Eight of Taiwan’s best and brightest startups presented to a full house to wrap up RISE 2018 in Hong Kong last night at the Taiwan Startup Stadium (TSS) Demo Day.

Garage Academy played host to more than 200 people to learn more about Taiwan’s startup excellence and to hear short sharp pitches from the island’s sharpest new talent.

In introducing, TSS General Manager Holly Harrington painted an enticing picture of Taiwan's increasingly dynamic startup ecosystem, picking out a list of star companies, from the now defunct Wretch blogging platform that was ubiquitous until Yahoo closed it in 2013, to more recent luminaries such as AI ad targeting platform Appier and photo editing app PicColage, the latter of which now has an eye-popping 170 million downloads.

She also said Taiwan is now seeing Taiwanese angels such as YouTube co-founder Steve Chen and Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, both of whom are recent investors in The News Lens, return to the island as angel investors.

TSS attended RISE for a fourth consecutive occasion, and this year was joined at the conference for the first time by pavilions hosting startups from Thailand and Bahrain, indicating TSS' tendency to curve-surf as well as the conference's increasingly diverse region flavor.


Photo Credit: 留榮鋒 Luke Liu for Taiwan Startup Stadium

TSS General Manager Holly Harrington breaks down why you really need to move your startup team to Taiwan.

TSS, a program run under Taiwan’s National Development Council, the policy-planning agency of Taiwan’s Cabinet, helps steel Taiwan’s startup ecosystem through partnership building, training and overseas outreach. The group now boasts more than 120 members companies, of which 24 percent have at least one foreign founder and more than a quarter have at least one female founder, and works with more than 400 investors that helped program startups raise a little under US$50 million in 2017.

Hoping to join those fundraising successes and pitching for partnerships and clients were eight teams showcasing at last night's Demo Day, including the RISE Breakthrough competition winner ReCactus.

I order to do the teams justice, the following article will break into two parts, each looking at three teams, with the remaining two (ReCactus and STOMAP) treated in dedicated articles.

‘Your change can change the world’

UChange2 co-founder and CFO Jasmine Tsai kicked off proceedings by pitching a service that for to be honest has been a long time in coming.

The company aims to solve the issue faced by travelers who leave a country with leftover foreign currency knocking around in their wallet – every family has a mini-bank full of notes of multifarious denominations which while fun to reminisce over will never be used again.

UChange2 partners with banks and money exchangers in airports to allow customers to transfer their unused foreign currency via its website to three destinations: e-payment wallets like PayPal, WeChat Pay or TNG Wallet, digital services like vouchers or points, or donations to international charities.

For the latter, think of a digital form of the charity collection service that right-thinking airlines offer to outgoing passengers – that’s where the “Your change can change the world” tagline comes in, though the company goes light on pushing this element of its service.


Photo Credit: 留榮鋒 Luke Liu for Taiwan Startup Stadium

UChange2 co-founder and CFO Jasmine Tsai makes the case for doing something useful with your left over travel cash.

Tsai suggested that 100 million passengers a year face the leftover currency conundrum, with US$17 the average amount of funds left in hand.

The company is seeking retail partners in Hong Kong, is in talks with Thailand’s AirPay Wallet over bringing them onboard and is set to launch in Malaysia at the end of this year.

“We’re seeking US$1.5 million to operate in Southeast Asia,” Tsai told The News Lens, adding that they had met a Thai VC focused on travel tech and fintech, who suggested the idea of expanding the service to hotel partners. we could also expand to hotels.

Sharing is caring

William Chiang, founder and CEO of Screea, is a law graduate, multiple business investor and a self-confessed foodie and frequent global traveler.

He is also an infectious personality who injects an earnest sense of mission into his pitch for Screea, a decentralized, universal loyalty platform, which allows you to earn points, cash them out into your bank account, redeem for prizes on the platform, or use as a payment tool, at different businesses in different countries.

“We have over 2,000 merchants, ranging from F&B, clubs, hotels, car washes even, spas and night clubs to online shopping with the likes of Apple and Nike, hotels.com, and delivery services as well,” Chiang says.

Monetization is based on advertising, and Screea has two streams: merchants must pay a listing fee and the other element, aimed at corporations, is big data analysis that helps advertisers target audience at a micro level.


Photo Credit: 留榮鋒 Luke Liu for Taiwan Startup Stadium

Screea head honcho William Chiang asks anyone who doesn't like food, travel or loyalty programs to stand up.

“We guarantee how much business we will bring to a merchant and only when you reach that point do you top up your listing fee,” the Taiwan-native, who spent his early life in South Africa, explains.

Screea already has operations in its home market of Taiwan, as well as in Australia, China, South Africa, has newly opened services in Japan, works with a travel agency in Italy and a music school and tailor in the U.S., and will soon expand to Malaysia and Singapore.

Chiang is keen to stress that when Screea opens franchises in new markets, they do not charge commission, instead providing the tech and even funding to allow the partner to scale.

“We also work with organizations like the team that we recently signed in China, playing in the China Table Tennis Super League [which] are using Screea as its official fan app,” Chiang adds. “People who come to their games can receive a discount, earn points and redeem them on the team’s website for merchandize, as well as cash back at restaurants close to the game.”

Launched in the third quarter last year, Screea has more than 10,000 downloads with 6,000 active users spending about US$600 per month each, achieved without any marketing outlay – in part because the service offers users commissions for referring friends to join.

Screea is going to move to blockchain at the end of the year, a move that Chiang says is in keeping with the platform’s decentralized nature and is also necessary from a security standpoint given its handling of points equivalent to cash funds. It has yet to decide if it will pursue the initial coin offering route, though a token for Screea does seem to make sense.

During his pitch, Chiang also highlighted that Screea’s seed investors have a gaming background, perhaps indicating the path of things to come in terms of Screea’s intent to track the gamification trend apparent in loyalty apps when it seeks Series A funding in early 2019.

Reaching super fandom

Arthur Wang, Head of Business Development at frmH30, delivers a deadpan pitch in keeping with the knowledge that he already has an impressive suite of clients with which to woe investors.

The company offers a fan relationship management service (FRM). “You can consider it as a kind of CRM system for social media that is very focused on analytics,” Wang explains.

Basically the front backend allows clients to analyze their fan interactions across various social media while the front end offers an AI chatbot that can crawl fans’ social media profiles and serve them content and responses in line with their interests.


Photo Credit: 留榮鋒 Luke Liu for Taiwan Startup Stadium

Arthur Wang of frmH30 does not need to hype his fan relationship management service.

This allows clients to avoid the kind of 1 percent engagement rates that commonly greet blanket, untargeted advertising campaigns.

“We service many clients, including advertising agencies and brands like HSBC, Yahoo Taiwan and GQ Taiwan, and we found that most of our clients face a problem because they spend so much time developing fan pages with millions of users but there are limited options for them to reach their fans,” Wang says.

Those clients have already sent more than 6 million messages to fans via H30’s chatbot, and significantly lifted impressions and engagement rates across a variety of campaigns.

“Our system allows them to take back control from Facebook or YouTube because if they invite people to the messenger then they can reach their users anytime and anywhere.”

Wang, who works with a team that graduated from Zeroth.ai AI accelerator and us comprised of National Taiwan University and McGill University talent alongside former McKinsey & Co. staff, is seeking agency, consumer brand or media clients.

Read Next: Taiwan Rocks RISE with Startup Team Demos – Part 2

The News Lens was sponsored by Taiwan Startup Stadium to attend RISE 2018.