Probably not many people know that the world's first Android-native smartphone and the world's first Chromebook were both born in Taiwan. Taiwan also currently contributes to the developments of many Google products, including Pixel phones, smart home, and wearable devices, Chromebooks, and Chromecast. This January, Google opened a new office in New Taipei City, which is the biggest Google hardware engineering facility outside of the US. Taiwan has grown to be a critical hub for global innovation and hardware manufacturing, especially for Google.
In addition, Google choosing Taiwan to be one of its global data centers for the Asia Pacific region is mainly due to the geographic location of Taiwan happening to be a must-passed place for most major submarine cables and its stable environment and advanced network infrastructure providing good support for the data center operation.
Tina Lin, GM of Google Taiwan explained to DIGITIMES why Google chooses Taiwan to develop many of their hardware products and continues investing in Taiwan every year. Lin will also be the speaker for upcoming Asia venturing webinar – Is Asia Leading Innovation, on Dec. 14 Taipei time, along with Sascha Pallenberg, chief awareness officer for aware_ and the moderator, Elisa Chiu, founder & CEO at Anchor Taiwan.
Complete IT supply chain
Having a very solid and complete IT supply chain and strong tech talents in software and hardware integration are two major factors that make Google choose Taiwan to develop its hardware products, according to Lin. "Not many other locations in the world like Taiwan where have so many ecosystem suppliers in the IT industry and great tech talents in software and hardware integration."
"Google's data center in Taiwan also strongly relies on the collaboration of both local and international talents in the server industry, for global communication and development," Lin said.
Taiwan ODM manufacturers account for 90% of worldwide notebooks. "Our Chromebook development team can easily find related supporting ecosystem suppliers in Taiwan to work with," she continued.
Just because of the highly concentrated IT ecosystem clusters in Taiwan, it is very easy and efficient to arrange multiple meetings with different suppliers in one day, which is rare to be seen in other countries, according to her.
Taiwan talents unique in software and hardware integration
In six Taiwan cities, Google already had a variety of offices. In the past five years, Google's Taiwan workforce has grown tenfold. Lin said Taiwan talents are very excellent in software and hardware and the integration of both. "Pixel 6, developed by Google Taiwan team, has earned many good feedbacks, especially with its camera functions and many new software features, including the features for people who have hearing loss, which can show the best capability of Taiwan software and hardware talents," she said.
However, when mentioning the tech talents that are most wanted but still lacking in Taiwan, Lin said, "We are looking for more talents who have a good understanding toward the international market and users and good skills in doing cross-cultural communication and collaborations, and especially some positions like product managers, who can find problems and design solutions to them."
Google Taiwan product teams need to cover everything from zero to 100 of the products, like Pixel 6. According to Lin, Taiwan has many project managers or product managers who can design products whenever their customers place the orders, but don't have much training allowing PM roles to think outside the box to find problems and further design the solutions for them. However, it is the whole process of designing a product and requires a lot of imagination and creativity of a product manager to get things done.
Other major problems that might affect the Taiwan local talents in a long run are the low birth rate in Taiwan every year, and many Taiwan tech talents also choose to work in foreign countries to get a better career development or opportunities, which causes a shortage of local talents.
What is also worth noting is the low proposition of female workforce in Taiwan, compared to other Asia countries. According to the Ministry of Labor, Taiwan women workforce accounts for 51.4% in 2020, lower than other Asian countries, Korea (52.8), Singapore (61.2%), HK (54.2%), Japan (53.2%).
In the past five years, Google's Taiwan workforce has grown tenfold, said Tina Lin, GM of Google Taiwan
Solutions to address the shortage of Taiwan talents
In addition to the government, many enterprises in Taiwan are using their ways to keep the local tech talents in Taiwan. Google Taiwan continues to increase its investment and hiring in Taiwan every year. Google has initiated "Google for Taiwan" in 2018 and is entering its fourth year in 2021. The main goal of the initiative is to fill in the digital technology gap between university education and enterprises and help upskill the local talents.
This year Google also initiated "Project Hatcher", an incubation project to nurture entrepreneurship and promote the digital transformation of local companies, in which seed accelerator AppWorks Ventures., NTU Accelerator, and the National Development Council are also involved. After launching the program in 2 months, 80 companies have joined the project.
COVID-19 becomes a driver to attract more tech talents to Taiwan
"We are one of very few Google offices in the global market that didn't shut down the office during the COVID-19. Taiwan has a very outstanding performance in COVID-19 control and we prove it is being very safe to work and live in Taiwan, which makes many Google employees in other countries start to know more about Taiwan," said Lin.
"So, we initiated 'Taiwan is calling' projects internally in Google to introduce many good things happening in Taiwan, including some testimonials of our foreign employees. Then many of them start to know Google Taiwan team is also in charge of many important projects. We have been receiving many applicants from other Google offices around the world. Now, Google Taiwan employees come from 20 countries in the world."
With the example of Google's expansion in Taiwan and the great performance of many world-leading Taiwan-based EMS providers, it is undeniable that Taiwan is the global innovation hub to attract more high-tech talents and global investors.
Bio of Tina Lin
Tina Lin is responsible for Google's sales and business development operations in Taiwan. Through the delivery of consulting services and digital solutions, Tina helps partners and customers acquire a better understanding of the industry and consumer trends, provide strategic recommendations, and achieve partners' business goals in Taiwan and all over the world.
Tina was appointed to the role in September 2019, bringing decades of robust experience in the technology industry. Tina joined Google in 2014, helping businesses across tech, telco, travel, and export verticals grow. Before Google, Tina held various sales & marketing roles at Intel, Microsoft, and Asus.
(Editor's note: Asia Venturing is a series of monthly roundtables with roadmaps to the future focusing on the hype v.s. the reality of Asia's supply chain-boosted innovation ecosystem, jointly powered by Anchor Taiwan and DIGITIMES. We bring together leading industry luminaries, corporate strategists, experienced investors, and entrepreneurs to expand your network and redefine the possibilities of cross-border opportunities. The replay of the latest session can be seen on Anchor Taiwan or DIGITIMES)