1. THE TAIPEI ENTREPRENEURSHIP COMMUNITY HAS EVOLVED THROUGH SEVERAL ITERATIONS OVER THE PAST 40 YEARS.
Taiwanese companies were among the first to tap into the growing American demand for computer parts manufacturing and assembly in the 1980s. By the 1990s, companies like Asus and HTC appeared, and Taipei quickly became a global hub for personal computer manufacturing. Today, there are an estimated 250 tech-enabled companies in Taipei . Tech-enabled companies are defined as companies in software, healthcare, or advanced manufacturing.
2. ANALYSES: TAIPEI HAS A HIGHLY QUALIFIED TALENT POOL, A LARGE NUMBER OF BOOMERANG ENTREPRENEURS, AND A PREVALENCE OF HIGH-TECH FIRMS.
Through decades of comprehensive innovation policies, Taiwan has cultivated a highly qualified workforce, strong IP protections, and abundant resources for early stage companies. This has allowed Taipei to benefit from a process of “brain circulation,” whereby Taiwanese nationals return home after obtaining education or experience overseas. Usually, it’s both.
Many of the city’s tech companies were founded by “boomerang” entrepreneurs who spent time in the United States before they started a company in Taipei. The most common career path involves earning a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) degree from a Taiwanese University, followed by a graduate degree in the United States. Nearly half of the tech-enabled companies in Taipei are high-tech in nature, meaning that they rely on advanced technologies, rather than consumer-facing solutions or e-commerce platforms. The highly qualified workforce has attracted foreign companies like Amazon and Alibaba to invest in innovation in Taipei.
3. OPPORTUNITIES: DESPITE POSITIVE TRENDS IN RECENT YEARS, THE TAIPEI TECH ENTREPRENEURSHIP COMMUNITY FACES SIGNIFICANT BARRIERS TO SCALING.
◼️Scaled companies have created most of the economic output among entrepreneurial firms in Taipei, but few companies have been able to scale in recent years. In total, tech-enabled companies in the city have created an estimated 23,000 jobs, but over 80 percent of these came from a small minority of companies with 50 or more employees. In the past 5 years, less than 10 percent of tech-enabled companies were able to achieve this level of scale. Taipei needs more companies that scale, like many local entrepreneurship communities do.
◼️The entrepreneurship community is highly centralized around a small number of influential government programs. In many nascent ecosystems, the government is the first mover to support entrepreneurship. The same thing happened in Taipei: in the absence of relationships between entrepreneurs, the Taiwanese government has made significant efforts to support entrepreneurship through startup support and investment. Over time, however, the overwhelming influence of government-funded entrepreneurship support programs crowds out other actors. The network’s concentration around a small number of extremely influential organizations may be exposing the network to risks of policy change and may also be preventing entrepreneurial leaders from emerging.
◼️Entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur connections are rare. Connections are highly valued in the entrepreneurship community: they are considered more important than intelligence or ambition. At the same time, entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur connections like mentorship and angel investment are rare. It is rare for successful founders to network and engage in informal interactions with new founders. As a result, there is little opportunity for founders to connect through mentorship and angel investment, which could make significant contributions in helping them grow.
(1) Focus resources on companies with a potential to scale. Shift resources to support scaling companies and put resources behind the existing entrepreneurship initiatives led by high-scale founders. There is a willingness among scaleup entrepreneurs to actively support recent founders, but they are crowded out by the overwhelming institutionalized support activity that characterizes the entrepreneurship community in Taipei today.
(2) Increase the share of government support programs that target later stage companies. Taipei has a number of policies and government initiatives to foster entrepreneurship in general, and high-tech innovation in particular. At the same time, the majority of the existing government support initiatives are focused on idea-stage and early stage companies, and not companies that reach scale. An international comparison shows more mature entrepreneurship communities like in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and India tend to have a higher proportion of late-stage support relative to idea-stage and early stage support.
(3) Foster relationships between entrepreneurs to balance influence in the entrepreneurship community. Entrepreneurship communities centralized around government initiatives are exposed to risks of political change. Decision makers need to foster relationships between founders to balance government influence in the network and elevate high-scale entrpereneurs into positions of power. There are several examples of offline and online initiatives in other geographies that can serve as an example, where founders discuss challenges related to hiring, expansion, or government regulation, including founder dinners, angel groups, topical meetup events, WhatsApp groups, and Slack channels.
(4) Leverage high-scale entrepreneurs and executives in the diaspora to foster angel investment and mentorship connections. Currently, productive founder-to-founder relationships are rare in the community, in part because relatively few of the tech-enabled companies of the past ten years have reached scale in Taipei. There are a number of high power founders in Silicon Valley of Taiwanese origin, such as YouTube co-founder Steve Chen and Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, both of whom have been increasingly active in supporting Taipei tech startups. Influential support organizations should use their resources and influence to broker relationships between these and other successful founders and the entrepreneurship community in Taipei.
1 台北創業社群在過去 40 年來已歷經多次轉變。
1980 年代，台灣企業率先看準美國對電腦零件製造與組裝漸增的需求。1990 年代時，華碩、宏達電等企業嶄露頭角，台北也迅速成為全球個人電腦的生產重鎮。而今，台北有超過 250 家科技驅動 (tech-enabled) 公司，專精於軟體、 衛生保健、先進製造等領域。
幾十年來台灣完備的創新政策環境，為創業早期階段的公司提供了優質人力、強健的智慧財產權保護以及豐沛資源。台人在海外求學或累積工作經驗 (通常為兩者兼有) 後回國，這種「人才流動」的過程造福了台北。
◼️台北的新創中，多數經濟產值皆由規模擴張的企業創造，但近年少有公司能擴張。台北市的科技驅動型公司共創造約 23,000 個就業機會，但超過八成都來自員工數達 50 人以上的少數企業。近 5 年來，少於 10% 的科技驅動型公司能夠達成此擴張規模 (員工數達 50 人以上)。
以政府計畫為中心的創業社群易遭政策變更風險影響。決策者必須鼓勵創業家互相交流，以平衡政府在創業網絡的影響力，並將規模大的創業家提升至領導角色。其他地區也有許多創業家推動的線下與線上計畫可供參考。這些計畫提供創業家討論人才招募、擴張及政府法規相關的挑戰，形式包含創業家晚宴、天使團隊、主題聚會、WhatsApp 群組、Slack 平台等。
目前，社群中有意義的創業家互動並不多，部分原因在於過去十年來，台北少有科技驅動型公司成功擴張。矽谷有幾位台灣籍的主要創辦人，例如 Youtube 共同創辦人陳士駿 (Steve Chen) 及 Twitch 共同創辦人林士斌 (Kevin Lin)，兩人都積極支持台北的科技新創。有影響力的創育組織應運用自身資源及影響力，鼓勵這類成功創業家與台北的創業社群進一步交流連結。