The AppWorks Accelerator FAQ (for Founders Applying to AW#23)

Founded in 2010 by Jamie Lin, AppWorks Accelerator is a startup community created by founders, for founders. We are committed to fostering the next generation of entrepreneurs in Greater Southeast Asia and to accelerating the region’s transition into the digital era. 

Every six months, we take in founders operating on the frontiers of AI, Blockchain, NFTs, and Southeast Asia, equipping them with the necessary resources, mentorship, and guidance to get their ventures off the ground. 

As an international founder we know there are many considerations when applying to an accelerator. That’s why we’ve created an FAQ page to help you decide whether or not AppWorks is suitable for your startup. 

As of May 12, AppWorks Accelerator #23 is open for applications. You can find important information about the Accelerator experience on our main page. 

The FAQs

1. What do I need to know before joining an accelerator in Taiwan during COVID? What is AppWorks doing to help founders make the most out of the accelerator before it’s completely safe to travel and congregate?  How are you helping founders deal with the impact from the pandemic?

The world has seen nothing like the COVID-19 pandemic, and we can confidently say that no founder we know had this on their disaster mitigation plans. But the experience of being a founder is all about learning and adaptation, even when things look dire. We are here to support you to do just that, no matter the circumstances. 

To make sure founders accepted to AW#23 will have the benefits of connecting to batchmates, to mentors, to markets, and to essential knowledge and services, we have designed a hybrid program that serves both local Taiwan-based founders as well as international founders abroad that cannot physically enter Taiwan due to various COVID-related restrictions. 

Currently, up to six hours of online sessions per week are provided, ranging from office hours with our partners to coaching sessions and workshops with founders from all over GSEA. Such meetings include founder mentoring sessions with veterans of the technology industry who have launched startups from zero to one, and even listed several IPOs.

Finding connections with supply chain partners and other potential business partners will not be a problem, either, since we will help to connect you to these resources through virtual introductions. 

In addition to providing these and other aspects of our curriculum online, we will continue to make services such as cloud resources and other perks from our technology partners available, as we have been doing for the past 10 years. There is no obligation to sit in the physical accelerator space in order to take advantage of them. 

Finally, we will continue to monitor visa and travel restrictions in a timely way and update you with new information we learn during the application process. 

The moment it becomes easier to physically travel to Taipei, you and the other AW#23 founders will be the first to know. And rest assured, although offline events have been strictly limited, you’ll still get to meet hundreds of investors, journalists, corporate executives, and other partners who can make a positive impact on your founder journey through the online version of our Demo Day. 

2. How can AppWorks Accelerator help an NFT founder? Why is AW#23 specifically calling for NFT startups?

Although NFTs are technically an application of blockchain, we believe that they are actually significant enough to deserve their own category, similar to the relationship between e-commerce and the internet. Compared to 3 years ago, the blockchain industry is now much bigger and more mature, with various chains, wallets, exchanges and the likes, serving as the infrastructure with lots of quality development tools available, allowing founders to run lean, experiment, and launch NFT products fast.

It now appears that the initial application of NFTs is leaning more towards the proof of digital art and asset ownership; but, we believe that in the long-term, many more types of use cases will evolve through NFTs. As NFTs are still at a relatively early stage, startups have the advantage of being a disruptor vs. the big guys. We hope that as NFTs start to take off, all the best founders can gather at AppWorks, learn from each other, and become winners in the rise of NFTs in the next 5-10 years.

As an NFT founder, you can expect these from joining AppWorks Accelerator:

a. Grow with the largest blockchain founder community in Greater Southeast Asia

Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. After starting your own business, most of your friends and family won’t understand the ups and downs you’re experiencing as a founder. If you can share these experiences with fellow founders who are as capable and determined, who understand when you encounter setbacks, you will be more motivated to continue. In addition to about 50-60 other founders accelerating together in the same program, we will hold frequent alumni gatherings where you’ll meet many alumni who have gone through the 0 to 1 stage. 

The ecosystem established by AppWorks Accelerator now consists of 395 active teams with a total of 1,331 founders. Together, these startups total US$ 8.05B in revenues. The blockchain ecosystem within the AppWorks community now consists of 57 active teams with a total of 94 founders. Together, these startups total US$ 295M in revenues and employ over 700 people globally. The largest founder community in the region can help support founders working on NFTs who want to learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship through introductions of resources and connections in the startup ecosystem.

b. Learn together with NFT startups

Although NFTs are still a relatively new concept, there are already a few NFT-related startups in the AppWorks ecosystem, such as Blocto (AW#19), a mobile portal to the blockchain world featuring seamless integrations with different wallets and web browsers; Lootex (AW#20), a digital marketplace that runs NFT auctions; and Animoca Brands, an AppWorks portfolio that is committed to promoting the development of blockchain and NFTs in the gaming industry. For this upcoming batch, we are specifically calling for founders working in the NFT space to join the community and build a better ecosystem together.

c. Flow ecosystem and resources

AppWorks is also the second largest investor in the public chain Flow, developed by Dapper Labs, the team behind CryptoKitties and NBA Top Shot. If you’re interested in developing a new business model on Flow or the chance to talk to various stakeholders in the Flow ecosystem, you can receive more direct resources and support from AppWorks and Flow’s exclusive collaboration.

With the largest community in the region alongside support from the Flow ecosystem, founders working in the NFT space will be able to grow and thrive in their founder journey. 

3. What does AppWorks look for in applications?

When AppWorks reviews applications submitted by founders, we pay special attention to a founder’s North Star. Some questions that might help you think about whether AppWorks is a good fit for you: 

  • Why do a startup?
  • What problem do you want to solve and why?
  • What do you believe fundamentally needs to exist in this world that doesn’t already?
  • What kind of future do you want to create and how will you get there?
  • What have you already done to demonstrate your commitment to tackling this problem?

AppWorks Accelerator’s online application covers about 30 topics related to team background, product/service, business model, market analysis and more. It is very detailed and requires time to complete. It also includes a required one-minute self-intro from the founder (CEO).

4. Does AppWorks Accelerator cost anything?

No. AppWorks Accelerator has always been free for founders. We will not charge rent or service fees, nor will we require any form of compensation, such as sweat equity, options, revenue, or profit-sharing. Our exclusive mission is to help founders. 

5. We need funding now, can we get investment by joining AppWorks?

The short answer is it depends on what stage you are in your journey. When capital can significantly enhance the strength and competitive advantage of your startup, any AppWorks founder is welcome to start a discussion with us on fundraising. We will do our best to advise and support you with US$212 million in assets under management. 

Please note, AppWorks Accelerator will never require teams to accept our investment before joining the accelerator, nor will teams ever need to provide any form of equity or revenue / profit share returns.

6. Why wouldn’t AppWorks admit founders working outside of AI, Blockchain, NFT, or SEA?

We believe that AI and blockchain are based on the good foundation that the internet has built, and the extended data applications and the decentralized model will be a huge disruption that founders must leverage in the next decade. Within Blockchain, NFTs enable wider adoption of blockchain technologies and applications as we move closer to the digital world.

At the same time, SEA’s digital revolution is well underway, with a young, ever-expanding, and increasingly affluent middle class driving brisk economic growth across the region. SEA also features one of the world’s largest populations at over 650 million people, many of which are digital natives and early adopters of technology, lending itself as a hotbed for entrepreneurship and innovation. 

Therefore, this is the focus of our attention for now. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen the popularity and penetration of mobile internet. If you want to seize the opportunities in the next decade, think about how to leverage these key areas to create the future.

7. I am not a technical founder, or I need to find an engineer to help scale my idea, can I still apply?

Yes, you can. In a manner of speaking, you have come to the right country. 

Taiwan graduates over 25,000 hardware and computer science engineers each year and is world-famous for the engineering and computer science mastery that has boosted the quality of international companies like Apple and Acer in hardware and Google and Microsoft in the software category, to name but a few. 

We strongly recommend founders who come to Taiwan check out the country’s vast human talent resources. Part of the founder journey will be about learning how to hire, and there is probably no better place in Asia to do that engineering hiring than here. 

8. My service (or product) has not yet started to make money. Can I still apply?

Of course! There probably isn’t a better time to learn in an accelerator than as a founder just starting out. This period before a founder has built a startup into a scalable business model with  Product-Market Fit is called the “seed stage”. During this period, founders always need more than funding; they need a variety of entrepreneurial-related insights, inspiration from other founders, and room for trial and error. AppWorks Accelerator was built to provide these, and more. 

9. I already raised a Series A / I’m profitable, is AppWorks right for me?

The most important thing for us is to identify where a founder is in their journey.

Reaching a funding goal can be a cause for celebration, but it’s also a relatively minor part of the growth of a founder. So many more things can go right or wrong, even with a funding round. There are many other facets to master. When we admit founders into the program, it is because we have carefully considered what they need as a founder, and how our resources and network, and Taiwan’s unique market and supply chain position in the world, can help them grow. 

Joel Leong and Henry Chan at ShopBack had already built a business model and received seed funding in 2015 when they launched in Singapore, before they came to AppWorks Accelerator #13 in 2016. 

Joel told us that had the team known about Taiwan’s massive US$ 42.2 Billion GMV a year e-economy and how it made it possible to figure out crucial e-commerce and engineering solutions for them, they would have made the move to Taiwan sooner. It demonstrates that funding rounds and business model maturity do not limit founders to learning something new.  As long as you think that AppWorks can help you in the entrepreneurial learning process, you should apply. 

10. Since I am not a Taiwanese citizen, can you help me obtain a proper visa?

International founders admitted to AppWorks Accelerator, according to your qualifications and needs, AppWorks can help apply for the Entrepreneur Visa or Gold Card in Taiwan. This enables founders from overseas to concentrate on work in Taiwan without having to travel abroad to sort out troublesome visa issues. We have professionals at the Accelerator who can offer advice on this process. 

11. After the AppWorks Accelerator program begins, do I have to be there every day? Can overseas teams participate remotely?

AppWorks arranges about four to six hours of speaker series, workshops, office hours, and gatherings each week. These are tailored to the needs of current batch founders. We encourage teams to participate in as many of them as possible to learn from the veteran founders we invite to these sessions. AppWorks also provides a free co-working space. As for whether the team should choose to work in AppWorks, this is up to you.

If you want to test the Taiwan market with AppWorks, or set up a technical team, we strongly recommend you to invest the time and effort to personally understand Taiwan’s cultural environment and market. 

12. Do I have to set up a company to join AppWorks Accelerator?

Not necessarily, but we would recommend an overseas founder to set up a Taiwan office, especially those of you that are B2B facing. This may better enable you to find business partners and negotiate commercial agreements later. AppWorks has professional accounting and legal specialists who can assist in handling procedures for landing in Taiwan.

As Andrew Jiang, co-founder of Soda Labs (AW#17) told us, when you take the time to physically show up in the market, you get “10x the attention and focus of potential customers and partners” you seek in your business development process. 

13. What is the difference between the application’s first mover round and final round?

The application period is split into two intakes, with interviews and admissions facilitated on a rolling basis. Based on past experience, teams that submit their application earlier tend to have a higher chance of being admitted, and are also immediately granted access to all the resources that AppWorks Accelerator has to offer.

We hope the above FAQ can help you clarify your questions about AppWorks Accelerator. If you seek more clarity, please write to: a@appworks.tw and we will try to answer your questions.

We welcome all AI, Blockchain, NFT, or Southeast Asia founders to join AppWorks Accelerator. Applications will be open until July 21th, 2021.