Investing in Software & Hardware Startups from Taiwan with Lucas Wang, CEO & Partner of TMI

Lucas, please introduce yourself…

I co-founded TMI Holding, an incubator focused on Internet and mobile startups in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia on Feb, 2012 as the CEO/Partner.

This is my second venture since 2005. Before TMI, I served 6 years as a partner at a VC firm based in Taiwan and Beijing where I was involved in Kaifu’s Innovation Works, especially in early projects. This also inspired the founding of TMI Holding.

I was the lead of investment in technology fields which meant I got the chance to build a network of hardware and technology companies that benefits to the new project I just launched: HWTrek.com.

I was not only involved with investment and incubation, I also worked at a wireless telecom company for 4 years as the market manager. In this position, I led a new venture of RFID business and several wireless projects, from concept to products and to ODM businesses.

I built up my experience of hardware manufacture in my early career years, which has helped me to understand both worlds extremely well: hardware and software/Internet.

I got a BA degree of Finance and MBA at the prestigious universities in Taiwan, NTU and NSYSU.

What’s the story behind creating TMI?

While working as the investment partner in Beijing which later on involved Kaifu’s Innovation Works (http://en.chuangxin.com/), I witnessed the power of incubation and the impact it had asa platform to initiate ideas.

After my exit to Nasdaq, I turned to plan a similar incubator based in Taiwan. We adopt a different approach to traditional incubators, to focus on helping Taiwan based startups to tackle global market growth.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Meetings with strategic partners or startups takes over 60% of my time, followed by emails. I try to respond to all my emails in the same day. I then keep half of my day or at least two days per week to focus and plan new features.

What startups and opportunities are you getting excited about right now?

Any hardware + software in general, such as wearables, Internet connected devices and other applications with hardware angles. I’m especially interested in Healthcare right now.

Can you tell us about some of the startups you have worked with via TMI?

Sure. Roam & Wander is a childrens gaming App. The founder, Jason, came to work with us with only one other person in 2012. We helped him build the team, business direction and helped with organising lots of partnerships at the beginning.

Later on, he pivoted to create the “hardware” toy to play with his App and our team helped with the creation of these hardware toys from scratch.

R&W received TMI’s funding in early 2013 and now, he is with the 500 Startups program. You can see the fantastic toys in leading toy stores, some Apple retail outlets and Amazon.

We also worked with Codementor: a platform to experience one on one real time coding teaching. You can find some of the best coders out there on the platform and learn from them.

Weiting, the founder, and his small team are now located at TMI’s co-working space. TMI helped found this company in 2013 and since then they have been invited to Techstars in Seattle.

You could find some others started we have worked with on our portfolio page.

How does the entrepreneurship scene in Taiwan differ to the US and elsewhere in Asia?

In Taiwan we have world class engineers, a good work attitude and excellent hardware and infrastructure. People here are eager to adopt and learn new technologies and follow new and different ideas.

However, due to the weak VC/Angel ecosystem, startups are struggling to move at speed. VC’s are often more focused on paying attention to late/pre-IPO stage companies.

Do you advise startups in Taiwan to think global, local or both?

It is our mandate that the startups we incubate go global from day one. While starting with the local market is ok, the plan or features need to be able to scale to the bigger overseas market.

Pure Taiwan local business may be nice and sweet enough but TMI’s goal is to leverage the advantage here in Taiwan to target the worldwide market. Which could also maximise the value of the startup to justify the investment.

For example, Taiwan alone is about the same size of Mainland China in terms of Apple App store revenue. So, yes, Taiwan is big enough for App developers, but, Taiwan is also quite open to international players and competition is fierce.

If you take a look at the top ranking of Apps, most of the pay or game apps are from overseas. Which means, Taiwan itself is quite international, thus, if you are not capable to present an app that can go global, it is hard to gain margin here.

As for funding angles, we provide inventors extensive resources including our Request for Quotation (RFQ) Tool, and a comprehensive crowd funding guide. We give everything an inventor would need to understand the process and to ensure a successful campaign on the HWTrek platform.

What’s next for Taiwan’s startup ecosystem?

More people will find out the value of Taiwan’s manufacture network, which has helped innovate hardware for for decades. Not many people know many great products started in Taiwan’s hardware ecosystem, such as all of Apple’s products, Nest Lab, and Bose’ mini speakers.

We think we can foster these capabilities to support all kinds of innovations/startups going forward.

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