Though Taiwan is known for its technological prowess, startup founders there still face many obstacles, including the lack of early-stage funding. As a result, the developers of social translation app Linqapp had to get creative–and their solution brings new meaning to the term “bootstrapping.”
Co-founders Sebastian Ang and David Vega plan to complete several marathon-length runs around Taiwan during July, joined by Linqapp (pronounced “link up”) engineer David Huang on a bike. Their routes will eventually take them around the island’s perimeter and, the team hopes, help them score publicity and downloads for their app, which will launch on Google Play in August. Though the trio won’t start off until Monday, their intention to run around the country, at the height of summer no less, has already scored them plenty of local media attention and 1 million likes on a photo uploaded to their Facebook page.
Ang and Vega first met in 2010 while pursuing MBAs at National Chengchi University. Before arriving in Taiwan, Vega was a lawyer in his native Guatemala, while German national Ang’s prior startup experience includes founding Singapore-based rental portal roomsDB.net in 2008.
Linqapp, which launched in closed beta mode last month and connects people seeking language help with native speakers around the world, will work on a freemium model. Users can ask questions for free, but have to purchase credits if they want to upload photos or audio files.
Ang and Vega initially planned to combine their run around Taiwan with a crowdfunding campaign, but abandoned the idea because they worried soliciting money too early would undermine their credibility. Though Taiwan is home to several major tech companies, including HTC and Foxconn Technology Group, Ang says that startups are taken much less seriously. That attitude can make it difficult not only to secure early-stage investors, but also hire talent.
“I have to admit it was not easy to find an engineer,” says Ang. “Our engineer is directly out of university and usually they face a lot of pressure to join a big company.”
Instead, Vega says that their goal is to promote the app, Taiwan’s culture and the country’s open attitude toward foreign entrepreneurs.
“It’s not so easy for tech startups to get funding here, but we thought we can do it our own way,” says Ang. “It’s true that the network is not the same as it is in Singapore or Silicon Valley. There’s a very big difference. We hope that with our Taiwan Run we can create awareness that there is a startup scene in Taiwan and it deserves more attention.”