Meet Startup @TW

Infusing the Taiwanese tech landscape with ASEAN startup innovation

e27

Taiwan has long been known for its quality tech hardware, made famous the world over via easily-recognisable names such as Asus, MSI, and Foxconn. However, the little country of 23 million people lags behind other Asian startup hubs like Beijing and Singapore despite being ranked 4th in the globe in innovation capability by the World Economic Forum and having a much stronger intellectual property rights than China.

Thus, Taipei needs to make up for lost ground against regional heavyweights in terms of spurring a more vibrant local tech startup scene and drawing foreign startups to further innovate the nascent ecosystem.

With the support of the Small and Medium Enterprise Administration under Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, Asia-Pacific Telecom Group or APTG (which is owned by tech giant Foxconn) and startup ecosystem connector AsiaIOA have opened its maiden APTG 5G Accelerator Programme up to Southeast Asian startups.

The accelerator programme aims to accelerate Taiwan’s startup tech scene with a focus on 5G-related disciplines, including: ICT, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, and Big Data.

APTG 5G Accelerator Programme 2019

The programme focuses on strengthening startup acceleration and partnership with enterprises, assisting startups for international partnership and market expansion, accelerating startup development of their business models, product and solution roadmaps, sales and marketing developments, legal and compliance, finance and taxation, and 5G technology as well as field testing, where necessary.

Schedule for APTG 5G Accelerator Programme 2019:
- 18th September 2019 – 18th December 2019: Recruiting and application process by Taiwanese and international startups is underway
- December 2019 – January 2020: Screening, interviews and selection of startups
- February 2020: Start of the APTG 5G Accelerator Programme
- July 2020: Demo Week/Day of the 5G Accelerator Programme

Selected startups (10-12 startups) will need to incorporate entities in Taiwan within two months of the 5G accelerator programme starting. Startups are also required to have corporate registered ID, meet the criteria as a Taiwan-based SME, and not be incubated or accelerated in more than two programmes in Taiwan.

Each startup will be assigned a Taiwanese industry mentor. During the six-month programme (until Demo Week/Day), mentors and APTG programme managers will organise bi-weekly “business diagnosis” meetings (whether face-to-face, online, or via phone) with startups.

These business diagnosis meetings aim to help startups:

  • Discover: business models and assess opportunities for targeted markets, with validations.
  • Build: planning a growth strategy and building solutions for issues and challenges with action plans.
  • Scale-up: exploring sales opportunities and partnerships for acceleration with expansion.

General perks of joining the programme

The six-month programme will include lectures by mentors, one-on-one interactive discussions between mentors and startups for business diagnoses, as well as preparation for official investment opportunities and meetings with potential investors. Startups will also participate with international and Taiwan roadshows, and startup events.

Selected startups will benefit from APTG’s strong technical infrastructure, including:

  • APTG sim cards for product testing
  • Product testing opportunities in 5G test labs
  • Free space to work in Taiwan
  • Opportunity for business-matching and collaboration with APTG and its partners

Of the 10 to 12 selected startups, the APTG 5g Accelerator Programme is targeting to see at least three startups win investment opportunities from APTG and its partners at the Demo Week/Day.

With the backing of shareholder Foxconn, APTG began its very own digital transformation process and began to tap technology to provide intelligent living services.

APTG as catalyst for tech advancement

In congruence with its efforts geared towards making meaningful impact in the tech ecosystem not only of Taiwan but of the larger Asia-Pacific, APTG is arranging an event with Thailand-based Southeast Asian tech hub, True Digital Park. The event is slated to happen on 7 November, 2019, at True Digital Park in Thailand which will be the venue for APTG’s startup recruitment.

The APTG Accelerator Programme will be carefully identifying and curating a diverse set of startups to join them in Taiwan, specifically targeting startups in 5G related communications and applications area including smart nation/city, AI, medical and healthcare, retail marketplaces, entertainment, and even sports.

The programme is targeting 10 to 12 emerging startups with innovative ideas in these areas to become part of the programme. Among those who are selected, a minimum of three startups will have the chance to win investment offers from investors and partners.

With 5G business application, technology, and resources, the accelerator programme seeks to guide innovative startups, connect them to potential international and cross-industry partnerships, and lea the 5G market development by exploring more business opportunities.

Moreover, on 7 November, 2019, the APTG Accelerator Programme will also be signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with True Digital Park to expand its international network in an effort to accelerate the development of its participants. This serves as the truest of testaments when it comes to highlighting APTG’s commitment to strengthening the tech ecosystem within the country, and well beyond it.

Proven to help innovate with a solid track-record

In 2016, APTG installed and began offering the use of LoRa, or low-power wide area networks, to increase connectivity for the Internet of Things. In line with its focus on innovating Taiwan’s tech landscape, APTG has made its LoRa network available to developers free of charge to explore how better to employ the technology.

The telco also works with local governments across Taiwan to provide 4G Internet access on public buses and at public bus stops so as to help develop local economies. To cap it off, APTG was one of the first firms in Taiwan to import Pepper, the humanoid robot, to assist with product sales.

Taiwan has its strong intellectual property rights protection and cheaper cost base on its side, in addition to offering foreign startups a smaller (23 million population, with strong tech infrastructure) market with which to test their products before taking on the much larger and diverse Chinese consumer market.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration has recently got the ball rolling with several initiatives:

  • Launched a startup park in Linkou District, New Taipei, which is linked to Taiwan Tech Arena in Taipei, Asia Silicon Valley in Taoyuan County, and Hsinchu Science Park.
  • Changing the Company Act for the first time in 17 years to let startups raise funds more easily.
  • Approved a regulatory sandbox law so fintech startups can avoid regulations that cover established firms providing financial services.
  • Introduced the Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals, which offers tax benefits, healthcare and retirement perks to skilled foreign workers.

By making Taiwan a preferred hub for international startups to playtest and grow, it is the hope of APTG and its partners that Taipei’s nascent startup ecosystem can be invigorated with new ideas and thus speed up the innovation process to put the city on par with other Asean startup hubs.

This article was first published on e27, Nov. 21, 2019.

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