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Meet Global Tea Time connects expat-led businesses in Taiwan

Bimonthly networking event hosts presentation by Taiwan Gold Card office and panel discussion promoting business development

Tom Fifield introduces Taiwan Gold Card program. (Meet Global photo)

Tom Fifield introduces Taiwan Gold Card program. (Meet Global photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Launched in 2011, Meet Global is a platform for early stage start-ups, hosting events to provide both information and networking opportunities.

It's most recent meetup looked at the challenges and opportunities facing expat businesses, at a tea time activity on Thursday (Nov. 9).

Featured speaker at the event was TalentTaiwan Technical Director, Tom Fifield, who explained the latest attempt by the Taiwan government to woo and retain foreign talent. TalentTaiwan is responsible for issuing Taiwan Gold Card (TGC) special visa status for qualified overseas professionals, which previously operated under such names as “plum blossom card” and “entrepreneur visa.”

Fifield said 8,300 Taiwan Gold Cards have been issued since the program was launched in 2018, offering expat professionals who qualify for the program favorable terms and conditions. For example, a three-year visa extendable to all family members, and access to government support such as tax and legal consultation services.

TalentTaiwan is staffed by 30 full-time employees who assist in many areas associated with life and work abroad. The group also lobbies the government on the behalf of TGC holders as well as other expats.

“We are like a wedge to crack or change regulations,” said Fifield. Currently they are lobbying for work rights for spouses of TGC holders, banking sector changes that are more amendable to foreign residents, and less red-tape and bureaucracy.

Fifield says the government has the lofty goal of recruiting 400,000 foreign professionals over the next few years, requiring a dramatic upgrade in services and enticements. The COVID pandemic brought many new foreign entrepreneurs and the government is hoping to capitalize on this momentum.

“Eight to 10% of gold card holders are entrepreneurs. They bring investment and also share their professional expertise,” said Fifield.

He later showed examples of successful TGC cases such as software engineers, filmmakers, health product providers, and broadcast journalists.

To shed more light on the experience of overseas professionals in Taiwan a forum was held following Fifield’s presentation, allowing overseas professionals to share their experience of running a business in Taiwan and the challenges of adapting to Taiwan’s regulatory environment. Participants also talked about why they chose to establish a business and home in Taiwan.

Meet Global Tea Time connects expat-led businesses in Taiwan
A full house attends tea time event. (Meet Global photo)

The first to speak was CreatorDB CEO & Founder Clayton Jacobs. His company is a social media marketing agency that connects businesses with influencers. His startup's clients include VPN service Surfshark and online game, World of Tanks.

“I was living in Shenzhen and running into issues about being a foreigner. This led me to take a job with a Taiwan company that invited me to come here and learn the technology before being deployed to Tokyo. After a while, I just decided to stay here and Iater took the engineers that I liked and started my own company,” said Jacobs.

His company runs data analytics for companies eager to enter the APAC market. He says that without favorable policies provided to foreign entrepreneurs he would not be able to start a company in Taiwan as he dropped out of college and doesn’t have a degree from a higher educational program

Paul Wright Group Practice Leader Alan Mclvor shares a similar story of coming to Taiwan and never wanting to leave. He says his first foray to Taiwan was in 2008, partly inspired by a financial crisis in the U.K., which led to a dirth of jobs. Together with a friend he moved abroad.

After teaching for four years in Taichung, he became distraught and sought a new career, moving to China where he wished to take any job other than teaching. His first assignment was that of a personal assistant and later he became involved in corporate head hunting.

While his work was going well in China, he had a lingering desire to return to Taiwan, partly influenced by his Taiwanese wife.

Meet Global Tea Time connects expat-led businesses in Taiwan
Alan McIvor shares his experience with other entrepreneurs. (Meet Global photo)

McIvor has encountered many challenges and opportunities working for a local company. The biggest challenge he says is the work culture which is non-confrontational, often limiting dissent and input.

“I clashed a lot when I started working in Taiwan. This would be okay in the U.K., but not here. I had to learn how to soften my tone by speaking less or reinforcing the fact that I was thinking on the behalf of the business,” said McIvor.

Both Clayton and McIvor admit the foreign entrepreneur community has a ceiling. “Within 18 months you will meet everyone in this space. To overcome this, I recommend people to participate in events hosted by Appworks and Sparklabs which bring a good mixture of entrepreneurs together,” said Clayton.

“I recommend people to network as much as possible. Even doing things to help out others in this community and develop good karma which may come back to you. Being helpful and patient with people may benefit you in the long run,” said McIvor.

As for career building and trajectory, both believe that Taiwan offers many opportunities for those willing to work hard and carve out a niche for themselves.

“I believe in a gut feeling for businesses. Trust your gut about your chemistry and fit with a company as this will make you much happier in the long run instead of simply chasing the money,” said McIvor.