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2018 APEC O2O Summit in Kaohsiung Aims to Boost Startup Ecosystems in the Asia-Pacific Region

The 2018 APEC O2O Summit , an international conference aimed at helping small and middle-sized companies in the Asia-Pacific region strengthen their digital capabilities, kicked off in Kaohsiung on July 2.

Representatives from 21 Pacific Rim economies, including the U.S., Thailand and Malaysia, met in Taiwan’s second-largest city to discuss ways to boost startup ecosystems in the region.

They also explored “Online to Offline”(O2O) strategies, which are ways of drawing potential customers away from web sites and other online channels to make purchases in physical stores as a means of spurring economic development.

The two-day summit at the Kaohsiung Exhibition Center was held under the auspices of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and was aimed at fostering cooperation among companies based in APEC member countries or economies. Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Kaohsiung City Government played host.

In opening remarks, Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin said Taiwan’s small and medium-sized enterprises could use the summit as an opportunity to create international exchanges with other regional companies and enhance their digital competitiveness.

“We have provided SMEs, startups and young entrepreneurs with opportunities in training, networking, showcasing and connecting with potential investors, thereby boosting the startup ecosystem in APEC,” Shen said.

More than 10 startups from the Asia-Pacific region were invited to the summit to connect with over 50 Taiwanese local startups in the fields of financial technology, AI, Internet of Things and applications relating to augmented reality and virtual reality.

Shih Che, the Deputy Mayor of Kaohsiung, said his city had worked at pushing for interactions between startups in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

Deborah Magid, director of IBM’s Venture Capital Group, said during a panel discussion that startups create jobs in all economies where there are startup ecosystems.

“Startups can significantly contribute to GDP. In San Francisco where I live, a local newspaper did a study …some economists showed that for every one new job created by a startup, there were four jobs in the city created around them,” Magid said

“Startups are a very risky proposition anywhere in the world, including in Silicon Valley in the United States. It's no easier where I live than it is here in Taiwan,” Magid added.

She explained that unlike small and medium-sized enterprises, startups grow in scale very quickly.

“Startups intend to grow to large disruptive companies that perhaps help traditional industries transfer, or maybe even take business away from traditional industries. And that is what venture capitalists fund,” Magid said.

The summit showcased various startups and gave participants a chance to experience augmented reality and virtual reality applications. In addition, participants discussed international investment.

In addition to startups, governmental officials, O2O experts and representatives of multinational corporations took part, according to officials.