By David Schainker
In my previous blogging I’ve covered some of the difficulties of entrepreneurship in Taiwan, a story which is increasingly gaining traction, as well as profiling the startup culture here. Now it seems more and more energy and fresh talent is being put into Taiwan’s budding innovation economy, and foreign entrepreneurs are increasingly interested in what Taiwan can offer. To understand the local environment, they’ll need a lot of help, and with this in mind I asked physicist and tech geek Gergely Imreh to share the story of “How to Start a Business in Taiwan,” a book that he recently helped to convert into electronic format. Here’s what Gergely had to say:
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As a physicist, it wouldn’t be anyone’s first guess that I’m interested in a business guide. On the other hand, since I have moved to Taiwan five years ago to work in academia, I’ve been gradually sucked in by geeky side projects: running speaker events and a film festival, founding a hackerspace, taking part in Startup Weekend Taipei, and riding the StartupBus in the States.
I know Elias Ek, a very successful Swedish entrepreneur in Taiwan, from a business model competition a few years back. At that time, their team was reaching out to university students, getting them interested and started in business. Over the years we crossed paths a number of times, and when the opportunity came to collaborate on something I felt I can help him with, I took that chance.
Earlier this year he gave me a copy of How to Start a Business in Taiwan, a book he just published, to review and comment on. He is still working on helping other people get started here, but shifted his focus from the Taiwanese to foreigners. We outsiders need to learn how to cross the cultural barrier to have any kind of chance in this place.
While I prefer my fiction books in paper form, I felt that with a business guide like this, which is more like an encyclopedia of knowledge, the ebook format is more convenient. With my tech background it didn’t take too much to convince him too.
I set out to transform the content from paper to bits, and fortunately it was less daunting than it looked first. I chose Leanpub partly because it’s a very interesting startup in its own right, but mostly because they have a helpful and active online community, and they make ebook publishing very straightforward. Pretty much all I needed was a Dropbox account, and a few notes from their manual about how to create chapter headers, sections, and paragraphs and suchlike (spoiler: it’s easier than any text formatting I’ve done in Word).
The result is a shiny new ebook that people can read in PDF, Kindle or iPad format as they like. And it does look good too!
The content right now is mostly the same as the printed book: everything one needs to get started doing business in Taiwan: explaining the weird phenomena of the “fapiao”; untangling the nitty-gritty of Taiwanese company structures, including how to set them up; figure out how to pay employees and how much; visas and other documents that we foreigners dread so often; patents, trademarks and government grants for all occasions; and much more.
And the best thing regarding the ebook: the business atmosphere in Taiwan is improving. It’s incredible how many things have changed even from the original publication this April. Procedures are simplified, foreigners are allowed to do more things, banking services are becoming more streamlined, and with more entrepreneurs on the island you can tap into a network of experience and support. This guide should include these changes, and while with a paper book you would have to wait for the new edition, an ebook can be kept up to date, and everyone who will buy it will receive the improved versions.
I got a copy before to review, other than that I have no financial interest in the book. Being a geek, I just love technology, want give back to the community, and this is an exciting way to learn how to do my own startup in the (very near) future.
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Editor’s Note: How to Start a Business in Taiwan is now online, grab a copy, and let us know what you think!
David Schainker is an entrepreneur whose business is based in Taipei, Taiwan. He specializes in Web and Mobile applications, as well as Energy Storage Consulting. He moved to Asia to independently learn Chinese and collaborate with local businesses.