Former global hedge fund trader Elisa Chiu observed that Taiwan has the potential to form a world-class technology and startup ecosystem. She established Anchor Taiwan to show the world what Taiwan has to offer.
Silicon Valley, home of countless world-changing startups like Facebook, Tesla, Airbnb, and Uber, is a sacred place many Taiwanese startups look up to. Taiwan has always regarded Silicon Valley as a model for its technology, trends, and investment philosophy. Many Taiwanese people also consider Silicon Valley as an attractive workplace.
As software became mainstream, many Taiwanese tech talent went to Silicon Valley to unleash their potential. The tech talent from Taiwan have made undeniable contributions to the booming of Silicon Valley.
Taiwan has always regarded Silicon Valley as a model for its technology, trends, and investment philosophy. Many Taiwanese people also consider Silicon Valley as an attractive workplace. / Photograph: Joseph Sohm via shutterstock
“But what if we can attract globe professionals to come to Taiwan, instead of sending our talent away?” said Elisa Chiu, founder of Anchor Taiwan.
"For a long time, Taiwan didn't have much visibility in the global innovation ecosystem, because Taiwan hasn’t focused much on building itself as a brand," said Elisa. As a result, she founded Anchor Taiwan, with the mission to advocate her hometown to the world. In the beginning, Anchor Taiwan curated entrepreneurial residency programs and innovation sprints, attracting foreign talent, especially startup founders and investors from Silicon Valley to Taiwan for business advancements, softlanding and market immersion.
As an ecosystem builder, Anchor Taiwan connects foreign and local stakeholders one event, one meeting, one program at a time. Through hundreds of forums, roundtables and networking sessions, it creates a unique bridge between Taiwan and the world. With a background in finance, in 2019 Elisa set up Anchor Venture Partners with early investments into founders and General Partners that have existing or potential connections with Taiwan. An example is Nick Budeen, who founded software startup Phase and set up an engineering team here.
Through hundreds of forums, roundtable and networking sessions, Anchor Taiwan creates a unique bridge between Taiwan and the world. / Photograph : Anchor Taiwan
Before starting her Taipei-San Francisco cross-border life, Elisa worked at one of the biggest global hedge funds in Hong Kong, managing over US$1 billion in assets. While her career seemed impressive and life seemed glamorous, Elisa felt like she was not moving towards her calling. In 2013, she resigned from her job and departed to look for her life purpose. Through numerous explorations, even with a failed attempt to be a war zone photojournalist, she finally found her “tribe” when she arrived in Silicon Valley.
"Many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley have clear drives and goals bigger than themselves," said Elisa. That makes Silicon Valley a unique place for startup communities. Passion begets passion, and the sparks in people’s eyes lit up the fire in Elisa. “Perhaps startup is my destiny,” said Elisa.
Silicon Valley is a unique place for startup communities. Passion begets passion, and the sparks in people’s eyes lit up the fire in Elisa. / Photograph : Anchor Taiwan
At first, Elisa thought of leading Asian startups to the US. However, it’s a crowded space with many existing platforms and government programs already in place. She also quickly realized that startups from Asia still face a lot of systemic challenges that need further ecosystem cultivation to tackle. She wondered if there is a win-win scenario for international startups and talent to get what they need in Taiwan, while injecting fresh perspectives and tech professionals for Taiwan’s ecosystem. The belief is that cross-border collaboration can start from either side of the ocean, and the hope is that in the long term everyone is better off.
Getting corporates, governments and startups to go to Silicon Valley doesn’t take much persuasion, but it’s a very different story the other way around, especially when the destination is Taiwan, relatively unknown when it comes to the innovation ecosystem. "Nobody was optimistic about Anchor Taiwan back then. When you are lucky, you meet people who at least know the difference between Taiwan and Thailand. But Taiwan is generally not on the map when it comes to a hub for investing or building your startups." said Elisa, "I believe it is on us to find the right way to showcase Taiwan for the world.”
Therefore, Anchor Taiwan spent a lot of time over the years building databases, collecting industry insights, cultivating exclusive access, and honing its business acumen for real value-add that Taiwan has to offer. It hosted the first cohort in June 2017, and has come a long way as a well-recognized platform.
"Cross-border, entrepreneurship and mission-driven are my personal life pillars,” said Elisa. “And that set the foundation of Anchor Taiwan.”
A believer for multidisciplinary and cross-industry collaborations, Anchor Taiwan’s programs last from a few days to one month before COVID. It also regularly curates events with topics ranging from the future of mobility, blockchain, 5G, corporate venturing, circular economy and more. Anchor Taiwan’s highly selected cohort members are often industry leaders, and they frequently share their expertise with the local community to “bring the world to Taiwan” through their residency or visits in town.
Connecting people who are interested in startups - founders, investors, mentors and more. This event is limited to 30 attendees each time, with facilitated round circle introductions and free-flow networking.
Meet in Anchor / Photograph : Anchor Taiwan
The only community for female investors in Taiwan with roundtables for industry sharing, experience exchange and career development.
Gather the female investors in Taiwan and share investing information and news through a round table. / Photograph : Anchor Taiwan
Building the ecosystem for corporate executives focusing on venture capital (CVC) and innovation for more cross-border and cross-industry collaborations.
With years of observation, Elisa also noticed the special role the government plays in the Taiwanese startup ecosystem. For example, the Employment Gold Card program has attracted a lot of international talent to Taiwan, especially during COVID. While some programs work and some don’t, Elisa believes that the government has good intentions, and “Compared with what we had in 2017, the ecosystem is definitely a lot more international nowadays!”
In the long run, too much “assistance” and subsidies from the governments may not be healthy. “Entrepreneurs are supposed to hustle with grit,” said Elisa. It would be an area worth monitoring for the best development of our ecosystem.
〔Original :Meet Global〕