First Half of 2020 Ecosystem Update: Taiwan’s Blockchain industry Shakes off Global Lockdowns and Exhibits Stronger Corporate interest

Jun Wakabayashi, Analyst (若林純 / 分析師)

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

As the world came to a standstill from COVID19, the first half of 2020 proved to be a challenging time for industries across the board. With all its promises and potential, even the nascent blockchain industry was not immune to worldwide lockdown and social distancing measures. A handful of established players certainly benefited from the accelerated shift to online consumption and digital living. But, those projects without solid foundations, compelling use cases, and sustainable business models quickly found themselves at the end of their runways.

With only 447 confirmed cases and 0 local transmissions in the last two months, Taiwan has garnered worldwide adoration for its handling of the novel coronavirus. The local blockchain industry, however, did not go completely unscathed. Compared to 19H2, 21 projects have since ceased operations and been taken off the map. This is the largest number of removals since AppWorks Accelerator started producing the ecosystem map two years ago. With only 16 additions, there were also a fewer number of new organizations entering the ecosystem compared to any other half. Collectively, there was a total of 112 projects noted on the map, down from 115 in the last update.

(Welcome to download map here: Taiwan’s Blockchain Ecosystem Map First Half 2020)

2020 is clearly shaping up to be a year of reckoning. Financial markets are in disarray, global supply chains have been crippled, and economies across the globe are struggling with unprecedented productivity loss. That said, if 2008 was any indication, heroes are often born in the midst of a crisis. The pandemic has highlighted glaring efficiency and reliability gaps in our current processes and systems, forcing upon us new ways of working and thinking. “The new normal” may very well serve as the necessary accelerant to convert blockchain’s perception of cautious skepticism into widespread pragmatism, which we’re already starting to see early signals of.

Enterprise adoption picks up

There’s been a lot of talk about how and when to potentially use blockchain. Now, it seems like enterprise adoption is starting to pick up steam. As many of them lack the capabilities in house, we’ve seen several corporates in the last six months announce their latest initiatives in partnership with local blockchain startups.  

Taiwan’s leading financial conglomerate with over US$335B AUM Cathay Financial Holdings announced that it’s developing an electric vehicle IoT financing platform in conjunction with EV charging service provide ChargeSmith (AW#16) and supply chain-focused blockchain startup BSOS. The new platform collects and stores EV owners’ driving behavior, which will then be used to provide real-time personalized financial services ranging from insurance to banking products. In another example of enterprise partnerships, longstanding email security provider Openfind unveiled its collaboration with BlockChain Security to launch an intellectual property protection solution, which aims to help enterprises store and transmit confidential information more securely. 

It’s no secret that banks have been some of the earliest adopters of blockchain technology in Taiwan, as seen by Cathay and CTBC, the latter of which runs its own blockchain incubator and is a part of international blockchain consortium R3. Taiwan Business Bank was the latest to hop on the bandwagon. They recently unveiled their intentions to implement blockchain technology into the process of issuing confirmation letters in order to lower the risk of falsification.

Meanwhile, crypto asset management platform Bincentive recently disclosed its partnership with Japan-based Rakuten. Users of the international e-commerce site will now be able to purchase crypto investments using their loyalty points. Along the same lines, BitoEx (AW#6) which operates one of Taiwan’s largest crypto exchanges now allows FamilyMart members to redeem their loyalty points for bitcoin purchases.

Thus far, Tawianese corporations are clearly displaying a positive embrace of blockchain technology. However, due to their traditional management structure, implementation of the technology is still veered towards a centralized model, inhibiting some of the touted benefits of blockchain such as autonomy, no single point of failure, and overall the democratization of data and authority. Moving forward, it’ll be worth observing how enterprises might adjust their cultures and governance models as decentralization increasingly transitions from fringe to mainstream adoption. 

The new normal

Blockchain has been in development for well over a decade now, and the crypto market has correspondingly undergone its fair share of cycles. In the process, investors have become increasingly more sophisticated in terms of their understanding and approach to the market, as well as the instruments and structures they use to finance deals. Nevertheless, crippled economies across the globe have led investors to reel back their money for the time being, allocating their attention to existing portfolios or waiting for brighter horizons.

With the current circumstances, the development of early stage startups has become polarized. The market will be unrelenting for those relying on projects to generate ad hoc cash flow, as the downturn has caused a tightening of the belt for customers across the board. On the other hand, those teams that have found product-market fit and solve a real world pain point for clients at scale will have greater commercial prospects, ultimately contributing to a stronger and more sustainable ecosystem that’s driven by a project’s actual value rather than market hype and speculation.

There were a few bold blockchain entrepreneurs, for example, with innovative technology and solid business models that were highly favored by investors. CoolBitX successfully closed a US$16.75M series B round of financing, led by SBI Holdings. The newly raised funds will be used to continue development and rollout of its messaging-based KYC/AML solution for virtual asset providers. In addition, BSOS also completed a million-dollar seed round in the first half of 2020—including NT$20M (US$678K) from Taiwan’s National Development Fund—to advance its blockchain-based supply chain financing solution for enterprises. 

Digitalization vs decentralization

Looking back in the first half of 2020, it was a rather harrowing time for the blockchain industry. Right at the onset of COVID19 in March, cryptocurrency prices dropped by 40%. A few months later in May, Telegram—which in 2018 raised the second largest ICO in history at US$1.7B— announced the suspension of its blockchain project the Telegram Open Network (TON) shortly after the SEC won a preliminary injunction, citing a plausible case that Telegram had sold unregistered securities in its coin offering.

Crypto prices have since more or less recovered to pre-COVID19 levels, especially as people increasingly sought out alternative stores of value like bitcoin as a hedge against inflationary currencies. The halving of bitcoin this past May and the added supply scarcity will likely continue to drive up its value, as it’s done so consistently in the past. Since TON was officially abandoned, there have been many communities around the globe that have been rallying to keep it alive, including the Chinese TON community which claimed that it would launch its own version of the blockchain. 

At this point, what are the next growth opportunities for blockchain? Everyone has different interpretations and expectations. However, currently, conversations are mostly centered around the pandemic, with criticisms mainly targeted at the limitations and failures of centralization. Whether it’s in terms of tracing vaccination records, tracking medical supplies, eliminating fake news, or disbursing economic aid, decentralization has been thrown in as a prominent solution to many use cases. However, as impactful as these use cases may be, the reality is that boilerplate digitalization is still higher on the pecking order for most people. The age of remote work catapulted people into a new normal, forcing everyone to figure out how to do everything over the worldwide web, from basic necessities like ordering food or groceries to lifestyle needs like exercise and socialization to work needs like conducting meetings or business presentations. 

Digitalization and decentralization are not mutually exclusive, however. If anything they are complementary. Novel thinking often calls for novel solutions. Decentralization can provide the perfect combination of efficiency, transparency, and autonomy that people didn’t even know they wanted or needed. For now, aside from decentralized finance (DeFi), games and entertainment-related services will likely dominate the majority of use cases, both of which  benefited tremendously from the pandemic in terms of adoption and usage. 

Existing entrepreneurs in this space would be wise to continue building their experience in this area, acquiring users, and strengthening their positioning. For aspiring entrepreneurs, realize that the world has hit reset and undergone a rude awakening; consequently, there’s never been a better time to explore and introduce radical new ideas.

Taiwan’s Blockchain Ecosystem Map First Half 2020 is produced by AppWorks and updated every six months. If you have any comments or suggestions, please send us an email at a@appworks.tw.

【If you are a founder working on a startup in SEA, or working with AI / Blockchain, apply to AppWorks Accelerator to join the largest founder community in Greater Southeast Asia.】

Photo by Robert Pastryk on Pixabay

Taiwan’s AI Ecosystem Mapped out for the First Half of 2020 — New Opportunities Emerging during the Pandemic

Natalie Lin, Analyst (林楓 / 分析師)

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

As a founder thinking about Taiwan, engineering talents and a sizable and well developed digital ecosystem are normally at the top of mind. But increasingly entering the mix now is Taiwan’s growing AI capabilities. It is a result of both industry trends and government policies. In her inaugural speech given in May, re-elected President Tsai Ing-wen mentioned six core strategic industries for Taiwan that included an acceleration of AI and IoT while highlighting the future of digital and data. 

In order for an AI ecosystem to flourish, both the government and the private sector must embrace and work to build it. In October 2019, the National Center for High-Performance Computing co-worked with Quanta Computer, ASUS, and Taiwan Mobile to build TAIWANIA 2, a supercomputer built for AI, which offers its cloud service through Taiwan Computing Cloud (TWCC). Since its commercialization, TAIWANIA 2 has driven over 300 projects from industries, academia, and research organizations. 10 million GPU computing hours have been utilized, AI training time has been reduced by 90%, and the efficiency of deep learning has been raised 498 times. The added capacity far exceeds the current computing demands of Taiwan’s AI industry, seamlessly aligning with the country’s national strategy. 

As Taiwan gradually becomes a major AI center for the development of Greater Southeast Asia (ASEAN + Taiwan), tech companies are starting to pay attention. Microsoft has already promoted their AI Infinity program to recruit talents and set up R&D centers. In addition to covering commercial AI solutions, think tanks are being set up and Microsoft is also cooperating with National Chengchi University to open AI business courses for enterprises to understand how to implement AI to accelerate transformation within their company.

Although the new virus that broke out in the first half of 2020 halted some commercial activities and significantly impacted many existing industries, the epidemic did not stop the development of Taiwan’s AI ecosystem. In the process of updating the 2020 H1 Taiwan AI Ecosystem Map by AppWorks Accelerator, we found that in the last 6 months, there have been several trends worth noting:

(Welcome to download map here: Taiwan’s AI Ecosystem Map First Half 2020)

The retail industry was forced to go online during the pandemic, giving digital marketing a platform to shine

During the pandemic, consumer behavior has changed. Their shopping habits accelerated from going to physical stores to switching to online channels instead. How companies can stand out in the online world has become a new learning curve for retailers. This epidemic will not only accelerate the speed of digital transformation of the traditional retail industry, but also give rise to smart retail, which integrates online and offline experiences as their focus.

In the past few years, we’ve noticed that AI innovation focusing on digital marketing operations have sprung up. By using AI technology to accurately do ad placements, track user journey and behavior, and analyze the collected data, companies are able to outline consumer profiles and thus more accurately predict consumer shopping preferences and price orientation, creating personalized shopping experiences for each visitor.

Even visitors that don’t end up converting or placing an order provides a gem of data analysis. Companies can use AI and big data to target this group of potential customers who have yet to make a transaction by carrying out remarketing campaigns to improve conversion rates and overall marketing performance.

The opportunities are endless under this trend, especially for startups. In February 2020, MarTech startup Accuhit, which just raised a NT$ 70 million pre-A round, provides both subscription-based use and project-based consulting to analyze customers’ historical purchasing behavior and make predictions. Omnichat (AW#16), an alumni of AppWorks Accelerator, specializes in a marketing automation subscription service that provides multi-channel conversational commerce focusing on ecommerce clients. The platform has an average conversion rate 3x to 7x higher than the overall trend in ecommerce. They recently completed a seed round earlier this year, led by AppWorks Funds.

An explosive introduction of AI applications in healthcare

Alongside digital marketing, AI is also thriving within the medical field. According to Global Market Insights, the global healthcare AI market will reach US$ 13 billion by 2025, with an average annual compound growth rate (CAGR) of 40.6% from 2019 to 2025. Over the past six months, particularly during this pandemic, AI usage in improving the efficiency of medical consultation and disease screening is at an all-time high.

Taiwan has accumulated years of experience in the development of AI in healthcare. Since medical AI algorithms require a large amount of labeling data in order to train the model, as early as 2018 the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) co-worked with National Taiwan University, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, and Taipei Medical University to open the first pathology database for cross-institutional annotated medical images in Taiwan. These kinds of developments not only help physicians accelerate medical image interpretation and improve the consistency and accuracy of diagnoses, but also shorten the time for patients to seek medical treatment and reduce invasive examinations.

In the startup ecosystem, we also see a rise in the development of AI in healthcare startups. We see applications like developing AI technology for over a billion pixel image analysis and high-performance computing (AI HPC) with AI Explore; medical imaging AI platform services with aetherAI; medical staff assistance to interpret Computer Tomography (CT) scans for cerebral hemorrhaging with Deep01; and during this epidemic, Heroic-Faith developed a smart respiratory monitoring system.

A friendly ecosystem for AI startups is gradually taking shape

As more AI startups plan on expanding to other markets, Taiwan is considered a hotbed in terms of startup accelerators, education, and research for AI founders to leverage the ecosystem. On the accelerator side, AppWorks Accelerator was established in 2010 and focuses on recruiting AI / IoT and Blockchain founders only since August 2018 (AW#17). So far, it has recruited 89 of these startups, with 44 of them being AI and 16 of them being IoT. Together these startups are well positioned to further accelerate Taiwan’s burgeoning AI ecosystem.

In addition to AppWorks, there are many other accelerators supporting the AI ecosystem in Taiwan. Microsoft for Startups, Sparklabs Taipei, Taiwan AI x Robotics Accelerator, and more are all community builders that recruit AI startup teams. Under this AI wave, other accelerators that aren’t focusing on AI have also found success in recruiting AI startups, such as TAcc+ and BE Accelerator.

In VC, investment in AI companies have also grown year-over-year, providing financial assistance to AI startups looking for growth or expansion opportunities. For example, AppWorks Funds is a VC focusing on the three themes of AI, Blockchain, and Southeast Asia. Other well-known VCs in Taiwan include ACE Capital, Cherubic Ventures, TransLink Capital, and more have also greatly invested in AI in the past 2 years. Related Taiwanese investments to AI startups include CloudMile, Umbo CV (AW#9), Cubo AI (AW#16), and MoBagel (AW#16).

In Taiwan’s thriving AI ecosystem, new AI developments can be seen in various well-known technology exhibitions and forums. At the annual COMPUTEX conference, there’s a new startup-themed exhibition called InnoVEX that has attracted many talented AI founders to sign up to build bridges with investors and enthusiasts from all over the world. This year due to the pandemic, COMPUTEX was cancelled for 2020 and InnoVEX changed to #InnoVEXOnlineDemo. NVIDIA also held their famous AI conference NVIDIA GTC (GPU Technology Conference) in Taipei in 2018, providing opportunities for all stakeholders to meet and each other. GTC Taiwan 2020 is expected to be held this year in Taipei.

Taiwan AI Academy and Taiwan AI Labs are still Taiwan’s representative institutions in the field of AI education and research, respectively. They continue to inject talent and innovation to Taiwan’s AI development. There was a tragic loss for the community of Taiwan’s AI ecosystem as Sheng-Wei Chen passed away earlier this year. He was the CEO of Taiwan AI Academy and founded the organization that has cultivated more than 6,000 talents for Taiwan in the span of 2 years. His contributions include progressing the mission of transforming industries with AI, making data science known as his north star, and growing AI talent.  He and his work will forever be remembered by Taiwan’s AI growing community.

Taiwan’s AI Ecosystem Map First Half 2020 is produced by AppWorks and updated every six months. If you have any comments or suggestions, please send us an email at a@appworks.tw.

【If you are a founder working on a startup in SEA, or working with AI / Blockchain, apply to AppWorks Accelerator to join the largest founder community in Greater Southeast Asia.】

Photo by tingyaoh on Pixabay

2020 上半年台灣 Blockchain 生態系地圖,靜待下一個風口

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。

對多數人來說,2020 上半年,過得並不輕鬆。由於 COVID-19 在全球爆發,改變了人們許多的工作與思考方式。對尚屬於發展初期、還仰賴很多實體活動來獲取用戶、投資人的 Blockchain 產業來說,不少新創因此面臨生存危機,更有不少服務的推進計畫,也因疫情延宕了,募資過程受到干擾的團隊更不在少數。

AppWorks Accelerator 每半年更新一次「2020 H1 台灣 Blockchain 生態系地圖」(Taiwan’s Blockchain Ecosystem Map First Half 2020) 的過程中,就可清楚感受到大環境帶來的衝擊。在這一版的更新中,總計納入 112 家相關的新創、機構與單位,第一次列入的共 16 家,是過去三次以來新納入數量最少的一次,而半年前還在地圖上的,則有 21 家已從這一版移出,也是歷來數量最多的一次,兩個數字此消彼長之間,代表過去半年間,在台灣 Blockchain 生態系中新生的新創變少、折損的新創變多。

然而,歷史上亂世時,卻也是英雄出世的時刻。即便有不少 Blockchain 創業者暫時退出賽道,卻也有許多的團隊,在這樣的情況下,繳出傲人的成績單。

(原始檔案下載:Taiwan’s Blockchain Ecosystem Map First Half 2020)

機構用戶導入加速,創業技術 Support 

Blockchain 發展至今,不時會有大企業高呼要揮軍 Blockchain 領域的消息,近半年來,過去累積的底蘊發酵,大型企業與機構導入 Blockchain 技術的增速比過去更快;乘著 2019 年下半年,以輸出技術成為服務的趨勢,許多 Blockchain 創業團隊,也抓緊了這波機會,與各種機構用戶結盟。

例如,國泰金控數位數據科技研發中心近期發佈,將在 2020 年底推出「電動車車聯網區塊鏈金融平台」,除了能將數據透過加密存證上鏈外,還結合國泰產險、國泰世華銀行,提供從汽車融資、保險理賠到商品推薦等服務。在這背後,國泰也與 AppWorks Accelerator #16 (AW#16)、充電站服務平台 ChargeSmith 宅電以及 Blockchain 新創團隊 BSOS 共同合作,透過電動車的行車資料上鏈,來協助國泰金控提供更豐富的銀行及保險業務場景。

其他大型企業與 Blockchain 新創合作的案例,還包括樂天市場與 Bincentive 合作,讓會員能將樂天購物點數轉為加密貨幣投資。OpenFind 網擎資訊則與 BlockChain Security 區塊科技合作,結合區塊鏈存證應用,協助企業在處理機密資訊時能夠更安全的儲存與傳輸。另一較親民的例子,是全家便利商店與 AW#6 BitoEX 幣託合作的會員回饋系統,民眾在全家進行消費並累積會員點數,就可以免費兌換成比特幣。此外,台灣企銀也推出金融區塊鏈函證,減低函證作業流程中,容易發生資料遺失或者遭竄改的風險。

大企業加速導入 Blockchain 技術顯然是一樁好事。但也因為大企業的管理型態,在考量 Blockchain 技術時,還是會偏向較中心化的商業模式,結合 Blockchain 技術去中心化的本質,未來將帶來哪些新發展、新演化,值得持續關注。

炒作行情結束,發展各憑真本事

Blockchain 發展至今已有一段時間,投資加密貨幣也經歷過幾次上沖下洗的行情。在這過程中,投資人的型態與工具也逐步調整、日趨成熟,已很少追捧熱門的短線議題,而受到這一波疫情影響,投資步調甚至有些放緩。

在這樣的外在環境下,使得新創發展呈現兩極化,由市場啟動了淘汰機制。新創的商業模式,若偏重靠接專案帶來營收,隨著經濟前景保守,開發新客戶與專案的難度提高,直接造成現金流面臨斷炊的問題;另一方面,持續累積自有客戶、挖掘商業護城河的新創團隊,則能靠著業績持續成長、逐步累積 Traction 向投資人募資。

儘管時局艱困,但過去半年也不乏體質健全、前景展望佳的 Blockchain 新創,獲得投資人青睞。例如,CoolBitx 庫幣科技在持續推廣旗下產品 Sygna 的過程中,也完成由日本 SBI 集團領投的 B 輪募資,金額高達 1,675 萬美元。除此之外,BSOS 也在這段期間,完成百萬美金的種子輪募資,其中包含國發基金挹注的 2,000 萬新台幣

數位化優先於去中心化

回顧 2020 上半年全球的 Blockchain 發展,無論是三月主流加密貨幣閃崩,24 小時內多數跌幅超過 40%;又或者是五月 Telegram 因不敵政府監管的壓力,宣佈暫停旗下區塊鏈項目 TON 的開發。

此時,探討 Blockchain 下一個成長機會是什麼?每人各有不同解讀與期待。然而,在疫情盛行的當下,許多人詬病中心化組織,在傳遞正確訊息的速度及可靠性,紛紛討論起去中心化的優點,提出不少想法。但回頭反觀現實世界的發展,最多數人的痛點,都是圍繞在遠端工作情境,對網路創業者來說,數位化早已如空氣一樣存在已久,而對多數大眾的需求與使用情境而言,數位化的優先順序,還是遠高於去中心化。

整體觀察下來,Blockchain 產業依舊在等待下一個浪潮,而這道浪,得為產業注入下一群從未使用過 Blockchain 的新用戶。根據過往多次數位典範轉移的經驗,遊戲、娛樂相關的服務,最有可能帶來大量願意嘗試新技術的用戶,想要加入的創業者,若有這方面的優勢,不妨從中思考可以立足的機會。

已經在耕耘的創業者,在此逆風時刻在確保資金不斷鏈的前提下,不妨趁此練兵、多探索各種可能性,持續建立自己的獨特性,等下一波浪潮席捲而來時,抓準時機獲取有質量的用戶。

造浪者、衝浪者,只要還在海上,永遠都有下一波乘風破浪的機會。

Taiwan’s Blockchain Ecosystem Map First Half 2020 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 與佈局東南亞的創業者,加入專為你們服務的 AppWorks Accelerator

Photo by Robert Pastryk on Pixabay

2020 上半年台灣 AI 生態系地圖,後疫情時代浮現的新機會

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。

AI 在台灣不管是業界還是政府,都已是重點發展的項目。甫連任的總統蔡英文在就職演說中,談及未來台灣六大核心戰略產業,第一項就是資訊及數位相關產業,並宣示將全力促進 AI 與 IoT 的發展。

在政策支持、民間企業響應下,AI 的發展,正在台灣快速開花結果。例如,2019 年十月,由國研院國網中心攜手廣達、華碩、台灣大哥大共同打造的人工智慧超級電腦「台灣杉二號」與「台灣 AI 雲」( Taiwan Computing Cloud,簡稱 TWCC ) 正式商轉後,迄今已協助約 300 組產學研界專案計畫, 提供了上千萬的 GPU 運算小時使用量,協助縮短 AI 訓練時間達 90%,並提高深度學習效率 498 倍 ,大大滿足了產業界的 AI 運算需求,也是政府前瞻計畫中非常重要的一環。

當台灣逐漸成為大東南亞 (東協+台灣) 發展的 AI 重鎮之時,科技巨擘 Microsoft 除早已大舉來台徵才、設立研發中心外,更推動台灣的 AI Infinity 計畫,除網羅各業界經由 Microsoft AI 技術驅動的商用 AI 解決方案,以此建立台灣 AI 智庫外,也攜手政治大學,為企業開設 AI 商學院,協助企業整體升級,運用 AI 加速轉型。

2020 年上半年爆發的新冠肺炎,雖然使部分商業活動停滯,甚至顛覆了不少既有產業,但疫情並沒有使台灣 AI 生態系的發展停下腳步。在 AppWorks Accelerator 每半年更新一次「2020 H1 台灣 AI 生態系地圖」(Taiwan’s AI Ecosystem Map First Half 2020) 的過程中,我們發現在過去半年中,出現了幾個值得注意的重要趨勢:


(原始檔案下載:Taiwan’s AI Ecosystem Map First Half 2020)

零售業重新佈局邁向全通路經營,給了 Digital Marketing 最好的年代

在後疫情時代,當消費者購物行為從實體商店加速轉往線上通路,企業要如何讓自家品牌在網路世界脫穎而出,成了新零售顯學。這次的疫情,不僅將促使傳統零售業數位轉型速度加快,也讓線上線下融合體驗的智慧零售成為焦點。

在過去幾年,我們可以發覺,專注於數位行銷領域營運的 AI 新創,如雨後春筍般冒出。透過將 AI 的技術,運用在精準投放數位廣告、追蹤用戶旅程 (User Journey),並分析蒐集來的數據,讓企業更容易描繪出消費者輪廓,進而更準確地預測消費者的購物偏好與價格取向,並為每一位造訪的消費者打造個人化、客製化的購物體驗。

此外,那些雖然沒下單就離站的用戶數據,也成為數據分析的瑰寶。企業可透過 AI 與大數據的應用,針對這群尚未成交的潛在消費者,進行精準的再行銷推廣,進而提升轉換率與行銷績效。

在這個趨勢下,可看到許多潛力新創。例如,剛於 2020 年二月獲得 7,000 萬新台幣 Pre-A 輪募資的 MarTech 新創 Accuhit 愛酷智能,即是提供科技行銷系統,來協助企業客戶掌握用戶旅程,並提供行銷的數據整合,解決方案可運用的範圍之一,就是協助藥局整合線上會員的資料;此外,AppWorks Accelerator #16 (AW#16) 校友、專攻行銷機器人訂閱服務的 Omnichat,提供的全通路對話式商務,可協助電商客戶進行跨通訊平台的行銷方案,轉換率比電商整體平均高 3 到 7 倍,也在 2020 年三月完成 2,400 萬新台幣的種子輪募資。

醫療領域導入 AI 應用蓬勃發展

除了數位行銷,醫療領域是台灣在 AI 運用上另一個重要領域。依據 Global Market Insights 的預測,至 2025 年,全球 AI 醫療應用市場規模,將達 130 億美元,2019 至 2025 年的平均年複合成長率 (CAGR) 達 40.6%。過去半年,特別是疫情影響之下,如何利用 AI 提升看診與疾病篩檢效率,更是把這股 AI 應用於醫療產業的浪潮推向了高峰。

事實上,台灣在 AI 醫療的發展已累積多年經驗。由於開發醫療 AI 演算法,需要大量疾病標註數據,以此來訓練 AI Model,因此,早在 2018 年底,科技部就與台灣大學、台北榮民總醫院、台北醫學大學合作,建置了台灣首座本土化跨醫療院所的「AI 醫療影像資料庫」,並將成果與其他研究團隊及資料建置團隊合作,進行醫療衛生目的相關的學術研究,以提升台灣醫療技術。透過 AI 辨識的技術,不僅可以協助醫師加速醫療影像判讀及提高診斷的一致性與精準度,也可以縮短病人的就醫時間及減少侵入式檢查,降低醫療支出。

在新創圈,也可看到越來越多團隊加速開發 AI 在醫療上的應用。例如,開發即時 10 億級像素影像分析高效能運算 (AI HPC) 平台的 Ai Explore 影豹科技 ;提供醫療影像 AI 開發平台服務的 aetherAI 雲象科技;協助醫療人員判讀電腦斷層掃描(Computer Tomography,CT)並獲得台灣與美國 FDA 認證、提供腦出血 AI 影像判讀系統的 Deep01 ;以及在此次疫情下,開發出智慧呼吸監測系統的 Heroic-Faith 聿信醫療等等,展現出台灣 AI 應用在醫療領域上呈現欣欣向榮之姿。

AI Startup Friendly 的生態系逐漸成型

隨著越來越多 AI 新創冒出頭並打算出海,台灣在創業加速器、教育、研究等面向,也依舊蓬勃發展。在創業加速器部分,2010 年成立、自 2018 年 8 月 (AW#17) 起限定招募 AI / IoT 與 Blockchain 新創的 AppWorks Accelerator,目前為止已經招收四期 AI / Blockchain 共 89 組新創,其中有  44 組 AI、16 組 IoT 新創,持續為台灣 AI 生態系挹注新能量。

AppWorks 之外,包括微軟新創加速器 (Microsoft for Startups)Sparklabs TaipeiTaiwan AI x Robotics Accelerator 等,皆是以 AI 新創團隊為主要招募對象的創業加速器。而在 AI 浪潮下,其他非限定召募 AI 新創的加速器,包括 TAcc+BE Accelerator,也吸引不少 AI 新創團隊進駐。

在創投領域,AI 新創的投資案也逐年增加,提供新創擴張甚至出海的資金協助。例如,AppWorks Funds 為專注於 AI、Blockchain、Southeast Asia 這三個主題的創投基金,此外,包括 ACE CapitalCherubic VenturesTransLink Capital 等國內外知名創投,也都在近兩年投資不少 AI 相關的台灣新創,例如 CloudMile 萬里雲Umbo CV 盾心科技 (AW#9)、Cubo AI (AW#16)、MoBagel 行動貝果 (AW#16) 等。

隨著台灣 AI 生態系蓬勃發展,在各個知名的科技展覽與論壇中,也可看到不少 AI 新創的身影。例如,歷史悠久的 COMPUTEX,旗下以新創為主題的特展 InnoVEX 即吸引不少 AI 團隊報名參展,並為台灣 AI 創業者搭橋,有機會與來自全世界的新創圈人士與投資人進行深度交流 (受疫情影響,2020 年 COMPUTEX 確定取消,InnoVEX 則改為線上 #InnoVEXOnlineDemo);NVIDIA 2019 年也在台北舉辦了 AI 盛會 NVDIA GTC (GPU Technology Conference) 全球巡迴海外首站,提供各界互相交流的契機,而 2020 年的 GTC Taiwan 2020,預計也將回到台灣舉辦,屆時又將是一場 AI 的饗宴。

台灣人工智慧學校、台灣人工智慧實驗室,則分別仍是台灣在 AI 教育與研究領域的代表性機構,持續為台灣 AI 發展挹注人才與創新技術的能量中。對台灣 AI 生態系來說,2020 上半年最令人遺憾的,莫過於台灣人工智慧學校執行長陳昇瑋的英年早逝,他與台灣人工智慧學校,在二年內,為台灣培育超過 6,000 位 AI 人才,全力達成產業 AI 化及轉型升級的使命,充滿熱情、實踐理想的典範,不僅讓人無限懷念,更為台灣 AI 發展留下不可抹滅的貢獻。

Taiwan’s AI Ecosystem Map First Half 2020 由 AppWorks 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、佈局東南亞的創業者,加入專為你們服務的 AppWorks Accelerator

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專訪 Pickone 創辦人張雲淞,從網路菜鳥,到成功打造 O2O 活動空間平台

Antony Lee, Communications Master (李欣岳 / 媒體公關總監)

負責媒體與社群溝通相關輔導。加入 AppWorks 前有 18 年媒體經驗,是台灣第一批主跑網路產業的記者,先後任職《數位時代》副總編輯、《Cheers 快樂工作人》資深主編、SmartM 網站總編輯。畢業於交大管科系,長期關注媒體產業變化,熱愛閱讀商業與科技趨勢、企業與人物故事,樂於與人交流分享,期許自己當個「Internet 傳教士」。

2014 年創立的活動空間平台 Pickone 挑場地,是台灣 O2O 數位平台風潮下的代表新創之一。Pickone 提供場地與空間擁有人刊登租借資訊,目前共有超過 1,500 個場所,可供一般民眾選擇,不論是 10 人以下或千人以上,有舉辦會議、派對、演講、靜態展覽、音樂表演、婚宴等需求,都可找到適合的場地。每月有超過 5,000 個活動透過 Pickone 舉辦,服務人數高達 10 萬人。

在 Pickone 之前,1988 年次的創辦人 Aaron 張雲淞,就已有四年創業經驗,最主要是創辦並經營桌遊店。熱愛木工、裝潢手作的他,自認是一隻初生之犢,突然就闖入了網路創業叢林,對各種網路創業的知識,幾乎是一片空白、什麼都不懂,然而卻逐步探索出一套自己的創業思維與方法。

Pickone 是 AppWorks Accelerator #9 校友,也在 2018 年完成由 AppWorks 領投的種子輪融資。Aaron 的創業經歷,對所有創業者帶來最大的啟發,就是只要挖掘出既有產業真正的問題,並懷抱著想要解決它的決心,即使不是網路高手、數據專家,也能發展出自己的創業方法論,進而繳出一張好成績單。究竟他是如何做到?這一路又有哪些個人成長與體悟?以下是我 (Antony) 與 Aaron 對談的重點整理:

Antony: 在創辦 Pickone 之前,你過往有哪些相關的背景與經驗?

Aaron: 從高中時期,我就很熱愛木工與手作東西,那時就經常與釘槍、鋸檯等工具為伍,這種感覺,就像是一種職人精神。把東西打造出來,讓我非常有成就感。因為這個緣故,我很希望可以有自己的實體店面,第一個創業的題目,就是桌遊店,從貼地板、漆油漆到製作桌椅,都是我自己親手完成。這些是我本質上就喜歡的事情,也是個人能量的來源。

經營桌遊店四年後,我對空間營運有更深的了解。桌遊店其實是在一個空間與時段,販賣歡樂的時光。我們會分假日的熱門時段、平日的閒置時段。閒置時段如何提升使用率?熱門時段如何增加坪效?固定投資的回收期要多久?這些都是經營空間最基礎的概念。

Pickone 是從我第一次創業就開始的連結。當桌遊店開到第五間,要進入規模化的時候,我希望能有不同的成長方式,而不是一間一間開。我第一個想到的,就是要聯合其他店家,當時,桌遊店都會有同樣的問題,就是平日沒有客人。大家都很辛苦的在思考,如何在平日吸引更多客人?我做過很多努力,辦過很多線下課程,例如品酒會、程式設計課程、夏令營、小朋友的自學班⋯⋯等,嘗試各種空間可以在平日的可能用途,讓閒置時段變少。

空間營運,已成為個人天命

Antony: 後來 Pickone 為什麼會切入「活動空間平台」這個創業主題?

Aaron: 開始辦了很多線下課程後,我就以線下課程平台這個題目,申請加入 AppWorks Accelerator,想解決各桌遊店空間閒置的問題,因為我有很多線下課程,希望能辦到全台灣各個店家。後來 Pivot 了很多次,因為在這過程中,我們發現,沒有一個平台整合各個場地資訊,辦課程經常找不到適合場地,都只能在自己的店裡辦,而其他閒置的空間,卻沒辦法曝光、找不到客人來使用,所以有了 Pickone 活動空間平台。我創業至今 9 年了,全部都在做和空間有關的主題,這已是我的天命。

Antony: 在 Pivot 到活動空間平台的過程中,你對桌遊或是其他空間經營者的觀察為何?如何解決他們的問題?

Aaron: 開一間小店非常辛苦,會被各種日常營運的壓力壓到喘不過氣來。基本上,光是每天要員工準時開門都有問題,員工可能習慣性遲到 10 分鐘,讓客人在外面等,然後店長或老闆就會接到客人的電話,其他還有很多小事,例如壁紙破了、零錢短少、哪一盞燈壞了、廁所不通、投影機不亮等,每天光是這些細節小事,就可以讓人筋疲力竭,他們當然想要更多客人,但很可能就是被這些瑣事綁住了,讓他們無法去思考其他事情。

所以,除了幫老闆們做空間轉銷售,將閒置空間切割成使用時段外,我們也會提供場地代管的服務,包含檔期管理、客服、營運修繕、行銷曝光等,幫空間經營者解決營運的瑣事,讓他們願意很放心的把鑰匙交給 Pickone。

Antony: 對別人來說,這些壓到喘不過氣來的瑣事,為什麼這麼吸引你?

Aaron: 我覺得「利他」是創業或經營企業的核心精神。企業就是法人,不論是個人或法人,所有人存在這個社會上,目的就是在利他,如果每個人都願意把自己會的東西提供給別人、為別人創造價值,然後因為幫助別人又能獲得報酬,這是非常美好的事情。 

以我們為例,對提供空間給我們的場地客戶而言,我會思考除了為他們創造更多客人外,能不能提供更好的服務,例如協助解決日常營運上的麻煩,幫助他們打造更好的空間,幫他們在生活、財務、自我實踐上創造更大的自由,這樣間接也服務到更多使用空間的消費者。

面對消費者,我們在平台上也持續做了很多優化與整合,讓消費者能夠在 Pickone 上更方便、更實惠地找到合適的場地,擁有更好的體驗。

最終的希望,則是能夠幫助空間產業。我覺得空間是個很內斂、很低調的生意,而使用空間對每個人來說,都是一件很基礎的事情。一個人,隨時隨地都在某個空間裡面,只是不會感覺到這個空間帶來的影響,但空間是創造一段愉快經驗與回憶的地方,希望透過我們的努力,為這個產業創造正向循環。

至於做這些事情會不會很煩?我覺得不會。這幾年創業的過程,我後來才發現,創造一個美好的空間讓人們使用,就是我的天命,也是我創業力量的來源,在這過程中,能夠幫助到空間經營者、消費者甚至整個產業,不管是口頭的感謝、金錢的回饋或是其他任何相關的人、事、物,都可以讓我得到很棒的成就感。

在企業經營上,我也是這樣想。Pickone 越進步,也希望能真正回過頭來幫助一起努力的同事,我也希望找這樣人格特質的人進來,幫助公司、消費者與其他同事。

為空間帶來更多客人

Antony: 以 Pickone 目前的商業模式,對房東或場地主來說,能創造哪些價值?解決哪些問題?

Aaron: 在台灣這塊市場,我們一方面能透過 Pickone 這個平台,為房東與場地主帶來更多客人、更高的場地使用率,另外,就是思考可不可以幫忙代管場地,解決營運的瑣事,這兩件事如果都做得好,被換掉的機率就會很低,因為我們不只提供服務,甚至連客人都幫忙找好了,對房東、場地主來說,把場地放到 Pickone 上,我們可以幫他帶客人上門,換到另外一家,可能就沒有了。

Antony: 從這部分進一步延伸,Pickone 有什麼為房東、場地主帶客人的本事?

Aaron: 這必須回到空間這個產品的消費行為來看,關鍵是如何讓客人重複消費。這個做得好,客人就會一直回來,另一方面,如果與場地的關係更深,我們也就一直能在客源與場地之間,佔據一個重要的位置,不然客人就跳過我們直接與場地主聯繫。

這兩件事是相輔相成。因為空間消費的特色,是一群人而不是一個人使用,所以能不斷帶來新客人,消費之後也會造成口碑。例如,有人進來開會之後,可能覺得場地很棒,雖然場地不是他訂的,但下次生日、家庭聚會,他就有可能再訂同個場地。

目前以我們來說,有三個行銷策略。第一個是舊客人,佔一半以上,要做的是維持空間品質,創造重複性消費。第二個是認識我們的新客人,靠舊客人的口碑去帶領。第三個,是完全不知道我們的新客人,這要靠經營 SEO,並非亂槍打鳥,因為空間消費是目的性消費,在 Google 搜尋時,可能會用台北場地租借、記者會場地等關鍵字。

當然,我們也認知到,現在是社群的時代。許多人找場地,可能就是「請教臉書大神」希望朋友推薦,因此通路的角色也需要轉型,我們也不斷在思考,空間通路的價值到底在哪?

Antony: 創業這麼多年了,你一直都是這麼充滿希望嗎?創業應該不可能完全沒有挫折吧?

Aaron: 對創業與工作,我是非常正向的人,我大部分的挫折,反而是來自生活。例如事情沒有做好、被別人不認同這一類的事情,幾乎都是一些人際關係上的挫折。

Antony: 這就非常有趣了,你的挫折來源自人際關係,但創業的基礎,又是必須與房東建立好的人際關係,不同的房東有千百種人性,不太可能靠 SOP 來經營所有房東關係,你如何平衡這件事情?

Aaron: 我認為跟房東建立關係,最重要的是第一印象。因為其實不會一天到晚碰到房東,大概只有簽約、看房子的時候。我認為人際關係,就是建立在信任上,只要信任的基礎夠,很多問題都可解決,不會有無謂成本。對我來說,關鍵就是如何在第一天、第一個小時,就與房東建立關鍵的信任。

和房東見面時,我一定會說自己是台大畢業的 (大笑),當然,我們也會觀察這些房東。例如,在意怎麼收支票的房東,有什麼特色?他可能是怕麻煩,或是房子超級多。如果拿了支票,還問一堆問題,可能就是怕麻煩,大概是因為房子超級多,管理成本很高,我們就要盡量去協助這樣的房東降低管理成本。

Antony: 這些與房東打交道的方式,是你自己摸索得到的嗎?還是有人教你?

Aaron: 在這上面,我自己吃過很多虧。我們租的前五個物件,有三個到後面都有很多問題,都在租下一年後就解約,因此造成很大困擾。後來我學到,如果一開始沒有看到房東想要的東西,或是給不了但硬要承諾,這合作不可能長久。

以我們的商業模式,其實可以篩選出一些特性適合我們的房東。可能以前都是租給企業,突然來了一個像我們這樣的客人,願意長租五年、十年,對這類房東來言,會相對比較信任我們,與我們合作的房仲,現在也比較知道媒合符合我們需求的房東。

肺炎疫情為長線發展加分

Antony: 這一波的肺炎疫情,對你們來說有什麼影響?整體來說是加分還是減分?

Aaron: 整體來說,長線是加分,短線的減分也沒有太多。短線上,雖然大家都不辦活動、不租用活動空間,但多了團隊分流、遠距辦公的需求,這促使了空間使用碎片化,是我們擅長的模式。可能過去在企業裡上百人的團隊,現在被迫拆成好幾組,每組幾十個甚至幾個人,臨時在找更小但機動需求更高的空間,讓大家一起工作或開會。在短線上,我們有在功能、UI、使用方案上去調整,去符合這些客戶的需求。

長線來說,這也是一個演進的過程,會產生更深遠的改變。大家開始會思考,一定需要那麼大的辦公室嗎?遠距工作或使用共享空間,是不是效率更好、成本更低的方法?以我們為例,一開始也有租辦公室,後來發現大家都不進公司,就把它退掉了,我們有那麼多空間,想在哪邊開會都行,整座城市都是我的辦公室。

我相信這種行為才是未來真正的趨勢。所有人進辦公室工作的型態,已經有上百年沒有改變過,事實上,工作型態一直在調整,只是對實體空間的需求變化很慢,還有很多努力與改變的空間,這一波疫情,讓大家更加認知到這件事情。

Antony: 這幾年在創業這條路上,你覺得加入 AppWorks Accelerator、畢業後成為校友,對你有哪些幫助?尤其是你最初是帶著線下課程平台的創業題目申請,最後是在進駐加速器期間換成 Pickone 這個題目。 

Aaron: 我真的是在 AppWorks Accelerator 從零開始。在此之前,我是做桌遊店、喜歡裝潢空間,對網路創業完全不懂,在 AppWorks Accelerator 時,大家在講 PMF、GMV、LTV 這些創業術語,我沒有一個聽得懂,每天都在查,聽到一個查一個。

後來,有一位創辦線上遊戲的 Mentor 來內部分享,講如何透過挖掘、解讀、融合數據,一步步從建立 MVP、找到 PMF 到開發出幾千萬用戶的過程。透過這些生動的故事,我整個開竅,覺得這個人實在太厲害了,我在那次分享所做的筆記,到現在還不時會翻出來看。這位 Mentor 是台灣遊戲產業大神級的人物,個人與公司都非常低調,很少上媒體報導,這一整套經驗與心法,也只有在 AppWorks 講。

我大概就是一隻初生之犢,突然就闖入網路創業叢林。事後回想,其實也滿好笑的,申請加入 AppWorks Accelerator 的面試後,我其實覺得自己不會上,當時非常難過,回家還痛哭一場。

Antony: 痛哭!當時面試的人,對你做了什麼事?

Aaron: 就是面試時被電爆,當時我很緊張耶。面試時,大概當時所有 AppWorks 的人都坐在會議室裡,有七、八個人在我對面,我被問到啞口無言,完全答不出來。那時候對自己的創業題目也不熟,產品也還沒做出來,只做了一個很簡單的 Prototype,另外講了之前桌遊店創業的經驗,但被問到很多問題,我都答不出來。

後來通知我錄取了,真的覺得很開心,也非常珍惜這個機會。所以那一屆加速器的所有活動,我基本上就是全勤參加,很努力的想學、想了解網路創業是怎麼回事,每天也工作到很晚,只要有 Jamie (AppWorks 董事長暨合夥人林之晨) 提供給團隊諮詢的 Office Hour,我就第一個去搶,因為我覺得,很多時候不能都靠別人幫你,而是要靠自己,當自己很不足時,就要努力看看有什麼東西可以抓,我當時就是在這種很不足的狀態,也是這段期間,我換成 Pickone 這個題目,一路創業至今。

Antony: 從事後來看 Pickone 的創業成績,AppWorks 應該也滿慶幸有你加入。AppWorks 長期以來,其實沒有那麼重視新創當下的那個商業模式,因為數位科技或外在環境,都會帶來很大的變化,反而最重視創業者學習能力、執行速度、創業決心這些面向的個人特質,當時我還沒加入 AppWorks,但我相信你一定展現了這些特質,讓 AppWorks 希望你能加入。

談了很多過去的經驗,當我們展望未來,Pickone 有哪些計畫?

Aaron: 等這一波疫情趨緩,我們要開始做國際化拓展。第一站是日本,去年就在日本開了公司,也在當地找了合夥人與承租空間,結果一租完就遇到疫情。我們先跟日本幾個空間合作,看可不可以把台灣的成功模式複製過去。

我們這個模式,其實放眼國際也不多。大部分在做空間的人,沒有在做平台;做平台的人,沒有做空間的能力。 我們對自己這種模式很有信心,可以把房東與客人都服務好,持續留在我們這個體系裡面,這是我認為的最佳策略。 

Antony: 為什麼會把日本選為台灣以外的第一個市場?

Aaron: 其實距離台灣 5 小時飛機航程以內的市場,包括中國、韓國、日本、香港、新加坡、印尼、越南、泰國等,我們都看過了一圈,覺得日本最適合我們。

東南亞對空間的使用行為,不是我們擅長的。例如印尼,有很多很大的 Shopping Mall,裡面可能一個空間,就是 20 個 800 坪的空間集結在一起,量體很大。此外,與交通的基礎建設也有關,雅加達的交通很差,大家是到一個地方就不想移動,日本則相反,公眾運輸與交通基礎建設很成熟,民眾也習慣移動,移動的距離也很長,很符合我們擅長營運分散式、碎片式的空間需求。中國則因為房地產是管制產業,並沒有考慮;韓國可能也是個不錯的市場,和日本、台灣都有類似的需求,但目前我們優先佈局日本市場,也已經在當地找到不錯的合作夥伴。

整體而言,在台灣我們還有很不錯的成長空間,會持續把商業模式做深,建立起更好的競爭優勢與護城河,在這個基礎上,也開始將日本做為海外拓展的第一步。

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

Photo by Pickone