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Meet Taipei Startup Festival opens with panel discussion

Panelists discuss tech trends like generative AI, commercial drones, fintech

Meet Taipei hosts a forum on the future of technology. (Meet Taipei image)

Meet Taipei hosts a forum on the future of technology. (Meet Taipei image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The first event of the Meet Taipei Startup Festival 2023 was the forum “Open the Future," which presented a panel of distinguished tech startup professionals who shared their views about upcoming trends.

Christine Tsai, CEO and founding partner of 500 Global, delivered the keynote address via video. Tsai is an acclaimed venture capitalist, with involvement in over 2,600 companies, and she has invested early in startups at the seed or even pre-seed level.

She spoke about industry trends and where startups should devote their attention. She turned the clock backward to 2010, when the tech world was a “different universe,” as economies were coming out of the 2008 financial crisis.

“This was the rise of cloud services, mobile communications, search, and streaming. This made it easier and much cheaper to start a company, as one didn’t need one million US dollars for server costs. Now, one could use AWS, Google, or Microsoft. It was also the transition from desktop PCs to iPhones and Android. Now we are at about the same point as we were when generative AI was advancing. We need to think about what is possible now for AI companies. And what problems can be solved better with AI?" Tsai said.

Tsai recommended that startups focus on the basics, as venture funding is becoming scarcer and more people are selective about capital.

Furthermore, startups should not expect funding to flow as easily as in 2021 when the world emerged from COVID-19. Tsai said startups must rely on “customer money” rather than “venture money."

This advice should not come as a surprise for many startups, Tsai said, since Taiwan is still very much a “nascent market,” which has not been spoiled by a lot of “froth” in terms of venture funding. Therefore, she believed many Taiwanese startups are naturally resilient and dependent on generative revenue.

As for future trends, Tsai said we are in an “AI supercycle,” spurring hardware infrastructure development. Hungry founders are eager to build solutions, which creates many business opportunities, she said.

“I want to give three pieces of advice to everyone. The first is, don’t rest on your laurels. The second is to embrace the pain, and thirdly, keep showing up,” said Tsai. With hard work and effort, Tsai believed that success could be just around the corner for many startups.

The second speaker was John Kojiro Moriwaka, or "Crazy John,” of Silicon Valley Ventures. His enthusiasm transcended mediums and professions, as he described himself as a rapper, an influencer, and a good drinking buddy.

Morikawa is inventing his path in the tech startup culture by mentoring over 20 companies, serving as an advisor rather than an investor. He is especially active in areas like health, medtech, and even space.

One of his most recent projects was iUZ Investment, which invited 80 Japanese professors to serve and consult on tech investing. During his presentation, Morikawa said that India, Turkey, and Indonesia are growing quickly with the help of a young population and emerging tech sectors.

“I interviewed 20 people for this keynote address, and I learned many things. For example, a good startup community can be found anywhere, such as in Montreal, Canada. All around the world, there are areas with conditions that support young tech companies, such as Hiroshima and Fukuoka in Japan,” said Morikawa.

The next speaker was XREX co-founder and group CEO Wayne Huang, whose company offers blockchain-enabled financial services for emerging markets. Most recently, the Singapore government issued a license allowing his firm to have a SWIFT code and conduct international financial transactions.

He said, “I have a unique outlook because I came back to attend Jianguo High School in Taipei, and I learned a different type of history when I was in the U.S. I would challenge my classmates about this, and I said we should go to the library and consult a dictionary. When I pulled out the passage for Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), it was covered with a big sticker saying it was prohibited content."

Huang said his experience created a desire for him to start a newspaper at his high school, which was prohibited, and a radio and telecommunication station, which was also prohibited. He has had a lifelong interest in disruptive technology, and fintech is his latest interest.

“You cannot stop technology or control the media now. And I see a lot of opportunity in a new type of finance being pioneered by Singapore and the UAE. Singapore calls it 'purpose-bound money,' which is a new way of looking at finance," he said.

The next speaker in the forum was Taboola VP Yu Ning-ning (俞寧寧). Her company uses AI and geo-learning to provide services to major clients, such as Yahoo. She was high on the power of generative AI, and said she believes there is much to be learned and deployed through technology solutions.

Yu said AI has injected a lot of enthusiasm into the tech sector. Her company is primarily associated with advertising, though she said drone technology offered the biggest upside in the near term.

“Many companies have invested heavily in AI, along with military drones, cyber warfare, and image gathering. I think we need to not only think of military drones but also commercial drones and their future applications,” said Yu.

She believes that while generative AI has gained more popularity in recent years, “the train has already left the station” when it comes to funding, as there is no more money left to fund generative AI.

Yu encouraged Taiwanese startups to have a “global mindset to solve big problems” and work with international partners, even allowing them to take the lead on projects. She sees opportunities in commercial drones, precision healthcare, and generative AI to develop new drugs.