Alibaba's Jack Ma lures young Taiwanese with HK$2.5b start-up fund

E-commerce chief to set up NT$10b fund for promising local entrepreneurs even as Taipei officials threaten to show him the door

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2015, 6:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2015, 6:38pm


The founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba yesterday announced in Taipei a NT$10billion (HK$2.5 billion) start-up fund for young local entrepreneurs, even as the company faced the cold shoulder from officials. 

Jack Ma said successful applicants would receive not only financial but technical aid from the group to launch their businesses on the group's platform. Ma also said young entrepreneurs from the island would be encouraged to sell local farm products to the mainland, providing them with a huge market. Ma made the comments in a speech in Taipei, during which he told some 2,000 students about Alibaba's plan to set up the fund in the second half of this year.

He also offered some tips on how to achieve business success.Ma said it was an ideal time to enter the mainland market via Alibaba's online platform because there were many Taiwanese working there and the demand for Taiwanese farm products was huge. “Take Taiwan-made milk candy for example. One day's sales on Alibaba is equal to 60 day's sales for a real store in Taiwan, so you can get an idea of how big the market is,” he added. 

Ma stressed that the planned launch of the start-up fund had nothing to do with his desire to recruit young Taiwanese talents to work on the mainland. However, he said was pleased by the relatively more friendly and polite manners of Taiwanese youths, and their ability and willingness to communicate with others, compared with youths in Hong Kong and the mainland.

In what appears to be concerns about a possible brain drain from the island, both Premier Mao Chi-kuo and the Cabinet-level National Development Council said Taiwan had also set up or was about to approve several funds, including one worth NT$10.6 billion proposed by four local businesses to help local youth get started in business.

Taiwan's economics ministry has also objected to Alibaba's operating status on the island. The company registered in Taiwan as a Singaporean firm in 2008, a year before Taipei relaxed its regulations to allow mainland companies to invest in Taiwan. The ministry said that it now regarded Alibaba as a mainland company and set a six-month deadline to reapply to operate on the island, or face withdrawal.

Ma said yesterday that it was “absolutely legal” for his group to register in Taiwan as a Singaporean company at the time. He said that Alibaba was known as an international company on the mainland, a Chinese firm in the US and now a mainland firm in Taiwan.“I will abide by local laws and communicate with the authorities here about the issue. If they need us to [reapply], we will follow local laws,” he said, adding that Alibaba had no plan to withdraw from Taiwan.