• (Questions are removed from this transcript at Cindy Sui's request.)

  • Hi. Can you hear me?

  • Yes, everything’s fine.

  • No. [laughs] You’ve got the wrong idea in the beginning, because you said Asian Silicon Valley. The reason the very first thing I did, even before joining the cabinet, is to rename the plan, so it’s no longer Asian Silicon Valley.

  • It’s "Asia · Silicon Valley", and in Mandarin, it’s 「亞洲・矽谷」, meaning that we’re connecting with Asia. We’re linking with Silicon Valley, but we’re not trying to turn Taiwan to Silicon Valley. We’re not doing that.

  • Actually, we haven’t been doing that at all. It’s an unfortunate thing that in Mandarin Chinese, when you said 「亞洲」「矽谷」, that’s two nouns together, Asia and Silicon Valley. People naturally turn the first noun into an adjective, "Asian", and then people started having the wrong impression, saying that we’re having an Asian counterpart to Silicon Valley, but it’s not the case.

  • The plan is about two things. One is the Internet of Everything, including, of course, AIs, driverless cars, e-payments, and whatever. This Internet of Everything we need to link with our Asian counterparts and build Taiwan’s place on the local regional value chain. That’s the first thing.

  • The second thing is the more software innovation entrepreneurial part. For that, we link with Silicon Valley’s accelerators, the VC ecosystem and things like that.

  • The whole plan is pronounced 亞洲連結矽谷, or Asia Connecting to Silicon Valley. We’re not trying to turn Taiwan into a Silicon Valley.

  • Yeah, and the URL in the ASVDA, which is the development agency in charge of doing this, is also called Asia Silicon Valley Development Agency. If you would like, here is their English home page.

  • There’s no N after the Asia part. It’s just "Asia Silicon Valley Development Agency", and we make sure that everyone pronounce the dot in 「亞洲・矽谷」. Somehow, it’s probably not universal yet, but it’s not Asian Silicon Valley. Nobody ever said that.

  • Which is why I pronounce the dot as "connecting."

  • [laughs] Because there is only one Silicon Valley, and it’s in the Bay Area. The culture is very different, the relative position on the global value chain is very different.

  • There really is nothing in the world that is quite like the Silicon Valley. It’s a multi-decade history with a lot of local angel ecosystems. How the ecosystem view itself — it can’t be replicated.

  • Before joining the cabinet, I worked with Apple for six years, and I worked with quite a few Silicon Valley companies. I was in the Silicon Valley when I was 19 to start a startup, and I’m still talking to accelerators and so on.

  • It’s unique. I don’t think anyone who spent an extended time in Silicon Valley would agree of the moniker of Silicon Valley to be used as easily as if any place can replicate the relationship between the universities and ecosystem and so on, so no. We’re linking with, we’re connecting with Silicon Valley. We’re not replicating it.

  • Yeah. There was some confusion during the election, during the campaign, but soon as we actually enacted the ASVDA, we’re very clear on this point. In fact, if you go to the NDC website, it says very clearly it’s linking with Silicon Valley. It’s connecting Asia.

  • There’s quite a few things that differentiates Taiwan with, say, Singapore or other Southeastern countries.

  • For one, our freedom to innovate is complete.

  • We have a very strong tradition of freedom of expression, of an open and neutral Internet, of free expression and so on.

  • We’re not putting any artificial limitations on what the local entrepreneurs, or foreign entrepreneurs visiting Taiwan, can do.

  • We work with the private sector innovators. We peacefully, and I would say agreeably solved, for example, the Uber regulation issue, as well as many other regulation issues regarding peer innovation, and not many Asian countries can say that.

  • It is because Taiwan’s relative peaceful democratization process, and a very fine emphasis on human right and protection of consumer right and so on in the civil society, so evolved a way that instead of the government directing what the private sector should do, the private sector initiates most of the regulatory changes.

  • The government is more like a platform. This is not a novel approach for many, especially Nordic countries and many part of EU, and more like Californian. They all think this way. In Asia, we’re pretty unique in just positioning ourselves, the government’s role not as a leading or regulatory role, but as a reconciliatory, or a platform role.

  • Quite a few things. First, we try to make a lot of government-to-government relationship going, like there’s a digital economy forum that makes sure our relevant laws and regulations are aligned.

  • For example, at this very moment, we’re working on a sandbox experiment law for uncrewed vehicles. That includes, for example...

  • Uncrewed vehicles... Autonomous vehicles.

  • [laughs] On any and every sector, but especially on tech law. That is to say, on FinTech, on uncrewed vehicles, on any part of the industry where the technology is going to places where the law did not anticipate them to go.

  • We just call them digital economy regulations, or digital economy-related laws and regulations.

  • By digital economy, it’s an all-encompassing term, but it mostly talks about the part of economy that is only made possible because of computer and Internet technologies.

  • Yeah, but especially regulation, talent, and capital.

  • I can talk slower. That’s OK.

  • Definitely. Even in the States, not all of the states have the same attitude toward such cutting-edge or experimental technologies. The uncrewed vehicles is a very good example...

  • Autonomous vehicles, vehicles that drive themselves... Self-driving vehicles.

  • Self-driving vehicles is very interesting because it makes the concept of a car or a plane or a boat, and a concept of a driver, overlap, because the vehicle is its own driver.

  • Many part of the traffic or transportation law make a very clear distinction between a driver and a vehicle, so this new type of regulatory entity poses a problem to the existing law because the car itself, or the boat, or the plane itself is the driver. What are you going to do?

  • For this kind of law, there is an approach that we’re using that agrees with some of the most advanced part in the United States, and also in other countries. It’s what we call a sandbox. Have you encountered this term before?

  • A sandbox, like children play in a sandbox.

  • I’ll just take a couple minutes to explain, if that’s OK with you.

  • We’re working, for example, with the FinTech sandbox.

  • By FinTech, it means financial technology, and by financial technology, it means computer programs that let people do financial transactions in a way that is faster, more efficient, more automated than traditional financial institutions.

  • I’ve mentioned two different areas. One is FinTech. One is self-driving vehicles.

  • In both regards, we’re using this new idea of a law called sandbox, meaning that if an innovator want to make a new service that is currently unregulated by the law or the regulation, however, there’s part of the regulation or the law that says because it’s a legally ambiguous term, whether it’s the driver or whether it’s the car, whether it is a bank or whether it is an insurance company it’s not very clear.

  • The government will work with this private sector innovator to try to interpret the existing law and regulations to see whether they can operate safely, legally, or it is really illegal at the moment, but it really should be legal because the law did not anticipate this innovation.

  • Once the government makes this decision, which is not at the cost of the innovator, but the government talks with the innovator about this, if this really needs a change of the regulation, then the government finds a place, an area that is willing to work with this innovator.

  • The innovator can say, "For the next six months, I’m going to break this regulation and that regulation," but the government agrees not to punish, not to fine this company for it.

  • Because this is an experiment, it is limited in both time, as well as the persons, the number of people they can touch. Also, there is an extra transparency, accountability requirement that the experimenter need to explain what is being experimented on and what happens during the experiment.

  • That’s the idea. After six months, maybe the experimenter would like to extend the scope a little bit or continue for another six months. At most, after 12 months, the regulatory committee will talk with the society that has tried out this integration of new technology.

  • Maybe it’s a new type of uncrewed self-driving vehicle that’s integrated with a certain neighborhood, for example, and have a multi-stakeholder discussion to find out whether this experiment was a success. If this is not, if people think it’s not a good idea, then of course, the whole society is better of it because people have learned.

  • If this is a good idea, then the regulatory body have another six months to change their regulation to allow for this kind of innovation to happen as a legal trade, maybe a new type of trade, and then for the innovator to secure sufficient capital, because they’re legal now, to become a self-sustainable entity, continuing to provide the service.

  • Then other competitors can enter this new sector that is being built collaboratively by the civil society, by the private sector, and by the government. That’s the basic model we’re doing with FinTech first, but then with self-driving vehicles, and soon with many other areas, as well.

  • Yes. That is one of the very early experiments with Taipei’s self-driving bus. Now, because they’re keeping to its own lane, the bus lane, and also operating during the hours that bus is not in operation in the midnight to 4:00 AM hours, they actually don’t need a special sandbox regulation because it’s already a sandbox is within the bus lane.

  • Once they interact with bus operating hours or it extends outside of the bus lane, then it would need a regulatory framework for their experiment to happen.

  • This is what we’re working very closely with not just Taipei city but also Kaohsiung city. At the end of this year, they’re going to have a self-driving bus program there also and also financing for the Shalun city and so on.

  • There’s many places that want to experiment with this kind of new technology.

  • There’s quite a few programs. For example, the Ministry of Science and Technology sponsors doctoral students and post-docs.

  • I think the first batch was about 35 people or so to sponsor their travel and work in the Silicon Valley to a certain amount and, for the top Silicon Valley companies, to discover these Taiwanese talents and for them to work for a given period, for a year or so, on those Silicon Valley innovative companies.

  • They’re pretty successful with the first batch. Each candidate has made three or four different companies competing on top of this governmental reimbursement program. I think the idea is not just to facilitate the move from Taiwan to Silicon Valley.

  • We’re also working on an act that is already in the Legislative Yuan that allows Silicon Valley’s talent to visit Taiwan without securing any particular employment here, because they may be just giving lectures, doing consultancy, and so on. At the current moment, they would need to use a travel visa and leave Taiwan after three months, and that’s not very friendly. It’s actually very unfriendly.

  • For these kind of digital economy talents, we’re now offering a pretty long stay as in three years renewable. They can both find short term or long-term employment or self-employ or what we call digital nomads can enjoy a much better working environment in Taiwan, especially if they are considering starting a branch or the HQ of their start-up in Taiwan.

  • The act is still awaiting legislative review, but it is one of the top bills for the upcoming session. We’re looking forward to start implementing this, what we call the gold-card visa program, starting at the end of the year.

  • It’s called gold card.

  • If the Legislative Yuan passes it during this session, then we’ll just go ahead with this plan.

  • There’s quite a few ways. I would encourage you to read the consultation, because there was a 60-day consultation on the joint platform about this, what we call the Foreign Talent Act. This act is one of the first regulations law that we publicly consult with a bilingual discussion forum.

  • You can see a lot of foreign talents providing their input during this consultation period.

  • There’s an English PowerPoint there as well. I would encourage you to find the answers there.

  • To a point. Then the competing companies is of course OK to add on top of it.

  • Yes, that’s the incentive. It’s also to acculturate them with the Silicon Valley and make connections and then maybe bring some of them back to Taiwan if they’re considering to start a research service company in Taiwan and so on. It’s entirely bidirectional.

  • We’re also connecting our local start-up accelerators, for example the Taiwan Start-up Stadium and so on. There’s this whole link on the ASVDA website.

  • We’re connecting them to their counterparts in the Silicon Valley. So if, for example, one of the Silicon Valley companies find a really good idea about virtual reality application or so on that came from Taiwan, they can very easily work with their counterparts in Taiwan to bring them to Silicon Valley for pitches or talk to VCs and vice versa.

  • Right. There is a new capital that’s being done that’s called a Taiwania capital or in Mandarin it’s called 台杉. It’s a pretty large capital fund. There’s a preparatory office that’s just completed their forming of Taiwania Capital Management Corporation. There is several branches, but we’ll start with a national IoT fund.

  • The idea is that we will have the head of the ASVDA as well as the CEO David Wong to run this new fund on perhaps 20 percent of return of investment and with the size of entity two to four billion. This idea is that we will look to anything that works with this ecosystem building play that the Taiwan government is doing.

  • The special thing about this is that it’s run and managed and overseen by expert private sector investors as well as private sector managers. It’s not something that career public servants manage. It is like an arm’s length from the government.

  • They’re keeping an eye on building the ecosystem so that the Taiwan’s missing places in the supply chain, for example, as I mentioned, analytics and information management on the Internet of Things or for example on the next step maybe on biotechnology as well as many other industries that Taiwan is trying to move upper to the value chain, so this will be the target of this Taiwania capital management.

  • On the other side, that is to say attracting foreign-capital investment, we’re also having plans to introduce for example during the traditional CompuTEX trade show, which is this very long recurring running show, we’re now having a branch called InnoVEX that is especially targeted at early stage, maybe series A or angel fund stage, start-up companies as well as promising entrepreneurs and attracting foreign capitals to invest in them also.

  • I think this is also bidirectional. It’s mostly about giving more visibility to the industry building or ecosystem-defining companies on both sides of the Pacific Ocean to work with each other closely. Personally, I’m also invited to join some Silicon Valley start-up accelerators or boosters as an unpaid mentor of sorts to try to discover possible cases for Taiwan to invest in.

  • It’s funded by the government, but it’s managed and run by professional. It’s not run by career-public servants.

  • Yeah, it’s independent group but it overlaps with the CIO of the ASVDA. It’s a very close relationship to ASVDA. ASVDA itself is also run by this C-suite people that comes from Silicon Valley and are not career public servants.

  • The ASVDA website lists the names of their organizational chart. The idea is that there is chief technology officer, a HR officer, an investment officer, a general counsel, and a public relationship officer. Those five officers all come from the private sector. They are not career public servants.

  • Us, that is to say, the ministers that steers the ASVDA actually are at arm’s length so we don’t interfere with their day-to-day operations and the ASVDA’s direction actually comes from a think tank, the private sector consultation committee that is all the industry players. I think this is a reverse of what many other Asian countries are doing.

  • Many of them are having the government self-directing the investment lines, but, for us, the upcoming topics are actually suggested by this private sector consultation committee and then organized by the five chief officers, also coming from the private sector, and then, set as a national development agenda on the National Development Council.

  • It’s more grassroots. It’s more grassroots on the private sector level. It’s what we call peer-to-peer governance, only government to private to civil society relations.

  • Right. Of course, with the usual conflict of interest clauses and a standard operations procedure that respects fairness and integrity, but they are also not interfered by political, like Ministers are.

  • I think you need to check with the Taiwania Capital Management Corporation, because, aside from the fact that David Weng is general manager, I actually don’t have any access to the internal operations or day-to-day team size of the Taiwania Management Corporation. This is what we mean by "at arm’s length."

  • The general manager, David Weng, is selected by the ASVDA, because he is the Chief Investment Officer of ASVDA and Taiwania is this investment arm of ASVDA, but other than that, I think David has a lot of autonomy selecting what kind of investment to make. I should also stress that they are focusing on the non-seed stage after and joint investment.

  • That is to say, larger-sized companies that makes strategic sense for the ecosystem. For the earlier stage, or for the seed stage, we have other governmental funds as well, such as the National Development Funds and joint investment fund, as well as, the Industry Transformation fund. That’s the two other funds. The comparison between those three funds are in the right button part of this magazine I just pasted you.

  • The Angel Investment Fund. That’s the small one for the seed stage, about NT$5 million, at most. Then, the Industry Innovation Transformation Fund, that is a lot larger — it’s focusing on the non-seed stage of established SME, small and medium enterprises.

  • Then Taiwania picks after the angel investment stage. It may overlap a little bit with the Industry Innovation Transformation Fund, but Taiwania is focused on segment defining, ecosystem defining, companies, specifically, on Internet of Things and maybe, next, biotech and so on.

  • That really needs a first mover’s advantage on a whole new field that’s sector defining. Whereas, the Industry Innovation Transformation Fund is mostly concerned about existing small and medium enterprises wanting to upgrade themselves to digital transformation, but, of course, there may be some overlaps.

  • I think it’s about NT$10 billion.

  • That’s the initial funding and there may be more, but I’m not involved in the day-to-day operation. I just oversee the general direction of these efforts.

  • Yeah, it’s already secured. The corporation has formed, I think.

  • That’s one billion, yes.

  • In total, about 110 billion. Something like that.

  • The Taiwania fund is new. The IITF and the Angel fund, I think, are both planned before the ASVDA. I think the NDC has, because of ASVDA, also shifted their use of these funds.

  • They’re looking more towards digital transformation than simply rewarding certain size of small and medium enterprises, so there’s more alignment between those funds but only Taiwania is new.

  • I think it’s just July or something.

  • Right. So I think the IITF, the Industry Innovation Transformation Fund, it’s set up around the same time as the ASVDA. It’s not after but it’s around the same time. It’s last July, I think. Taiwania is this year. IITF is last year. The angel one, I think, is around for a much longer time.

  • This round of angel fund is actually new. It’s this March. There are other angel rounds before this, but they were not so much investments as they are grants. Then they changed that to angel investment.

  • That’s the confusion because they’re both called angels, but this one is the investment fund. It’s not giving money. It’s more like investing money. So all these three are new.

  • Not really. For example, the IITF, the large one, the 100 billion one, they have an internal rule that they will not take more than 20 percent stock. They are more like a participant, but we’re not trying to turn all the SMEs into national operated entities. That is also not our goal.

  • There is a press release associated with each fund. For example, the Innovation Transformation Fund, this press release says, first, that it’s not taking more than 20 percent of any particular thing that they invest.

  • It’s trying to aim at small and medium enterprises, as I said, but also, more importantly, this is trying to get them to upgrade, to digitally transform, to maybe try to set up a new part in their existing operation branch to digitize or to taking use of the technologies for an existing SME. That’s its goal.

  • It’s not really buying out or taking over any of those SMEs. It is trying to get the SMEs an incentive to digitally transform themselves into a higher part of the value chain.

  • The three funds, yes.

  • The Angel fund, the Innovation Transformation fund, and then, the Taiwania.

  • It is, so, three. One is the angel one. One is transformation and one is Taiwania.

  • The angel one is called the National Development Fund for Angel Investments.

  • All these are planned by the National Development Council. The names are respectively: National Development Fund for Angel Investments. That’s the first one. The Industry Innovation Transformation Fund, that’s the second one. And then there’s Taiwania National Investment Corporation.

  • That’s exactly right.

  • They’re just taking a certain share but not trying to control it. That’s right.

  • That’s right, so there’s no controlling stock.

  • That’s right, exactly right.

  • There’s quite a few things going on. In the previous governments, the angel fund, which was not investment, it was subsidies, as I said. It’s mostly trying to...

  • Well, that ended up being more conservative than we would like in the selection of the companies.

  • With investment, and also, with a much more professional group taking on the investment arm, we’re looking for higher risk but also, higher returns. Otherwise, it doesn’t really make the innovative ecosystem a lot of incentive, because then they just play very conservatively and then still get some subsidies.

  • That’s not an ecosystem-making play. The NDC, the angel investment, I think, is the second round now. It’s one billion dollars every round. They just changed subsidies to investments and aiming on getting more ambitious plans and if they fail, it’s no problem, as long as the whole ecosystem learns something about it.

  • Mm-hmm and we’re on the second round.

  • No. I think it’s until whatever time that takes for the fund to finish investing.

  • I think, on the first round, which is the more conservative one, which was, I think, back in 2014.

  • On 2014, it’s the government itself making more safe decisions and in a more subsidy-like way. After the new government comes in, the case selection is done collectively with other venture capitals.

  • Just as any other VCs, they will have a term agreement, and maybe band together, go to pitches together, things like that. They sometimes themselves as any other VC, a VC peer network, and working collaboratively with other VCs and encourage more VCs to enter this market. I think that’s the main idea.

  • Yes. If that happens, I’m sure they’ll be happy about it but I don’t run those funds, so I don’t have a timetable or something. I understand, especially for the angel one, they want the startups, perhaps, to have 60 percent capital by themselves and 20 percent by the National Angel Investment Fund and 20 percent from other VCs, as well.

  • It does get replenished but not in a very short timeframe because this is after the Angel round investment. It would take years to replenish.

  • For Taiwania, I think there are interests in putting into the fund at the moment. I don’t have all the details, but there are sometime, even international funds, of investing in the Taiwania Management Corporation. It’s its own corporation, of course. It can take outside investments.

  • I think it’s the Taiwania Capital Management Corporation.

  • Or other investors, yeah, but I don’t have the details.

  • I understand that there’s many people currently in talks with Taiwania.

  • That’s exactly right, by partnering rather than just going by ourselves, and by having the private sector actors manage those funds, and even in the Taiwanese case, accepting international investments. What we’re trying to do is that we’re trying to shape the local-venture capital market to be less risk-adverse, that is to say to be more risk-tolerant.

  • The angel one, because it’s been running a few years now, is easier. They run these regional explanatory meetings, let’s call them meet-ups, in north, middle, south, as well as east in Taiwan.

  • Every quarter, they have application rounds just like any other, and there is a public accountable rundown of all the different communication meet-ups, as well as the application forum and so on.

  • I think it was pretty transparent. I think the latest update was just four days ago about all their activities. Here is their website. I think the day-to-day operation for the angel one is run by the Taipei Computer Association, and the TCA is quite a lot of people. I don’t have the exact number of their staff, but TCA is pretty large.

  • You mean the review board?

  • There’s this paper review. There’s also this face-to-face interview. There is at least five people from the review committee.

  • Which five reviews which round of applications, I think they draw a lot. This is like random, so there’s a larger review board, but there’s like random five people reviewing each particular face-to-face.

  • If anyone thinks that the reviewers are not experts in their trade and so on, they may, of course, appeal and call the office and reapply for another round of interview. The five people together they have six different criteria that are pretty objective, and then they have also to convince each other.

  • They look for diversity in the composition of those boards in financial, in marketing, in management, and in technology. That’s the main branches of their expertise.

  • As of the names of the specific reviewers, I don’t think they announce that. If you ask the TCA, maybe they have more detailed statistics to give.

  • If they run it quarterly, that means that it’s fast enough to be run every quarter. [laughs]

  • Yeah, they do that now. The link that I sent you actually has that. For example, if you look at July’s announcement, then it shows all the applications that has been accepted by the second quarter of this year, which means...

  • All the details for the angel one are in the website. I don’t really have the latest information more than the website.

  • Each batch, for example, the previous batch, that is to say from the beginning of April to the end of June, they awarded the investment to 19 different companies, usually around a few million NTD each.

  • The angel one, by this year, I think it’s about 200 cases. It’s about 700 million or so, by NT dollars.

  • Yeah, something like that.

  • OK. Let me double check.

  • No, it’s just fine.

  • No, it’s fine. I’m just checking Asia Silicon Valley reports to get the latest numbers.

  • All right. I only have the numbers to the previous quarter. I was trying to look at the current quarter, but I don’t have those numbers, no.

  • It’s on their website. It just takes some adding up, because it’s posted quarterly. Every quarter, they very clearly say, "This is the 19 companies that we’ve given out," and so on, so there’s just some for that quarter.

  • The second round is.

  • The angel plan itself was established early 2014, but it was a subsidy program. It turned into an investment plan last year. There’s 276 up to previous quarter that has been approved.

  • Until this March, it funded 276 companies.

  • No, until March. If you want the March quarter, I think that’s another 20. When you add it up, it’s about 300.

  • Yeah, but that’s the new round of investments. There was this old fund, that was a subsidy...

  • You don’t really want the old fund’s numbers?

  • It’s very technical, you see.

  • There is this old fund. Before it’s dried up, it switched from a subsidy to an investment.

  • Then it dries up, and then we set up an equally-sized fund that is purely investment.

  • There is a period where there’s the old fund, but it’s still investment.

  • That’s right. It’s just its operated differently. Cumulatively, it’s about 300 companies.

  • Sorry for all those technical details.

  • About 900 million in total.

  • It’s mostly about toward what we call circulation economy. That is to say, environmental protection, green energy, and things like that. It’s most easy to get this fund. I think one in five green energy circular economy companies gets this funding.

  • Of course, it’s an angel fund, so they are small companies. Otherwise, it won’t be called an angel fund.

  • Something like that, yes.

  • The second one, the transformational one. Just a second, let me quickly find it.

  • The first case where it actually made the investment was actually in June, so not too long ago.

  • The middle one, the industry transformation one.

  • They were formed for more than a year now. It was formed in...

  • I think it’s just one particular case where it has funded. It’s a textile automation company.

  • There’s another one that is currently being reviewed that is a biotech company. That was in July. I think that’s it, actually. Most of it hasn’t been...

  • Larger companies, yes, but encouraging them to do digital transformation.

  • Medium enterprises, actually.

  • The larger medium enterprises, but when it was first set up, it also said small enterprises can apply if they have a good enough plan for digital transformation.

  • Something like 1.5 billion NT dollars.

  • The Taiwania is too soon to say. They’ve literally just formed.

  • Singapore has its own sovereign fund. I wouldn’t comment too much about Singapore because it’s quite different. It’s not at arm’s length with the Singaporean government.

  • On the other hand, the Singaporean government is run more like a company than the Taiwanese government. [laughs]

  • I can look at both sides of things, and it’s structurally very different. I wouldn’t compare one to the other. There is a sovereign investment...

  • Well, the point of this investment is to look at the local value chain, and I don’t really know whether the national investment company, or national-level investment companies work in Japan and Korea.

  • I mostly just look at the local ecosystem as well, connecting to the Silicon Valley. If you would like a more detailed comparison to Singapore, to Japan, and to Korea, that would be the role of the investment officer of the ASVDA.

  • I don’t really think so. This whole idea of having the private sector joining the government in a public-private partnership, that is not a new invention. Even during the Hsinchu Science Park era, the Taiwan government already did that with innovative structures like the III and the ITRI that was formed around that area.

  • These new structures that you’re now seeing is more tailored on the new IoT and software, or this upper side value chain investment that is not covered by traditional structures, that was taking care of mostly semiconductor peripherals and other part of the hardware ecosystem, so it’s not entirely new.

  • Korea did something like that. They don’t call it a national investment company. They call it a fund of funds or something like that. That was in 2005.

  • It’s unwise to compare those investment structures and size of the investment structures versus size of the investment structures because they operate in different verticals.

  • It’s one thing to invest or bring up an ecosystem in culture or in pop music, or in whatever. In other things like, for example, the thing we’re talking about here is about IoT, about biotech, about digital transformation, and the same size doesn’t really do the same thing in those two different verticals.

  • That’s the thing that I was talking about. The other thing is that there’s plenty of public-private partnerships of this kind, even back in the Hsinchu Science Park days, that the III, the ITRI, are all set up to make public-private partnerships possible.

  • What we’re seeing the Asia Connecting to Silicon Valley as new is just it’s focusing on the more software or a more data-based, analytics-based, a more soft part in the value chain. The hardware part, peripheral semiconductor part, that’s already being taken care of by existing structures, so we’re not late because it’s an entirely different capital of verticals.

  • I don’t know any software-oriented national investment, other than the sovereign investment Singapore, but it just may be that I haven’t been reading up on all these things.

  • In all those cases you mentioned, there’s plenty of software, as well. In a mobile phone, it’s almost all software-defined, its features and so on.

  • The thing is that Taiwan’s software talents for a very long time worked as part of the hardware innovation cycle. That is to say, when a new generation of hardware comes, be it personal computers, peripherals or whatever...

  • For a long time, Taiwan’s software talent worked as one part of the hardware ecosystem. That is to say, when every new generation of hardware innovation comes, it of course requires software, firmware, drivers, the application that stems from those new hardware and so on.

  • A lot of Taiwan’s software talents ended up working at very large hardware-oriented companies, working on the software that’s specific to that particular hardware innovation. It’s not that Taiwan doesn’t have software innovation. It’s just subsumed under the hardware innovation.

  • What happens is that because hardware by nature changes or iterates, as we say in the industry, far longer than software does, if you have a new hardware idea, even with new prototyping techniques and whatever, it takes months to get the first iteration out to prototype and to adjust.

  • Software innovation takes care of its own iteration. You can roll out updates in a matter of minutes. There is a very large difference from a pure software innovator’s mindset, where when we consider a weekly innovation cycle a long time. By hardware standards, it’s actually a very short time.

  • That’s not really hampering, I would say it’s molding the local software talents into thinking in a time interval that is more fitting to the hardware innovation cycle, which is measured in months. Whereas most of the innovators in Silicon Valley who work on pure software plays, they think in terms of days or weeks. Does that answer your question?

  • Yeah. For example, if they innovate, for example, Pokémon GO, to use the example, they would see real-time what the user’s experiences are like, how they plan their events, how they gather around in this augmented reality trying to catch Pocket Masters.

  • Using those analytics, using those user behavior patterns, they can plan and update their software within the same day, if not the same hour.

  • It’s usual for a pure software company to plan new features, to upgrade their business model even, in a matter of weeks. For hardware, it’s impossible because you need to wait for the industry to roll out, for the distribution channel to work, and that takes months, not days or weeks.

  • I’m not saying they’re working for the wrong places.

  • (laughter)

  • I have many friends who work in say MediaTek and other companies. They would get offended if I say they work at the wrong places. I’m just saying, because...

  • No, it’s just they work in a certain tempo, and this tempo is determined by the hardware vertical, by the hardware sector that they are in.

  • It’s kind of hard, because they are pretty lucrative when a new hardware cycle comes. If you’re just working out of purely for-profit motive, then if you’re a Taiwanese software programmer, the natural choice is to join a larger hardware-oriented ecosystem.

  • It’s safer. It earns more money.

  • Yes. The hardware companies pay their software programmers pretty decently, and the risk is also absorbed over the hardware ecosystem. It’s not just purely absorbed in the software which is a much riskier, because as easy as it to roll our new features, it’s also easy for upcoming disruptor to enter the same market and winner-takes-all ecosystem. To do a software entrepreneur, one really need to change to a new mindset.

  • Pretty good stock options also, so it’s not just salary.

  • Yes. That’s what we’re trying to solve here. One of the things is that we’re trying to encourage people to form research service companies. Like for example Ethan Tu who was director of AI Research regional Asia Microsoft started a start-up in Taiwan called AI Lab. That is one of the few pure software start-ups in Taiwan that focus only on software.

  • There’s quite a few others that are working on, for example, disaster relief and recovery, geo-mapping, and things like that, but I would say they don’t get the same spotlight until a few years ago as the hardware companies do.

  • What we’re trying to say, as I mentioned when the CompuTEX took the InnoVEX track separately, what we’re trying to do from the national perspective is to highlight those software, AI, and so on service-oriented, more human facing, faster iteration cycle entrepreneurs as important as their hardware counterparts.

  • They both can learn from each other instead of one working in a subsumed group under the other.

  • At least give an experimentation period on which we can try out the idea.

  • Invest, not give, but yes.

  • You just described quite a few friends of mine.

  • We’re in the civic tech world. We see a lot of these dynamics going on. This can be answered in many different angles. I’ll try to be brief.

  • First, in the education, even the K-12 curriculum, we’re now emphasizing autonomy first.

  • That is to say, I think a lot of the social friction toward innovation stems from the assumption during the previous K through 12 education where it was skill-based. The curriculum was shaped so that people major in one of the five or six major disciplines and gets good at it and gets a stable job.

  • Taking initiative, being able to define one’s own missions and visions and charter out a course toward solving a problem in life or furthering some common good. I define it as not waiting for the teacher or the professor’s assignment. It’s the opposite of assignment.

  • Yes. The end goal is of course what we call 一生一課表, one curriculum per student. That is to say for them to charter out their course of learning.

  • Well, because the new curriculum haven’t passed. We’re at the moment currently in the review committee where they are talking about whether they need to study classical Chinese texts or something.

  • After they’re done with this review, we are rolling it out I think 2019. That’s the new curriculum.

  • Yeah, it’s good because it at least gives people some idea that there is a new 12-year basic education curriculum coming. It’s pretty revolutionary.

  • Because it’s been widely accepted in education circles thanks to a very avant-garde homeschooling experimental education law that’s been going on for a few years.

  • In the alternative education homeschooling fields, these values are firmly established, and many of the educators who work on alternative education have worked out how to transition for example a very conservative-minded primary school into this kind of autonomy-based education.

  • Then we took that into the new curriculum that is set to take effect 2019. It really is a radical change, because instead of skill-based, what we’re now doing is character-based education.

  • Now we’re doing character-based or 素養導向.

  • Well, we’re fixing that too. We’re working in the examination center. We’re discouraging, even at some points disallowing, teachers to compare, to rank students based on their examination scores. We’re also encouraging every school to develop their own specialty courses with the local community.

  • In essence, what we’re trying to do is that at the very beginning, at the primary school level, at age seven and eight, for the teacher to not try to teach the students so many things but rather spend time with students so they can grow their autonomy on such courses. It’s a pretty radical shift in the educational strategy on the K-12 level.

  • The three characters we’re trying to build instead of any particular skill is autonomy, interaction, that is, communication, as well as the common good. I think we’re the Asia’s first country to introduce media literacy critical thinking as characters in the national curriculum. I think it’s a very forward-looking curriculum.

  • To introduce media literacy.

  • That is to say critical thinking, because the teacher’s role in the new curriculum has changed. Instead of being just a lecturer, now the teacher is a co-learner, someone who learns along with students in finding resources online as well through social media and through Wikipedia and whatever.

  • The teacher need to develop a new, more interactive way of teaching things, but with that they’re going to be exposed to much more external information.

  • The external information of course need to be reviewed in more critical-thinking way, this is what we call media literacy, like not blindly believing things that’s printed in a certain form, like the more French philosophy class education where people try to argue both sides of things

  • This is what we call media literacy. It’s studied not as its own course but rather integrating with how all the different fields’ courses are studied.

  • It is, and initially when it was slated to take effect 2018, many people worried that, especially for STEM, for science, technology, engineering, math, teachers, there won’t be sufficient time for them to adapt.

  • Now because it’s been delayed by one year, the administrative education now actually has a pretty solid plan to try to get the teachers on board and, for the more rural areas, to adopt more interactive computer-based education, making sure that there is high bandwidth to every classroom, there’s projector in every classroom, so they can better use real time video conferencing or interactive-based materials that is supplementing the local teachers’ capabilities.

  • It will shake things up.

  • That’s exactly right.

  • Yeah, but for example, in Taipei city, there’s I think 66 primary schools that has already become early adopters to the new curriculum.

  • It’s easy for us to, for example, make the K-12 examination-free between the primary, and the secondary, and the senior high school. It’s trivia for us to ask the textbook writers to redo their textbooks so that it’s more exploratory and minimize the rote memorization.

  • All these we can do, and we already did that because I was part of the curriculum committee, but the one thing that we cannot change easily is for the parents to change their expectation of their children.

  • The thing is that when the teachers themselves were kids, were teenagers, and university students studying for becoming a teacher. They were one of the most conservative educational systems, the teacher training part. As you’ve said, it is difficult.

  • On the other hand, because of social media, because of the Internet, we also see more and more teachers trying to organize among themselves and trying to share their different innovations.

  • With the new curriculum, there really is no other choice because we’re taking away so many traditional ways of examination, or other ways to value students. We’re kind of just forcing the curriculum development committee of every individual school to try to come up with ways that the parents can also participate, by the way.

  • There’s also unique in Taiwan a competitive force in the form of alternative education. Because of the new alternative education revision, now any age child can engage in alternative education, be it community school or home school, or just a different school system, and still enjoy the full ride of a student at their same age.

  • If any locality’s K-12 education does not adapt to a new curriculum fast enough, there is always this possibility that the alternative schools will flourish and take over, even. There’s this new ecosystem about education that we’re building.

  • I wish I can say that all the primary school teachers will suddenly wake up, but what we’re now doing is instead of telling them to change overnight, to encourage more co-working with the community, with the parents and so on, so that when the new curriculum comes and they don’t know what to do, they at least know somebody to talk to and to adapt their way of teaching.

  • There is a guideline, as well as examples for the teachers. For example, in http://12cur.naer.edu.tw/download/fileList in the Chinese class, how to issue written homeworks that emphasizes the character of comprehension, of not memorization, but the complete understanding and so on, so that there is actually materials provided by the curriculum committee, the documents and records part, specifically for those different teachers to adapt their way of doing written homeworks, or any design like this.

  • What we’re now trying to do is to get as many teachers as possible to share their, not just successes, but also frustrations into switching to this kind of education, of relationship really, with children and their parents.

  • The early adopter schools, they don’t transform the entire school. They select a few classes to start teaching this way, and then share it with all the different teachers in that city.

  • It will take a couple years to disseminate this culture. We do hope that by the end of this two-year journey, all the teachers will feel at least ready, if not eager, to try this out.

  • Yes. The school’s curriculum development committee, as well as what we call those online separative courses, all this, we use a lot of online study circles for this, but they also get enrollment into empowerment programs. That is just a fixed certain hours to get this kind of training.

  • It is. Our original topic was how to make the society more accepting of an entrepreneur that is more risk-taking than their spouse, their parents. That was the question.

  • Well, instead of saying, "These are the startup people, and these are the conservative people," what we are trying to do in every industry is to create an ecosystem where there’s this gradual curve.

  • If people cannot jump from their day job to be an entrepreneur, maybe they can participate still to a initiatives or movements, or local social enterprises or NGOs as a stakeholder, as a volunteer or as a contributor, or as a part-time worker even, in addition to their day job.

  • The point of social innovation is to ensure that people don’t have to take unreasonable risk to make innovation. For example, one of the movements that I helped fostering is called the g0v movement.

  • The idea is that every couple months, as well as every week on small gatherings, people look at what the government -- their local government, their national government -- is not doing properly, or the website is difficult to understand or whatever, and try to just contribute a weekend’s time to build something better.

  • That has brought maybe 3,000 or more people online simultaneously, and tens of thousands of people contributed their part time on this kind of social innovation that is collaborative. This is being somewhere in the middle of full-fledged finding a new company, as well as just staying with a large company.

  • It’s this kind of collective, collaborative social innovation that we’re trying to promote, because it gives people a sense of safety, like if they want to shift more work into this entrepreneurship, they can do this, but they don’t have to commit to it right away, and there’s many different circles like g0v in all parts of Taiwan that is trying this collaborative entrepreneurship, or collective innovation way out.

  • That’s why I said that many of my friends is somewhere on this slope. Many of them still work for a large company, but some of them have successfully transitioned into being a consultant of the original company, but then started social innovations by themselves, but works with 5 people or 10 people in a larger team. It’s much more flexible if we don’t see it as two full-time commitments.

  • They eventually become consultants.

  • That’s right. The g0v, for example, has a grant program that is entirely funded by the private sector, and that rewards the part that solves a social problem that is doing for social good and so on.

  • Every batch, there’s also -- well, I’m going to paste you the links -- the showcases where they do get funds and do something good together. If this business model proves to be sustainable, then maybe they will form a NPO or a company or a co-op out of it.

  • If it’s not, it’s for the common good. It’s open source. They return to their jobs and to trying out another innovation.

  • Movement? It’s called g0v, G-0-V. I’m going to paste you the link.

  • It’s government, G-O-V, but with the O replaced by a zero.

  • Yeah, but with the O changed to a zero, so G-0-V. We pronounce it as Gov Zero.

  • Right. We write G-0-V.

  • Because it’s trying to re-imagine the government’s services, starting from zero, from a digital way. The usual way of doing a g0v project, for example, I did a project with quite a few fellow hackers from Google, from HTC, from MediaTek, on a dictionary website, the MOE dictionary.

  • The MoeDict website is a combination of traditional Chinese, of Taiwanese Hoklo, of Taiwanese Hakka, of the mainland China’s version of Chinese, of English, French, and German. It’s since then extended to Aboriginal language like Amis and so on.

  • It’s a multilingual dictionary that combines many different dictionaries and resources that it was provided by the Ministry of Education, which is why we call it the MOE dictionary.

  • The thing is that I gave up all my copyrights, all my intellectual properties as part of this projects, as did my contributors. When the Ministry of Education looks to revise, to revamp their dictionary programs, they then took our contributions in.

  • This is a private-public partnership that’s initiated by the civil society, that just looks at a government service and say, "This could work better," and then redid it in the imagination of the actual users. In this case, people want to teach their children Chinese.

  • The government takes this contribution and make the maintenance better and so on. There’s many g0v projects that ended up being government services like this.

  • What I’m saying is that because there’s dozens, if not hundreds of people doing it together, each of us did not really put in that much amount of time to it. What’s done is collectively very useful, and many different spin-offs and startups can form based on these digital commons. That’s the idea.

  • It’s still called g0v.

  • It’s about services, so anything really, as long as it’s open source that is of value, it provides services, could be called a g0v project.

  • They’re still free to. For example, there’s people who deploy this AirBox that is a small PM2.5 sensor that measures the pollution of the air, of small particles.

  • They also just took the g0v branding and built a website that let people see how those citizen-deployed pollution-sensors work. If you go to this g0v map, it shows currently how good or bad the AirBoxes are pointing.

  • This is, of course, not government services. This is citizen science. Still, it provides an ecosystem where many different vendors can manufacture those AirBoxes.

  • Also, they work with primary schoolers to use it as an education tool, so people can understand and operate these small machines while also being useful for analytics of weather issues and so on.

  • It doesn’t really have to entirely replace a government service. It’s more like a citizen’s re-imagination of self-governance and things like that.

  • No, it’s not. I wouldn’t say that, ever.

  • No, it’s the wrong direction to go. Only Silicon Valley can be Silicon Valley. Taiwan should become Taiwan. Silicon Valley should not become Taiwan. Taiwan should not become Silicon Valley. It’s different dimensions.

  • Yes. If there’s one thing we can learn from Silicon Valley, it’s this risk tolerance. It’s this diverse set of risk-takers. Other than, I don’t really think we need to become any other parts of Silicon Valley.

  • They’re being tried out.

  • Yeah, if you contact the NAER, which is the place in charge of developing their curriculum, I’m sure they can find you some places where they’re trying these educational methods.

  • NAER, that’s National Academy for Educational Research. That’s the new curriculum link that I pasted here. You can also get their contact information here.

  • Yeah, exactly right.

  • Sure. Any of the people in the g0v grant is actually a good candidate.

  • To get a regulatory approval, things like that?

  • You can get a very good story by interviewing FindTaxi.

  • FindTaxi, that’s FindTaxi.io.

  • Yeah. They’re currently one of the primary cases of the need of a regulatory overview. They’re a taxi-dispatching company, but they’re also not operators of drivers themselves.

  • They’re legal at the moment, but their legality is hinged on the fact that they are not charging for their service on a per-ride basis. They’re currently in the talks with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications about a possible operation or business model.

  • That would be the test case of the new sandbox-based regulatory framework. I really don’t know at which point down in the future, I hope as soon as possible, that they can reconcile their views with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, but I think because Uber is always a pretty good startup to start from, FindTaxi is like the Taiwan counterpart here, a local startup.

  • It is a pure software company.

  • Yeah, the user experience is like Uber. Uber has now rolled out their own version of FindTaxi. They call it UberTAXI.

  • They work with individual taxi drivers.

  • Sure. They’re just a car-dispatch app.

  • If you want a taxi, you open their app. They locate where you are. You enter where you want to go, and the taxi comes to your door. It’s just like any taxi-dispatching app.

  • Something like that. It shows their ratings, their photos, and things like that. They come and pick you up. You can also schedule rides.

  • Or whatever. The point is that the app itself does not take a cut from your ride.

  • Yeah, of course. You can also choose among multiple taxi drivers. It’s not that it dispatches a taxi to you without your input. It shows a list of taxi drivers that’s nearby. You can choose from one of them and so on.

  • Yes, of course, it’s GPS-tracked.

  • It is just like Uber, which is why I said Uber just rolled out their own version of FindTaxi, called UberTAXI.

  • Uber didn’t work with taxis until right now.

  • That’s right, and because of the scheduled rides, they can also schedule their own routes.

  • It’s not, but then it allows more choice of independent or individual taxi drivers. A taxi driver, part of a co-op or individually, doesn’t really need to join a fleet in Taiwan. Even if they join a fleet, they can also join FindTaxi to get one extra service.

  • Uber drivers at the moment also need to have a registered rental car. It’s not like private cars are OK for Uber now.

  • It’s a rental car, and there’s taxi. It’s two different kinds of cars, but both need to be registered and driven by people with professional driver’s license.

  • Or, if they are part of a fleet company, they can still sign up.

  • Yes and no. [laughs] Yes, they usually have a yellow taxi, but we also rolled out a regulation that says if a taxi only gets its businesses from apps, then it really doesn’t need to be painted yellow, because yellow is meant for people hailing taxis on the street.

  • If you’re not planning to get your cases from the street but rather always from telephones or apps, then you don’t have to be painted yellow.

  • Of course, they need to have licenses and insurance. Now all Uber drivers also need to have professional driver’s license. They were operating illegally at some point before, but that is past now. Uber is now operating legal.

  • Sure, if they’re rental cars, of course, yeah.

  • I think so. If you try the app out, you can probably find...

  • I know the person because when we ran a multi-stake holder consultation, the co-founders of FindTaxi did come, but I don’t have personal friendship with them, but I think they will talk very meaningfully and is not at all in favor of government at this point about their regulatory hurdles they have to jump through.

  • I don’t have his phone number, but I can give you email and/or Facebook contact.

  • There’s GeoThings, as in geographical things. It’s a software company that works on disaster relief as well as real-time notification and crowd reporting of incidents like post-earthquake reconstruction and things like that, and that their video I think it’s shown on one of the UN panels.

  • They’re also a local startup that is software only, but I think has pretty good visibility and is also one of the cases showcased by the Asia Silicon Valley on InnoVEC.

  • It’s called GeoThings.

  • It’s a social enterprise that makes this app that takes a photo of a local issue, like post-disaster, if you need to report something about shelter, about power outage, about water issues, about buildings cracking down, and things like that, you can use this app to report.

  • Then, they also work with municipalities to get this overview of the crowd resource report and send disaster dispatches to the right place. They also work internationally, as well, to train and drills, and so on, to partner with many different humanitarian teams overseas. The thing with that is, of course, we always get pretty good video when it talks about disaster and recovery.

  • That’s exactly right.

  • Basically, they work with humanitarian NGOs, that’s after an earthquake or after a major natural disaster since maybe over sea over city whatever help, but they want to know which route is still passable, which part really needs their first aid, which part of it still has service and so on.

  • In many parts of the world, these are not automatically collected. It’s not a smart city yet, so they harness the power of the mobile network, which many of them still remain operating and the mobile phone still has a little bit of electricity to collectively get an accurate picture of the area after a disaster.

  • Yes, there’s many of this...

  • No, I’m not talking about 爆料公社.

  • For example, during the Nepal earthquake, which was not too long ago, 2015. There is a bunch of people, internationally, but including in Taiwan, where people helped the humanitarian open street map team to look at the satellite images before and after the earthquake.

  • Everybody takes care of just one plot of land and mark which road has been broken, where was temporary shelter that’s being set up and so on, and collectively map the satellite images that were donated to the community and then, inform the Red Cross or UN or whatever, that goes into it in the first 72 hours to where it really needs the help and which roads are still passable and so on.

  • Many Taiwan geographic communities organized and wrote tutorials for general population to contribute just a few minutes of time to help the Nepal people map their disaster situation. Then, president candidate Taiwan also participated in this call to contribute.

  • GeoThings, yes, is created in Taiwan.

  • Yes. I actually know the founder, not like really close friends, but they did visit and there’s transcripts of his visit, which I can provide you.

  • Sure. I think there’s two of them who came to the multi-stakeholder meeting.

  • That’s a very good question, that you have to ask them.

  • Right. The two respective founder’s teams, their names are in the links that I pasted you, but GeoThings story is also introduced in one of the transcripts and I’ll send you their contact.

  • There’s many and, as I said, everybody in the g0v grant and in the g0v community pretty much qualifies for this description. I really cannot single out any single person because it is a community of thousands of people that I’m part of.

  • Everybody wants to get a story of Ethan Tu at the moment, of the AI Lab founder, of why he took this enormous risk of not working in Microsoft anymore and deciding to start a startup in Taiwan focusing on artificial intelligence. That’s a very high risk, I would say, for anybody involved but he’s very much willing to do it.

  • He’s also the founder of PTT, which is their local bulletin board system, like Reddit, in the US. He’s the founder of PTT. Everyone wants to get his story. There’s quite a few coverages of Ethan. If you want to single out one large risk-taker in Taiwan that’s pure software, I think Ethan would be the person.

  • That’s right and quit his very lucrative job at Microsoft as a director of regional AI center.

  • Something like that, yes.

  • I think he didn’t work in Taiwan. He was located in Seattle but he was director of the Asia-Pacific AI division, something like that, in Microsoft. He quit his job to start this AI Lab startup in Taiwan.

  • [laughs] It’s an AI startup. It recruits top-notch AI talents in Taiwan and gives them free reign to innovate. They work on drones. They work on biotech.

  • Aerial vehicles, drones.

  • They also work on automatic journalism.

  • (laughter)

  • [laughs] They automatically summarize the top PTT stories into ready-made forms of write-ups so they...

  • Stories discussed on the PTT board and set up this website called 記者快抄, meaning "journalists, please copy."

  • (laughter)

  • It’s like a press but it’s entirely automated generated.

  • It’s pretty popular. They do a lot of this very innovative experiment stuff, but I really don’t know what their teams are like. I talked with Ethan and introduced him to the Minister of Science and Technology and somehow convinced him to stay in Taiwan, but I don’t have a very close connection to the day-to-day operations, to the AI Lab. That’s another thing.

  • They make drone software. I think they recently focused on something about bioinformatics. That is to say genetic, like cancer curing stuff, but I don’t really have the details.

  • Yeah, that’s more or less, right. He recruits these AI talents and works with them on interesting subjects and so on. I’m going to paste you the initial announcement, which is hosted on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for some reason, but that was back in April.

  • (laughter)

  • Ethan. E-T-H-A-N. Ethan Tu. Tu [Chinese] .

  • Drones are always visually appealing. [laughs]

  • I think it’s better if you...

  • Yeah, exactly, because they have many different teams and, certainly, you can do a coverage about the automated journalism. That would be very meta.

  • (laughter)

  • There’s image recognition. There’s automated speech analysis. There’s medical, like prediction of cancer. There are things like that. Which one is more photogenic is, I think, up to the AI Labs people. I don’t really know.

  • I’ll send you the contact of FindTaxi, GeoThings, and AI Labs.

  • I’m sorry to correct you, but it’s "Asia." [laughs]

  • Asia connecting to Silicon Valley or ASV.

  • I don’t really think the ASV offices themselves are that interesting, though they do have a kind of showroom or exhibit room in Taoyuan, but what really happens is in those fields that are actually hosting those makers and innovators, so I don’t really know. When is the story due for you?

  • Yeah, sure. If you ask...

  • ...their pitches and whatever, yeah.

  • I think AI Lab is entirely privately funded. GeoThings might have applied for funds. I don’t actually know. I’m not involved in that level but I think it’s easier if you start from the funder’s perspective, like if you talk with the angel fund and say, what are the most interesting cases you’ve reviewed and press forward. I think that’s easier.

  • The GeoThings, I think, is a spinoff from ITRI...Let me just very quickly look up their story. Yeah, they’re incubated by the Industrial Technology Research Institute, the ITRI. It is a social enterprise, which means that they use this for a social purpose and their profits are committed to further this social purpose.

  • I’m not sure whether they applied to the ASV fund or there’s actually plenty of other funds as well from the Minister of Economic Affairs and other ministries, as well.

  • I think the one that came to present is Slayer Chuang, Chuang Kuo-Yu. I pasted you his name as well as the transcript already.

  • Yeah. The COO is Venus, I forgot her last name.

  • They may come to New Zealand with me next week... or not. I think they are staying in Taiwan.

  • If you just contact them, I think they’ll be happy to share their life story.

  • Let me quickly see what’s their story. Yeah, I think they’re full-timers but I don’t know their previous jobs before that.

  • I also pasted that to you.

  • It’s fine. I’ll just collect them in a single email.

  • There’s no N. It’s not "Asian."

  • That’s right. There’s a dot between the Asia...

  • ...in the Chinese part.

  • There’s no dot, it’s just a space, which makes things very difficult. People pronounce it as Asian Silicon Valley naturally, but it’s Asia Silicon Valley.

  • That’s right, which is why it’s a PR confusion. I keep getting this from journalists...this is like, the 50th time I’ve explained it.

  • No, it is really our fault. We try to set it right by setting the main photo to focus on making links to make the dot apparent and so on. By the end of the day, people still think that we’re making an Asian Silicon Valley.

  • Yeah, during the campaign. There was a lot of backlash from startup people who actually work in the Silicon Valley.

  • I don’t know... If you really like a place and some place that isn’t really like that place is trying to become the place, it creates a cognitive dissonance.

  • Yeah, but to say that I want to be an Asian Celine Dion, is to deny my individuality.

  • Well, I don’t think it’s national pride. It’s about becoming Celine Dion... It’s an unhealthy personal ambition.

  • But then on the other hand, the ASVDA has an office in the Silicon Valley. What they do daily is to bridge communication Taiwan and Silicon Valley. This is what we do.

  • Yeah. This is why this is very difficult for us, as well, to make the PR message consistent.

  • As I’m not part of DPP, I’m not involved in the campaign. During the campaign, when I saw that message, I told the DPP people that there will be public backlash if they market things this way, but they did anyway. [laughs]

  • At that time, when there’s so much backlash coming on, I suggested that instead of changing the name altogether, let’s add a dot. Let’s remove the N from Asia, and somehow let people know that we’re connecting Asia and Silicon Valley. We’re not becoming Silicon Valley.

  • That seemed to quell a lot of people’s mis-imagination, at least the local people, on this ASVDA plan. I don’t think the initial wave of publicity ever gets fully clear. It really comes back ever so often.

  • I do agree. If it’s up to me, I will even further separate the Asia part and the Silicon Valley part, maybe with a dash or something.

  • I understand, which is why the campaigners initially chose this moniker. It is useful.

  • It’s true. I’m not saying that it’s not useful.

  • I’m just saying that we also has another part to say, which is that we’re trying to build a complementary, not replacement, relationship to Silicon Valley. This is the core message of what I’m trying to say.

  • One of the many gateways, but yes, because Taiwan does have an advantage in that we have players in all the different verticals. Even traditionally weaker ones like AI or software, we now have people taking care of these verticals, whereas in many other parts of Asia, they specialize on one or two verticals.

  • We can link to the Southeast Asia, to other Asian countries on the verticals that we share while importing and exporting the capital’s talents and regulations with the Silicon Valley. That’s the main vision.

  • It’s OK to say we’re like Asian Silicon Valley to our neighborhood economies. I don’t detest that description, but it’s just one part of the picture.

  • Yeah. We say one hub. We’re not saying we’re the only hub. It’s one hub between the Asian economies and Silicon Valley.

  • Yes, and it is taking off.

  • The WCIT was done really well. We see a lot of young innovators also. About 10 percent of WCIT are the younger generation, so I think we’re doing well.

  • Quite a few. The educational reform is going to be a roller-coaster ride.

  • We are seeing the protests this very week on the classical text.

  • No, it’s not, but it kind of is. One of the angles of this classical text thing is the emphasis on rote memorization, which is one of the things that the new plan has tried to de-emphasize.

  • Yeah, that’s fine.

  • That the way of teaching it should change. Not just classical text, I think for any subject, it shouldn’t really be taught in a rote memorization kind of way.

  • No. [laughs] The ratio remains the same during the development, but there’s many people in the curriculum review committee, some of them students, who want to even lower the ratio of the classical texts. I don’t really have any horse on this particular matter.

  • My only utterance during the development committee on this matter is saying that there’s many emoji and other write-only, not-meant-to-be-pronounced texts on the Internet also. We maybe should also teach something like emojis to interest students, but it’s beside the point.

  • What I’m saying is that I don’t really have a horse in this race, but people are generally really detesting the way classical texts are taught when they were students. I think that’s provoking some of those frustrations to this debate.

  • Exactly. Which is why I say there will be a roller-coaster ride.

  • Education is definitely one. The other thing is the new regulatory paradigm. We’re having the civil society and the private sector innovate and tell the career public servants essentially where to look next.

  • This is very different form how the public sector operates before. The public sectors were planners. They were national direction determiners and things like that.

  • What we’re now seeing is that we’re going to be co-creators. We’re going to be solution providers. We’re going to be a platform. That’s a different role that the government is playing.

  • We see that same dynamic in all the developed world, as well. The relationship with government is, people are changing. The digital transformation of the government workforce itself is going to be very challenging, as well.

  • Well, there’s I wouldn’t say resistance. "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt" is a more accurate moniker for it. Fear...

  • No, for how to do their jobs. It’s not like we’re taking public servants away.

  • What we’re saying is that the public service must now be done in a different way.

  • That brings a lot of fear, just like a teacher who used to force their student to do rote memorization.

  • Now the curriculum says you can’t do that anymore, and they’re like, "Um, how am I supposed to teach then?" It’s just the same kind of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

  • Sure. On the other hand, it also means that they need to step out of their comfort zone and learn about things that they may have no firsthand experience of. All those self-driving vehicles, all those new innovations, traditionally, if they’re just regulators, they just need to work with concepts.

  • If they’re now experimenting with the private sector, they actually have to have firsthand experience before collaboratively making any decisions about this. If you were driven by curiosity, as I do, then this is great because it makes public service more interesting. If you’re driven by risk-averse behavior then it is quite new.

  • Exactly. They need to work with the local government to do the test pilot drive. Of course, they worry a lot about insurance, about how to integrate with the local community and so on.

  • The point is that they are not doing it alone anymore. They’re doing it in the open. In a test project, in a pilot project like this, the whole community, the whole society is collaboratively discussing, "How should we integrate this new technology into our lives?"

  • The public service as a platform need to listen to all the different sides. If they do that, it’s not like...Traditionally, they only need to listen to mainstream media, like you, and to legislators. [laughs] That’s the two main points.

  • They do, actually. [laughs]

  • On the other hand, it’s way past the time where policy can be made only with a few heads of associations, and a few heads of representatives from the labor union. Everybody who are innovators have something to say that cannot be said by any other people.

  • This kind of, what we call massive listening, or scalable listening, is now the primary thing that I am working with the public servants to do, for everyone to form a policy map on a new technology, and to collaboratively determine on what to do with it.

  • It takes time. We have a workshop every Friday, and to work with an e-petition case that’s countersigned by 5,000 people or more and meet them face to face. Still, it’s a new way for public servants to work.

  • There’s many different levels, the idea of an open government that came about most prominently during 2014, three years ago. That was when the Sunflower Occupy happened.

  • That was during the regional election where there were many upset winners, like 鄭文燦 and 柯文哲 and so on. They run on a platform of open government, meaning that the government should listen to many different sides instead of doing a purely top-down approach.

  • Anyone who campaigns on a top-down approach lost their mayoral elections. [laughs] That was the watershed year. Of course, Tsai Ing-wen during her campaign, there’s many shared messages, many of the same PR team people, actually, as was the 2014 election, so doctors have brought it on the national level.

  • The NDC funds? Yeah. That’s the brainchild of DPP’s think tanks before the election.

  • They had years to plan this out, and it was put to action by Dr. Kung Ming-hsin, now Deputy Minister of Economy Affairs. He was Deputy Counselor of NDC, and that was mostly his idea.

  • National Development Council.

  • The Director of NDC did that. It was Dr. Chen Tain-Jy before, and now it’s Dr. Chen Mei-Ling.

  • Of course. All of these funds — the new purpose of existing angel fund and the two new funds were set up during Tsai Ing-wen’s presidency.

  • The ASVDA is a collective project embarked by the leading DPP think tanks.

  • At that time, I was not involved with DPP at all, so I really don’t know the story.

  • That’s right. I think it came from the DPP think tanks.

  • As you can see, I don’t think the thing is money. I think this is the ecosystem. The money is meant to bring out a new ecosystem of VCs that work collaboratively with the government.

  • We’re seeing some of that yet, but I don’t think we’re all the way there yet, so it’s a challenge also to bring more investment from the private sector, from the existing investors to convince them that instead of just relatively risk-free investments, these new more software-oriented ones are also worth it to invest in.

  • That’s exactly right.

  • It’s happening with Taiwania, but it’s too soon to tell how large it becomes at this point.

  • I’m technically Digital Minister without Portfolio.

  • You can call me Digital Minister, or Minister without Portfolio, or Digital Minister without Portfolio.

  • I grew up in Taiwan. Most of my life is in Taiwan. Aside from one year in Germany, I didn’t really stay in any other place than Taiwan for more than six months, so always here.

  • Well, I had three kindergartens, six primary schools, and dropped out on the second year of junior high.

  • I started a company. I was a software entrepreneur.

  • I became a co-founder of a company. There were other co-founders as well. It’s a software company, later invested by Intel and so on. It’s a really early startup, about 1996. That was in the early dot-com days.

  • Afterwards, I also visited Silicon Valley, started a company there. Also visited Suzhou, China, to work with the BenQ -- then still called Acer Peripheral Group -- and then started another company around 2001 in Taiwan, working on open source and other technologies.

  • Then I toured around the world, and beaome mentor to many Silicon Valley company teams, and retired around 33. It’s a previous life.

  • I’m always based in Taiwan. I telecommuted.

  • I travel around the world since 2005. My life story is complicated. [laughs]

  • Mostly, I just work on open source, those tech-for-good or civic technology on free software.

  • Through this journey, because of the Silicon Valley’s embracing of open source and the Hacker’s Way, I ended up having pretty good relationship with the major Silicon Valley companies, and gave lectures, mentored their teams, and whatever. That’s the idea.

  • For ASVDA, I’m one of the three steering-committee ministers. I’m part of the steering committee.

  • Of ASVDA. I’m also part of the steering committee for the Digital Nation Plan, which is the more infrastructure or educational plan. ASVDA is about application. The Digital Nation, DIGI⁺, is about infrastructure. I’m part of steering committee for those.

  • Not really. [laughs] It was easily funded from the private sectors. We did not think about looking to government, because when I was a startup entrepreneur, it was assumed by us, cofounders, that the government really don’t understand software. We don’t even think about looking to them or something.

  • You can’t say that. In ASVDA, as well as DIGI⁺, there are three Ministers without Portfolio collectively overseeing.

  • Just list me as part of the steering committee. That’s the most fair way of describing it.

  • Starting late October, I have an office hour in a local incubator.

  • Yeah, office hour. Every Wednesday, starting mid-October, I work in the Taiwan Air Force Social Innovation Center.

  • There, you can find many startups, social enterprises using software to solve the social issues to further the common good.

  • We have a batch of maybe 20 teams. We are still reviewing them at the moment. In addition to co-working there, there’s also proof-of-service, proof-of-concept shows, exhibitions, and markets in the future of all the different social innovations that’s happening around Taiwan, including achieving the sustainable development goals.

  • Every Wednesday morning, I come there to work. You can find social innovators and other people joining me, and having a discussion about the social enterprise programs at the moment in Taiwan. I’m also responsible for that.

  • We have a lot of exhibitions too. You can film me chatting with one of the exhibitors or whatever.

  • I’m going to New Zealand for a week, starting tomorrow. There’s no filming during that. Otherwise, I’m going to co-chair for a collaborative meeting, but that’s not very colorful, unless you like public hearings.

  • I don’t have a pastime. [laughs]

  • I work until 6:00 PM, and commute back home, and really start working afterward until midnight.

  • I do socialize with the g0v community, and the wider social innovation community every Wednesday, and also Friday. I work outside of the Administration Building every Wednesday and Friday, unless there is an interview, like today.

  • Every Wednesday and Friday, you can find me in more colorful places, meeting with stakeholders and with the civil society.

  • There’s many meetups. Every Wednesday afternoon, there’s a vTaiwan meeting of the g0v, vTaiwan project. That’s every Wednesday, 2:00 PM. There’s also meetings with the participation officers, the public servants currently getting some education from our team on how to listen to the public. That’s every Friday.

  • That’s the two main recurring events. Starting mid-October, there’s also the office hour in the Taiwan Air Force Park.