The fourth annual Asia Pacific Accelerator Network Forum (AAN) was held on May 31 at the InnoVEX exhibition in Taipei. Created in 2013, the AAN Forum invites global industry leaders to share their insights on Taiwan’s economy. This time, 15 speakers from eight countries came together at the forum.
Organized by the Center of Industry Accelerator and Patent Strategy (IAPS) at National Chiao Tung University, the AAN Forum also aims to connect local startups to global resources, as well as providing useful information to attendees.
As reported by BNext and Meet, InnoVEX is a startup-focused show under the auspices of the renowned Computex exhibition. Now in its second year, over 250 international startups from more than 20 nations presented their products at InnoVEX.
Focus on IoT and international connections
The forum was introduced by Ming-Ji Wu, director general of small and medium enterprises at the Ministry of Economic Affairs. He was followed by ARM general manager Peter Hsieh, who presented his keynote on “IoT and Taiwan Industry Initiative.”
In his speech, Hsieh argued that since Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI) are at the heart of the internet of things (IoT) and cloud services, a focus on combining both would certainly benefit Taiwanese startups immensely.
The first panel discussion’s speaker was Dr. Laurent le Guyader, coordinator of French Tech Taiwan, who was introduced by IAPS director Huang Ching-Yao. Launched in 2016 at Meet Taipei 2016, French Tech Taiwan has established itself as an important bridge between France and Taiwan.
Part of this success is due to Le Guyader and some devoted French entrepreneurs, who shared his experience on bringing together French and Taiwanese businesses. He is himself very active in assisting Taiwanese startups expand their business to France, but has also helped French entrepreneurs and firms establish business links with Taiwan.
The second speaker was Kouichi Matono, director of Startup Fukuoka from the Japanese startup hub on Kyushu Island. Demonstrating the close ties between the two cities, Fukuoka and Taipei had signed a memorandum of understanding earlier in February.
In his speech, Matono also encouraged Taiwanese startups to join other international companies in Fukuoka and expand their market there.
Schoolab: Bringing an Innovation Studio to Taiwan
The second panel was launched with a talk from Christophe Pennetier, partner of Schoolab, a French accelerator is based in Paris. Titled “Connecting startup resources to explore the global market,” Pennetier’s talk introduced the Paris-based company and his experiences in going global.
Pennetier regards Schoolab as an “innovation studio” that provides everyone from students to entrepreneurs with a platform where they can exchange ideas and cooperate.
“We bring together students, startups and corporations. This is what makes us unique. Rather than having a separate executive branch and a student branch, we mix people all the time,” he pointed out.
Pennetier also spoke about Schoolab’s worldwide strategy. Thanks to the efforts of the French Office in Taipei and AAN, Schoolab was inspired to invest in the great startup ecosystem in Taiwan. Now Schoolab is seeking to raise funds that will allow it to expand its presence and visibility in Asia and is considering to start operation in Taiwan.
Currently, Schoolab has offices in Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing, Bogota, South Africa, Israel, and Silicon Valley. This broad representation enables the accelerator to connect its own talents to other regions, where they can then absorb different opinions.
Asked about the future partnership with Taiwan, Pennetier again emphasized Schoolab’s focus on students and pointed out that in the beginning “having partnerships with schools is more important than having partnerships with big firms.”
One of Schoolab’s key programs is the aptly-titled “Le Bridge,” which the accelerator describes as providing a “Paris/Silicon Valley entrepreneurship experience”.
Designed for both startups and corporations, the program offers a unique ten-month course where intra- and entrepreneurs spend four months in Berkeley, California. After they have developed their product ideas there, they then go to Paris to work on the marketability and realization of their solutions for six months.
Two successful examples from “Le Bridge” are Tempow and Doctrine.fr. Tempow, which has participated in La French Tech Pavilion at InnoVEX 2017, is pushing its innovative streaming service and seeking collaborations with smartphone makers.
Doctrine.fr, whose services are limited to France for now, uses machine learning to help users solve specific legal questions related to jurisprudence. The startup also set a new record for very early stage’s seed fundraising in France, obtaining over $2.2m (2M Euro).
Taiwan’s startup ecosystem
This year’s AAN Forum once again demonstrated the importance of global connections for startups. With so many international speakers sharing their insights, many of the attendees were inspired and encouraged to pursue their dream.
Thanks to the efforts of media outlets and accelerators, as well as the growing investment by the government in recent years, Taiwan’s startup infrastructure is shaping up to become a viable regional hub. With such a sound ecosystem to work in, Taiwanese startups can count on the support of many as they go into the world.