The AppWorks Accelerator FAQs — What Founders Need to Know about the Accelerator Application Round

The AppWorks Accelerator in Taipei has been an integral part of the Greater Southeast Asia (ASEAN + Taiwan) founder ecosystem for ten years. It is a Blockchain and AI Accelerator that is also focused on helping founders from across SEA

AppWorks Accelerator was started in 2010 to address a growing need for founders in Greater Southeast Asia (ASEAN+Taiwan, or GSEA) — they need a network of other good founders who can relate to the things they are going through, share similar experiences, give good feedback and partner up to challenge the incumbents.

As of May 6, AppWorks#21 is open for applications.  You can find important information about the Accelerator experience on our main page. 

If you’re a founder from outside of Taiwan, and you are still deciding, we thought it would be good to list out the Frequently Asked Questions we get from applying founders. They may help you decide if AppWorks is right for you.  

The FAQs

1. “What do I need to know before joining an accelerator in Taiwan during the COVID-19 pandemic? What is AppWorks doing to help founders make the most out of the accelerator before it’s completely safe to travel and congregate?  How are you helping your founders deal with Covid impacts?”

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

Founders may be wondering if it’s even possible to attend an accelerator, or if it’s right to do so. 

It is the right time, but just as founders have to be adaptable, so do we. Thus, we have adjusted our program accordingly. 

To make sure founders accepted to AW#21 will have the benefits of connecting to your batch-mates, to mentors, to markets, and to essential knowledge and services, we will move many activities online. 

Currently, up to six hours of online sessions per week are provided, ranging from office hours with our partners, to coaching sessions and workshops with founders from all over GSEA. With over 1,100 founders in our network, who are scaling at varying paces of growth, the opportunities to have intimate conversations with other founders have in fact increased. 

Such meetings include founder mentoring sessions with veterans of the technology industry who have launched startups from zero to one, and even listed several IPOs. All have been through their share of challenges, and survived, and they can give you up-to-the-minute advice on market conditions and approaches to solutions. 

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

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

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

The moment it becomes easier to physically travel to Taipei, you and the other AW#21 founders will be the first to know. And rest assured, with our Demo Day plans 100% in planning and execution modes, we will make sure it goes ahead, and you’ll get to meet the 1,000 investors / executives in person who can make a positive impact on your growth trajectory.

Felix Hartantio, Founder of Indonesia-based FourCons, gives his Demo Day #19 pitch. The Demo Day is the leading founder event in Taiwan, and draws over 1,000 of SEA’s investors and technology executives, among other leaders in the ecosystem

For now, here are some of the standard questions that we see every year. You may wish to read these FAQs as you work on filling out the application to determine if the accelerator is right for your founder journey.  

2. “How can AppWorks Accelerator help a founder? Why join an accelerator?”

The primary benefit of an Accelerator is that it brings founders into close proximity to other founders so that they can learn how to get better by being exposed to each others’ approaches. We have created the largest founder community in Greater Southeast Asia (GSEA) dedicated to this methodology. On average, there are 50-60 founders in the same batch with whom you can interact, in person or through virtual meetings. 

When you join AppWorks, you join a community of over 1,100 founders from Taiwan and Southeast Asia, many of whom have made the journey from zero to 1. We frequently organize gatherings throughout the 6 months you are in the Accelerator, so that you can meet these more seasoned founders who have been doing this for many years. Through your engagement with them, you can again learn more quickly and stay laser-focused on what you need to do to get better, and perhaps make connections that help your BD and market approach. 

3. “Does AppWorks Accelerator cost anything?”

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

4. “We need funding now, can we get investment by joining AppWorks?”

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

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

5. “Why does AppWorks focus on accepting AI, Blockchain, or SEA founders?”

We believe the paradigm shift brought about by AI and Blockchain are the two mega opportunities founders in the 2020s must leverage. At the same time, GSEA is rising, displaying impressive growth in middle-class incomes and in GDP. Its citizens participate in an acceleration of tech usage that makes it one of the most pivotal regions in the world for innovation and economic growth. We believe that founders in this region must use these technologies to make the most of the opportunities. 

Therefore, this is where we are putting our focus. Founders should think carefully about how to leverage these three areas as much as possible to make the greatest gains with new business models. 

6. “I am a student team / I am a one-man team, can I still apply?”

Yes, you can. We are here to help founders. While there are alway some questions to answer about the team, the age of the company, or the makeup of its technical abilities, the founder’s experience and personal journey is the most important of all the factors we look at. 

When AppWorks reviews applications submitted by founders,  we pay special attention to several characteristics to determine their fit for the accelerator. 

We call them the “3Hs,” or “Heart, Head, and Hand,”  and we evaluate founders with these following questions, and others, in mind:

Heart: Is there a determination to start a business? Is the founder willing to devote himself wholeheartedly to it for a long period of time? How passionate is the founder about the problem he or she wants to solve?

Head: How fast can the founder learn in the uncertain environment that develops while building a startup? Are they capable of reflection and self-awareness, and applying that vision to creating rapid iterations to the business model and also to their own self-improvement?

Hand: Can they display high-order dexterity in conducting the business, and can they do it expertly? Can they scale their own thinking to a team, and manage that team with skill and attention to detail?

Founding Partner Jamie Lin provides founders with insights from his previous startup experiences in the US, China and SEA

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

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

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

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

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

Of course! There is no better time to learn in an accelerator than while one is a founder just starting out. This period before a founder has built a startup into a scalable business model with a Product-Market Fit is called the “seed stage”. During this period, founders always need more than funding; they need a variety of entrepreneurial-related insights, inspiration from other founders, and room for trial and error. AppWorks Accelerator was built to provide these, and more. 

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

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

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

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

Joel told us that had the team known about Taiwan’s massive US$ 42.2 Billion GMV per year e-economy and how it made it possible to figure out crucial e-commerce and engineering solutions for them, they would have made the move to Taiwan sooner.

Stories like ShopBack’s demonstrate that funding rounds and business model maturity do not limit founders to learning something new.  As long as you think that AppWorks can help you in the entrepreneurial learning process, you should apply. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not necessarily, but we would recommend a B2B overseas founder to set up a Taiwan office. This may help you find business partners and negotiate follow-up cooperation later. AppWorks has professional accounting and legal specialists who can assist in handling procedures for landing in Taiwan.

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

13. “Do I need a business plan to apply for the Accelerator? 

No business plan is required. AppWorks Accelerator’s online application covers about 30 topics related to team background, product/service, business model, market analysis and more. It is very detailed and requires time to complete. 

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

We welcome all AI, Blockchain, or Southeast Asia founders to join AppWorks Accelerator. Applications will be open until July 1st.