Karen Yu was once an entrepreneur in Taiwan. No wonder as a legislator she is championing a legal ecosystem that promotes startups and young business people.
Yu of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party in 2016 became a legislator who champions the causes of Taiwanese entrepreneurs and startups. Her work helps them find resources and connections to get more international attention.
Eight years prior, she and her husband founded Okogreen, an internet platform that offers data on the fair-trade of products source by companies or consumers. The company obtained first fair-trade certification of its kind in greater China. In February this year she announced the launch a chatbot on her official Facebook fan page.
Time in business and in parliament has given Yu a keen sense of what she wants to do for domestic startups, which she calls diverse and potentially powerful in numbers. She shared views about law and business in an interview with Business Next.
Legal changes for startups
Now Taiwan’s startups need more government support as they chase business in foreign markets, Yu said. Taiwan Premier William Lai already backs the effort, she believes. Yu is using parliament to persuade the cause, with two related laws to date.
The pair of laws advance startups as well as Taiwan itself. One bill, the Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals, was designed to attract more foreign professionals to Taiwan for work, in turn boosting the economy.
“Actually the announcement of Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals generated a huge echo,” Yu said. “Many overseas startups noticed this act and are eager to know more.”
Yu pushed for passage of the act in view of Taiwan’s low birth rate and the trend of university graduates seeking work overseas. Yu became the legislature’s advocate of this bill.
The lawmaker also authored Taiwan’s Act on Financial Technology Innovation and Experiments, which gives pioneering legal protections to fintech startups. Specifically, small experimental firms will be able to compete against well-knwon and big banks with little risk of violating normal laws including those covering intellectual property.
Parliament finalized the fintech law in December. Both acts backed by Yu take effect this year.
One startup’s case
Yu’s Facebook chatbot has brought in the artificial intelligence firm Sinitic.
The Sinitic CEO, a Canadian entrepreneur, had applied for an entrepreneur visa to establish the startup in Taiwan, Yu said. The foreign professionals act has obvious benefit, she added.
Sinitic’s staff one day asked Yu’s office whether they needed artificial intelligence to create the chatbot and reach tens of thousands of messages from the public. The chatbot helps the public contact her office to discuss issues.
Going forward, Yu will use her legislative seat to help women break glass ceilings at work. Some ceilings have been broken, Yu said, but it’s important to keep an eye on the broader issue.
She also joined female leaders in different fields to work with the American Institute in Taiwan, a de facto U.S. embassy, in launching “WeStartIt.” This program is set up to help female entrepreneurs promote their work internationally.