TSS offers advice for Taiwan FinTech startups

Taiwan Startup Stadium (TSS) notes its time for FinTech startups to stop the blame game

Holly Harrington, General Manager of Taiwan Startup Stadium offers her observations on what's holding back FinTech developments in Taiwan. (By Taiwan News)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—Taiwan Startup Stadium (TSS), a National Development Council backed organization to facilitate Taiwan assessed some of the challenges ahead for Taiwan's FinTech industry at the first Hit FinTech forum hosted by Chinese-language media Knowing, Thursday.

Nearing its second anniversary, TSS is headed by American citizen Holly Harrington. 

The Maryland native showed in her presentation that Taiwan has to stop blaming the government for hindering innovative FinTech developments because everyone is responsible.

Starting with some fields that the government can work on, she noted the nation’s online taxation system, an early example of FinTech could improve and integrate web elements for a seamless user experience.

For instance, filing online tax forms on Taiwan’s National Taxation Bureau website requires an additional app download, and specific Windows operation systems versions, which does not fully integrate web functions.

Other FinTech examples includes P2P payments, online bill payments, third party banking tools, credit score monitoring, and Bitcoin. Taiwan has so far only scratched the surface of FinTech with mobile payments or loans.

Harrington’s advice to government officials is to educate themselves about the latest FinTech trends, and stay in touch with young people in the startup community to understand firsthand the difficulties they face.

Finally, the government should stay out of the way of innovative technology developments.

For those already in the startup industry, Harrington suggested companies go completely digital and abandon paper documents, while learning from the experience of more successful startups.

"FinTech apps have a higher entry level, and require financial knowledge," said Harrington. "However, startups should not just be working on fun playful game apps that are easy to make."

If there is market demand for FinTech, startups should insist on overcoming the difficulties despite the complicated legal procedures involved. 

Furthermore, government and industries should not be viewed as enemies of startups, but as partners that can help startups obtain resources or share knowledge that can help them achieve success.

She also asked Taiwanese consumers to stop being complacent about products and have the mentality of “oh, that is just how things are in Taiwan”. Consumers also have the power to demand for change and for companies to offer better services, she added.

The organization is mostly an ecosystem builder that supports Taiwanese startups to enter oversea markets, most Taiwanese startups have requested entry into the U.S. market, followed by Southeast Asian markets, while few have shown interest in Europe.

The NSC backed organization also brings foreign companies willing to invest in Taiwan, at the moment French startup applications have been the largest group to receive approval from the Taiwanese government.

Having lived in Taiwan for 12 years, Harrington observed that Taiwan has a top-down culture where senior executives in companies are rarely challenged, and employees are afraid to express their opinions or point out problems that need to be solved.

"This culture needs to be changed or it will be difficult for companies to improve," she said.