TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—Startups are relatively new in Taiwan, appearing under the media limelight fairly recent in 2010 to 2011, indicating there is still room for further improvements before the nation becomes a major startup hub in Asia, said David Kuo (郭展榮), co-founder of international incubation center iiiNNO at Computex “Innovations and Startups” forum on Thursday.
Startups are defined as an ecosystem comprising of investors, accelerators, government, policy makers, mentors and anything that has a positive or negative impact on these budding new organizations.
Some of the few Taiwanese startups that have been particularly successful in finding potential buyers include Whoscall, which was acquired by Naver, the company that owns popular online messaging app Line, in 2013 for US$17.6 million.
Armorize Technologies, another Taiwanese technology startup, was taken over by Proofpoint for US$25 million.
On average Taiwan has seen 55 transactions per year. Last year, the country’s startups closed 7 Angel funding rounds, 19 seeds, and 11 series A funding rounds.
Total series A round funds totaled nearly US$6.5 million, but this still is slightly behind Japan or Korea’s startup performance, said Kuo.
Innovex, for instance, is a great platform for domestic and international startups.
Global startup incubation centers including ASVDA, La French Tech and Startup Fukuoka from Japan have all partnered with Taiwan.
Taiwan can be a great startup hub in Asia because of its large Chinese-speaking population, proximity to China, technology and education advantages.
The country is a good place for international startups seeking Chinese investments from Alibaba and China Development Bank.
It typically takes two to three days for an international startup to get its name checked, and after submitting the shareholders list to a bank, applications can be completed within one hour, and it takes less than six weeks for the team to receive subsidies from the Taiwan government.
One bigger challenge for some international startups hoping to team up with Southeast Asia partners is communication issues, and in certain developing countries in the region, people might be unfamiliar with new technologies or do not even understand how to operate a fax machine, said Kuo.
Taiwan’s government emphasizes the development of startups, with some 40 government agency sponsored initiatives across 15 ministries.
Ministries without portfolio are also working with different startups to help co-create the ecosystem, and attract foreign startups to launch in Taiwan.
A lot of international startups will travel to Taiwan looking for an OEM or ODM partner, but might not know how to set up in Taiwan.
There are still some challenges for startups in Taiwan, for example additional fees are charged for international transactions, legal and government issues still bar technology companies Uber and Airbnb from entering the market, even though the government is still working on it.
Finally, attracting funding can still be a huge challenge for global startups stationed in Taiwan, and the country is still trying to overcome this barrier.