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

Why Hiring for an Early Stage Startup Is a Lot Like Dating — It’s All About the First Impression

If you want to bring quality staff onboard your startup, it helps to sell yourself in the most attractive way possible

Izza Lin, Recruiting Master

Izza is a Recruiting Master responsible for advising AppWorks Startups on all talent acquisition matters. Before joining AppWorks, she built a successful early career in headhunting firms such as Rising Management Consulting and Recruit Express, where she specialized in recruiting quality talents for internet and e-commerce companies, guiding hundreds of engineers, product managers, marketers and general managers to fulfill key positions for her clients. In between Rising and RE, she headed Southeast Asia Market for an e-commerce startup, USO HK, where she found her passion for helping small guys break the status quo. Izza received her B.A. in Economics from Washington State University and spent 5 years of her childhood in Myanmar and Cambodia. This diverse background has inextricably contributed to her love for traveling and “wine tasting”.

When founders are working hard during the early stages, most of their time is spent in building product, launching the product and raising capital.

Recruiting in today’s age is mostly an afterthought. However, in the bigger picture, when you’re building a startup that is meant to conquer a market in the long-run, finding talent is just as important as business development, product development, or acquiring customers, if not more.

Like the classic chicken-and-egg situation, savvy startup founders delay their hiring until they can afford it, yet, their business can’t afford to grow until their team has grown.

However, business growth can be extremely difficult unless you have the right team. Being stuck in this dilemma can be very frustrating.

At some point, founders need to get good at hiring for themselves. So, for beginners, I’d like to share a few pieces of advice to help conquer the recruiting hurdle easily.

It helps to use an analogy, so let’s use dating.

Just like dating, hiring is about searching for quality versus quantity and being able to convince that potential partner in the very first encounter. Whether you are looking for the ideal hire or the perfect match, this ability to attract people is key. Here is what you can do for your startup. 

Company introduction and job description = dating profile

Let’s start by comparing the creation of a job description to how you might create your own dating profile. When you first register on a dating app, you tend to put the most appealing photos on your profile, along with a personal description, interests, and what you look for in a match.

Your hiring profile should look much the same. You want to share quality information that will trigger people’s interests.

Seduce your audience

“I am Asian, 5’3, love drinking wine.” 

If this is my dating profile description, it is unlikely that anyone would swipe right. Unless I have a really hot profile photos.

The common mistake with many startups is that they use the lazy cookie-cutter three-line introductions.

For example: 

VIVACIOUS is an AI-based dating app for iOS and Android. It was founded by a group of National Taiwan University Engineering graduates in 2019.

VIVACIOUS is a top 30 dating app on Google Play and Apple App store, and now has over 30,000 downloads.

So the question is, how do you expect to stand out if your description looks like a “copy and paste”?

It needs to be unique. A good profile should take potential hires on a journey, sharing values, mission and vision (VMV), and also helping them understand who you are as a founder.

Instead of a three-line description, I may write a profile description (like the one below), showing how the company is unique: 

We are a group of National Taiwan University graduate engineers who saw a problem shared among our peers. Many people struggle to find a date due to the lack of opportunities in their busy schedules. Using AI, we have created a unique dating platform experience called VIVACIOUS to help bring people together on an intimate level and bridge that missing happiness. Just a few clicks away, you can begin an adventure to find your significant other.

As a Master of Human Resources, you will be leading our engineering and marketing team on a journey that will help many lonely hearts find the love they deserve.

For big corporations like Apple, Google, or Microsoft, their reputation needs no introduction. However, startups are much different, as most are relatively unknown. Your profile is an opportunity for you to attract potential hires, just like you would when using a dating app. 

Knowing your position, market value and how to write a job description (JD)

If Keanu Reeves is my type, my dating profile should not just say, “looking for Keanu Reeves look-alike”. This is because looks are not everything, as a matching personality is just as important.

Let’s say Keanu’s looks is equivalent to a candidate’s skill qualification, personality is the determinant if one can work well within the company culture. If the potential hire has the looks “skill” but not the personality, be aware that they may not be an ideal candidate.

Be sure to elaborate when listing out a Keanu Reeves description, by combining both looks and personality. This way candidates can better understand if they will potentially be a fit for the position on your team.

When writing the job description, I would suggest listing bullet points, from most important (must have) to least important (nice to have/ prefer). Remember to keep it short and concise, without cluttering the page. Listing out too many points can work negatively by limiting your funnel. Always be aware of who your audience is and the market value of a position.

If the description is for a senior position, but the title and salary appear as a junior position, you are unlikely to attract the candidates you are after.  

For example, the Human Resource position for “Vivacious” may appear as: 

Vivacious is looking for an experienced HR Manager to join our growing team. The HR Manager will be heavily involved in operations execution and strategic planning.

This role will be responsible for the development of compensation & benefits, performance management, employee relations, talent development program, leave processing, training, and onboarding.

Requirements:

1.Ability in executing HR tasks with extreme efficiency and limited resources

2.Have experience designing, building and leading the implementation of strategic scalable HR initiatives

3.Adapts and thrives in a demanding, start-up, fast-paced environment

Good to have:

1. Minimum 5 years’ of HR experience

2.Experience with start-up companies is a plus

3.Payroll experience 

Know where your target audience (TA) spends time

If my interest is drinking wine and I am looking for someone who would enjoy drinking wine with me, then attending a wine tasting event to look for a potential match would probably be an ideal place to start. 

This is the same in hiring. When you are finding talent, you have to think about where your talent would spend their time.

Do they show up at certain events, work for certain companies, or have their own Facebook group… etc?

Start by looking in the right direction, and focus on those online and offline locations.  

Know the competitor

Know your competition. Gather as much information about your competitors, such as their job posting content, company performance, company culture, strengths and weaknesses.

This information will be helpful when determining the strategic positioning of your startup to potential hires.  

Have your pitch ready 

Hiring moments can sometimes appear at the most unexpected times. You should always be ready to pitch your startup, otherwise, an opportunity with a talented candidate could be missed.

Be confident when giving your pitch, keep it short, concise, and most importantly, be persuasive.

Referrals are key

We focused on the points above first because they need to be fully understood prior to the most important step of them all — asking for referrals. Referrals are critical relationship keys that unlock doors and allow you access to more potential new hires. 

Searching your existing circle of resources for suitable candidates should always be your first step. You can usually find what you are looking for when working through people you trust.

Often times, it is usually a faster and more cost-effective way to hire. Instead of relying only on job postings, career sites or recruiting services, focus on building a stronger network.

Conclusion

The hiring chicken-and-egg problem is frustrating but not impossible. It can take months to find the right candidate. So it is crucial that you have a plan and a strategy ready.

Start crafting your startup profile today, practice your pitch, and when the opportunity presents itself, you will be prepared to win the perfect candidates that will change the game for you.

【If you’re a startup currently or prospectively employing AI / IoT or Blockchain / Crypto, be sure to apply AppWorks Accelerator’s AI & Blockchain only batch.】

Photo by Tumisu courtesy of Pixabay

Deferred Revenue (遞延收入),SaaS 創業者應該了解的關鍵指標

Norman Chi, Analyst (紀泳瑜 / 分析師)

負責投資與基金管理。在加入 AppWorks 之前,曾於勤業眾信審計部門服務近兩年,參與過的財務報表查核案件橫跨多個產業。畢業於台大會計系,學生時期曾擔任台大學生會活動部部長與會計系系學會公關長。喜愛品嚐美食、棒球與推理懸疑類影集。期許自己成為理性,但不失熱血與溫度的創投分析師。

隨著各式雲端應用及基礎建設普及,近年來,SaaS (Software as a Service) 已成為 Internet 服務中,最受創業者們重視的商業模式之一。在大東南亞 (東協 + 台灣) 最大創業加速器 AppWorks Accelerator 共 376 支活躍新創、1,113 位創業者的創業者社群中,有約 30 家 SaaS 新創,其中的代表案例,包括台灣最大餐飲雲端 POS 系統 iChef、台灣最大 OMO 虛實融合新零售平台 91APP,或是電子報發送平台的 Newsleopard 電子豹 (AW#4)、專攻 AI 監控的 Umbo CV (AW#9)、提供法律專業人士搜尋的資料庫 Lawsnote (AW#13)、打造聊天機器人系統的 High5 (AW#14) 與 Easychat (AW#16)、能自動生成符合各社群媒體平台規格靜態廣告的 MarTech 新創 Dipp (AW#16)。

2018 年,同時也是 SaaS 新創集體在美國 IPO 的重要年度。包括 Dropbox、DocuSign、Zuora 等知名獨角獸紛紛掛牌上市。但細看這些新創企業公布的年度財務報表,會發現幾乎都虧損連連;就連 SaaS 新創 IPO 的鼻祖、CRM 軟體龍頭 Salesforce,也是到 2017 年會計年度才轉虧為盈,距離其 IPO 時間已 13 年。但在資本市場中,來自 SaaS 領域的新創,仍獲得投資人高度重視,究竟在虧損的財報背後,投資人看見了什麼?

當傳統損益表遇上 SaaS:收入認列的限制

採 SaaS 模式的新創,大多以訂閱制取代傳統一次性買斷的套裝軟體。 然而,以較為低廉的每期訂閱價格,來吸引用戶使用,進而換取 SaaS 新創長期且穩定收入的做法,容易受限於傳統的會計準則,造成新創的價值無法如實反映。原因很簡單,傳統會計收入的認列方式,用戶採用後,不見得能正確反應 SaaS 新創真實的成長力道與預期。

在傳統會計上,企業於財務報表中得以認列收入主要需滿足下列所有條件 (此處以 IFRS 15 為準):

(1) 辨認客戶合約

(2) 辨認合約中之履約義務

(3) 決定交易價格

(4) 將交易價格分攤至合約中之履約義務

(5) 於滿足履約義務時認列收入

在 SaaS 商業模式下,這五點可以理解為:當用戶按下同意使用條款按鈕,並確認付費金額與條件後,就有完整權限享受 SaaS 新創提供的服務;而 SaaS 新創確認訂單並開立發票收款後,即有充足證據顯示,此筆交易的金額能夠可靠衡量,並很有可能流入 SaaS 新創。

但這時通常會出現一個潛在的問題:不少 SaaS 新創雖將服務定價以月來計算,但收費卻是每季或每年結算一次。這時以會計角度來看,就會產生一個疑問:SaaS 新創是否已完成「交貨」義務?畢竟 SaaS 新創有義務提供一年的服務,來換取用戶支付的金錢,若是在開票收現的當下,即全部認列為本季或本年的收入,難免有失公允。故在傳統會計原則中,SaaS 新創不得一次性認列此類型的訂閱收入,而是要在履約期間內分期認列,未實現的必需遞延。

成功的 SaaS 模式還有一個特性:為求快速擴張獲得更多的用戶,所認列的費用,有極高比例會用於行銷與業務拓展。即便成功如 Salesforce,行銷與業務推廣費用,仍占營收超過 45%;更極端者如 Slack,2019 年 Q2 的財報上,顯示行銷與業務推廣費用佔營收高達 94%,為的就是求先獲取 (Acquire) 更多用戶,進而推升每月持續流入的訂閱服務收入。

綜上所述,SaaS 新創的金流收入,在結帳當期不得完全認列;但一次性行銷費用,卻又居高不下,導致無法在財務報表上繳出漂亮的獲利數字。這就是 SaaS 新創在傳統損益表上面臨的限制:損益表上無法具體顯示出,這些透過一次性高行銷費用而創造出來的經常性收入效益,只會顯示年復一年的財務虧損,而這不能看出 SaaS 新創真正的價值。

在實務上,SaaS 新創在營業報告中,最常呈現的幾個指標數字,例如 ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue,每年經常性收入)、LTV (Customer Life Time Value,顧客終身價值)、Customer Churn Rate (客戶流失率) 等,已有不少文章評析過這些重要指標。儘管 SaaS 創業者得以給出漂亮的指標數字,但是外部投資人並無權限去驗證這些指標數字的合理性與可靠性,因為不像財報上數字的揭露,是會計師依照會計準則查核出具報告。

對 SaaS 創業者來說,不論是對外溝通、募資,或是對內管理,甚至是評估或規劃長期策略時,是否能用一個關鍵數字,就足以解釋新創的價值與成長潛力?

SaaS 創業者都該懂的財務指標:Deferred Revenue (遞延收入)

這個對創業者十分重要的關鍵數字,就是 Deferred Revenue (遞延收入,或稱 Unearned Revenue 預收收入);在台灣財報上顯示的科目名稱,通常為「預收收入」或是「合約收入」(採 IFRS 15 後)。

什麼是 Deferred Revenue 呢 ? 簡單說,Deferred Revenue 代表企業在未來很有可能認列的收入總額。

SaaS 新創的收入,需在服務履約期間內分期認列,未實現的需遞延認列。簡單舉例,若一間提供雲端服務的企業,每月的訂閱服務費為新台幣 1,500 元,半年支付一次且不可取消退費。當一位用戶於 12/1 開始訂閱半年,共支付 9,000 元 (1,500 x 6),在 12/31 的財報裡,我們可找到兩個數字:損益表上,顯示 Subscription Revenue 為 1,500 元,以及資產負債表上的負債科目,會出現 Deferred revenue 7,500 元 (9,000 – 1,500)。或許在此,創業者會感到疑惑:為什麼在資產負債表上,呈現的是負債呢?簡單來說,就是想像成因為還欠用戶五個月的服務即可。故在 12/31 當下,Deferred Revenue 代表著 7,500 元是還沒完成履約義務的收入,預期會在將來逐月實現認列。

為什麼 Deferred Revenue 對評估 SaaS 商業模式這麼重要?一言以敝之,Deferred Revenue 代表未來可認列的收入價值,與 ARR (每年經常性收入) 的精神不謀而合,同時又是經各國會計準則委員會認定的財報科目,較有參考意義。

對創業者來說,Deferred Revenue 除了代表未來潛在可實現的收入,以及方便更進一步評估管理報表中 ARR 與 MRR (每月經常性收入) 等指標的合理性外,更能使創業者系統化地預測未來的成長。同時,創業者在與每月或每季與投資人的會議報告中,使用 Deferred Revenue 這個財務指標,對外部投資人來說,Deferred Revenue 的表達方式,因為符合會計準則規範,相對較有公信力,既可與競爭對手相比,又不至於讓企業任意操縱。而 Deferred Revenue 數字穩定提升,也代表對未來成長的樂觀,對 SaaS  新創日後可認列的收入提供一定的保證,而非憑空捏造的幻想;同時,高行銷費用帶來的付費用戶成長,也可反映在 Deferred Revenue 的提升上,這為新創高速擴張造成的高行銷費用,提供了另一種正面角度的說明。

是否有潛在的風險或盲點?

Salesforce 的年報是非常值得 SaaS 創業者探討的案例。Salesforce 是近 20 年最成功的 SaaS 企業。這家成立於 1999 年的企業,以 19 年的時間,將營收從不到 600 萬美元放大到超過 100 億美元,5 年來股價翻了一倍。SaaS 創業者心中肯定都有成為下一個 Salesforce 的夢想,因此,我們就來簡單說明 Salesforce 如何向外部投資人報告。

在 Salesforce 公布 2019 會計年度的年報中,第一個 Highlight 是年營收達 133 億美元,年成長達 26%;第二個 Highlight 則非常特別,叫做 Remaining Obligation Performance (保留義務履行)。按照年報上的附註解釋,代表 Salesforce 已與用戶簽約並可創造的未來收入,只是現在還沒有認列的部分,金額高達 257 億美元,年成長為 25%,將近年度營收的兩倍,非常令人驚豔。

只是,Remaining Obligation Performance 與 Deferred Revenue 是一樣的嗎?若細看過整份年報,會有另一個發現,那就是在資產負債表上,與 Deferred Revenue  同樣意義的 Unearned Revenue,金額為 85.64 億美元。當然這與 2018 年的 69.95 億美元相比,也是有不俗的成長,但與 257 億美元相比,就顯得不足為奇了。

事實上,Remaining Obligation Performance 包含了 Deferred Revenue 與 Unbilled Deferred Revenue (未開發票的遞延收入)。

但若 SaaS 創業者使用 Remaining Obligation Performance 作為給投資人報告的指標數字,將有兩個潛藏的風險。第一,Unbilled Deferred Revenue 並不是一個正式的資產負債表科目,我們不會在任何一份正式的財務報表中發現其蹤跡,充其量只能算是個參考數字,並不具公信力。更具體來說,Unbilled Deferred Revenue 就是在不可知的未來,很有可能被認列成 Deferred Revenue 的數字,待完成履約義務後才會轉為收入,但這是沒有任何保證的。多數人非常容易將 Unbilled Deferred Revenue 與 Deferred Revenue 混為一談,誤以為兩者意義相同。

第二,則是 Remaining Obligation Performance 究竟會花多久時間轉換成真正的收入?在 Salesforce 的案例中,企業並未公布 Remaining Obligation Performance 的組成:257 億扣除 85.64 億後的 171.36 億美元,有多少比例是一到兩年內可以認列?多少是三年以上? 畢竟這 171.36 億美元,還需要多久能真正進到財報裡,沒有人清楚,而時間拖得越長,潛在的風險也就越大。而在遙遠的未來,是否會發生金融海嘯,或是企業客戶發生資金危機而無法如期付款,在這數字中,都屬於不能預測,這數字只能說明潛在的合約總價值,不代表未來會全部兌現。

除了 Salesforce 之外,像是 Workday 等已經 IPO 的 SaaS 新創,也有採用相似的方式手法,在年報中表達企業未來可創造的價值。另外,亦有不少 SaaS 新創,在在提供給股東的報告裡採用相同方式,試圖解釋公司營運狀況良好。當創業者使用相同指標對外部投資人報告時,需特別注意,千萬不要把 Deferred Revenue 和 Remaining Obligation Performance 這兩個指標混淆了,在實務上,Deferred Revenue 的客觀性、可被接受程度更高。

結論

回歸財報的管理與解讀,對創業者來說,除了持續關注 Deferred Revenue 是否健康成長外,還是需同時輔助搭配其他財務數字。例如,營運淨現金流是否持續成長、收入增加是否來自於一次性業外收入等其他因素,並搭配其他管理報表中的指標如 ARR、Churn Rate 等一併分析其合理性,才能評估出 SaaS 新創真正的價值與潛力,進而提升決策品質;相對地,創業者不該用看似美好、卻似是而非的數字讓外界產生誤解,這將直接傷害創業者的信用以及努力打拼的成果。

身為 SaaS 模式的創業者,你搞懂 Deferred Revenue 這個數字了嗎?

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

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