One of the forums on Startup Ecosystem is brought by TTA. Titled “How to Enhance Taiwan at Global Ecosystem”; the session featured speakers: Ravi Belani, Co-founder and Managing Director of Alchemist Accelerator (USA); Craig William Harding, Angel Investor, Band of Angels & Life Science Angels (USA); Rutger de Graaf, Director of Netherlands Point of Entry, Netherlands Enterprise Agency (Netherlands); Edouard Plus, Managing Director at Le Swave, Paris & Co. (France); and Andrés Saborido, Founder and Director of Wayra (Spain); with Dr. Lewis Chen, Managing Director of Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA) as the moderator.
Multiple Perspectives from Global Accelerators
Dr. Lewis Chen started the panel discussion by introducing TTA. As a startup hub under the Ministry of Science and Technology; TTA’s primary goal is to act as a bridge for Taiwanese and global resources engagement; especially as the Taiwanese government is also very keen to use available resources to engage industries to the international market.
Mr. Ravi Belani of Alchemist stated that founders are the agents of change which is why funding the founders and startups is necessary. Many investors do not care about the origin of the startups they invest in as long as they can create the best innovations. There are 3 key things which are vital for startups to succeed and even become a unicorn: a killer app (or more), scalable architecture for entrepreneurship, and a way to plug in to global hubs. While Silicon Valley has the advantage of ecosystem, its main advantage is actually the capital. However, Taiwan should not try to mirror Silicon Valley, but instead leapfrog it. Taiwan has a huge opportunity in AI and IoT; especially as AI companies, many of which were originally offshoots of a larger company now start to migrate towards hardware; one of Taiwan’s main strengths.
Mr. Rutger de Graaf said that the Netherlands have a diverse ecosystem; where certain regions focus on certain aspects of technology. At the same time, the Dutch government will only invest in certain areas. Foreign startups can capitalize on this investment philosophy by offering their innovations that are not locally available in the Netherlands. This makes collaboration a key for foreign startups to succeed in the Netherlands and also as a way to jointly compete globally with Dutch companies.
Mr. Edouard Plus offered several strategies that might be able to strengthen Taiwan’s position in the global ecosystem. Utilizing the human resources available to Taiwan is very important; especially as many of them are tech savvy or tech enthusiasts. To capitalize it, he mentioned how France actually has a form of talent exchange where international founders can go to France to discover each other. At the same time, the country’s leaders need to be aware on tech subjects. Only if the country’s leaders are aware of all the subjects that are going to push the country forward will the country be able to grow as a tech country.
Mr. Craig Harding offered his insights as a part of an angel group. As the amount of investment rounds increase, the roles of angels groups are increasingly more important to startups. Many startups from outside the US have great technologies, but are quite reluctant to relocate. From here, the idea of multinational startups came about; where the founders along with their technologies, patents, etc. can stay in their home countries, but have a parent company overseas that can capitalize on a structure which is more advantageous for building companies, leverage available foreign capital, and preferable legal system.
Mr. Andrés Saborido of Wayra said that startups and talented people generate innovation, but they need to scale up their business to grow. On the other hand, corporations, government, and other companies that have the scale need innovation to stay in the market. Bringing both together; innovation and possibility to scale up is the only logical thing to do.
Different Policies Offer Different Possibilities
One point that all panelists share is how the companies and governments of different countries view investment from and to foreign startups differently. For example, while corporates in US generally do not care about the origin of the startups they invest in; the US government may limit their investments only to domestic/ local startups.
Mr. Belani said that often the issue that blocks foreign startups to investment from US is due to lack of interface or exposure. Many corporates have innovation groups, but they do not represent the business units which need the innovation from startups. However, foreign startups might be unable to join certain governmental programs
For France, Mr. Plus certain industries such as finance are not available for international startups. A few corporations in France might be wary to share data to international startups because they do not know the legal limitations and regulations. A buffer such as accelerators might be necessary to facilitate the cooperation. The Paris government now also provides a Paris Region Startup pack worth EUR 50,000 for any company in the world that is invested in AI to start working in France.
Mr. de Graaf stated that are 2 types of companies: those that are always taking risks at the forefront and the really traditional ones which also invests traditionally. Companies want to innovate but might be limited by regulations or belief they are fine where they are. Accelerators and incubators can help show these companies what the startups can do or help in. These programs are open for foreign startup that will still need to build trust and go through a pilot phase. As Netherlands face a problem of talent retention, government now offers incentives to get the talents back.
Mr. Saborido stated that working with corporations is a more logical step for mature startups for a soft landing. From the corporates’ perspective, talent is everywhere and they want to work with startups everywhere. Personal data and privacy is also very important, which makes the founders’ perspectives to personal data and privacy important criteria for cooperation.
According to Mr. Harding, entrepreneurs should be more cautious when dealing with corporates. Often there is a requirement that startups do not work with the corporates’ competitors almost as if a form of loyalty is expected at the very early stage.
Cooperation for Joint Success
In summary, the key ideas from the panelists are as follows:
Ravi Belani: Fund founders. Corporations will inevitably invest in companies that will replace them
Rupert de Graaf: Find where both sides are good at and focus there for a more successful cooperation
Edouard Plus: Exchange program for young professionals will help them discover each other.
Craig William Harding: to successfully expand, new ventures will need funding and seek to develop a presence in their target country
Andrés Saborido: legal systems might need to be relaxed to create facilitate necessary disruptions in the market and capital to fuel the disruptions.
To watch the full forum session, visit our YouTube channel here.