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One of Asia’s coolest startup projects has failed

Asia’s startup community let out a collective sigh of disappointment just before the weekend, when Taiwan’s vision of growing a startup ecosystem in a soccer stadium fell through.

The project had generated so much buzz that the South China Morning Post (SCMP) included it in a feature on the top 5 most promising Taiwan startups earlier this month.

In that piece, the SCMP wrote, “Taipei’s Zhongshan Soccer Stadium is… being transformed into 100,000 square food start-up cluster, including an accelerator, called Taiwan Startup Stadium as part of the [National Development Council] efforts.”

But alas, as a blog posting on the project’s website rather bravely — and through teary eyes — admits, it’s the kind of set back that startup founders “have to deal with every day”.

“Taiwan Startup Stadium will NOT be moving into Zhongshan Soccer Stadium,” the blog post explained. “This will come as a surprise, considering Taiwan Startup Stadium kicked off our programs only a few short months ago.”

The government has apparently designated the stadium’s future use to “other projects” instead. Meanwhile, the project will remain at its temporary location in Taipei for now.

The blog post continued: “Despite the unanticipated venue change, what won’t change is the Taiwan Startup Stadium branding and the aspirations behind it… The TSS mission is to internationalize the Taiwan startup ecosystem. While you could say we’ve just pivoted, our spirit remains unchanged.”

The project had initially been approved last August (though interestingly the link to that statement on the National Development Council’s website is now unavailable) to uniform applaud and high expectations by the region’s startup community.

At the time, one of the drivers behind the idea had been to bolster Taiwan’s slowing manufacturing sector by supporting new internet companies and startups. This was to go side by side with moves towards deregulation, increased access to international capital, and a more nurturing relationship between Taiwan’s government and the startup community.

Taiwan has produced a handful of notable startups in recent times, with perhaps one of the most notable being environmentally-friendly scooter startup Gogoro, which has to date raised $150 million from the likes of Panasonic and HTC’s founder Cher Wang.

Commenting on an official Facebook post about the news, Jeffrey Paine, a Founding Partner at Singapore-based venture capital firm Golden Gate Ventures, said that “It’s the infectious people I know at TSS that will move the ecosystem. Infrastructure does not stop anyone. Keep it up.” (We’ve also reached out to Paine separately for comment.)

Admittedly, saying that the project “has failed” is not entirely true. While part of its core mission has failed, its spirit and goals may yet live on. But what seems to have failed here is the Taiwan government’s commitment to its startup ecosystem.

One obvious question remains: What becomes of the name now that it’s no longer going to be in a stadium?

We’ve reached out to Taiwan Startup Stadium, Taipei City Government, and the National Development Council for further comment. We’ll update you if we hear back.

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