.

Located in the heart of Little Tokyo, Opodz is a striking symbol of the area’s dynamism and continuous transformation. What started as a small project created by two real estate brokers has now become the prime destination for tech entrepreneurs that want to work in a casual and collaborative environment in Little Tokyo.

Ryo Takei created Opodz with his partner Jeff Chen in 2013, with the goal of creating a space that would be affordable for entrepreneurs starting up their own companies. At Opodz, the most popular open desk option costs $275 per month, which allows all-day access to open desks, high-speed Internet, kitchens and discounts on nearby shops and restaurants. However, cost is not the only attractive element. Coworking spaces also help to facilitate collaboration and innovation.

“Both of the founders were trying to start their own companies so they needed this type of space,” said Sasha Ross, community manager at Opodz. “They also wanted to use the space to have access to a lot of young tech talent in Los Angeles.”

Opodz is already home to several promising tech startups. One of them is Booktrope, an online platform that empowers authors to publish their own books by connecting them with editors, designers, marketers and non-traditional publishers. Another is Casetify, a startup that creates custom-designed smartphone cases based on Instagram pictures submitted by customers. However, it is not only tech people who are using Opodz.

“We have such a diverse group of people here,” said Ross. “We don’t just have tech people. We have real estate people, writers, lots of lawyers as well. We have people working in casting agencies and entertainment in general.”

Opodz prides itself on its intellectual diversity and it wants to stay that way. In order to continue attracting new members, Opodz offers different events that educate the community about technology, innovation and other interesting topics.

“We have many events and we really try to discuss topics that are interesting,” said Miyako, software developer and part-time events coordinator at Opodz. “We have classes and events coming up about JavaScript, HTML, user experience strategy, Mandarin and even Japanese film. Sometimes, we just go to a bar and have trivia night.”

Opodz aims to create a culture of fun and creativity conducive to new ideas and it seems like users are enjoying themselves. A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that coworking causes employees to have higher levels of thriving in the workplace. Furthermore, coworking helps people to enjoy a sense of freedom and job control and find meaning in their work.

“I love working at Opodz,” said Jennie Yoon, an employee of Casetify whose office is in Little Tokyo. “It’s such a fun environment and I love the people who I meet here. You’ll always learn something new from all the interesting people who work here.”

Given the psychological and performance benefits of coworking spaces, it is unfortunate that Opodz is the only one in the neighborhood. Little Tokyo has a median age of 47 years, compared to 32 years for downtown Los Angeles according to the Downtown Los Angeles Demographic Study. This may explain why there isn’t as big of a need for coworking spaces in Little Tokyo. However, as the neighborhood attempts to modernize itself and keep up with the times, Opodz wants to lead the way.

As Opodz continues to expand, it is considering different plans for the future. Whether that entails opening new locations around Los Angeles or within the Little Tokyo building, it wants to maintain the culture that has brought it this far.

“We see this place like a college dorm,” said Ross. “We ultimately want it to be a place where people are studying and working hard, but afterwards, they can have fun and blow off steam and enjoy a few drinks together.”