About one generation ago, an entrepreneur would be Armani-clad being chauffeured in a BMW; today, an entrepreneur can be found next to you in a bar dressed in sweatpants and hoodie.
In the United States, startups seem to be a dime a dozen. What used to be the land of mid-size businesses, Taiwan has slowly stopped producing entrepreneurs. In recent years, startup culture has made its way across the Pacific and started hitting Taiwan for good reasons. Taiwan, like Hong Kong, is a small East-meets-West hub; unlike Hong Kong, Taiwan requires a much smaller budget for hiring talent. Although cheaper talent is pivotal to a team for software startup, Taiwan also provides something unique beyond just software: hardware. Coming from a manufacturing country (remember all those “Made in Taiwan” products?), Taiwan has the proper pipeline to provide a full end-to-end process. Reinventing everyday tools of lives now, startups are giving consumers a product to use in their hands. With Taiwan’s experience, Taiwan can provide startups with just the resources they need.
Despite Taiwan’s perfect fit for startups, Taiwan Startup Stadium (TSS), virtually launched in May 2015, will focus on improving Taiwan’s weaknesses in order to present on their new stage for the world to see. Taking over the decommissioned ZhongShan Soccer Stadium, TSS will create a startup cluster for bringing in foreign startups to use Taiwan as a strategic hub and for pushing out Taiwanese startups to take on the world. Foreign startups will use TSS to learn about Taiwan’s multi-faceted culture and rich history to truly bring in the talent and resources they need. Taiwanese startups, on the other hand, will focus on areas where they are lacking. Taiwan’s technology products have never been anything less than stellar in terms of quality, but lacks the certain marketing smarts like that of Samsung. Captain of TSS, Anita Huang (黃蕙雯), says “I’m not worried about the quality of work that Taiwanese startups will provide; they must focus on learning how to effectively marketing themselves.”
Another key aspect that TSS will be focusing on is bringing, not the Silicon Valley structure, but the Silicon Valley mindset to Taiwan. For startups, the drive is everything along with the knowing where one stands in relation to the world. TSS hopes to show these young developing minds the breadth of creativity and ingenuity from the Western hemisphere as well. To do this, they are launching the global accelerator bootcamp which will train Taiwanese startups to get into leading accelerators in America like Y Combinator and 500 Startups. These programs will prepare the startups in creating a better pitches and marketing for their product to prepare them for the highly selective accelerators.
Mindset change is not only from the startup companies but also from Taiwanese investors. Many startups in Taiwan must seek international funding for first and second round investments because local investors are often to conservative to invest in new ideas. This is a result of decades of Taiwan’s traditional manufacturing industry. When evaluating manufacturing companies, investors can be easily convinced with hard data such as the cost and margin profit, but when it comes to newer technology such as software, investors require a lot of vision to potential in the software rather than the immediate profits made. Slowly, investors are turning around and TSS is there to assist in this attitude shift as well.
Speaking to Anita Huang has opened my eyes to Taiwan’s world of technology, expanding further than Asus, Acer and HTC. At the end of our discussion, I asked her a question about herself: after Yahoo, Google and Tudou, why did you decide to return to Taiwan for this? She replied with one word: anxiety. She was anxious because after being away from Taiwan for 5 years, she found that many of her friends started moving out of Taiwan to seek better career opportunities. She was worried that this constant outflow of talent will slowly make Taiwan a progressively weaker country. This brain drain is a topic largely spoken of when talking about Taiwan’s future and a priority problem to fix for Taiwan’s economy to be sustained. With fewer and fewer opportunities in Taiwan, youth is seeking to earn their paychecks overseas in countries, such as China and United States. “We hope with the efforts of TSS, there will be more cool and great companies in Taiwan to keep and attract young talents,” said Anita.
Built as a field for the best athletes to compete against each other, ZhongShan Soccer Stadium will be the same field that prepares the best startups to take on the world. Coming from different backgrounds and having experiences in many startups themselves, Anita and her team will bring life to this unused stadium and show the world that Taiwan is here to win.
Check out more about Taiwan Startup Stadium here:
Read more about the startup scene in Taiwan:
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