The Most Pro-Start Up City in Asia? A Closer Look at Entrepreneurship in Taipei.
Taiwanese Premier Mao Chi-Kuo said in 2015 “Youth and business promotion is of paramount importance to the country as it has great bearing on efforts aimed at instilling the local economy with fresh impetus. To this end, the Cabinet-level Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy Board will focus on developing international networking, social innovation and youth entrepreneurship.” There has been a significant increase in the number of new ventures started since then and also to make more inclusive policies such as the Women Entrepreneurship Flying Goose Programme designed for the support of female entrepreneurs including a programme that provides courses, consultancy, model selection, resource integration and networking.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Index in 2018, Taiwan ranked 18thon the list with a ranking of 59.5. For comparison, the UK is 4thwith 77.8, Japan is 28thwith 51.5 and Mainland China is 43rdwith 41.1. The index is created by the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute complied by academics from Imperial College London, LSE and the University of Pecs and looks at the quality of entrepreneurship and the extent and depth of the supporting entrepreneurial ecosystem through fourteen different metrics.
|2017 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor|
|Perceived Opportunities||Percentage of 18-54 population who see good opportunities to start a company where they live||43%||35%||27%||7%|
|Perceived Capabilities||Percentage of 18-54 population who believe they have the required skills and knowledge to start a business||48%||27%||26%||11%|
|Fear of Failure Rate||Percentage of 18-54 population who see opportunities think that fear of failure would stop them from starting a business||36%||41%||39%||41%|
|Entrepreneurial Intentions||Percentage of 18-54 population who intend to start a business within the next three years||7%||15%||26%||4%|
|Total Early Stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA)||Percentage of 18-54 population who are either nascent entrepreneurs or owners of a new business||23%||24%||43%||28%|
|High Job Creation Expectation||Percentage of those involved in a TEA who expect to create six or more jobs in the next five years||23%||24%||43%||28%|
|High Status to Successful Entrepreneurs||Percentage of 18-54 population who agree that in their country entrepreneurs have a high status||75%||75%||60%||52%|
|Entrepreneurship as a Good Career Choice||Percentage of 18-54 population who agree that entrepreneurship is a good career choice||56%||66%||71%||24%|
|All data is rounded to the nearest whole number|
A further comparison between the countries, using data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (initiated in 1999 by London Business School and Babson College looking at over 70 countries), highlights some interesting strengths to Taiwan: 43% of entrepreneurs expect to employ at least six people in the next five years – the second highest among all the countries surveyed by GEM in 2017. A considerable amount of people plan to start a business (26%; Japan is lowest on the list with the UK 7thfrom bottom) or have their own business (43%); and the perception of entrepreneurship as a good career is high at 71%.
During his speech today, the mayor claimed that Taipei would become the “most pro-start up city in Asia”. He said that Taipei was the fastest city on earth where tech companies could take something from “script to prototypes” (including Silicon Valley) but they needed to improve from prototype to market. He said that they knew that creating a supportive business environment where government gets out of the way was also important. He closed, saying that what they needed to support as a government was space, funding, training and networking. There is considerable demand for entrepreneurship education which is currently delivered almost wholly through universities and focuses almost solely on computing software and hardware.
On the ground, I spoke to some entrepreneurs from Taipei and they raised both challenges and opportunities. Firstly, a lot of “entrepreneurs” are actually running the second or third generation of family businesses. In this sense, the concept of an entrepreneur has a different meaning in Taiwanese culture. Secondly, as one EO member from Taipei said, a lot of entrepreneurs in Taipei “don’t want a career, they just want financial independence.” In this sense, he said, they are not looking to grow a business; they’re more than happy to own a small shop. Thirdly, there is a lot of positivity around tech in Taiwan, they are an exceptionally computer-literate population with access to coders, designers and hardware, this makes it easy for entrepreneurs to make ideas happen. Finally, perceptions of entrepreneurship are changing. There was a feeling that, while Taiwan is a relatively conservative culture, there is more openness towards the choices of young people, and support from the local government, so they were well-placed to boom over the next decade.