startups in Taiwan
Austin Yoder, curator of the Global Shapers Taipei Hub

 

As Asia Options has previously written- with our piece on 6 reasons to get involved with startups in Asia– there are a plethora of opportunities to get involved in start-ups in Asia. As Asia is increasingly becoming the economic and cultural centre of our world, there are more and more entrepreneurial individuals who are making the most of the opportunities Asia has to offer. One location which is becoming somewhat of an entrepreneurial hotbed is Taiwan.

Asia Options sat down with Austin Yoder, Curator of the Global Shapers Taipei Hub, to see why Taiwan is fast becoming an entrepreneurial centre in Asia.

While many countries in Asia are embracing entrepreneurship and encouraging entrepreneurs to come to their shores, there are a number of factors setting Taiwan apart from its Asian competitors. According to Austin, Taiwan is unique in many ways. Its people are incredibly hospitable, it is one of the world’s safest countries, the cost of living relative to quality of life is quite low, and most importantly for entrepreneurs, Taiwan has a highly educated and well-trained workforce that entrepreneurs can tap into (especially in the technology sector). Moreover, in Taiwan there is increasingly more news and attention placed on entrepreneurs. Taiwan’s entrepreneurship community is growing rapidly, and many young people here recognise that entrepreneurship can be a path towards creating positive social change for Taiwan.

In addition, the Taiwanese government is also starting to acknowledge the importance of entrepreneurship to Taiwan’s economy, and have recently announced the launch of a several programs and initiatives to make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to come to Taiwan.

 

HeadStart Taiwan

First is “HeadStart Taiwan.” This a program established by the National Development Council (NDC) in 2014. According to the NDC, HeadStart Taiwan is “the latest project focusing on the establishment of an ecosystem that supports the inception and scale-up of ‘Business of the Future.” HeadStart will do this through three key steps.

Firstly, deregulation. This will bring Taiwan’s regulatory standards into alignment with international standards. Secondly, Global Fund Attraction, which will attract global venture capital to Taiwan for investment, and finally, cluster building: encouraging incubators, accelerators and other physical meeting spaces for entrepreneurs. With the forthcoming changes in the regulatory environment, there will be new opportunities for astute entrepreneurs with boots-on-the-ground knowledge to take advantage of.

 

Taiwan Entrepreneur Visa

The second key initiative recently announced by the government is the plan to launch a new visa type called the ‘Entrepreneur Visa.’ While yet to officially launch, the new entrepreneur visa hopes to encourage overseas highly skilled entrepreneurs and investors to consider making their home in Taiwan. Austin encourages people to consider Taiwan as a potential home for their business or family, and to seek advice from local professionals, who can give the most up-to-date and accurate advice based on their own unique situations. Syan CPA is one outstanding firm with expertise in dealing with foreign entrepreneurs setting up shop in Taiwan.

 

Getting involved with startups in Taiwan

If you decide that you would like to come to Taiwan as an entrepreneur, how can you get involved? According to Austin, the best way to succeed as an entrepreneur in Taiwan is to come to Taiwan and connect with people in the industry you are interested in. There are many entrepreneurial communities in Taiwan, from tech and media start-ups, to social and cultural entrepreneurship, an increasing number of incubators and accelerator programs. One challenge that foreign entrepreneurs face who may wish to learn about the community in Taiwan is that much of the information available online is primarily in Chinese. As such, it can be helpful to spend some time on the ground meeting and speaking with people to get a more complete view of the entire ecosystem, as it is developing and evolving in exciting ways. Coming to Taiwan with some knowledge of the Chinese language can be helpful, and is an indication to local entrepreneurs and business people that you have respect for the local culture and environment.

 

Global Shapers Taipei Hub

Austin is currently Curator of the Global Shapers Taipei Hub (全球傑出青年台北分會), an organization of the World Economic Forum. Global Shapers is a worldwide network of young people, aged 20 – 30, who are outstanding in their potential and their commitment to improving the state of the world, and their local community. Currently there are more than 400 hubs and 4,700 Global Shapers in cities around the world. The Global Shapers Taipei Hub was founded by Heather Ma, founder of the S Value Design Group. The hub’s members include other young leaders in Taiwan’s entrepreneurship and for-impact communities.

This year the Global Shapers Taipei Hub is hosting an invitation only conference on strategic, sustainable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for 50 of the top corporate leaders of Taiwan, in partnership with the Sunfar Corporation’s 20 for Future CSR Alliance, the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, Cathay Financial Holdings, Taiwan’s Epoch Foundation, and Global Views Monthly Magazine. On December 13, 2015, the Global Shapers Taipei Hub will be hosting its annual flagship event, the One Step Forward Conference on Social Innovation. This year’s One Step Forward Conference will focus on Creative Economy, and empowering the youth of Taiwan to imagine, build, and successfully execute creative projects they are passionate about.

How can involvement in an organisation such as Global Shapers Taiwan help those starting in Taiwan to achieve their entrepreneurial goals? As Austin points out, a common saying heard within the entrepreneurial community is that any entrepreneur is the average of the five people they spend most of their time with. This means that one should strive to surround oneself with people who think in the same positive and creative way. Feedback is essential to any new startup endeavour and by surrounding yourself with a supportive crew, you can learn as early as possible how to improve whatever project you are working on.

 

Final Advice

How do you move forward if you are an entrepreneur serious about relocating to Taiwan? Austin has only one piece of advice. If you want to conduct entrepreneurship in a region you aren’t physically based in already, then you need to get local perspective on the opportunities in that region. Statistically, successful entrepreneurs fail 5-6 times before they build their first successful venture. While Austin admits it can be scary if you don’t have specific job prospects, being on the ground is the only way to truly get a feel of the community, meet other people interested in the same area as you are, and you can see what happens when you dive in. Austin adds the key to becoming a successful entrepreneur is to pick something you are truly passionate about, and to start.

Any entrepreneurs who are passionate about Asia, or creating positive social change in Taiwan are welcome to reach out to the Global Shapers Taipei Hub for more information on getting involved.

 

Check out Jingjobs Founder Samantha Kwok’s lessons learned from launching a startup in Mainland China

 

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Marie-Alice McLean-Dreyfus

Marie-Alice McLean-Dreyfus has lived in Taiwan for two years where she was studying and working. She speaks Chinese and French.

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