COVID-19 has led to a surge of new startups around the world. From the United States and the UK to Japan and Taiwan, the number of startups has notably increased following the pandemic, as economic structures have been reshuffled.
According to the Global Competitiveness Report released by World Economic Forum in 2018 and 2019, in terms of innovation capability, Taiwan ranked the highest in Asia-Pacific, and came only behind Germany, the US and Switzerland in global ranking. Against this backdrop, Taiwan’s National Development Council, the country’s main coordinator of industrial policies, has initiated the “Startup Island Taiwan” brand to accelerate Taiwan’s transition into an attractive global innovation hub.
Crucial to the Startup Island Taiwan brand is the “Next Big” project under which nine Taiwanese companies have been selected by the National Development Council, in conjunction with Taiwan’s industry leaders, to spearhead the overseas expansion of Taiwanese startups.
Gogoro, a leading e-scooter company that has just announced its IPO on NASDAQ, is among the nine startups identified, and it is also one of Taiwan’s unicorns – startups with valuations above $1 billion. Apart from Gogoro, there are also Coolbitx, Kdan Mobile, 91APP, Greenvines, iKala, KKday, Pinkoi and 17Live.
At 2021 CONNECT (Link in Chinese), a leading Taiwanese tech forum co-organized by TechTaiwan, three of these startups, Kdan Mobile, Coolbitx, and KKday, shared their experiences on how the pandemic transformed their businesses.
Founded in 2014, KKday has grown to be Asia’s largest in-depth travel e-commerce platform. When the pandemic came, it was the first in line to be severely impacted, much like their colleagues in the tourism industry. According to Yuki Huang, KKday’s Chief Marketing Officer, quick and decisive decisions were key to the company’s success in tackling the pandemic, especially as it diverted its focus away from tourism, concentrating on the stay-at-home economy instead. In Q1 2021, KKday already regained 70% of its sales performance before the pandemic.
The company has raised a total of US$107 million in six rounds of funding, the latest in September 2020.
Likewise, Kenny Su, founder and CEO of Kdan Mobile, quickly recognized the trend of “paperless office” driven by the pandemic. Founded in 2009, Kdan Mobile began as an App company, in a time when Apps were not prevalent, and the App Store only had less than a thousand Apps.
Kdan Mobile had in total released hundreds of Apps, before transitioning into a Software as a Service (SaaS) company. Kdan Mobile has already accumulated more than 10 million registered members worldwide, with 200 million downloads, thanks to its portfolio of cloud-based Apps powered by the company’s PDF technology, such as the Document 365 series and Creativity 365 series. Its Kdan Cloud also became a standalone application in 2019.
According to Su, even before the pandemic, he had already noted the market potential of e-signature services: despite the its large demand in the U.S. market, e-signature solutions have only been adopted by less than 1% of the enterprises around the world. It presents a great opportunity to Kdan Mobile, and in 2019 it released its own e-signature service called DottedSign. The pandemic only boosted this demand further. In July 2021, Kdan Mobile has just raised US$16 million through its series B funding. In total, it has already raised US$22.2 million through three rounds.
CoolBitX, founded in 2014, also benefited from the post-pandemic “contactless economy”. Dedicated to blockchain security, CoolBitX produced the world’s first “cold wallet” – a crypto wallet that’s not connected to the internet. Recognizing that more money have been in circulation in the post-pandemic global economy, consequently accelerating the growth of cryptocurrencies, CoolBitX’s cold wallet rides on the trend, with 20,000 wallets having been sold.
According to Michael Ou, CoolBitX founder, the company is focusing on providing support for more cryptocurrency types, in addition to developing new types of Non-fungible tokens (NFT) and decentralized finance technologies. CoolBitX currently aims to capture the largest market share in Japan, and it was backed by Japan’s SBI Holdings, raising US$30.4 million through four funding rounds, the latest in 2020.