Emmy Award Winner's Start Up in Taiwan: More Than Complicated

Emmy Award Winner's Start Up in Taiwan: More Than Complicated
Dan Maas with SpinPunch cofounder Ian Tien at Hollywood Academy Event. Photo Credit: Beyonder Times

What you need to know

An Emmy Award-winning entrepreneur says the tech industry in Taiwan is cutting-edge and encourages international entrepreneurs to find talent on the island-nation.

Dan Maas is an Emmy Award-winning entrepreneur. Inspired by movies such as "Jurassic Park" and "Star Wars" in youth, he started to teach himself computer animation at the age of 13. Entering Cornell University at 16, he began to work on Mars mission visualizations for NASA. After graduating from college, he built his own company, Maas Digital, creating 3D graphics for NASA, Disney, Pixar, National Geographic, PBS, and the BBC. Now he started his own video game company, SpinPunch, developing the world’s most advanced HTML5 game engine.

Besides Astrology and Animation, Maas also studied Chinese in college, and hoped to gain some foreign experiences in a Chinese-speaking environment. In 2001, he joined a student study trip and visited Taiwan, which left him with a good impression about the island. Five years later, he decided to move to Taiwan. “Originally I only planned to spend one year in Taiwan, but I was having such a great time, so I extended to almost three years,” said Maas.

“I know that the usual path for Westerners is to be an English teacher,* but I didn’t think that’s the right role for me.” With the previous experience in computer graphics in the U.S., he found a Taiwanese animation studio, Digimax, and was recruited to join their team as one of the new international members. Having his employer handling working visa and Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) for him, he smoothly started his work and life in Taiwan.

“It is a great environment for doing technical work in Taiwan, because you have so many great tech people. I was thinking at some point, I may end up hiring some of the people from my networking there,” said Maas. After leaving Taiwan, he went back to the U.S. to study MBA in Stanford Business School for two years, and built up SpinPunch with his classmates. But he still wanted to come back to Taiwan, as “Taipei is my favorite city.” He then decided to set up a branch office of SpinPunch in Taiwan.

And that was more than complicated.

In order to establish a branch company in Taiwan, he had to prove to the Taiwanese government that the mother company actually existed. According to Maas, there was a lot of paperwork needed to be moved around. “The process was very old-fashioned, and none of it could be done online.” He had to prepare all the documents, take them by hand to the consulate, show his face and sign his name at a Taiwanese consulate in the U.S. to authenticate himself —— not any Taiwanese consulates, it had to be the one that is the closest to where his company was registered.

His company was registered in New York, and his home was in Los Angeles.

“Instead of flying to New York, I decided to re-register my company in a different state close to were I was. I was spending time with my parents in Texas, so I re-registered my company in Texas, and headed toward the Taiwanese consulate in Huston. I went to the airport, took an one-hour flight, got into a taxi, arrived at the consulate in Huston, showed up with a stack of papers, and said ‘Hi, I’m Dan’ with my ID. Then I got back in the taxi, went back to the airport, and flew one-hour back home, hoping that I didn’t missed any piece of the papers, or I got to get back to Huston again…” recalled Maas.

“In order to check company registrations, now many states in the U.S. provide online services. They have a website, you type in the code, and a PDF file will be produced. But the Taiwanese consulate said that was not acceptable, and they needed a paper copy. The most interesting thing is that the state of Texas (where I re-registered my company) said to me, ’we no longer produce paper copy, and you need to do this online.”

The startup Maas co-founded is global. He recruits talents from all around the world such as South Africa, the Philippines, Canada, the U.S. and so on. Nowadays it is common for a startup to operate internationally. If our government doesn’t keep up the trend to support international entrepreneurs in terms of administrative procedures, it could make it even more difficult for us to attract foreign talents.

The good news is that, Maas has almost finished the procedure with only a few last things left, such as setting up a bank account. The whole process has spent him nearly ten months (to get close to the end).

“In the Silicon Valley, a company can be founded, developed, and sold or ready for an IPO in less than 10 months,” smiled Maas.

If it takes so much trouble to set up a branch company here, why still stick to Taiwan and insist to complete the whole procedure? “Because I know Taiwan the best. I speak the language, and I love living in Taiwan for both personal and business reasons,” he answered without hesitation.

As Maas is currently living in South Korea, we also asked him about why not register his company in South Korea? “If you want to run an online game in South Korea, you have to open a local office, and if in China, you also need a local partner. In this respect, Taiwan is actually more open,” he explained. “As far as I know, computer programmers in Taiwan are more up-to-date with the lasted trends than in South Korea. South Korea’s IT industry is more conservative, like Microsoft, IBM, working on big company accounting systems. Whereas Taiwan has more small startups which operate quicker and follow the trends of the Silicon Valley better.”

In Maas’ point of view, he does not recommend startups to see Taiwan as the only market due to the limited market scale, but Taiwan does has a couple of advantages. “The tech industry there is cutting-edge. There are many activities in Taiwan that matches the lasted hot areas, like drones and 3D printing. So international entrepreneurs might want to find talents there,” he said. “Taiwan could be a nice bridge between the U.S. and the Mainland China [sic]. There are many professionals migrate between both countries,” which form a strong connections and networking.

*According to Taiwan’s “Qualifications and Criteria Standards for foreigners undertaking the jobs,” other than meeting with other criteria specified in the Standards, foreign employees have to acquire one of the following qualifications before undertaking the jobs/assignments specified here above:

(1) Acquire certificates or operation qualifications through the procedures specified in the Examinations of Specific Profession and Technician Guidelines.
(2) Acquire credentials of Master degree or above from universities in the ROC or in foreign countries or acquire Bachelor degree and with more than two years working experiences in the specific field.
(3) Expatriates to the ROC that have been employed in multi-national companies for more than one year.
(4) Specialists who have been trained professionally or self-taught in the specific field and have more than five years experiences in related skills and have demonstrated outstanding performances.

Beyonder Times has authorized publication of this article. The original text is published here. Dan Maas leads software architecture as co-founder and CTO of SpinPunch, a Y Combinator startup developing the world’s most advanced HTML5 game engine. Previously, Dan created Emmy Award-winning computer animation for Disney, National Geographic, PBS, and the BBC. His novel 3D graphics pipeline was recognized by NASA/JPL and Pixar for creating spectacular space mission visualizations.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole