In a bid to bridge the Taiwan startup ecosystem to the rest of the region, and by extension, to the rest of the world, the Institute for Information Industry (III) of Taiwan accompanied thirty emerging startups to Innovfest Unbound 2019 in Singapore.

Innovfest Unbound is Southeast Asia’s largest and most exciting innovation festival, an anchor event of Smart Nation Innovations. The festival was a week-long series of events that showcased Asia’s most disruptive technologies.

The 2019 edition of the event welcomed over 15,000 entrepreneurs, brands, corporates, investors, and tech startups from over 100 countries to meet and exchange ideas and insights, build networks, collaborate, and celebrate digital disruption.

Some of the key players who spoke at the week-long festivities included Jenny Lee, Managing Partner of GGV Capital, Yonatan Winetraub, co-founder of Spacell, and Rosaline Chow, founder and CEO of CXA group, among many others.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Institute for Information Industry (III) seeks to cultivate smart business innovation by looking to the future of smart businesses belonging to Taiwan. It is with this mission that efforts to bridge the gap between Taiwan and the world was borne, and one crucial step in doing that is to be well represented in the global tech ecosystem. This is why III accompanied thirty promising startups to Innovfest Unbound 2019.

III as a catalyst for Taiwan’s “Asia Silicon Valley Plan”

In order to promote the Taiwan government’s plan to restructure the country’s current position as a tech powerhouse in the world, and furthering that into becoming Asia’s Silicon Valley, the Department of Commerce, under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, enacted the “Promotion Project for the Smart Business Service of Asian Silicon Valley.” The initiative capitalizes on the joint resources of the Industrial Technology and Research Institute (ITRI) and III to promote the country’s emerging startups in the Singapore tech ecosystem.

The reason why III’s International Division encouraged smart retail startups to participate in Innovfest Unbound 2019 was to yield networking advantages and mutually expose the Taiwan startups and Innovfest Unbound’s global platform to the disruptive technologies of one another, while sparking friendships and close ties with other participating entities.

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A total of 30 Taiwan startups were fielded into the event after going through a special screening process initiated by III that included a 2-day pitch sharing session with coaches and industry experts. The other Taiwan institutions involved in the project are the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA), and NARLabs.

Of the 30 teams curated to participate in Innovfest, seven particular ones stood out because of their cutting-edge vision and their disruptive technologies. The seven startups include LuggAgent and Yallvend, both of which have garnered international recognition prior to the Singapore festival.

7 standouts in III’s roster of 30 Taiwan startups

In 2019, Yallvend was selected for the Unilever Startup Pitch Battle, while LuggAgent has been selected for Innovfest Unbound 50 also known as the 50 top startups that were awarded with extra booth space at the innovation festival.

The seven startups are as follows:

  • dipp Inc. – dipp’s Massimo is an artificially intelligent platform with a smart advertising designer whose data-driven design approach automatically creates any social media posts and displays banners across all digital marketing channels.
  • JustStar Information Co. Ltd. – JustStar is an AI based image recognition solution provider for shopping malls and theme parks. The image recognition system is a technique that can be used in a factory to improve factory safety and production line efficiency. With JustStar, the entire process of detecting, analyzing, and filtering can be done in seconds without any manual manipulations.
  • LuggAgent – LuggAgent is a global concierge that enables travelers to achieve more on every single trip by offering same day baggage delivery service to airports. Currently, they are building a travel platform with the objective to connect all stakeholders within the ecosystem, namely, Airports, Airlines, OTAs, Hotels, Banks, Shops, with third party service providers and travelers.
  • MyProGuide – MyProGuide is a professional tour guide center, connecting travelers and tour guides all around the world. You can find knowledgeable tour guides, customize private tours, or join group tours on the MyProGuide website. The benefits are that they have tour guides speaking multiple languages, and you can look through tour guide’s introduction profiles before you go.
  • OCard – OCard is a new generation CRM and marketing SaaS platform that uses big data and AI to help offline businesses manage and target their customers through [email protected] and FB Messenger. OCard provides various marketing tools such as a VIP loyalty program, point reward system, coupons, and questionnaire functions to assist stores to increase retention rates.
  • RushBit – RushPay can integrate various payments types into one QR Code with CRM and offers a benefits returning system. Greatly reduce the point of sales device costs to help shopkeepers serve as many customers as possible.
  • Yallvend – The Yallvend vending machine upgrade kit enables traditional vending machines to support an e-payment and inventory system. Operators have trackable transactions and real-time inventory data. We start from vending machines, but other coin-operated machines are welcome to customize their solutions as well.

What the participating startups think of the experience

In an attempt to better understand the positions that the seven above-mentioned startups are in, we spoke to them on what they think of this participation and the opportunities that are opening up.

According to Daniel Lu, CEO of JustStar, “JustStar was recruited by III to join this government initiative starting in March of 2019. We were interested in expanding our business to Southeast Asia and felt that III’s promotion events such as the Innovfest Unbound in June 2019 and Ignite Philippines, also last June, were ideal for us to get a better feel for these markets.”

While commenting about the Taiwan government’s plan to mount Asia’s Silicon Valley, Lu added, “It is a positive initiative because Taiwan’s startups need support and an ecosystem from likeminded partners.”

MyProGuide’s CEO, Jo Wong echoes this sentiment by saying, “the Taiwan government is doing their best to support our startup. They’ve helped us by checking our business plans and finding the right people to contact.”

Regarding further plans for Taiwan, they added, “It’s a mutually beneficial concept which is why we should be more open to accepting these changes. If you look at other companies like Uber, for example, government policies tend to work against them. Governments should be more open to working with startups for this to work.”

When asked about the benefits of participating in III’s delegation, dipp co-founder and CEO, Jennifer Chen said, “when building a startup, we face many different challenges along the way. Whether it is money, or talent, or business opportunities, and at some point, you simply need people outside your company that you can turn to. III, in that sense, has always been helpful and reachable.”

Additionally, Chen said, “we are in the AI advertising design space focusing specifically on consumer brands, and that on its own can be a rather limited market size. We are continuously looking for ways to expand our business roadmap, which is why when we were exploring countries to operate in, III came in at the right time and offered us better exposure to different markets and local contacts.”

“They provide boosts for us in the international arena like the Singapore Expo, and in Taiwan, they provide us with media exposure and potential customers to know us more,” expressed Vinek Chen, CEO of Ocard, who has accessed as much as 1,000 brands and clients in Taiwan.

More than that, he said III provides mentor-sharing sessions on business development, human resources and other topics that are important to mounting their startup.

Furthermore, the participating startups are looking at this initiative as an opportunity to bring something that can help improve their ideas in the future. Mr. Derayke Chen, CEO of RushBit, a mobile payments platform, explains, “first and foremost, we could use the funding opportunities to further our company. But what’s more important is learning about different markets and the marketing methods present in those contexts—how does the market look like, how are people using mobile payments here?”

“What we really want to do is improve our services,” said LuggAgent’s Business Manager, Mr. Zev Pan. They maintain, “the queues at airports, especially the big ones, are crazy and we shouldn’t be wasting our time on that. There’s online check-in for your boarding pass already, why can’t there be an online check-in for your luggage?”

Unilever Startup Pitch Battle finalist, Yallvend’s CEO, Duncan Huang, expressed through the multiple steps they are taking with the help of institutions like III and by participating in more global tech platforms, they will be able to penetrate Southeast Asia and bring their unique brand of payment solutions to everyday consumers.

Bringing Taiwan’s startup A-Game to Innovfest Unbound 2019

The rest of the 30 startups from III’s delegation offer formidable contributions to the representation of Taiwan’s tech ecosystem as well. The 23 other startups are as follows:

  • 3drens – an AIoT startup that aims to provide smart mobility solutions with their vehicle intelligence platform
  • BIG GOOD DESIGN CO., LTD. – Vago, the world’s smallest portable vacuum device can help you save more than 50% luggage space by compressing soft items automatically in your baggage.
  • Bovia – Bovia’s wearable device embodies its reliable video compression and transmission quality, compact design, as well as flexible mounting options.
  • Crypt-Arsenal – Cloud-based automated crypto-trading platform for quantitative strategy developers and traders.
  • Dapp Pocket – Provides a secure and easy way to manage cryptocurrency.
  • eTreego – An electric vehicle control module design company that is officially coached by the Industrial and Technological Research Institute in Taiwan.
  • FullRepair Biomed – F.Repair’s biomedical repair chest mask can effectively repair radiation-irritated skin.
  • IPPLUS – Iplus is devoted to transforming the way people discover new technology by linking intellectual property to related products and presenting such information in a visualized way.
  • Language Hero – a disruptive language app for iOS and Android, which gets beginning Mandarin and English language learners chatting confidently.
  • Magical Headlamp – To avoid glare from vehicles, Magical Headlamp designed their product so that headlights can switch between high beam and low beam automatically.
  • NADI System – A smart city solutions platform that gathers a seasoned group of veterans from different industries like security, automation, and 3D/AR/VR.
  • ShowHue – ShowHue provides a smart retail assistant based on Deep Learning technology.
  • Sounds Great – Sounds Great is the very first multi-diaphragm speakers by introducing semiconductor processes into the speaker industry.
  • TransferHelper – A startup that focuses on solving international money transfer problems (delays, over-cost, and inefficiency) using AI chat-bot for customer service, security databases, and a 24-hour Q&A.
  • ucfunnel – A team that focuses on developing electric vehicle control systems including charging systems, motor control systems, and vehicle control systems.
  • Applato – Applato (App + Plate) is a platform to link medical and nutritional needs together and provide solutions to help people with special dietary needs.
  • FaceHeart – Provider of total AI solution to different users that integrates AI, deep learning, vital sign measurement, smart healthcare, fintech, smart transportation, smart security, and so on.
  • LONGGOOD – An interactive rehabilitation system that provides medical services including gait analysis, physical fitness evaluation, and rehabilitation training.
  • MDS Health – A predictive health platform to optimize oral health related disease management to reduce risk and distraction in healthcare practices.
  • Neurobit – A portable, wireless, eye-movement/nystagmus recording and analysis device (Neurospeed).
  • Zoetek – Sleep manager achieved via professional measurements by a wearable device and questionnaire, analysis report, sleep knowledge sharing, and suitable product and service recommendation.
  • Chelpis Co., Ltd. – Chelpis is a Quantum-Proof Technology software company focusing on Cryptocurrency & Blockchain.
  • Astatek – Asta has a 360-degree photo/video platform, which offers a cloud showcase targeted for online retail shops.

How this will impact Taiwan’s goal to build an Asian Silicon Valley

As with any other field, the best way to put a country on a global map is by making sure that you fulfill a series of variables. Those variables include the quality of work that is present, the amount of support that that work gets, and the exposure of that work to the world that exists beyond it.

Innovfest Unbound 2019 is the perfect opportunity for Taiwan to help define its global legacy in the innovation space and in the grander tech startup ecosystem not only in Asia but around the world. With the 30 top-notch teams filling up III’s roster of startups, there’s no doubt that the country will make a mark in Innovfest Unbound — an influential annual event in Southeast Asia.

More importantly, at Innovfest Unbound, we can expect a vibrant exchange of ideas and insights to spill between and beyond the solid roster of Taiwan startups who gathered in Marina Bay Sands from 27 – 28 July, 2019, alongside 15,000 of the best and the brightest in the innovation space.

All of these are necessary steps towards achieving the Asian Silicon Valley that the great nation of Taiwan has envisioned.