Alibaba startup forum

Colley Hwang, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0


Not long ago, I was a guest speaker at an Alibaba startup forum sharing my entrepreneurial experience with Taiwan's young generation of entrepreneurs. I was curious about the purpose of Alibaba organizing startup businesses in Taiwan. And then, after reading "Hidden Champions: Ascent and Transformation," I got a better understanding. According to DIGITIMES' survey, 77% of Taiwan's startups that have the opportunity to go public want to raise capital abroad, with the US, China and Japan in the top three of their destinations.

About 57% of the world's hidden champions come from German-speaking countries, followed by Taiwan. In German-speaking countries, there are nearly 20 hidden champions per million people, while Taiwan ranks first in Asia with nearly five hidden champions per million people. The biggest threat to these hidden champions comes from Chinese companies, because the Chinese hidden champions are more aggressive and faster in pursuing public listing and fundraising, with the funds to be used to acquire competitors.

The Chinese market is both broad and deep, and with a population of 1.4 billion, even the niche markets are big enough to support the hidden champions. Neither Taiwanese nor German entrepreneurs can now run their businesses in traditional ways.

The Internet has made life much easier. Alibaba's systems enable cross-border operations. Many startups in Taiwan leverage Alibaba's systems to build mechanisms to serve the international market. At the Alibaba forum, several startups that survived the COVID pandemic shared their experiences and hardships in starting their own businesses.

Before the outbreak in 2019, two-thirds of the revenues for AsiaYo's B&B online services came from cross-border operations. The arrival of the pandemic closed the borders, and AsiaYo's business plummeted. But AsiaYo shifted its focus from B&B to quarantine accommodations. It later diversified to private accommodations and camping opportunities. The key to AsiaYo's survival was its fast response to market changes.

The proprietor of AsiaYo said it takes a lot of nerves to get through the tough times, and that entrepreneurship is like a "spiritual training" that has no room for lamentations. There wouldn't be true entrepreneurship without going through tough times. Financial transparency is the key to AsiaYo's survival. Startups need capital support, and their core value is the approval by their employees. Proper disclosure of financial information is definitely one of the keys to gaining the approval of shareholders and employees.

Commeet, an online data service company, originally organized travel itineraries for customers and understood the pains of this industry: many newcomers with financial constraints are troubled by advance payments they have to make for bookings on behalf of customers. Commeet provides standardized billing services, making reimbursements much easier to handle.

This is a type of SaaS. Times are changing, different needs are constantly emerging, and the most difficult part is the generation gap. Only after helping people solve their problems can entrepreneurship be fun and entrepreneurs find their core values. What I see in Alibaba's forum is the "entrepreneurial ecosystem." What can really support startups is not the startup events that we see, but rather the kind of service mechanism behind Alibaba that connects with the world.

Colley Hwang, president of DIGITIMES Asia, is a tech industry analyst with more than three decades of experience under his belt. He has written several books about the trends and developments of the tech industry, including Asian Edge: On the Frontline of the ICT World published in 2019, and Disconnected ICT Supply Chain: New Power Plays Unfolding published in 2020.