Taiwan may already be a key part of the electronics manufacturing supply chain, but it is now trying to enhance its image beyond manufacturing, as an enabler of hardware-based artificial intelligence (AI) services serving an increasingly data-driven society.
This was evident when we recently spoke to the country’s science and technology minister Liang-Gee Chen during Innovex, a startup exhibition that ran alongside Computex. In addition to the AI services focus, he also emphasized a desire to connect its startups with global innovation ecosystems, provide them with a platform for growth, and encourage its academics to spinout out technologies that enable an AI enabled world.
One of the pillars of the government’s master plan is to encourage key startup accelerators to establish in Taiwan or recruit for its cohorts from the country – an important part of the global ecosystem integration plan. A number of accelerators and investors from the U.S. were invited to meet local startups during Innovex. We had the opportunity to meet some of those investors while in Taipei.
One of them was Ravi Belani, managing director of the Alchemist Accelerator, a venture-backed initiative based in Menlo Park, Calif., dedicated to accelerating business-to-business focused startups. He told us he first received an invitation to visit Taiwan two years ago. “After that trip, I loved it. It has the best of Japan (in terms of efficiency and work ethic) and China (in terms of entrepreneurial characteristics).” He added the Taiwanese are incredibly smart but not arrogant. “They are not letting their intelligence get to their head.”
He makes strong arguments for his new interest in Taiwanese entrepreneurs and why he’ll be looking more closely at the country. “Japanese founders don’t think necessarily outside Japan. And in South Korea, there is entrepreneurial energy but not great thinking globally. Also, Taiwan is a really good gateway for China and the U.S.”
He added, “Taiwan is really ahead of Silicon Valley in terms of hardware — and if you own the hardware, you own the platform.” Belani said companies are now increasingly becoming hardware companies, and Silicon Valley hasn’t continued to build the expertise in this area the way Taiwan has. “That’s why I’m very bullish about Taiwan.” In fact, he has two Taiwanese startups currently in the its accelerator program, CoolSo and PenguinSmart.