Why you should consider it:
It's one of the most progressive cities in the region, from infrastructure to civic rights.
Who it’s good for:
Those doing business with China, Korea and Japan.
Hong Kong’s demise could be Taipei’s win.
Taipei regularly ranks highly among cities for the quality of expat life, but it is still bogged down by bureaucracy and visa complications in comparison to places like Singapore. Local entrepreneurs or Chinese émigrés are behind most successful startups, but this could be about to change. Despite its relatively small population of 23.5 million, Taiwan continues to strengthen its position as a technological powerhouse – and Taipei, which sits at the northern tip of the island, around 110 miles off the coast of China, is set to benefit the most. The Taipei MRT (mass rapid transit) system extends around the city, including the international airport, and residents praise the healthcare and education – even for expats. National parks are nearby for an escape.
While a slow burner in the business world, today’s Taiwan is a lucrative one.
There are four main Asian ‘tiger’ economies – economies that have seen a boom since WWII, typically reliant on technology and electronics – Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Taiwan has, however, lagged behind the others on the international stage. Despite having the world’s 22nd largest economy and being one of the most socio-politically progressive countries in Asia, it has not attracted foreign talent like the other ‘tigers’.
With the political decline of Hong Kong, as China absorbs it into its administrative sphere, Taiwan and its capital Taipei are set to get more attention. Many of Hong Kong’s businesses and residents may soon be looking for a new home, preferably a widely anglophone one, with a high quality of life and ease of doing business. Today, Taipei ticks all these boxes.
‘Taiwan continues to strengthen its position as a tech powerhouse.’
Previously, people migrated to Taipei for a change of lifestyle: rent averages at $300 a month, eating out is cheap, the LGBTQ+ community is embraced, the high-speed transport is one of the best in the world – the list goes on. But that’s not enough to draw sustained international talent that’ll lay down meaningful roots in the country. This is especially crucial as the country has a falling population and a high rate of emigration – Oxford University predicts it’ll have the largest global talent deficit by 2021. So the government has been appealing to foreign entrepreneurs and investors.
The Taiwan Accelerator – the country’s first seed accelerator – was founded in 2016 and aims to nurture some 30 to 60 startups a year. A law passed in October 2017 eased visa restrictions for foreign professionals, including a three-year tax break on half one’s salary after NTD 3m (£78,000); the same year saw the establishment of Taiwania Capital, a government-led VC firm with funds worth $350m. And, in 2018, the country launched an entrepreneur visa that allows a founder to bring over a team.
Find more of the top cities for starting something new in 2021.
This article was first published in Courier Issue 37, October/November 2020. To purchase the full issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.