Home to the world’s leading electronics contract makers, Taiwan has the ingredients to foster a thriving startup ecosystem. But the island has yet to produce a tech startup that’s a household name, and industry insiders have cited many reasons for the situation, such as small market size, insufficient government support, and entrepreneurs’ small-market mentality. The innovation environment of Taiwan was even once lambasted by Kai-fu Lee, ex-Google China chief and current CEO of Innovation Works, as diseased. “Some tough medicine should be taken to cure it”, added Lee.

However, the scene is gradually improving, with Taiwan’s startup ecosystem witnessing changes in the mindset among the entrepreneurial community and venture capitalists, as well as in government attitude and policies. For instance, the government has announced a US$400 million fund to invest in tech startups, Foxconn Technology has expanded beyond its beachhead to invest in local mobile authentication startup AirSig, and a raft of local startups like e-commerce site iFit and fashion curation service Re.Mu also secured capital injections from VCs to expand their businesses overseas. Taiwan’s Tech Minister is poised to increase access to 3D printing for high school students.

Despite having a small population of 23 million people, Taiwan is a thriving tech market ranked #5 on Google Play for worldwide sales while Taiwanese people rank #1 in the world for average daily smartphone use, at nearly 200 minutes (ahead of a 32 nation average of 142 minutes), according to a report released by Tokyo-based app monetization service Metaps.

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Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.