Continuing from the series of keynote speeches; the Qualcomm session of May 30 ended with a panel discussion. The panelists were: Dr. Lewis Chen, Managing Director of Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA); Mr. Sahil Bansal, Senior Director of Product Management, Qualcomm; Ms. Yan Li, Director of Qualcomm Ventures; and Mr. Pranesh Sinha, Senior Director of Product Management, Qualcomm Technology Licensing, Qualcomm Incorporated. The moderator for this session is Mr. Jet Yang, Editor in Chief of Knowing News.
The International Startup Hub in Taiwan
As the Managing Director of TTA, Dr. Chen introduced the visions and missions of TTA. Firstly, TTA aims to function as the main gateway for Taiwan to global resources & engagement and vice versa; building a foundation of international innovation tech ventures. Secondly, TTA is also an international contribution hub. With approximately 60% international startups; joining TTA offers startups with opportunities to co-work, network, and exchange ideas. It can be a great way to know each other’s target market and culture; as well as helping teams to adapt and localize. Thirdly, it is also the voice of Taiwan; trying to leverage or use Taiwan’s advanced manufacturing power to link or engage the tech ecosystem.
Taiwan has very good technology and mindset to develop solutions rather than offering consultation services or incremental improvements to existing technologies. Dr. Chen stated that Taiwan’s main strength has been in semiconductors. However, Taiwan’s industries are also strong in IC design, ICT, and 3C (computer, communication, and consumer electronics) key components. In the startups ecosystem, Taiwan is among the best in AI, machinery, and robotics. This combination of startups and corporate capabilities mean that AI age is a good opportunity for Taiwan to shine; either as innovators or as investors.
IoT Innovation Trends in the Vertical Market
Mr. Sinha pointed out that IoT levels the playing field for companies as success in the IoT field is not limited to only the large companies. Many corporate investors are also interested in IoT startups which add even greater opportunities for startups. He continued that the strengths in IoT and great ecosystems around ODMs mean that startups can rely on ODM partners for hardware. The global renown of Taiwan’s ODM ecosystem will also help startups to scale globally more easily. Combining Taiwan’s hardware design, talents, research, ODM, and investments mean SMEs can address the very fragmented space of IoT. For large companies, IoT is a mixed blessing because they cannot possibly invest in all the verticals of IoT and control all the aspects. However, small companies can pick a use case, focus & understand it, then address the use case successfully. Combining Taiwan’s strengths in hardware and human talent with investments in the AI capabilities and talent will give Taiwan an advantage in both IoT and AI.
According to Mr. Bansal, there are 3 major improvements or innovations that will happen in the IoT industry. The first is proliferation of smart cameras, cameras that are embedded with AI and running AI at the edge which will be more powerful and capable of doing more things. The second is how 5G is making a sway into IoT and Industrial IoT (IIoT); with private 5G networks, it will be possible to offer more re-configurable factories, and more. The third is how AI edge computing in device will proliferate in IIoT devices which will allow for more predictive maintenance, automatic visual inspection, and more.
Ms. Li stated that 5G is bringing new growth for IoT. Many technologies will rely on low latency and high bandwidth; especially as all the devices will be connected and a lot more data will be collected and need to be analyzed. She pointed out how IoT is a very segmented market with a lot of opportunities for SMEs, startups, and investors.
Dr. Chen said that startups should take the role of problem solvers; they will need to identify the problems and solutions; particularly the solutions in edge that can be used to obtain data. The question then is how to design IoT devices that can fulfil the function and adapt to the R&D and manufacturing supply chain. Creating the IC design chip for the function is quite easy in Taiwan, but not necessarily be easy elsewhere. Startups need to focus on identifying the problems, think, and design certain solutions to integrate hardware and software. Taiwan has a lot of strengths in IoT because of their manufacturing strengths in hardware which will permit customized design to fulfill the necessary requests.
Steps Moving Forward for Startups
To help Taiwanese IoT startups to succeed, the panelists had the following suggestions:
- Start with the user experiences; focus the problems that need to be solved
- Be very confused in the particular problem and offered solutions. Because IoT is very fragmented it is best to select one use case/ problem and excel in it
- The startups should consider working on partnerships with a wide variety of companies
- Build up technology barrier; startups need to have something that they can rely on and find their real competitive advantage
- Create sustainable business models and know how to make money as well as monetization
- Connect with international community. Being in Taiwan means that startups can connect with international community, established companies, & startups and use the resources available from the partners.
Dr. Lewis Chen:
- Startups need to have resources to scale, not just good ideas. However, starting from ideas mean startups can find potential investors such as Qualcomm Ventures. Investors are always looking for innovative companies and a few will help startups through a broad range of engagements, including incubation programs
- Identifying problem domains is necessary to drive the optimum business models. Startups need to collaborate with manufacturers, corporates, & technology suppliers; and leverage the technology resources to build the best solutions. The most important thing is for the business model to use the minimum cost, leverage the tech resources to build up solutions, and drive the business model.
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