Patrick Lee, the founder of Rotten Tomatoes, is closely watching how the metaverse develops. After a six-month stay in Taiwan, he recognized how this small but growing ecosystem here in Taiwan owns the potential of accomplishing something big.
Last November, Patrick Lee returned to Taiwan during the COVID-19 pandemic, partly because life in Taiwan remained “ridiculously normal” last year. A one-month visit was prolonged to six months, during which time Lee also took a close look at Taiwan’s tech ecosystem.
“It’s very broad, ranging from VR, XR, to the blockchain,” he said. There are a lot of entrepreneurs focusing on NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and other technologies, which are leading to a metaverse. Taiwan is a good base to grow something bigger, he suggested.
Time for metaverse
Lee has a strong interest in the metaverse, which refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. Metaverse is "having a moment," as many big tech firms around the world pour their resources into building it.
Spending billions of dollars per year on the metaverse is Mark Zuckerberg, who is pivoting Facebook from being a social media company to a metaverse company. Facebook is actively developing VR, AR, and also PC, as the metaverse will be accessible on a number of different computing platforms, Zuckerberg told the Verge.
Microsoft is ready to help companies develop their “metaverse apps” through its artificial intelligence and mixed reality tools, according to The Washington Post. Moreover, gaming companies, including Epic Games, have turned toward a metaverse by releasing simulation software and VR services.
Taiwan should make moves
“If Taiwan takes the bold move, it can be the place for metaverses in the world, like Hollywood is the place for movies in the world, and Silicon Valley remains the place for tech in the world,” Lee said. For Taiwan, going global requires full utilization of what we currently have: plentiful talents and advanced technologies.
“There is a small but growing ecosystem around the metaverse in Taiwan,” Lee said. Hiring technical personnel, seeking co-founders and raising money for launching high-tech startups, all make Taiwan qualified to thrive in the metaverse.
After identifying the advantages, the focus comes next. For any startups, companies, or even regions, Lee believes that focusing on one single field or single market is, at first, of the utmost importance.
Take Amazon, for example. Jeff Bezos chose to sell books in the beginning. When online shopping had gained the momentum to surge, Amazon turned into a retail empire with its complete trading and delivery system. Once the product/market fit is achieved, scaling up follows behind.
Speaking of his own career plan, Lee has decided to take a break from launching startups, after starting six companies in 20 years. He hasn't entirely quit startup circles though.
Instead, he has created a syndicate with some partners to invest in potential tech startups in the entertainment field. In just five months, the team has completed nine investments, with the 10th one on the way.
They are looking for “cool” startups, either interesting products or founders with traction. The syndicate reaches out to startups not only through its own networks but also by actively seeking referrals from friends.
“Sometimes you just have to get a radar, far enough to see good deals,” Lee said. They closely watch companies, including those in Taiwan.
Taking a closer look
Lee is ready to give these startups a boost by funding and also by providing advice. He and his team are focusing on fledgling startups, to help out the young generation.
“It makes more sense to me,” Lee said. For him, launching startups will always be a great thing to do with friends. And now the switched role also feels right to him — helping youths go out and change the world.
During Lee’s six-month stay, his longest stay in Taiwan so far, he found that a number of his friends from Silicon Valley were here, too. While he used to catch up once a year or so, Lee and his friends got to hang out once a week in Taipei instead.
At the same, he had a full medical checkup and even had his wedding photos shot in Taiwan, featuring South Korean wedding styles. He now feels more open to coming back to Taiwan for a longer stay, for life, and for future technology.