Yet it may be that the decline of Taiwan’s traditional hi-tech companies contains within it the seeds of a solution, with a growing number of people breaking out to set up their own companies. Mr Lin’s tech incubator appWorks provides office space for around 40 start-ups. He says the number of start-ups in Taiwan has at least doubled in the past three years to several thousand.
One of those based at appWorks is Chocolabs, which has developed an app that helps people search for and watch television programmes shows and music videos on their smart phones. It has accumulated more than two million downloads.
Another is software start-up GoodLife. Its portal collects information on daily discounts from local restaurants, convenience stores and other businesses. Founded in 2010, it’s now one of the top 130 websites in Taiwan and its fan page has more than 500,000 members. “It’s hard to run a software start-up in Taiwan,” says co-founder Brenda Chen. “It’s hard to make money. Why do it? It’s like a dream. I felt no one was doing this, but there was a need. I really liked to compare prices, to see where I can get things cheaper. I used to go on Google, search on companies’ websites, and spend a lot of time doing that. Now, I can easily find discounts and coupons.”
It’s this kind of energy that leads people like Mr Lin to believe Taiwan can make the transition to an innovation-based economy. “We have a lot going for us,” he says. He and others say the island’s strong tech manufacturing background, large talent pool, and increasingly confident and energetic start-up sector will help it to overcome the challenges and obstacles before it.