Taiwan’s Blockchain Industry Proves Resilient As It Matches Global Trends (19H2 Edition)

Taiwan’s blockchain ecosystem is a clear stalwart in the Greater Southeast Asia market

Jun Wakabayashi, Analyst (若林純 / 分析師)

Jun is an Analyst covering both AppWorks Accelerator and Greater Southeast Asia. Born and bred in America, Jun brings a wealth of international experience to AppWorks. He spent the last several years before joining AppWorks working for Focus Reports, where he conducted sector-based market research and interviewed high-level government leaders and industry executives across the globe. He’s now lived in 7 countries outside US and Taiwan, while traveling to upwards of 50 for leisure, collectively highlighting his unique propensity for cross-cultural immersion and international business. Jun received his Bachelors in Finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

A strong and steady 2019

2019 has proven to be a constructive year for the blockchain industry. It started off with crypto volumes at an all-time low and skepticism at a record high. Many projects that failed to survive the winter were quickly dead on arrival, and feasible commercial applications seemed further away than ever.

While the mass media has moved on from the fervor of 2017’s ICO craze, industry players around the globe have been powering through the downturn, effectively adjusting to a new reality. Many projects are now focusing their efforts on either underlying technical development or finding stronger real-world applications.

In Taiwan, the situation is no different. Although the country has traditionally lagged behind its Western counterparts in terms of embracing the latest innovations, it seems Taiwan has punched well above its weight when it comes to the development and adoption of blockchain. Whether it’s trending applications in gaming or decentralized finance (DeFi), advancements in the underlying infrastructure, or clarity in regulatory frameworks, Taiwan has kept pace on all fronts.

Made in Taiwan

Photo by Tom Ritson on Unsplash

There haven’t been too many new additions to the ecosystem since our last update, but we’ve seen existing players solidify their positioning in the market, with some effectively embedding themselves within the global value chain, very much in line with Taiwan’s legacy as a leading hardware manufacturer.

FST Network (AW#17), for example, has created a modularized, blockchain-based platform enabling enterprises to manage and integrate their data with ease. Their turnkey solution has now been adopted by exchanges and insurance companies in both the UK and Japan.

In a similar vein, local cold wallet maker CoolBitX recently developed Synga Bridge, a messaging-based KYC/AML solution that is now being used by Japan-based VC Trade, a crypto exchanged owned by SBI Holdings.

Along the theme of solving real-world pain points, DeFi has seemingly become the most pervasive use case, and rightly so. Existing financial systems are plagued with inefficient legacy systems that centralize data storage and authority, in turn passing on greater levies to increasingly privacy-concerned citizens. DeFi offers to provide a more transparent and secure means of accessing, lending, and transferring wealth.

The total value of DeFi projects has nearly tripled this year to over US$650 million. Although the conversations are largely dominated by opinions and analysis of MakerDAO and its stablecoin Dai, there are many upcoming projects fueling the DeFi movement. Here in Taiwan, for example, EasyDai is a decentralized exchange and lending platform that enables users to earn high-yield interest on Dai via Ethereum deposits. Steaker on the other hand is a digital asset management platform that helps users invest in notable DeFi projects.  

Working on the rails

In terms of development under the hood, it’s clear there is still much to be done when it comes to the widespread implementation of blockchain technology—engineering teams are still grappling with solving usability, interoperability, security, scalability, just to name a few challenges. But there’s also been a lot of progress made in these areas. Layer 2 solutions such as Plasma and Optimistic Rollup have demonstrated promising results when it comes to increasing transaction throughput and the amount of datasets that protocols like Ethereum can handle. Advancements in foundational technologies like zero knowledge proofs may finally help corporates assimilate into an increasingly privacy sensitive world. Needless to say, it’s still early days of blockchain development, and it’s anyone’s game.  

In Taiwan, some may remember the dramatic dissolution of COBINHOOD and its associated protocol initiative DEXON earlier this year, where after a series of shareholder disputes all one hundred of its staff were ultimately let go. Although a major blow to the local ecosystem, their efforts on building an infinitely scalable and more secure public chain have not gone to waste. The company’s co-founder and CTO Wei-Ning Huang has picked up the reins and began a project of his own dubbed Tangerine Network, which incorporates many of the same core components from DEXON’s open source code.

Also rising from the ashes of COBINHOOD’s demise are a legion of experienced blockchain developers, many of whom are now pursuing their own founder dreams. Lee Hsuan and Edwin Yeh, the company’s former heads of engineering and business strategy respectively, established portto (AW#19), a startup focused on bringing blockchain usage to the masses through its seamless dApp browser Blocto.  

Guiding the way

Facebook made headlines in 2019 with the announcement of Libra, a stable coin meant to establish a frictionless, global payments network. The original consortium consisted of 28 founding members, but five, including Visa and Mastercard, have since dropped out due to the torrent of scrutiny from regulators and policy makers alike.

Facebook attempted to put skin in the crypto game with the announcement of Libra, a stable coin that immediately caused controversy. Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

Regulatory uncertainty and the associated legal ramifications have been the primary inhibitors of blockchain’s adoption. Different markets have embraced the technology to varying degrees, but Asia has arguably been a front runner in this area. Countries like Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have all delineated clear and definite guidelines on how blockchain companies should work and operate, some perhaps more conservative than others.

At the moment, startups in Taiwan are able to raise up to NT$30 million (US$1M) via STOs, and only from accredited investors with a cap of NT$100,000 per person. On the other hand, in Singapore, regulatory oversight only kicks in if an STO exceeds SG$5 million (US$3.7M) and caters to more than 50 investors or any number of non-accredited ones.

While limiting in some respects, these regulations at the very least clearly stipulate the rules of the game, equipping founders with peace of mind when it comes to planning their long-term operational roadmaps.

The march goes on

Believe it or not, blockchain is now a decade in the running. It’s been 10 years since the release of Satoshi’s whitepaper, and in this time alone, we’ve already gone through one major hype cycle, effectively catapulting the terms “bitcoin,” “crypto,” and “blockchain” from developer circles to front page news, and back again.

Last year’s crash likely confirmed the suspicions of many skeptical onlookers. But recent advancements in the underlying technology, uptick in adoption, and growing commercial implementations are surely driving some decision-makers to develop a more loving embrace. China’s regulators and its president Xi Jinping, for example, went from a hardened, outright ban to a recent endorsement of blockchain technology while announcing intentions to develop a state-backed digital currency.

For Taiwan, stakeholders are proceeding with cautious optimism. The private-public blockchain alliance created by the National Development Council (NDC) last June recently outlined a plan to explore the implementation of blockchain in five major areas: public services, finance/insurance, energy, healthcare, and agriculture.

Investors are also getting more savvy, no longer immediately jumping into the feeding frenzy of token sales but carefully prospecting the use of both traditional and non-traditional financial instruments when determining how to best support founders. And the community itself has maintained, if not gained in momentum, as demonstrated by the recent Asia Blockchain Summit (now second year in the running) which ultimately brought out over 4,000 participants and 135 speakers.

Whether it’s in terms of technical development, regulatory frameworks, or community activism, Taiwan’s blockchain industry has made steadfast progress in the second half of 2019, catering to both local and international founders alike. We’re also starting to see early instances of the ecosystem maturing, with more and more blockchain founders branching out and interacting with traditional industries, while also, perhaps more importantly, setting longer term goals and ambitions.

Taiwan AI Ecosystem Continues Its Expansion (19H2 edition)

Photo: Pexel from Pixabay

Natalie Lin, Analyst (林楓 / 分析師)

Natalie is an Analyst covering AppWorks Accelerator and Greater Southeast Asia. Before joining the team, she worked in the search engine marketing and email marketing teams at Zappos, America’s leading shoes and fashion online retailer, where she primarily focused on KPI management, campaign optimization, and project management. Born in Canada and raised in the Middle East, Natalie returned to Taiwan for high school before moving to the US for college and work. She received her Bachelors of Marketing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Outside of work she likes to read, travel, and play video games.

Increasingly, the term “artificial intelligence” or “AI” has dominated conversations around tech, and in Taiwan, the technology continues to grow in popularity and usage. This year, in celebration of its 30-year presence in Taiwan, Microsoft opened an AI R&D center in Taipei. Other notable technology giants such as Google and NVIDIA have also made plans to establish AI R&D centers in Taiwan.

To meet this rising demand in AI talents, the Taiwanese government announced this year that 10,000 AI engineers will be trained. While this sounds remarkable, given that only an estimated 22,000 people in the world are expert enough to initiate world-class AI projects on their own, as a leader in AI talent within Greater Southeast Asia (GSEA = ASEAN + Taiwan), Taiwan is already a hub for GSEA-based companies to build their tech teams.

Alongside the world’s giants, more and more startups in Southeast Asia have come to Taiwan to recruit talents. From Singapore, we have startups like Carousell, and Shopback, which was part of AppWorks Accelerator #13 (AW#13), setting up their R&D teams in Taiwan. As Taiwan continues to churn out top talent, the new push by the government to sponsor a culture of AI development, and private companies to develop their AI teams here, founders in GSEA can start to consider Taiwan as a launchpad to catalyse their efforts at regional expansion.

In AppWorks Accelerator’s semi-annual update of Taiwan’s AI Ecosystem Map, we found that in the past six months, a number of regulatory frameworks have been implemented to support the growing innovation in the field of AI and more startups and AI ecosystem builders are increasing in Taiwan. The following verticals have made significant strides in the development of AI:

The AI ecosystem in Taiwan rivals many markets, and is especially interesting for the exposure it has to Southeast Asia, and the prowess of its technologist community.

As Advertising Gains Ground in AI, We See a Rise in Video Marketing, Customer Relationship Management, and Re-marketing

As Facebook’s algorithm continues to change and we’ve witnessed an explosion in data and information, it has become increasingly difficult to reach consumers with limited budgets and digital advertising spend. Companies are beginning to manage relationships with consumers through a variety of AI-driven strategies and digital tools, such as remarketing, to retain their most loyal customers. The push to provide increasingly fragmented customer audiences, and distracted loyalists with personalized experiences and products, has opened up more business opportunities for AI startups to provide marketing solutions.

Founded in 2011, iKala, an online karaoke and live broadcasting platform, has transformed into a human-centered AI marketing technology company after 8 years. It is the largest partner of Google Cloud in Asia-Pacific and of Facebook for global marketing, and it is currently covering markets in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Japan. They also announced the completion of their Series A round of US$ 5M early last year. Judging from the services provided by iKala, we can see that there is a rise in audiovisual marketing, influencer marketing, and results-oriented advertising solutions (also known as “performance marketing”).

Other startups, such as Omnichat — formerly called Easychat — and Rosetta.ai, both AW#16 startups, are focused on providing brand remarketing services. Instead of traditional chatbot services and other communications methods, they help small-and-medium businesses as well as enterprises use an AI model to accurately target customers to create a win-win situation for both their clients and their clients’ consumers.

Security Monitoring and Smart Home Application Market Dominance Is Accelerating

Taiwan has world-class hardware and supply chain management, and coupled with the improvement of camera manufacturing infrastructure, we can see that in regards to AI applications there have been several achievements in security monitoring and smart home appliances.

By combining AI technology with security monitoring, enterprises can greatly reduce the waste of manpower and avoid human error, thereby improving the quality and safety of monitoring solutions, which they deem to be one of their most important verticals. In addition to AW#9 startup Umbo CV, which has successfully entered the European and North American markets, there is also AW#19 startup Beseye, founded in 2014. It introduced its AI computer vision solution as the human safety backbone of Japan’s Tokyu Railway. When the camera detects that someone has entered a dangerous section of track, the system will automatically notify the central control center or the station’s staff to deal with it immediately and reduce railroad crossing accidents. Beseye currently has over 2,000 corporate clients, including Chunghwa Telecom and other large enterprises. Other startups like ioNetworks and CyCarrier are also focused on providing related security monitoring services.

As modern-day working people continue to lead busy lives, there is a gradual emergence of home applications and smart home appliances that make it easier for users to care for elders, their children, and their pets. AW#10 startup NUWA Robotics launched the first generation of their companion robots called “Keibi” in 2018. They specialize in STEAM education, theater-style English learning, and sensory interactive education. Their robots are focused on education and can also be a smart home helper. After selling over 5,000 units, they recently launched the second generation of their companion robots called “Kebbi Air” on a crowdfunding platform. They were able to raise NT $1M within half an hour of launching. Other notable startups in this space include Aeolus , which is focused on elderly care, AW#16 startup Cubo which is focused on developing smart baby cameras, and Furbo,which is focused on smart pet care services.

AI Ecosystem Builders: Sandbox Trends, R&D, and Accelerators

With the developments in AI, machine learning, and big data trends, certain legal topics are widely discussed such as copyrights and intellectual property, legal liabilities, and the impact on the existing regulatory regime in Taiwan. Two laws have been passed in 2018 to tackle these new trends: the Financial Technology Development and Innovative Experimentation Act for a fintech regulatory sandbox and the Unmanned Vehicle Technology Innovation and Experiment Act for autonomous vehicles.

Due to the high degree of regulation, the use of AI in financial services is slower than other industries, but given the advantage of having large amounts of data and complete customer information, the potential business opportunities are at an all-time high. The Legislative Yuan for Taiwan has been hosting a regulatory sandbox for companies to experiment with new business models that currently don’t have a legal framework. So far, 11 applications for experimentation or testing of new forms of fintech have been filed since the sandbox was launched. Many fintech startups have also started to cooperate with large-scale financial companies. Instead of starting from the perspective of replacing the existing financial industry, they are able to create a win-win situation and reduce the anxiety of current financial players in the industry. For example, hiHedge and Fubon jointly launched the Fubon hiHedge AI Chip Strategy, which uses AI technology to calculate the chip flow of Taiwan’s daily listed stocks to provide consumers with more complete information. Other new ventures like Adenovo are focused on providing real-time smart financial solutions for financial institutions and enterprises, and have received investment from Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund and Zhaofeng VC.

As for the law passed to promote the usage of autonomous vehicles, it is considered one that may provide a more friendly environment for testing the application of AI and IoT technology in transportation. Taiwan will be well-positioned in the autonomous vehicle industry due to its experience in supplying high-quality components for electronics as various high-profile domestic and international players have joined Taiwan’s autonomous vehicle market. The government is organizing a national team for the development of autonomous vehicles and has set out a plan to prepare for the advent of the autonomous vehicle era in Taiwan.

With more and more AI startups emerging, Taiwan is also booming with startup accelerators, education, and research. AppWorks Accelerator, established in 2010 and currently focused on serving AI and Blockchain founders, has so far helped SEA founders launch over 40 AI/IoT startups into the market and continues to inject new energy into Taiwan’s AI ecosystem.

Microsoft for Startups, Taiwan AI x Robotics Accelerator, and many others, are all startup accelerators focused on recruiting AI founders. Taiwan AI School and Taiwan AI Labs are Taiwan’s represented institutions in the field of AI education and research. From 2020 and beyond, more and more resources are expected to be injected into the development of the AI field, which should further solidify Taiwan’s position as an AI hub in the GSEA region.

Upcoming accelerator applications: Stay tuned this quarter as we open up the next application window for founders working in AI and Blockchain categories. You can follow founder news and application announcements on our AppWorks Accelerator page.

2019 Year in Review: The AppWorks Ecosystem Grows Annual Revenues to US$5 B and Fosters Expansion of 376 Startups in Greater Southeast Asia

In 2019, AppWorks continued to help founders from many different countries, contributing to growth in revenue and jobs in the Taiwanese and regional economies

AppWorks, a leading accelerator and one of the most active VCs in the region, finished 2019 prepared for the next decade by bringing it total capital raised to over US$170 million across three funds, and generating an amount of revenue and new jobs creation for Southeast Asia and Taiwan that is equal to the GDP of the island nation of Barbados. The AppWorks Ecosystem, a community of startups and founders directly associated with AppWorks, grew to 376 startups from 356 last year, and 1,113 founders from 925, with the graduation of cohorts AppWorks #18 and AppWorks #19, a total of 49 startups working on AI and blockchain  businesses. The total AppWorks Ecosystem created over 11,000 jobs in Taiwan. 

Over 60% of the accelerator founders hail from territories in SEA, including: Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Over 35% of these founders are women. AppWorks continues to be a pivotal catalyst for startup growth and diversity in the GSEA region.

The AppWorks community of startup founders and teams continues to thrive in Taiwan and in Southeast Asia, growing annual revenues to US$5 B per year in the region

In reviewing the growth and successes over the past year, AppWorks Chairman and Partner Jamie Lin says, “The combined efforts of the company and the founders we assist are helping Taiwan further position itself as a regional hub that is uniting the Greater Southeast Asia startup ecosystem.”

“We look forward to a decade of radical innovation and transformation, as the newly minted middle class continues to grow across GSEA and new technologies and smart founders contribute to powerful trade and market creation that lifts the entire region and demonstrates to markets around the world how Asia is leading in technology and business.”

“We could not have done this without the help of our limited partners, but most especially, we thank the founders from across GSEA who have contributed some new leading edge technology to a fast-growing region.  GSEA will over the next ten years generate numerous unicorns and Taiwan will be a fundamental part of that movement and growth.” 

The Funds’ capital raise will assist the fund and the accelerator in continuing in its mission to support founders of AI and Blockchain startups throughout Greater Southeast Asia. 

In 2019, AppWorks made investments in 11 promising startups, including Dapper Labs, a world-class Blockchain company creating new methods for enjoying entertainment; Deep Sentinel, an AI-driven home security camera network; as well as HarukaEDU, an online learning platform, and Infra Digital, a revolutionary payments application, both of which are based in Indonesia.

“We continue to be bullish on AI, blockchain and the growing Greater Southeast Asia market,” says Jamie Lin. “Over the next five to ten years, Taiwan’s startup ecosystem will contribute to some of the next innovations in these industries, and what will make those contributions special will be the integrated way in which founders working in this space will launch from Taiwan and expand and localise throughout this massive region.” 

“Taiwan has much in common with the SEA region, but most directly this connection is it e-economy and the way that its bilingual engineering talent and familiarity with the newest technologies and programming methods are easily paired with unique strategies that are growing out of countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines, if not the entire SEA ecosystem.” 

“AppWorks will continue to work side by side with founders. With our new Fund III, we are now prepared to invest greater sums of money in rounds up to Series C and lead some of these deals that we think will bring unique changes to the regional economy. We look forward to supporting and working closely with founders in this next decade.” 

Key Company Highlights

  • In 2019, AppWorks Accelerator continued with its focus to recruiting and accelerating only AI / blockchain startups, graduating a total of 48 startups across AW#18 & AW#19, with 29 startups developing for AI / IoT and 19 deploying solutions in Blockchain
  • Across AW#18 & AW#19, over 60% of the accelerator founders hail from territories in GSEA, including: Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.
  • AppWorks Funds invested  across 11 deals spanning AI, blockchain, EC & fintech
  • The AppWorks Ecosystem reached US$ 4.72B in valuation, encompassing 376 startups & 1,113 founders, with the number of startups in the ecosystem accounts for over 11,100 new jobs in Taiwan
  • Many of the existing startups in the ecosystem raised significant amounts of capital this year and drove their expansion plans into GSEA, opening up markets in places like Hong Kong, Indonesia and Vietnam, as well as in other parts of Asia like Japan

The AppWorks ecosystem continued to be a powerful driver of economic growth and a stunning creator of innovation. Several of the early entrants of the startup accelerator raised capital this year and many of the founders and companies achieved new milestones.

Key Milestones of AppWorks Alumni in 2019

Tagtoo (AW#1) became the Leading MarTech Startup in Taiwan, raising a US$ 1.8M Series A to Drive expansion in GSEA.

PetPetGo (AW#3) was acquired by WonderPet Group, the largest pet chain group in Taiwan

VoiceTube (AW#7) will expand beyond Taiwan into the Japan and Vietnam markets in the future. 

VoiceTube (AW#7), the largest language edtech platform in Taiwan, raised US$3.5 M in a Series A to fuel its ambition to become the largest edtech platform in Japan and Vietnam. 

UmboCV (AW#9), the leading AI video security solutions provider, sold to more than 30 countries and raised US$ 8 M in a post-A round to continue its global expansion.

TaxiGo (AW#17), a ride-hailing platform created by founder Kevin Chan was acquired by LINE Taiwan and rebranded as LINE TAXI. 

WeMo Scooter (AW#12) growing and expanding throughout Taiwan in 2019-2020, hitting 5M trips per year

Additionally, another transport startup from a previous accelerator batch, WeMo Scooter (AW#12), the largest e-scooter sharing service in Taiwan, expanded to KaoHsiung and achieved more than 5M trips per year. 

Fugle (AW#12), the leading stock investment mobile platform in Taiwan, surpassed NT$ 500 M in GTV within six months. It raised a NT$ 29 M angel round. 

ShopBack (AW#13), the largest cashback platform in GSEA, raised US$ 45M to drive GSEA growth. 

FBbuy (AW#15), Asia’s leading B2B live social commerce SaaS product, was acquired by M17 and rebranded to HandsUp.

Booqed (AW#15), the Airbnb for workspaces in Hong Kong, raised Us$ 1.68 M in a seed round. It currently possesses 1,600 listings for spaces. 

In the area of AI, MoBagel (AW#16), the leading AI-driven data solutions provider in Taiwan, raised US$5 M in a Series A, to bring widespread AutoML tech into enterprises.

Novelship (AW#16), GSEA’s leading online marketplace for limited-edition sneakers and streetwear, raised over US$2 M in a seed round.

TWDD (AW#16), the leading designated driver service in Taiwan, raised US$ 1.3M in a Series A. 

Soda Labs (AW#17), the leading Hardware-as-a-Service venture builder in Taiwan, raised US$ 2M in a seed round, aiming to create a better connected world. They will be hiring in 1Q 2020. 

Outside of the direct work we do with startups, our Funds team announced that the development of AppWorks Fund III had created opportunities to work closely with a host of new limited partners such as Taiwan Mobile, Fubon Life Insurance, Cathay Life Insurance, Wistron Corporation, Hungtai Group, Capital Securities, as well as Taiwan’s National Development Fund. 

With the addition of Fund III, total assets under management has grown to US$ 170 million, making it one of the largest venture capital firms in Greater Southeast Asia.  

AppWorks School

AppWorks School continues to expand, shaping digital and engineering talent in Taiwan to assist the rapid growth of startups in the country

Since mid-2016, AppWorks School has graduated 179 newly trained software engineers (an increase of 73 in 2019) through a 16-week free coding program. Of these trainees, 91.6% of graduates went on to pursue successful software engineering careers in prominent internet companies such as 91APP, KKBOX, LINE TV (CHOCO Media), WeMo Scooter, LINE Taxi, PicCollage, VoiceTube, Gogoro and UDN Group, with a media starting salary of US$ 23,333 (annually). 

To say it’s been a productive year would have been an understatement. Tapping into the collective effort of each and every one of our team members, we successfully shifted our focus to AI / blockchain and made substantial strides in empowering founders across Greater Southeast Asia to fully embrace a smart and decentralized future. Finally, we’d like to extend a special thanks to all of our partners and friends in the startup community and look forward to working together to strengthen the regional ecosystem even further in 2020.

If you are a blockchain or AI founder in Greater Southeast Asia, and you would like to explore working with us in our semi-annual accelerator program, keep updated by following our blog or the Accelerator page on this site.

You may also find us on LinkedIn and Facebook, where we interact with founders on a daily basis.

AppWorks 公布 2019 Year in Review 年終總回顧:生態系累計募資突破 10 億美元、創造上萬個工作機會,2020 年持續聚焦 ABS 發展策略

正逢歲末年終之際,在 2020 年即將邁入第十年的 AppWorks,於昨晚 (1/7) 舉辦 AppWorks Accelerator  聯合大尾牙。這是 AppWorks 每年最重要的活動之一,不僅邀請 AppWorks Accelerator 歷屆新創校友與員工們回娘家,也藉此讓人數較為精簡的新創員工們同歡,一同感受聯合尾牙的溫馨、熱鬧、抽大獎的氣氛,這次尾牙,總共約 80 支新創團隊、近 400 人參加。

AppWorks Accelerator 聯合大尾牙,AppWorks 董事長暨合夥人林之晨和歷屆新創校友與員工們熱鬧同歡。

在尾牙席間,AppWorks 也公布 2019 Year in Review 年終總回顧專屬網頁,展現過去一整年的成果。回顧 2019 年,在 AppWorks Accelerator 創業加速器、The AppWorks Ecosystem 校友生態系、AppWorks Funds 創投基金,以及 AppWorks School 數位人才培育等各面向上,AppWorks 都寫下重要里程碑,持續結合各界資源,努力推升台灣成為大東南亞 (東協 + 台灣) 數位經濟的發展重鎮。展望 2020 年,AppWorks 則將持續聚焦於 ABS (AI、Blockchain、Southeast Asia) 長期發展策略。

回顧 2019 年,是 AppWorks 豐收的一年,繳出了各項亮眼的成績單。其中,大東南亞校友規模最大的 AppWorks Accelerator,正加速吸引來自以大東南亞為主的 AI / IoT 與 Blockchain 新創來台北進駐,持續扮演大東南亞領先的創業加速器。在 2019 年畢業的 AW#18、AW#19 共 48 支新創團隊,其中 29 支以 AI / IoT、19 支以 Blockchain 為創業主題,這群優秀的創業者中,有出身自 Google、Microsoft、Ripple、Uber、Amazon、Qualcomm、Samsung、聯發科技、Agoda 高管所創辦的公司,也有來自 Y-Combinator 的校友、獲選為 Forbes 30 Under 30 的年輕創業家以及《端傳媒》的創辦人。此外,48 支團隊中,73% 為台灣以外的國際團隊,其中更有超過六成的新創團隊來自東南亞,包括香港、新加坡、越南、馬來西亞、印尼。兩屆團隊也分別在各自的 Demo Day 登場,展現讓人驚艷的創業實力與能量,兩場 Demo Day,各吸引超過 1,200 位投資人、業界代表出席。

AppWorks 生態系里程碑:突破千名創業者、10 億美元募資、創造 1 萬名就業人數

隨著 AW#18 與 AW#19 兩屆生力軍的加入,以及 AppWorks Accelerator 歷屆新創校友們的共同努力,在 2019 年帶動 The AppWorks Ecosystem 校友生態系大幅成長。活躍新創累積至 376 家、共 1,113 位創業者;全體總估值達到 47.2 億美元  (約為 1,440 億新台幣),較前一年成長 29%;生態系累積募資金額為 11.1 億美元 (約為 339 億新台幣),年增率達 36%;所有新創的加總年營業額來到 49.7 億美元 (約為 1,516 億新台幣),較 2018 年大幅成長 98%;整體新創提供的就業人數達 11,162 位,年增率為 16%。其中,創業者人數、整體募資金額、創造的就業數量,分別突破 1,000 位、10 億美元、1 萬位的整數關卡,不僅因此寫下新歷史,也代表 AppWorks 生態系將在 2020 年起的下一個十年,換檔進入另一個成長階段。

回顧 2019 年,AppWorks Accelerator 有多家新創校友,繳出了以下的亮眼成績:

AppWorks Accelerator 校友好成績:VoiceTube 拓展日本、越南市場;WeMo Scooter 累積騎乘數突破 500 萬人次

2010 年成立、專攻成效型行銷廣告的 Tagtoo 塔圖科技 (AW#1),是台灣最早一批投入 AI 領域的代表新創。除了站穩台灣市場外,Tagtoo 近年也積極拓展大東南亞市場,繼 2018 年

獲得亞洲知名行銷社群 CMO Asia 評選為 2018 年印尼最佳品牌獎之後,Tagtoo 在 2019 年完成 180 萬美元 A 輪募資,持續拓展並深耕印尼市場。

台灣規模最大的寵物連鎖服務業集團 WonderPet 萬達寵物,在 2019 年完成購併 Petpetgo 毛孩市集 (AW#3) 。根據預估,2020 年台灣毛小孩數量將達 280 萬,首度超越 15 歲以下兒童,在台灣持續成長的毛孩經濟中,兩者的結合,將有助更進一步擴展市場版圖。

台灣最大的語言科技教育平台 VoiceTube (AW#7),在 2019 年完成 350 萬美元的 A 輪融資,將用於拓展日本、越南等海外市場,以及強化產品技術與開發。目前 VoiceTube 擁有 360 萬用戶,月活躍用戶達 150 萬,其中日本用戶超過 25 萬人,預估 2019 年營收為 2018 年的 3 倍。

VoiceTube 在台灣寫下傲人成績後,未來將進一步拓展日本、越南市場。

台灣最具代表性的 AI 安全監控新創 Umbo CV (AW#9),在 2019 年完成 800 萬美元的 A+ 輪募資,將繼續加速國際化拓展。Umbo CV 目前擁有來自全球 30 個國家、超過 200 家企業客戶,是台灣在 AI 領域中,國際化拓展最為成功的新創典範之一。

台灣知名的計程車叫車平台 TaxiGo (AW#11),在 2019 年獲得 LINE 投資,並成為最大股東,TaxiGo 也因此更名為 LINE Taxi。LINE 正在打造「Life on LINE」全方位的數位生活圈,LINE Taxi 便是其中在交通領域的重要佈局。

台灣最大、亞洲第一個推出的共享電動車服務的 WeMo Scooter (AW#12) 在 2019 年歡慶成立三週年,並完成多項重要里程碑。包括進軍高雄市,全台投放量突破 5,000 台,累積超過 500 萬次騎乘數,平均每 5.7 秒就有一人租借 WeMo。

WeMo Scooter 在 2019 年順利突破 500 萬次騎乘數。

台灣領先的股票投資資訊與下單行動平台 Fugle 富果 (AW#12),2019 年獲得玉山證券、國發會等共 2,900 萬新台幣的天使輪投資。目前,Fugle 的 App 用戶突破 8 萬人,並在六個月內創下總交易金額 (GTV) 突破五億新台幣的佳績。

大東南亞最大現金回饋平台 ShopBack (AW#13),在 2019 年完成 4,500 萬美元募資,將持續拓展大東南亞區業務,穩坐龍頭寶座。ShopBack 於 2014 年在新加坡成立,五年來,已陸續拓展至馬來西亞、菲律賓、印尼、台灣、泰國、澳洲等市場。

台灣最大美髮設計師預約平台 StyleMap 美配 (AW#14),在 2019 年完成近 2,000 萬新台幣的Pre-A輪募資,此輪資金將投入平台新開發的行動支付功能「美Pay」,並跨出美髮領域,前進相關產業如美甲、美容、美睫。成立三年多來,StyleMap 平台上累積超過 8,000 名設計師, 平均每月成功媒合美髮服務的次數高達 2 萬次。

領先亞洲開發出社群電商整單系統的 FBbuy (AW#15),在 2019 年獲台灣直播平台龍頭 M17 購併,並更名為「HandsUP 舉手購物」,共同進軍直播電商市場。在直播電商新業務的挹注下,M17集團預計在 2019 年營收將突破 100 億新台幣。

香港共享工作空間平台 Booqed (AW#15),在 2019 年完成 168 萬美元的種子輪募資。Booqed 現擁有超過 35 家企業客戶,涵蓋科技、保險和零售等行業,在香港、深圳、新加坡等三個城市,共擁有 1,600 筆房源。

自動化機器學習 (AutoML) 新創 MoBagel 行動貝果 (AW#16),2019 年完成 500 萬美元 A 輪募資,用來加速普及 AutoML 技術至需要準確預測的企業。MoBagel 客戶來自美國、日本、中國及台灣,涵蓋政府部門、電信業、零售業、製造業、金融保險業等領域,預計 2019 年營收維持倍數成長。

成立於新加坡、在大東南亞居於領先的限量潮牌運動鞋與服飾電商 Novelship (AW#16),在 2019 年完成規模 205 萬美元的種子輪募資,新資金將用來拓展香港、馬來西亞、印尼市場。

台灣第一家透過 App 即時媒合酒後代駕服務的 TWDD 台灣代駕 (AW#16),2019 年宣布獲得規模 130 萬美元的 A 輪募資。自從 2016 年正式上線後,至今已經服務超過 3 萬名顧客,累計達成 20 萬趟代駕服務,近兩年每月平均以兩位數的成長率持續發展。

推出全球第一款 AI 智慧寶寶攝影機的 Cubo (AW#16),繼 2018 年於群眾募資網站上架,創下 30 分鐘內集資破百萬、2 小時內破 300 萬、總金額突破千萬新台幣的好成績後,在 2019 年進一步完成 400 萬美元的 A 輪募資,持續衝刺全球第一名寶座。

台灣領先、專注於開發嵌入式軟體平台、打造 Hardware-as-a-Service 硬體孵化育成模式的 Soda Labs (AW#17),在 2019 年完成 200 萬美元的種子輪募資,通過與 OEM 大廠合作孵化電子硬體、開發嵌入式軟體和可擴展的商業模式,加快硬體創新的腳步。

AppWorks Funds 影響力大增:三檔創投基金總規模達 1.7 億美元

在 AppWorks Funds,同樣也有不俗的表現。2019 年,隨著台灣大哥大、富邦人壽、國泰人壽、緯創資通、宏泰集團、群益金鼎證券以及國發基金成為 AppWorks Fund III 的主要股東,累計 AppWorks 旗下管理的三檔創投基金,總資金規模為 1.7 億美元 (約 51 億新台幣),因此成為大東南亞區域內,較具規模的創業投資機構。

AppWorks Funds 近年,逐漸聚焦於 ABS (AI、Blockchain、Southeast Asia) 策略上,在 2019 年 AppWorks Funds 也完成 11 項投資案。包括開發 CryptoKitties (迷戀貓) 紅遍全球、以 Blockchain 提供新娛樂應用體驗的 Dapper Labs;提供 AI 驅動的家庭安全監控攝影網絡的 Deep Sentinel;以及來自印尼,打造線上學習平台的 HarukaEDU、推動革命性支付應用服務的 Infra Digital。在 AppWorks Funds 既有的投資案上,也有多家新創展現驚人的成長爆發力,包括晉身為獨角獸、在大東南亞超過 260 個城市提供共享快遞物流服務的 Lalamove;亞洲最大旅遊體驗平台 KKday 則持續保持每年三位數成長、月活躍用戶 (MAU) 高達 640 萬人。

AppWorks School 關鍵數字:91.6% 畢業學員順利轉任軟體工程師

人才是新創企業最重要的資產,為了因應新創以及網路企業對軟體工程師的龐大需求,同時也提供想投入數位、網路與電商產業的人才,重新快速學習與成長的機會。AppWorks 在 2016 年 6 月開辦 AppWorks School,現經營有 iOS、Android 與 Web 專班。透過免費、實作、高效、與業界結合的紮實培訓計畫,培育新一代的優秀工程師。

自 2016 年創辦以來,AppWorks School 已有 179 名學員順利畢業。其中 91.6% 成功在網路公司擔任軟體工程師,包括 momo 購物網、91APP、KKBOX、LINE TV、WeMo Scooter、LineTaxi、Hahow、VoiceTube、OmniChat 以及 Gogoro,起始年薪中位數近 70 萬新台幣,學員表現在業界也享有極佳口碑。AppWorks School 的成功模式,為所有想踏入數位產業的年輕朋友提供了一條最快速、有效的道路,也幫新創團隊和網路公司補足人才缺口。

AppWorks School 成立三年多來,已有 179 名畢業學員順利畢業,其中 91.6% 成功在網路公司擔任軟體工程師。

回顧 2019 年,AppWorks 董事長暨合夥人林之晨說:「2019 年是 AppWorks 大放異彩的一年。我們將與各界繼續一起合作、持續努力,為大東南亞的數位經濟浪潮貢獻更多力量,敬請期待我們 2020 年的表現。」不論是在 AppWorks 整體生態系、AppWorks Accelerator 校友、AppWorks Funds、AppWorks School 等各面向,2019 年都有遠優於往年的成果,代表歷經多年努力後,AppWorks 的飛輪效應正進入換檔加速階段。

歲末年終,趁此回顧機會,林之晨也代表 AppWorks 全體,對曾在 2019 年協助過 AppWorks 的各界夥伴致謝。他說:「衷心感謝所有給 AppWorks 機會、接受我們服務的創業者,也感謝所有熱情付出輔導新創的 AppWorks Mentors,還要感謝包括 Amazon、Microsoft、Google 等國際企業在內的平台夥伴,以及 AppWorks Funds 的投資人、創投業界先進,以及政府部門的夥伴們,在 2019 年給我們的支持和指導。最後,當然也要感謝媒體朋友們對 AppWorks 的照顧。2020 年,也請大家繼續和我們一起奮鬥、努力翻轉台灣與大東南亞。」

Economic and Innovation Developments in GSEA Should Be Tempting More Founders to Launch Startups in the Region by Leveraging Taiwan

This map tracks the quarterly economic and technological changes in a region that should be the dominant startup generating region throughout the next decade.

Douglas Crets, Communications Master
Douglas is the English Master in Communication. A passionate marketing strategist and content writer, he spent three years with Microsoft in Silicon Valley managing the global social media marketing strategy for BizSpark, Microsoft’s Azure and software program for entrepreneurs. Douglas has a deep love for technology, literature and travel. He holds a Masters in Fine Arts from Syracuse University and a Masters in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. One day, he hopes to travel around the world for a year.

The latest Map of Greater Southeast Asia’s digital economies, which we develop at least once every quarter, is indicating to founders in Greater Southeast Asia that the rise of mobile broadband in economies where GDP growth is accelerating past 6 per cent is setting the stage for amazing improvisation in tech use and commercial problem-solving.

It may come as a surprise to some, but Taiwan can play a pivotal role in that innovation surge. I have written a few thoughts about this to show you what we mean.

As the supporter of the largest accelerator-born community in the region focused on tech founders, our team watches closely these developments. Our portfolio companies and the 1113 founders and 376 active startups of our Accelerator alumni network are living examples of the magnet that Taiwan has become for founders in this region. 

Starting small, in a huge region called GSEA

We refer to this region as Greater Southeast Asia (GSEA), positioning it as ASEAN + Taiwan, inclusive of such territories as Hong Kong and Macau, and East Timor. The nomenclature is driven by our observation of consumption habits and statistical data, as you can see in the map below, which hangs in our accelerator space. 

We include Taiwan in this grouping because its economic evolution has become something of a beacon for SEA founders who want to build beachheads around the region. Let’s start with a single statistic to understand why. 

The total e-commerce economy market size in Taiwan is USD$42 billion. This is almost 66 per cent of the size of the entire GSEA combined.

Founders who emerge in GSEA and come to Taiwan to grow stronger 

This unique attribute of Taiwan is a magnet. There is also a push factor in ASEAN nations. That mechanism is prompting SEA founders to seek out a tested, developed market for their ideas.

This movement is observable through growth statistics that suggest a plethora of pent up consumption demand driven by tech adoption and through example companies that have done it. Let’s start with the country data. 

Five countries in GSEA show growth in GDP per capita of over 6 per cent, as of last year. They are Cambodia at 6.83 per cent; Laos at 6.72 per cent; Vietnam at 6.5 per cent; the Philippines at 6.47 per cent; Myanmar at 6.45 per cent. Indonesia and East Timor show growth of 5.2 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively. 

In Vietnam, a country of 95 million people, many early-stage startups are rapidly developing — Sky Mavis; Axie Infinity; Triip.me (AW#18). Engineering talent that moved overseas and went to tough schools like Harvard have now come back and are starting new companies by the dozens. 

In Indonesia, we have seen the growth of five unicorns, including Gojek and Bukalapak. In other areas, it’s not so straightforward. 

Google recently released yearly results from a long-term study that looked at the potential for SEA’s growth. 

Useful data by Google shows that GSEA presents great opportunities for smart founders who want to leverage a glut of software to reach populations that exist outside of the mainstream marketplaces — from Google’s E-economy report, Swipe Up and to the Right

Today, seven urban centres drive over 50 per cent of the internet economy in the countries depicted in GSEA. The “beyond metros,” or rural areas of a few SEA countries, account for 85 per cent of the population, but only 48 per cent of the Internet economy, as you can see from the picture below. 

While use cases may exist for tech, and while consumer demand may be growing, it’s harder to really scale in some emerging markets without solid strategies and consistent talent.

Even though the creativity and innovation ideas are off the charts, many things like stagnant offline players, unavailability of engineering talent, government red tape and just pure infrastructure fragmentation stand in the way of “moving fast and breaking things,” so to speak. 

SEA founders are coming to Taiwan is because they see a microcosm of development opportunities in Taiwan that they can take back to the rest of Asia, after getting focused here.

“Taiwan was a great gateway to Chinese-speaking countries [in SEA],” says Triip.me founder Hai Ho (AW#18). “There are [also] 200,000 and growing Vietnamese living in Taiwan. There are more daily direct flights between Taiwan and Vietnam, too. It is a good market.” 

AppWorks startups are gaining momentum in Taiwan

Over 376 AppWorks startups have continued to scale and expand by staging in Taiwan through our Accelerator or by becoming one of the AppWorks portfolio companies. Over 1,113 founders in our network have helped the country become a focal point for this region’s growth. 

These companies demonstrate just how nimbly a company locating in Taiwan can grow, figure out e-commerce strategies, and even acquire other companies and engineering teams while nurturing a huge market inside and outside of Taiwan. 

Shopback (AW#13), the e-rebates payment platform founded by Henry Chan and Joel Leong in Singapore, came to Taiwan to scale up their e-commerce knowledge and market deployment. 

Shopback has reported annualized sales figures of USD$500 million a year. It has operations in Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. 

Some other investments include 91APP (Taiwan’s Shopify); Carousell, which has localised to Taiwan by building an office here (it’s also localised in several other ASEAN markets). 

Taiwan is also the kind of place where you can build a company, or two, and IPO them, in a relatively quick time. For example, Jerry Kuo, one of the two siblings that started Kuobrothers, IPO’d in 2016. Jerry then IPO’d a second company that grew out of the original Kuobrothers Group, called MobiX, earlier this year. 

There’s also M17, started by Singaporean Joseph Phua. M17 started as a dating app company called Paktor and was based in Singapore. Joseph merged that company with a Taiwanese company called 17 Media to form what is fast becoming a massive social entertainment company that focuses on live-streaming. A recent acquisition of competitor MeMe Live has brought M17’s live stream market share to over 60 per cent in SEA’s developed markets. That wasn’t the only M17 procurement, though. 

M17 bought AppWorks Accelerator alum FBbuy, a company that developed an innovative way for people to buy items on Facebook. If someone simply typed in “+1,” in a comment, the scanning app would move the coveted item being discussed into a shopping cart. Joseph acquired that company and integrated it into a live-streaming commerce app called HandsUp

Early-stage is also heading to Taiwan

There are also a number of early-stage companies with inherent exposure to SEA who have heeded the call to come to Taiwan. 

At our upcoming Demo Day #19, over 65 per cent of the cohort will have originated or started their startup ideas in GSEA. Two female founders offer some examples.

Annie Zhang, from Hong Kong, will pitch Matters Lab as a decentralised platform for media and content sharing, which enables content providers to generate their own immutable content and get paid for it. They’ve generated about 25,000 customers in seven months. 

Telepod founder Jin-Ni Gan, a Malaysian living in Singapore, will also pitch. At a recent mentor day, she showed off her miniEV startup already operating in seven markets in the region. 

Telepod founder Jin-Ni Gan explains her product line and founder story to a room of Taiwan’s most successful entrepreneurs and corporate executives during Cohort #19’s Mentor Day, September 2019

Her last slide was a photo of kids without shoes walking down a dirt road that cut through what looked like smoke from a jungle fire at a rubber plantation.

“My childhood was similar to this one,” she said, and then ended her pitch with the message that tech and creativity have a strong potential to make this life better for billions of people. 

That’s a story that is familiar to many founders here in Taiwan, and it’s one that will only scale rapidly in time. As the region grows, the probability that mission-driven founders who are intent on building fast-moving scalable startups will see that Taiwan is a launchpad for the regional market.

Another quick look at the GSEA market landscape should give founders, and investors, something to think about. 

Out of the five countries mentioned earlier that have GDP growth north of 6 per cent, three of them — Cambodia, Laos, and East Timor — have mobile internet penetration rates under 40 per cent. 

Myanmar, which has 21 million Internet users, only provides Internet to 36 per cent of its population. Nearly all of those users — 99.8 per cent — get their Internet through mobile phones.

In emerging market economies, a glut of software and tech availability is enabling founders to test use cases for new technology and consumer products.  Often, these use cases employ leapfrog innovations that are further ahead than the traditional infrastructure or tech use cases in developed markets. 

After spending six months in Taiwan, XFers (#18) teamed up with Zilliqa in Singapore to launch a stablecoin. The lack of avenues for remittances makes the mobile form factor an attractive device for gaining access to capital and tapping into new virtual banks and blockchain technologies. Going forward , data seems to indicate that this innovation in SE Asia driven by a connection to Taiwan will be more prevalent. And it will continue to shape fintech and more.

If you are a founder working on AI and / or Blockchain, you can stay updated on our Accelerator application process and news by visiting our AppWorks Accelerator page. Our next application process starts very soon.