TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's largest gathering of startups and investors kicked off Thursday (Nov. 18) to explore opportunities for startups in the post-pandemic world as business operations and consumer behavior continue to change drastically in the wake of the outbreak.
Known as the Meet Taipei Startup Festival, the three-day physical event is expected to house 426 startup booths, with another 56 startups from 18 countries to join remotely. Business and political leaders made an appearance on the first day to extend their support to those gathered, including Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德).
Ho Fei-peng (何飛鵬), honorable publisher of Business Next Media, said in the opening remarks that the event coincides with the most vibrant economic activity in the country's history and as many companies report their highest-ever annual or quarterly revenues. Ho also pre-announced another large-scale startup gathering — "Meet Kaohsiung" — coming in December to tap into the strong growth momentum in the southern part of the country.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) also gave a few words remotely, saying the government is dedicated to creating a good investment climate for startups to help them thrive and compete on the world stage.
Speaking at the event, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) observed that COVID-19 has left a huge impact on businesses over the past two years. "In the face of the pandemic and accompanying business challenges, we cannot do business as usual. Business transformation outweighs stimulus aid and is far more sustainable; that is where digital infrastructure will play a key role throughout the transformation."
Ko also talked about the city government's upcoming plan to set up an angel investment program to fund startups in the city from an investor mindset.
The Taiwanese-American founder of video-game streaming site Twitch, Kevin Lin (林士斌), remotely delivered the day's first speech at the expo's Super Stage.
Speaking from California, Lin described his early life, which spanned the U.S.; his self-seeking journey after graduation; the establishment of Twitch; and the financial freedom he achieved after Amazon bought Twitch with US$970 million in cash in 2014. "It's a story of resilience. If I can do it, you can do it too," he said.
Today, Lin is a mentor and board member of several companies, including Krafton, Oura Ring, Baobab Studios, and Multiverse. In his speech, Lin shared with Taiwanese startup founders his observations of Web 3.0 — open, trustless, permissionless, and decentralized. He also shared his personal mottos: value personal growth; commitment over compliance; ask if you don't know what's going on; find a mentor; test your ideas with smarter people; understand financial numbers; identify your weaknesses; and act quickly.
The second keynote speaker on the stage was Chien Lee-feng (簡立峰), board director of Appier and former managing director of Google Taiwan. He gave a talk about challenges that faced Taiwanese startups between 2000 and 2020, such as a focus on the local market at the expense of overseas markets, failure to leverage the country's unique hardware strengths, and the capital drain as money flocked to China.
"The landscape has changed, and there are some Taiwan-based startups making it into the ranks of global unicorns, such as 91APP, Gogoro, and Appier," he said. He believes there are more to come thanks to a shifting mindset, young startups more willing to go overseas, and the changing investment environment.
Chien said it's a great moment for Taiwan's startups, pointing out that the U.S.-China trade war is giving more opportunities to Taiwan and that bringing COVID under control has enabled digital transformation to accelerate and led to supply chain security. He encouraged startup companies to take advantage of the country's strategic geographical location to expand to other Asian countries and leverage the liberalism that contributes to Taiwan's great variety of artistic creations that appeal to other Mandarin-speaking countries.
2021 Meet Taipei Startup Festival at Nangang International Exhibition Center Hall 2. (Taiwan News photo)