Professional educator, Jonathan Woods, takes a closer look at the crowdfunding scene in Taiwan.
FlyingV is a crowdfunding platform in Taiwan that enables creative people to raise money to fund projects from individuals online. Inspired by Kickstarter and Indiegogo in the United States, the founders saw crowdfunding as an idea that could flourish in Taiwan, and launched the platform in April of 2012.
I caught up with founders Light Lin and Tim Cheng to discuss FlyingV and what to expect from crowdfunding in Taiwan.
Mandate to Help Taiwanese Entrepreneurs
The founders emphasize their ‘dual mandate’ in Taiwan of creating a viable crowdfunding business while helping to educate talented individuals about testing the viability of ideas, gaining validation, and hustling to develop awareness of their projects.
Crowdfunding and Taiwan
Earlier generations brought affluence to Taiwan through manufacturing, strict cost controls, and a relentless search for higher efficiency. The last ten years have seen a shift in the ethos away from the OEM manufacturing model to one focusing on services meeting domestic demand. The entrepreneurial spirit remains fierce among the population of the island, and it is looking for new channels through which to manifest.
Because of this, Lin and Cheng are convinced crowdfunding is an idea whose time has come in Taiwan. “Crowdfunding in Taiwan is one of the best fits. There’s a good foundation for it to work in Taiwan, better even than Korea or Japan,” said Cheng.
The reason for this, they say, is the country’s rich history and acceptance of foreign ideas, an economy built on small businesses, factories, and workshops instead of revolving around a few mega-corporations, and evolving economic identity.
Low Salary Drives Young Entrepreneurs
The founders cited the recent ‘22K’ buzzword as reinforcing their view. Well-known among the Taiwanese, 22K refers to the NT$22 000 (US$744) monthly salary a graduate can expect to make after finishing university, a figure lower than it was 14 years ago.
The founders see a silver lining here: for a country that breathes entrepreneurship, there is no longer much of an opportunity cost to forgoing employment for a startup, a notion that is gradually diffusing throughout the society. When considering entry-level employment, “young people are losing their hope. We want to try to restore people’s hope by introducing a choose-yourself option for graduates.”
Goal to Develop an Ecosystem
Lin and Cheng want to play a central role in this transformation. Lin noted that “Pre-2010, the ecosystem was bad in Taiwan. Very little investment, and start-ups were virtually non-existent”.
Lin said he wanted to develop that ecosystem and contribute to channeling Taiwan’s natural entrepreneurial spirit into startups, but that he “had no desire to start an incubator”. Instead, the idea was to create a business that itself helped to develop the Taiwan ecosystem, and they have backed up that sentiment as they have made an effort to have face-to-face meetings with everyone who has put a project up. “To us, the idea of success is not based on the success of the site, but upon the extent to which the ecosystem develops”.
The government has taken note and has started commissioning studies along with GreTai Securities Market, an over-the-counter securities market in Taiwan, into crowdfunding and other options for easier access to capital for startups. They are looking to the example set in the United States with the JOBS Act and CROWDFUND Act. Lin and Cheng hope that endorsement and promotion by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Culture, and Institute for Information Industry can act as stamps of approval that encourage entrepreneurs.
Future of Crowdfunding in Taiwan
The initial response to crowdfunding has been positive. They have witnessed 35 projects get funded for a total of NT$10 million (US$338,650), mostly in film and music relating to Taiwan’s culture and history, though with some success in hardware.
Both founders acknowledge that Taiwan is a small market and are aiming “not for quick, but for steady” growth,
They also expect the arrival of other crowdfunding platforms to join them and others in the country, such as Zeczec.com, which focuses on local artists. While crowdfunding is nascent in Taiwan, they are “sure this year there’s going to be a number of new crowdfunding platforms in Taiwan,” and a greater awareness of this option for funding. While they have not yet seen their version of the Pebble Watch, both are confident that it is only a matter of time.
About the author
Jonathan Woods is a professional educator with years of experience in learning and development consulting to top-tier companies. He is currently the program manager for Core & Corner and is the co-founder of EnglishVids.
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