Startups 101 says every company will need to pivot somewhere down the line. In the case of Taipei’s tech cluster Taiwan Startup Stadium (TSS), the time is now.
On August 21, in a departure from original plans, the the city redesignated Zhongshan Soccer Stadium for other purposes.
“Of course, we have very mixed feelings because the entire brand that we are building is to be competitive, work in teams, be persistent. There is a lot in common in terms of sportsmanship and entrepreneurship. So it is sad that we somehow lost the coolness. But we pivoted and we are now delivering the statement ‘the world is your stadium’,” TSS Captain Anita Huang told e27.
The new office is a government building located in the heart of Taipei and will eventually expand to six floors.
“I had an epiphany from running TSS for half a year now. We decided to operate in a small space anyways because the Stadium is currently kind of a dump. So, the operation model has changed. It is not locked down by a building, but more about connecting entrepreneurs from different parts of the world. So, that is sort of transformation in the way we think about operations,” Huang said.
One example of the change in direction was to bring a ‘pavilion’ of 12 startups at TechCrunch’s Disrupt last month.
On October 22, it is also hosting five VCs from international firms Andreessen Horowitz, Enspire Capital, Plug & Play Ventures, SparkLabs Global Ventures, and Quest Venture Partners for a day of advice and tips for young companies.
TSS is also aligning with various universities, corporates and government programs in the city. In IoT for example, the company is working parallel to a government program called the Taiwan Rapid Innovation Prototyping League for Entrepreneurs (TRIPLE). It is basically a fast-prototyping center.
“If you want to make something, they will matchmake it for you. We don’t have a direct connection to that massive pool of manufacturers. So, if we meet a startup with very specific IoT needs, we refer them to TRIPLE. But, in the meantime, we are also aligning with close partners,” she said.
One of those close partners is a Foxconn-backed prototyping service called Kick2real. Kick2real also works to match startups with manufacturers.
Gixia Group, a top industrial design firm in Taiwan, is another highly valuable partner, Huang said.
“IoT is not just making chips, electronics or software because the product is going to have to be integrated with our everyday,” Huang said to highlight the importance of collaborating with a design firm.
Better coffee with the Bullet R1
Aillio one interesting IoT company based at TSS. Brothers Jacob and Jonas Lillie are the founders and are developing a smart coffee roaster called Bullet R1.
The roaster works through inductive power to magnetically transfer energy directly to the roasting drum. In plain words, this means the drum itself heats up.
“The old-fashioned roasters have heating elements under the drum, which then have to super-heat the air first and then transfer [heat] to the drum. So, this is instant heating,” Aillio CEO Jonas Lillie told e27.
It stands out because it is a personal-sized roaster than can handle one kilogram of coffee beans instead of the standard 250 grams.
Normally, if roasters want to track data to better recreate a successful roast they have to buy additional software and install these manually. The Bullet R1 has integrated USB and Bluetooth connectivity, with the idea being it makes it easier to tinker with, then record, the perfect roast.
Aillio hopes a social community can develop so that wholesale bean producers can share what they believe is the ideal roast and cut down on the waste of experimentation. Roasters will also be able to share the information among themselves.
Bend Labs ‘Rocks the World’
At the Disrupt conference, TSS awarded a ‘Rock the World’ prize to a handpicked startup. This year’s winner was a Salt Lake City-based company called Bend Labs.
Bend Labs has built a bendable joint sensor technology that can be used for sportswear, healthcare and gaming development.
“We picked them specifically because they have the technology, but they have a lot to explore to transform it into products,” said Huang.
In the next few months, TSS hopes to bring BendLabs to Taipei for a two-week tour of the manufacturing sector to learn how the technology can be integrated into production.
Startup Stadium has pivoted away from an actual stadium, but the goal is still clearly to produce stars.