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.

 


The Warlord In the Park: How x-Googler Andy Cheng Used Constant Problem-Solving to Deliver Better Products to the Market and Grow His Startup

foundi Founder Andy Cheng

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.

First attempts at startup products usually fall short. This can be really frustrating, but early-stage founders don’t often realize that these false starts are real opportunities.

Why? When founders give this product to new users, they are trying to help a new customer fare better than those “normal” people who do things in what founders consider the “old way.”

Most people using a new feature or a product for the first time are used to doing business, or experiencing something in what they consider the normal way. They are not like the founder, who has dreamed up a vision of how things should be done. When a founder gives this new product to a potential customer, he or she is trying to do three things:

  1. Sell the product!
  2. Integrate this new vision into the customer’s reality.
  3. Solve a problem that often a potential customer didn’t even know they had.

This new approach takes time to understand and appreciate. It’s almost like taking someone and plopping them down in a new culture, or in a different era somewhere far into the future. By giving these potential customers something very new, they will approach it with some skepticism, some doubt, and some reasons why it won’t work.

As a result, it’s inevitable that a first trial will end in incremental data and not much customer acquisition.

But this new confrontation with tech is a chance to seek feedback. This feedback creates a cycle of improvement. This is why founders who struggle with their own problem first usually have a better chance of finding product-market fit.

I will tell you a story about a founder who went through the AppWorks Accelerator and launched his own product successfully to demonstrate this point.

The park

It was a spring day in Taipei around the year 2011 and then-Googler Andy Cheng was looking for a house to buy. Married and with a young son, Andy wanted a property his family could grow into. A real estate agent showed him a house in a desirable neighborhood. A stretch of park just behind the house meant this was exactly what he was looking for.

Andy nearly made an offer. Then he found out that the park was slated for school construction. Rushing to close, the broker hid this from Andy. The seed of an idea was planted in Andy’s mind.

“I thought, ‘Man, what else have you not told me,’” says Andy, as he looked back at how he developed foundi (AppWorks #8), a real estate listing platform.

The first thought Andy had had when he set to work was not: How could he solve the problem of a culture of manipulation and secrecy that seemed endemic to real estate brokers?

He only sees that his startup could make an impact in that area in retrospect. Like many founders, Andy’s MVP alone didn’t help the real end user — at the time, house buyers — but it started a process that eventually got him there. And this is really important for early founders to understand.

A new product alone is never enough to create scale and customer growth. You have to do a whole lot of digging to get there.

How it all started

From Andy’s perspective, there were so many houses to choose from, so wouldn’t trust and honesty be the winning factor for an agent closing a contract?

Andy learned that relatively low-paid real estate agents live off of commission, and in doing so, they often worked in ferocious competition against each other, even in the same agencies. In contract bidding — even before negotiations — the potential future sale of a home often goes to the agent that creates the most perfect too good to be true contract. House sellers want a good return, so agents will find ways to make their pitch of the future contract as lucrative as possible.

It doesn’t matter if the price is true, or if it accurately reflects the true conditions of the house. It’s every man for himself.

It gets worse!

Since every agent is motivated by commission, agents who are first to find the listing will also try to hide the listing info from other agents, making it nearly impossible for other agents to pitch a contract.

This unethical weirdness became more than an engineering puzzle for Andy, who was quite proficient with software programming and maps. Previously, he had worked as one of Google’s first hires in Taiwan, managing a team of engineers in the maps division. Code and problem-solving are in his wheelhouse. “I always go to the computer to code, to figure things out,” he says. But to tackle this problem, he had to go beyond the screen.

He created an early version of foundi. House sellers and buyers would use that version to find information about listings. But they took this info back to agents and used it to try to haggle better deals. This put burdens on the buyers of houses, though; this was exactly the position Andy was in before and didn’t want.

The founder becomes the warlord

He booked meetings with influential agencies and set up face-to-face consultations. He discovered that real estate agents were typically not the best performers in school. They are also technology-averse. It explained a lot.

With the right technology, they wouldn’t have had to be dishonest to compete. By sitting down and walking through foundi features with early adopter agents, Andy finally got to a point where he was able to convince more of them to use the product.

Like an arms dealer selling his weapons to different cartels, Andy started to spread his tool to different agencies. Whereas previously agents in the same agencies would be pitted against each other, teams began to perform at a higher level. Other agencies saw agencies doing better, and wanted the same tool.

“I felt like I was a warlord,” Andy jokes.

Has he made the market more transparent? It’s hard to say this early in the game. But according to Andy, this counterintuitive outcome holds promise.

By taking away the old things that made agents competitive — their secrecy and manipulation — he has actually made real estate agents more competitive. Therein lies a fundamental concept of startup building, and the core reason why data drives product development. Early-stage founders might take note of this technique.

Now, Andy’s customers number about 12,000 agents of the total 40,000 in Taiwan, who rely on foundi to serve their customers better and in turn maximize their income. Andy takes a long-term approach to this door-to-door sales effort.

Creating new tech to solve real problems is really the experience of giving people new mental models to live a better life. If a founder has a good head on his shoulders, and is passionate about what he’s doing, he will eventually build something that people need, in a market people didn’t know could exist. No newly launched product can do this immediately. It’s always a process, and it involves founders stepping away from the computer and even leaving the building, to get it right.

Answers, and your product, exist in people’s heads and hearts, whether they know it or not. As a founder, you are quite simply the enabler that will help them experience that by delivering a tangible good that unlocks a mental model. Think of it as a game, with a constant state of going on side quests. Without those quests, you cannot complete the journey.

2019H2 台灣 Blockchain 生態地圖,寒冬後的曙光

Ching Tseng, Associate (曾意晴 / 投資經理)

負責區塊鏈投資,尤其專注東南亞市場。學生時期曾於 AppWorks 實習一年半,2015 年政大企管系畢業後正式加入擔任分析師,主要參與投資案相關業務,最得意的案例是協助 CHOCO TV 從 A 輪一路到被 LINE 併入。是我們的年輕人趨勢專家,2019 正式升任經理。平常熱愛嚐鮮、美食以及旅遊。

過去兩年,Blockchain 與 Cryptocurrency 的發展變化十分劇烈。歷經 ICO 熱潮、雨後春筍般的公鏈誕生、長達數年的牛市,在 2018 年,隨著 Cryptocurrency 幣價下跌,Blockchain 進入長達一年的熊市,而在 2019 年下半,隨著幣價回穩,Bitcoin 價格在年中一度逼近 13,000 美元,市場漸漸再度熱絡起來。綜觀整個 Blockchain 鏈圈,現今留下一群體會一番激情,又見證了海水退去的倖存者,也因著如此,許多 Blochchain 的新創團隊,朝著更落地的應用走去,亦有團隊朝更純粹的技術提供方發展而去。

AppWorks Accelerator 每半年更新一次「2019 H2 台灣 Blockchain 生態系地圖」(The Taiwan’s Blockchain Ecosystem Map 19H2) 的過程中,我們發現,在過去半年中,台灣的 Blockchain 生態系,正在逐漸展現幾項值得關注的新面貌:

(原始檔案下載:Taiwan’s Blockchain Ecosystem 19H2)

帶著台灣 DNA 與國際齊頭前進

走過硬體代工製造的盛世後,台灣在軟體的發展即便日趨成熟,卻仍缺少了一些國際發光的色彩。即便陸續有一些軟體、Internet 服務相關的新創,逐漸在亞洲嶄露頭角,但相較於歐美業者,總會有些許時間差上的進度落後。然而,或許是因為 Blockchain 本身的技術特性,新創從成立 Day 1,就必須以做出區域級、甚至於全球的服務為目標,所以,台灣的 Blockchain 新創團隊,在跟上全球最新發展上,並沒有絲毫落後,在遊戲、DeFi 等垂直項目中,都可以看到台灣新創的身影。

過去半年,即便台灣的 Blockchain 新創業團隊增加速度減緩,但整體生態系的深度與質量,卻有顯著提升。例如,在這之中,我們發現不少創業已有一段時日的團隊,所打造的 Module 開始外銷,在全球各類 Blockchain 服務商所打造的服務體系中,這些台灣新創所打造的 Module,成為其中重要的一環,頗類似台積電的晶圓代工模式,讓台灣製造的 IC 成為全球科技產業不可或缺的關鍵零件。以 AppWorks Accelerator 第 17 屆 (AW#17) FundersToken (現名為 FST Network) 為例,所開發的 Module,便被多家保險、物流以及交易所所採納,成為其他 Blockchain 服務的關鍵技術提供商。Softbank 旗下的虛擬資產交易所,亦採用 CoolBitX 冷錢包團隊所開發的 SYGNA KYC 系統

低潮之下脫胎換骨的新局

2019 上半年,Blockchain 新創圈頗負盛名的 Cobinhood / DEXON 宣告解散,對台灣 Blockchain 發展無非是一大打擊。然而,在低潮之下,卻也釋放出大量優秀的人才,產生了至少四組的 Blockchain 新創團隊。例如,曾擔任 DEXON 工程團隊主管的 Hsuan 李玄以及 BD 團隊主管的 Edwin 顏維佐,就共同創辦 portto (AW#19),組建了七人團隊,一起開始了另一段旅程,嘗試以透過開發更優質的 Blockchain 瀏覽器,降低用戶使用 DApp 的進入門檻,目前也已經與同為 DEXON 出身的前技術長黃偉寧打造的 Tangerine,以及區塊鏈工程團隊沛理科技,一起推出去中心化版本 BBS。

台灣 Blockchain 社群活絡

過去一年,全球各地不少的 Blockchain 產業論壇、社群活動的規模皆相對縮減,然而,台灣 Blockchain 相關的論壇與社群活動,參與度依舊相當熱絡,同時技術含金量高。無論是由 Taipei Ethereum Meetup 所主辦的 Crosslink 或者是由 AW#16 BlockTempo 所舉辦的 Asia Blockchain Summit 都依舊盛大舉行。以 Asia Blockchain Summit 為例,講者多達 135 位,參與者亦有 4,000 位。此外,知名團隊 Maicoin 也推出了 MAX 實體店,強化社群活動以及提供線下 KYC 服務,降低一般用戶進入加密貨幣市場的門檻。

機構投資人投資力道未減,但形式更多元

隨著產業的發展,以及市場不再追捧,無論是創業者或者是投資人,對於 Token 是否為 Blockchain 商業模式中的必要元素,都有了更深的反思與了解。即便是以投資 Token 起家的 Crypto Fund,都已逐漸不再純以 Token 經濟為單一投資工具,而是加上可轉債、或是傳統投資股權來支持新創團隊。

Blockchain 政策有進度

過去半年,台灣Blockchain 生態系除了團隊持續發展外,政府的對應政策也比半年前更有進展。討論以久的 Security Token (證券型代幣),台灣證券櫃買中心於 9 月公布相關細節,或許考量在產業發展初期避免重大缺失,設計上相對略為保守,新創團隊能透過 STO 募資最高上限為新台幣 3,000 萬,同時募資平台亦有資本額限制,投資方對於個體戶限制多,若非專業法人或基金,自然人每案認購金額的上限為 10 萬元。

由國家發展委員會推動成立的台灣區塊鏈大聯盟,在 2019 年 7 月成立後,也在 9 月會員大會中,推出 Blockchain 服務運用計畫。包含公共服務、金融保險、能源、醫療、農業五大領域共 12 項計畫,負責機構也涵蓋了包括中央銀行、金管會、內政部等多個政府單位。除此之外,國發會亦直接投資鏈科科技、思偉達創新科技兩支 Blockchain 新創團隊

2019 下半年,台灣 Blockchain 生態系無論在新創團隊的產品開發、社群成熟度,以及政府的產業發展計畫上仍然有不少進度。我們期待看到越來越多 Blockchain 新創團隊,開始跳脫 Blockchain 的同業社群,與更多不同領域的創業者互動,將目標設得更加長遠,學習如何建立一個長青的事業。

The Taiwan’s Blockchain Ecosystem Map 19H2 由 AppWorks,以及 Blockchain 媒體 Blockcast 區塊客 (AW#14)、BlockTempo 動區 (AW#16) 聯合製作,每半年更新一次,有任何指教與建議,請 email 至 a@appworks.tw

【歡迎所有 AI / IoT、Blockchain 的創業者,加入專為你們服務的 AppWorks Accelerator

Photo by shutterbean on Pixabay