An Eye on Taiwan

Since Chris and I are wrapping up our final report to III in Taiwan, I thought I’d share some impressions from the trip we took to Taipei in December. Contracted through the Taiwanese government to meet with startups and counsel them on succeeding in the US market, we met with 12 companies that week. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Taiwanese tech sector and am happy to report that it is thriving. The majority of the companies were extremely savvy about the tech sector in general, as well as specific ideas and themes in Silicon Valley. We had planned to invite one of the 12 companies to demonstrate at DEMO 08 but were so impressed by the level of innovation and ingenuity that we ended up choosing two. Citiport and atlaspost were big hits at DEMO 08, with atlaspost even winning the People’s Choice DEMOgod award. (I must admit to feeling a bit of the proud parent as they accepted the trophy.)

Though several of the companies are too early-stage to discuss publicly, VooEasy has since launched in beta and received a bit of coverage in Mashable. I like the philosophy of VooEasy – spinning the social network into a networking one-stop-shop for mass-consumer adults – and expect to hear more from them in coming months. Other teams were equally as impressive in identifying holes in the US market and developing engaging products to fill them. An intriguing approach to citizen journalism, mixing in prediction markets for good measure; a drag-and-drop community platform in which all content is reproducible across individual sites; a recommendation engine powered by data mining and semantic analysis; and a really exciting app that could turn the world of Twitter upside down – just a few of the technologies we were introduced to in Taiwan.

It’s yet another example of innovation occurring outside the realm of Silicon Valley. Our week in Taiwan couldn’t have been more enjoyable or the tech talk more stimulating. Our hosts were beyond gracious and the country itself comfortable and welcoming. And its geographical and cultural proximity to China makes its business community an invaluable resource regarding inroads to the mainland. Any investors, executives or like-minded entrepreneurs looking for the next hot tech hub should take a closer look at Taiwan. With such energetic, sharp innovators in its midst, this tech community is due for a growth explosion.

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