The story of why I moved to Taiwan, launched a crypto startup and how this country is pioneering the future of cryptocurrency.
Imagine living on an island that is not only advancing the adoption of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, but is actually pumping millions of dollars into seeing this nascent industry prosper.
Welcome to Taiwan, a nation state in Asia that will soon be the crypto capital of the world.
Serious about innovation, Taiwan is a hotbed for tech startups focusing on blockchain, AI and IoT. There is now a proliferation of major startup accelerators and incubators that are making this a reality. This includes startup super-hubs like Taiwan Tech Arena which will spawn 100 startups per year and expedite the overseas expansion of 300 over the next three years.
Blockchain and AI alone are growing at such a fast pace in Taiwan that AppWorks, one of the largest tech accelerators in Asia, recently announced that it will now focus solely on these two game-changing technologies. With a total network valuation of US$ 3.6 billion and a US$ 61 million fund devoted to investing in these startups, there has never been a better time to launch a startup in Taiwan.
With some of the world’s top technical universities such as National Taiwan University (NTU), there is no shortage of talent. NTU is ranked among the top 1 percent (94 out of 28,000 universities around the world) globally. Taiwan’s overall literacy rate is now among the top in the world at a mind-blowing 98.7%.
Its hard to believe that this level of innovation and talent can come from such a tiny island. If you want to do the math, the cities of Shanghai, Delhi and Tokyo each have a population larger than the entire country of Taiwan.
Not bad for a country with only 23 million people. 🇹🇼
Taiwan is Entrepreneur Friendly
I didn’t expect that becoming an entrepreneur in Taiwan would be so rewarding. I thought that it would take years until I got to the point where I was comfortable becoming a resident. Little did I know that less than a year later I would learn to speak basic Chinese, get awarded the Taiwanese entrepreneur visa and launch a startup based on my passion for merging the fields of artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency.
After exiting my last startup in the United States I decided to throw a dart on a map of the world so-to-speak. The sky was the limit. I wanted to live in a city that ranked high in terms of people-friendliness, open-mindedness, great food, non-extreme climate, transportation, bike-friendly, environment, hi-tech and relatively low cost of living.
Originally from Washington, DC, I ran the numbers and Taipei, although not the top in every category, came out at the top overall based on my main criteria:
What I found here was a very modern city that not only met the criteria above but is extremely under-rated. When I tell folks back home in the US that I now live in Taiwan most of them have never heard of it before.
Even my mom asked me — “oh, you mean Thailand?” Many foreigners have never heard of Taiwan, this tiny Chinese-speaking nation right across the pond from China. It is perhaps best known for its modern cities, traditional Chinese temples, hot springs resorts and dramatic mountainous terrain. Having lived in other amazing cities like Miami, Berlin, Barcelona, Istanbul and Ho Chi Minh City I feel as though Taipei has the right mix of all of the above.
When I found out that Taiwan is not only cryptocurrency friendly but is actually leading the effort in groundbreaking blockchain and AI startups — that made this place seem too good to be true. I needed to talk to more people and ask more questions.
I was hungry for more.
I Decided To Meet Taiwan’s “Crypto Congressman”
Jason Hsu a parliamentary congressman here in Taiwan was dubbed the “Crypto Congressman” by Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum. Jason is an outspoken proponent on blockchain and crypto particularity on self-regulatory organizations (SRO). His SRO guidelines are basically a set of principles explaining how cryptocurrency exchanges should regulate themselves.
I had the opportunity to speak with Jason here in Taipei at the Taiwan Tech Arena (one of Asia’s largest startup hubs) and he’s quite a character. What I admire about Jason is that unlike a typical politician who attempts to dictate what we can and cannot do, he practices what he preaches and has an entrepreneurial mindset.
Jason recently launched the “One Crypto World” (OCW) initiative — digital tokens to be distributed among global thought leaders in the blockchain space. The supply of OCW is limited to only 1,000 tokens. OCW is issued via ERC-20 and contains no value and will not be traded on exchanges.
“One Crypto World is more of a badge than a token, acting as a proof of support to policies, initiatives and legislations that I am pushing forward”. -Jason Hsu
There are several world leaders that he’s given the limited token to thus far including the mayor of Seoul. Blockchain pioneers such as Jason’s buddy Vitalik Buterin will be getting one as well:
Jason, originally from the FinTech sector, is leading the effort to transform Taiwan into a “Blockchain Island”. Currently under development is a “special economic zone,” an initiative that is bringing 200 global blockchain companies to be headquartered in Taiwan. He is also working with local blockchain startups in developing a digital identity solution called “Taiwan Global ID,” which will let citizens have their visas on the blockchain.
Blockchain has an immense opportunity to disrupt the FinTech industry. The timing has never been better in fact. Before I moved to Taiwan to launch AlgoHive, my last startup was also in the FinTech industry, an AI-based virtual assistant that helps Americans prevent medical debt.
The combination of machine learning, blockchain and investment creates the perfect storm and opens the door to many new products and startups from crowdsourced prediction algorithms to decentralized exchanges to emerging new crypto asset classes like fractional ownership tokens that the visionary Gauthier Zuppinger and I are proposing.
Once a society learns that it can benefit from a new technology and how it can help make their lives better, safer and easier adoption will follow.
Taiwan’s Innovative Virtual Currency Trading Rules
Similar to stock markets, cryptocurrency trading is made possible by exchanges. Taiwan’s digital currency exchanges are in their infancy and its daily turnover currently pales in comparison to its neighbor South Korea: NT$12.5 billion (US$406 million) versus Taiwan’s NT$100 million (US$3.25 million).
Upon closer inspection however Taiwan’s average daily stock exchange trading value is around NT$140 billion ($US4.5 billion) which is similar to South Korea. This means as crypto-friendly policies continue to be successfully passed in Taiwan there will be a tremendous asset imbalance providing an opportunity for wealth to be diversified from traditional stocks to virtual currency.
Speaking at the Global Blockchain Smart Application Forum held recently in Taipei, David Pan (CEO of ACE Exchange) reported that the Taiwan government has regarded digital currencies as a kind of commercial merchandise and has thus allowed initial coin offering (ICO) launches. In addition, the government has been active in pushing for self-regulated practices by operators of digital token trading houses while also moving to build related supervision mechanisms. This means that Taiwan is on-track to becoming a global leader in cryptocurrency governance.
The Future of Cryptocurrency and Blockchain in Taiwan
Nothing is perfect. Taiwan certainly has its share of hurdles ahead. Many challenges still stand in the way of greater blockchain and cryptocurrency adoption. Issues such as crypto price volatility, nefarious ICOs, crypto exchange hacking and frivolous blockchain use-cases certainly do not help matters. A major thing going for greater adoption is the fact that blockchain brings increased transparency, security, privacy and decentralization to today’s very static world.
Looking forward here are a few initiatives that Jason and other blockchain industry leaders are currently exploring for Taiwan:
- Decentralized prediction platform for share market, politics, etc.
- Decentralized patient record management
- Proof of ownership for digital content
- Digitalizing assets: improvement of anti-counterfeit measures
- Providing digital identity that protects consumer privacy
- Decentralized Internet and computing resources to every home and business
- Digitalizing company incorporations, transfer of equality/ownership and governance
- Digital security trading:ownership and transfer
- Digitalization of documents/contracts and proof of ownership for transfer
- Smart contract IT portal executing order fulfillment in e-commerce and manufacturing
- Proof of ownership and marketplace for sales and purchases of digital assets
The only way to push audacious initiatives such as these forward is to demystify blockchain and cryptocurrency. To do this we need to change the narrative from geeky tech-talk to concepts that most people can relate to. This means falling in love with the problem and not the solution. In other words we need to ask ourselves what real-world problems could blockchain technology solve? What are the advantages of a digital currency compared to traditional assets like fiat money, gold or stocks?
The good news is that a lot of smart minds, not just in Taiwan but all over the world are working tirelessly to figure these questions out. Once a society learns that it can benefit from a new technology and how it can help make their lives better, safer and easier adoption will follow. Let’s help make that happen.
If you found this article to be helpful please Clap (up to 50 times) and share to help get it in front of more smart people like yourself. If you would like more information on entrepreneurship in Taiwan, blockchain or cryptocurrency please follow me here on Medium. If you want to be a part of Project AlgoHive, a crowdsourced cryptocurrency prediction startup you can check it out here.