追平日本,超越南韓

台灣網路業後發先至
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2013 / 5月

文‧林奇伯


科技之島台灣,擁有傲視全球的硬體製造業,但在網路產業上,卻呈現不對稱的發展,截至2013年初,只有「PChome Online網路家庭」、「104人力銀行」和久大資訊3家以數位發展為核心的公司公開上市。

然而,被投資者忽視許久的網路業,近來卻呈現百花齊放的盛況。在數位時代土生土長的年輕人紛紛相中這塊無限商機的領域,從零元資本起家,各自架起平台,推出各種和使用者合拍的點子,形成可獲利的商業模式,在國際間頗有後發先至之勢,也是這波台灣創業潮中前景最為可期的領域。

這群網路創業家有何特質?他們面臨了什麼樣的挑戰和時代契機?整個市場都在引領熱望。


2012年12月,台灣網路界成立了一個大團結平台,由PChome Online網路家庭董事長詹宏志登高一呼,「台灣網路暨電子商務發展協會(簡稱TIEA)」正式開跑。短短3個月內,吸引近80家公司加入,不分規模大小,在打造共榮共贏環境的願景下,集體發聲。

一時間,網路創業成為媒體最熱門的話題。

但是,這個「大團結」事件卻也夾帶著焦慮的矛盾氣氛。就像馬英九總統在TIEA成立記者會上所說,我們都「以為台灣已經有類似TIEA的組織了」,但卻直到現在才出現;相較於大家自然而然地享受網路所帶來的便利性,「社會對於這個產業的理解和重視並不成比例」。

TIEA的兩個成立宗旨:做為和政府溝通的窗口,以及和全球產業環境接軌,正是台灣網路業目前亟需突破的瓶頸,也是在國際間急起直追的關鍵。

三特色,網路環境待轉型

網路業可說是包羅萬象,舉凡網路購物、線上遊戲、社交平台、搜尋引擎、手機通訊、資源媒合等,已深入我們的生活中,也是國際間公認影響21世紀人類發展最關鍵的動力。

台灣網路業的潛力可以從兩個數字一窺端倪。

根據資策會統計,2012年台灣網路購物金額高達 6,605億元,每年以將近兩成的速度成長,預估2015 年就可突破1兆元。

同一年麥肯錫顧問公司的《網路大未來:網際網路對先進開發中國家的貢獻》研究報告也指出,台灣網路產業對GDP的貢獻比為5.4%,電子商務產值雖仍落後於英國和美國,但電子商務市場成熟度已追平日本,並超越南韓了。

台灣經濟研究院第六所所長楊家彥分析,現階段的台灣網路產業環境有幾個特色。

第一,法規未與時俱進,是最大的絆腳石。網路業講究靈活,台灣的智慧財產權法和個人資料保護法都侷限了微型企業冒出頭的機會,也成為大型網路服務公司對付新競爭者的利器。

「許多政府官員甚至連大陸風行的『第三方支付』是什麼都不清楚,法令帶來了哪些阻礙,確實值得進一步了解,」行政院政務委員張善政也如此指出。

第二,網路創業是從0做到1容易,從小做大很難的行業。台灣投資者在歷經千禧年網路泡沫化後,對這個領域是又愛又怕,加上多年來缺乏評估投資標的的經驗和知識,以至和歐美相較,台灣網路創業者往往面臨長不大的命運。

第三,台灣產業正從「從硬做到大」的思維,轉換為「從軟整合硬」的時代。台灣人雖然喜歡創業,但多數人思維卻還停留在從硬體製造業做起的框架中,對於初期獲利必須不斷再投入以做大規模的網路業營運模式,還在努力適應中。

講究理想,社群力量大

然而,和生產實體物件的製造業相較,網路創業者多具有改造世界的理想性。他們常只是利用網路為載體,集結和自己興趣相同的社群,推廣自己關懷的信念。

綜合多位創業者和財經專家的意見,台灣接下來最值得關注的幾個網路創業趨勢包括:電子物流、遊戲產業、網購即時競價服務、把分眾市場做成大眾商機等。

尤其,物流業近年來快速發展,已有PChome等多家購物平台提供24小時到貨服務,現在甚至部分商家還挑戰更短的6小時期限,物流管理非常進步。

另外,台灣人容易接納外來流行,並與在地特色融合,這種跨國界的特性很容易轉化為自己的競爭力。近年來蓬勃發展的遊戲產業和獨立音樂販售平台,就是網路結合文化創意的成功案例。

本刊的「新創業家,新創業活力」系列報導,就以網路業開頭,帶領讀者一窺台灣正奮力往前拍打的活力浪潮!

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EN

Catching Up

Taiwanese Internet Businesses Pursuing Innovation

Eric Lin /tr. by Scott Williams

Our technologically oriented island’s IT hardware manufacturing industry is the envy of the world, yet Taiwan has a negligible presence in the Internet sector. In fact, as of early 2013, we’ve listed only three digital development companies on our stock market: PChome Online, GT Group, and 104 Job Bank.

Long overlooked by investors, Taiwan’s Internet sector has recently begun to bloom. Young Taiwanese who came of age in the digital era are attracted to the sector’s seemingly unlimited potential and are flocking to it to start their own businesses.

What distinguishes these budding Internet entrepreneurs? What challenges and opportunities do they see? The market can’t wait to find out.


In December 2012, Chan Hung-chih, chairman of PChome Online, proclaimed the launch of the Taiwan Internet and E-Commerce Association (TIEA), a “big collective” designed to promote Taiwan’s Internet industry. Within just three months, the group had enrolled nearly 80 corporations of all sizes seeking to build a prosperous future for their industry.

With that, Internet entrepreneurship immediately became a hot media topic.

TIEA is built around two main objectives: being a portal for communication with the government and getting on track with the global industry. The domestic industry has found the latter task challenging, but it is an absolute necessity if local firms are to make international inroads.

Transforming the environment

The “Internet industry” covers a lot of ground, everything from online shopping and gaming to social portals, search engines, mobile data, and resource matching platforms such as employment websites. Importantly, the Internet has also become part and parcel of our workaday lives and is widely expected to be one of the key drivers of human development in the 21st century.

Two numbers help illustrate the potential of Taiwan’s Internet sector.

First, according to the Institute for Information Industry, Taiwanese spent NT$660.5 billion shopping online in 2012. This figure has been growing at a rate of nearly 20% per annum and is expected to surpass NT$1 trillion by 2015.

Meanwhile, a 2012 research report from McKinsey and Company on the impact of the Internet on national economies noted that Taiwan’s Internet industry accounts for 5.4% of our GDP. Though our e-commerce sector isn’t as developed as those of the United States and the United Kingdom, it is on a par with Japan’s and ahead of South Korea’s.

According to Dr. Steven Yang, director of Research Division VI at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, Taiwan’s Internet industry operates in an environment with several distinguishing characteristics.

The first, and the one that he sees as the industry’s biggest obstacle, is that regulation hasn’t kept pace with technological developments. He argues that Taiwan’s intellectual property and personal information laws are holding back micro-enterprises, and that large Internet service providers are using the law to take down upstart rivals.

The second issue is that while Internet startups are easy to establish, they are very hard to grow. Investors have been leery of the sector since the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. Nowadays, few have the knowledge and experience necessary to evaluate potential investment targets, making it even more difficult for Taiwan’s Internet startups to acquire the capital they need to grow.

Third, Taiwan’s tech industry is in a transitional state, slowly moving away from using hardware to drive growth and towards using software. Though Taiwanese are entrepreneurial by nature, most people’s thinking is still built around the manufacturing paradigm. In other words, we’re still adapting to the Internet business model, which requires that you pour initial profits back into the business to grow it.

The power of communities

According to entrepreneurs and financial experts, trends that bear watching in Internet entrepreneurship include e-logistics, gaming, price-watching services, and the conversion of niche markets into mass markets.

Taiwanese are quick to import international trends and apply them to our own industries, where they often provide a competitive edge. The rapid growth of the gaming industry and of sales platforms for independent music are cases in point: successful integrations of the creative-cultural and Internet sectors.

Taiwan Panorama’s new series on how young entrepreneurs are invigorating our economy offers readers a glimpse into Taiwan’s next big thing.

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