Lead, pivot, and exercise: Investor Max Huang's advice to Taiwan startup founders

Max Huang is no stranger to the tech industry. With management experience at such enterprises as Alipay and Taiwan Mobile, his career has followed the growth of the internet and telecom industry in Asia. These days, Huang has turned his attention to the growing startup industry, most recently founding International Date Line Capital, an investment firm aimed at first-time startups in China.

Here's Max's top advice for Taiwanese startup founders:

  • Don't just recruit your BFFs
    Bringing in people you are familiar with is much more reliable than hiring strangers, but you won’t always have the right acquaintances at the ready. “If you haven’t established some sort of reputation or success, you may find it difficult to attract people with the proper abilities and talents,” Huang admits. Put simply, the best people want to find the best companies, so be attractive on a business level and make friends wherever you go.
  • Lead by example, even when it sucks
    A strong leader should have the skills to target problems and act swiftly. “In a new company, problems are numerous and constant. Entrepreneurs need to be strict with themselves and be decisive on how to move forward.” There is not always time to wait for the ideal moment or to make the perfect decision. People will constantly look to you for help, and you will need to be a role model even when you don’t feel like one.
  • Face your mistakes like an adult
    Recognizing when to pivot is just as important as knowing where to start. “A lot of startup founders are constantly in denial and cannot face the fact that they have made a wrong decision,” Huang says. Admitting to and reflecting on personal mistakes is humbling, but failure is experience, and there is no better teacher than that.
  • Know what makes your startup awesome
    “When I look at investment cases,” Huang says. “I consider what each company has done to produce an outstanding result in a specific area.” The more familiar you are with the metrics of your company and your competitors, the more you’ll realize what stands out about your product and your metrics. Whether it’s your product, your users, or your team, be able to articulate clearly and simply what makes you special, and CONVINCE the investor you're worth it.
  • Think BIGGER
    While contributing only to the local community is an honorable notion, if you want to make a dent in the global market, you cannot settle for anything less than an idea with growth potential. “The Chinese understand Economies of Scale very well,” Huang notes. “China has learned from the U.S. that there is always money to be made from countries with large populations.” One of the biggest problems Taiwan faces is our lack of exposure to international competition, and that means many startups are working on Taiwan-focused problems. If you're a startup founder, keep this in mind: you want your product to improve the lives of people everywhere, so design a product the whole world can use!
  • Maintain your hardware
    “When the body releases endorphins, it becomes easier to manage the stress we face on a daily basis, so exercise is a must,” Huang points out. A lot of startup founders treat overwork as proof of their commitment, but remember: You are only human. Neglecting your body hurts productivity. And it's not just your body you must care for, it's also your mind. “On a subconscious level,” he continues, “meditation streamlines healthy thought processes and helps us better know ourselves.” 

Small island, Big vision

As a Taiwanese who has spent a great deal of time working and investing in China, Max Huang hopes his long years of experience can contribute to the growth of startups in Taiwan. He insists that despite many of the obstacles caused by Taiwan’s small market size, Taiwan startups can still win the global game. Keeping the above advice in mind is a good start!