The AppWorks Accelerator FAQ (for founders applying to AW#28)

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, accelerating the region’s transition into the digital era. 

Every six months, we welcome founders trailblazing on the frontiers of web3, AI, and Southeast Asia, equipping them with the necessary resources, mentorship, and guidance to get their ventures off the ground. 

We know there are many considerations for founders when applying to an accelerator. That’s why we’ve created an FAQ page to help you decide whether or not AppWorks is the right fit for your startup. 

As of October 2023, AppWorks Accelerator #28 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 the accelerator? What is AppWorks doing to help founders make the most out of the accelerator?

We understand the unique needs and aspirations for both local founders in Taiwan and international founders abroad, and we’re committed to providing an experience that’s both flexible and comprehensive. Here’s how we’ve customized our approach since 2020:

Tailored Events for Founders: We recognize that each founder’s journey is different, shaped by diverse geographies and schedules. That’s why we’ve designed a program that blends online and offline events. This flexibility ensures that you can engage with our program in a way that fits your specific circumstances, whether you’re based in Taiwan or anywhere around the globe.

Regional Presence in Greater Southeast Asia: We take immense pride in our strong regional presence, spanning six vibrant markets: Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. This expansive network means that you have access to opportunities and support, no matter where you’re located.

Unlocking Taiwan’s Potential: Taiwan is home to a dynamic tech ecosystem, and we proudly maintain the most extensive network in the region. We invite you to consider Taiwan as a market ripe with valuable opportunities, a wealth of digital talents, reliable manufacturing partners, and a robust supply chain. The resources available here are vast and can significantly boost your venture.

Through our online and offline regional activities, we’re dedicated to connecting you with our network, helping you forge meaningful relationships in both Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

We firmly believe that there’s no substitute for physical, face-to-face interactions when it comes to building strong relationships and gaining profound insights. That’s why we encourage founders like you to join us in person for the offline portion of the accelerator program, whether here in Taiwan or in other Southeast Asian countries. We’re confident it will enrich your entrepreneurial journey in the most meaningful ways.

Your success is at the heart of what we do. We can’t wait to embark on this journey with you.

2. Why does AppWorks now only admit founders working on AI, web3, or SEA?

We believe that AI and blockchain are based on a solid foundation built by earlier generations of founders, and extended data applications and decentralized models represent a huge disruption that founders must address over the next decade.

AppWorks has been working with AI founders well-before generative AI hit mainstream. According to Market and Markets, the global AI market size is valued at US$150.2 billion in 2023 and will continue to expand to US$1.3 trillion by 2030, at a CAGR of 36.8%. The increasing demand for automation, personalization, and optimization in various industries creates new opportunities for AI to drive innovation. Founders can further enhance their innovation efforts by harnessing the power of open-source data and leveraging generative AI to accelerate development, making their endeavors even more dynamic and accessible in this rapidly evolving landscape

Web3 continues to be an area of innovation and excitement, with value creation occurring across cycles. As the web3 industry enters mass adoption, it requires infrastructure to seamlessly facilitate increasingly everyday transactions and activities. Meanwhile, applications for the web3 industry will speed up the process of onboarding end users. New primitives such as DAOs and protocols will completely disrupt the way people structure and run organizations from finance to entertainment to commerce—and this will all be done by leveraging the open, decentralized, permissionless, and trustless nature of blockchains. The time to build is now.

Southeast Asia’s digital revolution is well underway, with a young, ever-expanding, and increasingly affluent middle class driving brisk economic growth across the region and mass adoption of digital services. The scale of Southeast Asia’s digital economy is estimated to reach US$1 trillion by 2030. Among them, Indonesia, with a population of nearly 300 million, has a median age under 30 years old and over 70% digital penetration, creating a market ripe for innovation. Vietnam and the Philippines, with around 100 million people each, are open-minded to new technology, with crypto user penetration rates at 20% and 5%, ranking 1st and 14th in the world, respectively. As the digital economies of Southeast Asian countries are still developing, there are many opportunities for growth, building off a strong foundation from the past decade of value creation.

These are three areas where we’ve seen significant activity and can offer outsized support to founders, building off the firm’s long track record. In the past 10 years, we’ve witnessed the popularity and penetration of mobile internet, and have participated in this process by supporting founders in their endeavors. If you aspire to capture life-changing opportunities over the next decade, it is important to think about how to leverage these key areas to create the future.

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

The short answer is, yes!

The long answer is, reaching a funding goal can be a cause for celebration, but it’s also a relatively minor part of the founder journey. So many more things can go right or wrong, even with a funding round. There are many other facets to overcome and 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 across Taiwan and Southeast Asia 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$58 billion GMV e-commerce market and all the region-wide technical and tactical innovations that it would eventually yield, they would have made the move to Taiwan much sooner. Taiwan has since become one of ShopBack’s biggest markets and R&D centers. It demonstrates that funding rounds and business model maturity do not limit founders in learning something new. 

As long as you think that AppWorks can help you in the entrepreneurial learning process, you should apply.

4. How can AppWorks Accelerator help a web3 founder?

As our web3 ecosystem has grown, so have opportunities for partnerships, knowledge exchange, and founder-to-founder support—all critical for entrepreneurs building in this network and community-driven space:

a. Grow with one of the largest web3 founder communities.

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 and 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 batch, we will hold frequent alumni gatherings where you’ll meet many alumni who have gone through the zero-to-one process. 

The web3 ecosystem within the AppWorks community now consists of 142 active teams with a total of 300+ founders. These extraordinary web3 startups include  Pendle (AW#20), a DeFi yield-trading protocol that enables the tokenization and trading of future yield; Blocto (AW#19), a mobile portal to the blockchain world featuring seamless integrations with different wallets and web browsers; and Teahouse (AW#17), an on-chain liquidity management platform.

As one of the most flourishing web3 founder communities in the region, we support founders working on most, if not all, web3 verticals tackle the ins and outs of entrepreneurship through founder or mentor introductions and connect you with relevant resources in the web3 startup ecosystem. Moreover, founders can learn together with fellow founders about tokenomics, DAO structures, and community-building.

b. Stay ahead of the game to capture the pulse of the ecosystem and access premium development partners

In web3, startups developing on the right public chain and working with the right partners can help create synergies and accelerate scaling. Within the AppWorks web3 ecosystem, almost 100 teams have developed their products on various public chains, including Ethereum, Cosmos, and so on. If you are a founder building on these chains, you can always find a connection within our ecosystem.

AppWorks is proactively building a vibrant ecosystem for web3 startups to explore and connect with each other. However, as there are more chains launched than the frequency of us updating this FAQ, we haven’t named them all here. But we try our best to connect with most major L1 & L2 ecosystems to help founders gain access to better resources. One of the examples is through our relationship with the public chain Flow, developed by Dapper Labs, the creator of CryptoKitties and NBA Top Shot. If you are interested in developing something new on Flow then you’d have the chance to talk to various stakeholders in the Flow ecosystem and receive direct support and resources such as tech office hours, marketing, and grant programs. 

At the same time, AppWorks builds partnerships with essential development tools, platforms, and cloud services such as Alchemy, Quantstamp, and AWS to make sure that blockchain startups gain the support they need to grow and thrive.

5. How does AppWorks Accelerator help founders enter new markets?

Since 2009, AppWorks has made close connections within founder communities and throughout the venture capital ecosystem. When startup teams decide to enter a new market, we can quickly help them learn from local partners to tap into key resources and business models that are specifically tailored to different regions.

The AppWorks community includes our accelerator alumni, international startup teams that have received investment from AppWorks Venture Funds, and mentors with insight and experience. Our community of founders  are based all around the world, and many are from our key markets in Southeast Asia, such as Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand. For example, Qoala is an InsurTech startup headquartered in Indonesia that has expanded to Thailand and Malaysia, and the CEO/Co-founder, Harshet, is a seasoned founder and has been an active mentor to many startups in the region. Carousell is a startup from Singapore, which focuses on C2C e-commerce and has expanded into eight markets across Asia. The CEO/Co-founder, Siu Rui, has always been the go-to person for fellow founders who are exploring regional expansion.  

In addition to our community, AppWorks has also established strategic relations with more than 20 venture capital funds across Southeast Asia and the web3 industry. Our partners include ACV, Golden Gate Ventures, Openspace Ventures, Ascend Vietnam Ventures, Foxmont Capital, Pantera Capital, Play Future Fund, and others. When entering a new market, we can easily cooperate with investors from different regions to help you quickly gain access to local connections and business opportunities.

6. 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 did you launch your 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) for us to know you better.

7. 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, tokens, options, revenue, or profit-sharing. Our exclusive mission is to help founders.

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

The short answer is you will have much better access to us than non-AppWorks accelerated teams. We will discuss with you and help you figure out at this stage of your startup’s journey if capital can give your startup a significant edge and/or take it to the next level and/or there are other more burning issues, e.g., achieving stronger product-market fit, figuring out a working go-to-market strategy, recruiting a solid co-founder, etc. 

Any AppWorks founder is welcome to start a discussion with us on fundraising anytime. We will do our best to advise and support you with US$350 million in total fund size behind us.

9. 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 software, to name a few. 

We strongly recommend founders who come to Taiwan to 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 hire engineers than here.

10. 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 lessons and more.

11. I’m planning to expand my business into Taiwan, however, 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 with your application for the Gold Card, or Entrepreneur Visa in Taiwan. This enables founders from overseas to concentrate on work in Taiwan without traveling abroad to sort out troublesome visa issues. We can offer guidance on this process.  

AppWorks will closely track government policies and provide adequate support as the policy evolves.

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

Not necessarily, but we recommend founders to set up an office when entering a new market, especially those of you that are B2B facing. This may enable you to find business partners and negotiate commercial agreements later. 

For the founders who are planning to land in Taiwan, AppWorks has professional accounting and legal specialists who can assist in handling procedures.

13. What is the difference between applying during the first round vs. the 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.

14. I have previously applied to AppWorks and have been rejected, can I apply again? Will it affect the chances of admission?

Reapplying represents the determination of the founder and is a positive signal for us. Therefore, we will re-evaluate all aspects, not only for the growth of the founder but also for the progress of the company. In the past, some entrepreneurs applied 2-3 times before being selected. In some cases, after unsuccessful applications, they continued to explore and eventually achieved more user growth and deeper insights. In other cases, they honestly faced the fact that there was no Product-Market Fit (PMF), changed their topic, found a scalable business model, and reapplied. These entrepreneurs have performed well after graduating from the accelerator.

We hope the above FAQ can help clarify your questions about AppWorks Accelerator. If you seek more clarity, please write to: [email protected], and we will try to answer your questions.

If you’re a founder working on AI, web3, or Southeast Asia, you’ve come to the right place! Applications for AppWorks Accelerator #28 will be open until December 5 , 2023.