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Taiwanese online firms eye Singapore as regional base

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TAIPEI: A growing number of Taiwanese online firms are choosing Singapore as their base to expand into South-east Asia as Taiwan and its regional rivals compete to snap up talent in the quest to become a tech hub.

While some say they will be setting up shop in Singapore within this year, many have already gained a presence in the Republic, Malaysia and Indonesia as early as 2015.

This predates the Taiwanese government's recent push to expand its trade and investment links with South-east Asia and reduce its reliance on China - a key promise by President Tsai Ing-wen during her presidential campaign.

Taiwan's biggest start-up accelerator, AppWorks Ventures, said at least 10 per cent of the 305 start-ups it has helped to nurture since 2011 have ventured into Asean.

Among them are TV drama streaming app Choco TV and restaurant reservations app Eztable, which launched its services to the region in 2015.

Choco TV's founder and chief executive, Mr David Yu, told The Straits Times that setting up in Singapore was "common sense", given the Singapore Government's generous financial package, including subsidies and rental rebates, and also the Republic's high penetration rate.

"There is a good test market for any type of new Internet services and a reliable infrastructure for us to expand into the region from," Mr Yu said, adding that Choco TV has some 200,000 monthly active users in Singapore - the same number as in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines combined.

According to PayPal's Ipsos Cross-Border research report, more than a third of Singaporeans expect to spend more online this year, with mobile shopping spending likely to increase by 42 per cent to more than $1.2 billion.

Cross-border online shopping in Singapore is forecasted to grow by 23 per cent this year.