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Innovative Branding Strategies:Startup Island TAIWAN

2020-05-13
Tina Xie /photo by Jimmy Lin /tr. by Robert Fox
 
Jan Fang-guan, director-general of the National Development Council’s Department of Industrial Development, says that with the brand logo “Startup Island TAIWAN,” Taiwan will take on a new image.
Jan Fang-guan, director-general of the National Development Council’s Department of Industrial Development, says that with the brand logo “Startup Island TAIWAN,” Taiwan will take on a new image.
 
In the business startup arena, nations are setting up global brand networks to build their images. France has La French Tech, Japan has J-Startup, and at the end of 2019, Taiwan introduced its own “Startup Island TAIWAN” brand identity. More than just a logo, the brand will spearhead strategic thinking on how to increase the visibility of Taiwan’s startup ecosystem.
 
To stay apace with the needs of the startup community, the National Development Council (NDC), Startup Island TAIWAN’s promoter, invited experts from throughout the startup community to form an advisory group, which suggested the development of a new national brand.
 
Integrating resources, building brand awareness
 
The conversion channel theory tells us that brand building goes through four stages: awareness, interest, desire, and action. Startup Island TAIWAN is currently at the first stage, creating international awareness. Well before its launch, however, several government and private entrepreneurship initiatives had already made names for themselves internationally—projects like Taiwan Startup Stadium (TSS), Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA), and Taiwan Innovation and Technology Arena (TITAN).
TSS is promoted by the NDC and implemented by private enterprise. Its mission is to introduce new companies to the global market. Industry mentors teach marketing and fundraising knowledge and techniques, providing startups with investor and corporate connections. Moreover, TSS leads teams to overseas exhibi­tions, connecting them with the international startup eco­system. The Ministry of Science and Technology assists new startups both through its incubator, TTA, and its TITAN program. Recently, these organizations have made their mark at international exhibitions: In January 2020, for example, TTA took part in the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in the US, where 13 Taiwanese startups won innova­tion awards, with one even receiving an order from SONY at the exhibition.
But the resources behind these initiatives were not integrated; hence they lacked a consolidated “Taiwan image.” When exhibiting at overseas trade shows, each startup has used its own logo, making it hard to leave an overall impression of Taiwanese entrepreneurship on international media and investors.
Jan Fang-guan, director-general of the NDC’s Department of Industrial Development, says that the government has hitherto led groups of startups to international exhibi­tions as “Team Taiwan,” so that individual startups don’t have to go it alone or miss out on opportunities for exchange. But setting up booths at exhibitions isn’t enough—rather, a consolidated Taiwan image is needed to arouse the international media’s interest in Taiwanese startups and draw them to those booths. That way, “When people see the logo, they’ll immediately think of Taiwan as a place with a strong startup culture.”
 
Taiwan Tech Arena takes Taiwanese startups to exhibitions abroad, increasing the companies’ visibility and promoting exchanges in the global startup ecosystem. (courtesy of NDC)
Taiwan Tech Arena takes Taiwanese startups to exhibitions abroad, increasing the companies’ visibility and promoting exchanges in the global startup ecosystem. (courtesy of NDC)
 
One-of-a-kind startup island
 
After the need for a new national brand for startups emerged, 247 Visual Art took on the job of designing the brand logo. Countless discussions with the startup community ensued. As Kyle Chen, director of Meet Startup at Business Next Media Corp. recalls, many members of the diverse startup community took part: tech com­panies, firms developing innovative business models, and acceler­ators, which foster new startups. What they all had in common was that “everyone had plenty of ideas.”
After endless rounds of discussion, all agreed to adopt “Startup Island TAIWAN” as the national startup brand. Kyle Chen recounts how Jan I-chien, the creator of the brand name and cofounder of venture capital company AppWorks, came up with the idea: the image of an island expresses a major characteristic of Taiwan, and no other country has used the word “island” in a national brand name for startup ventures. Hence, the design team envisioned Taiwan as “a mountain range reflected in the ocean,” using a modified version of the infinity symbol (∞) to represent the boundless energy and potential of Taiwan’s startups.
Will TTS, TTA, TITAN and other brands become obsolete now that Startup Island TAIWAN has arrived on the scene? “They won’t disappear; they’ll work creatively together,” says Chen. Those brands have built up a reputation and a degree of professional competence, which can contribute to Taiwan’s startups on various levels. Working with professionals in the private sector and partners in the startup ecosystem, they can enhance brand promotion.
 
Meet Startup, hosted by Business Next Media, has sponsored “Meet Taipei” annually since 2014, providing entrepreneurs with a platform for capital, resources, and international connections. (courtesy of Meet Startup)
Meet Startup, hosted by Business Next Media, has sponsored “Meet Taipei” annually since 2014, providing entrepreneurs with a platform for capital, resources, and international connections. (courtesy of Meet Startup)
 
Strategic planning
 
Jan Fang-guan says the government will change its former model of scattered support through monetary subsidies alone, and instead adopt an integrated marketing strategy of promoting the national brand and assisting startups.
Kyle Chen further recommends that in its future inter­national marketing, Startup Island TAIWAN should consider how to best present its assets in order to make an impression on opinion leaders in global startup circles. For example, it could launch an eponymous online blog or magazine in which prominent figures in Taiwan’s startup community contribute content regularly; provide international startups exhibiting at trade shows in Taiwan with a full range of domestic startup resources, such as media resources and business plans; and introduce the island’s superb living environment via short excursions, attracting international talent to invest and work here.
Introducing Taiwan’s vibrant startup ecosystem at home is one thing, but projecting its strengths abroad is another, calling for special packaging. According to Lin Tahan, CEO of the crowdfunding and marketing consultancy Backer-Founder, when startup teams exhibit abroad, the exhibition hall is mostly a place for exchanging business cards, while real talks take place in hotels. If Taiwan had coffee shops in major startup cities around the world, suggests Lin, new startup products with potential in the global market could be displayed in the shops, sparking international investors’ interest in Taiwan.
 
Kyle Chen, director of Meet Startup, feels that in addition to putting out publicity materials, Startup Island TAIWAN should distinguish itself in other ways, for example by publishing a blog of the same name.
Kyle Chen, director of Meet Startup, feels that in addition to putting out publicity materials, Startup Island TAIWAN should distinguish itself in other ways, for example by publishing a blog of the same name.
 
New outlook, new environment
 
Startup Island TAIWAN does not represent just a brand but also stands for Taiwan’s startup ecosystem, which ­includes domestic startups, accelerators, incubators, govern­ment programs, and media, in short, all of Taiwan’s abundant startup resources. It also symbolizes a starting point for changes in the domestic startup environment.
“Good startups make a good brand.” Kyle Chen believes that the ultimate goal of Startup Island TAIWAN should be to make Taiwanese startups the brand itself, so that when international investors hear that a company is from Taiwan, they’ll know it’s good. Therefore, after designing the brand logo and “attracting attention,” the government’s next step should be to think about how to “generate interest” internationally.
In addition to international connections, the links between new startups and domestic industries are another key to development. In recent years, established international companies such as Coca-Cola and 3M have set up venture capital departments to invest in startups. Taiwan’s medical industry has attracted inter­national atten­tion. If it could conduct testing with relevant startup companies, it would not only advance medical tech­nology but also give startups a better under­standing of market demand.
Since 2016, the government has launched a series of programs—including the “Digital Nation & Innovative Economic Development Program” (DIGI+), the “5+2 Industrial Innovation Plan,” and the “Action Plan for Enhancing Taiwan’s Startup Ecosystem”—loosening regulations and creating a more favorable investment climate for startups. Now, with the launch of Startup Island TAIWAN, Taiwanese startups have to go a step further, bolstering the capabilities of the companies themselves and strategically combining the strengths of industry, government, and academia to seize the opportunities of the international market and win success for Taiwan.
 
Backer-Founder CEO Lin Tahan (third from left) recommends that Startup Island TAIWAN first establish relations with domestic startups: “Let the best brands show pride in Taiwan.”
Backer-Founder CEO Lin Tahan (third from left) recommends that Startup Island TAIWAN first establish relations with domestic startups: “Let the best brands show pride in Taiwan.”
 
The National Development Council unveiled Startup Island TAIWAN in December 2019. In conjunction with the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Taiwan Tech Arena, the brand made its international debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in the US in January 2020. (courtesy of NDC)
The National Development Council unveiled Startup Island TAIWAN in December 2019. In conjunction with the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Taiwan Tech Arena, the brand made its international debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in the US in January 2020. (courtesy of NDC)
 
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