TMI-Labs offers funds for startups

ENTREPRENEURS WANTED::While the shareholding structure of TMI-Labs was not disclosed, key sources said the initial funding capital stands at US$7 million

By Jason Tan  /  Staff Reporter

Fri, Mar 25, 2011 - Page 12

Backed by renowned venture capitalist Lee Kai-fu (李開復), former president of Google China, Taiwan Mobile and Internet Laboratories (TMI-Labs, 創意工場) is bidding to nurture the next Bill Gates.

TMI-Labs is poised to seek out three to five potential projects each year and pump in funds for start-ups to help them realize their creative ideas, co-founder Light Lin (林弘全) said.

As more users connect to the Internet via devices such as smartphones, tablets and smart TVs, talent pools are needed to develop mobile technology solutions that utilize cloud computing, Lin told reporters on the sidelines of a press conference yesterday.

TMI-Labs will serve as an incubator that helps possible future entrepreneurs manage start-up risks and create a platform for them to connect to Chinese talent in Lee’s own Beijing-based venture capitalist firm, Innovations Works (創新工場).

SOCIAL NETWORKING

Lin, 31, was a founder of Wretch Co (無名小站), Taiwan’s social networking portal that was later acquired by Yahoo-Kimo Inc (雅虎奇摩).

One of the three other co-founders is Mark Hsu (許安德), who also co-founded Chinese portal Sina.com, before launching KKman — an online bulletin board system — in Taiwan.

TMI-Labs is funded by three venture capitalist businesses: Innovations Works, WI Harper Group (中經合集團) and Industrial Technology Investment Corp (創新工業技術移轉) — a subsidiary of the Industrial Technology Research Institution (ITRI, 工研院).

While the shareholding structure of TMI-Labs was not disclosed, key sources from ITRI said the initial funding capital stands at US$7 million.

Innovation Works has injected capital into 24 Chinese projects to date, Lee said, adding that a call for him to set up a branch in Taiwan resulted in the formation of TMI-Labs.

Innovation Works counts Hon Hai Group (鴻海集團) chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘), YouTube co-founder Steve Chen (陳士駿) and Lenovo Group Ltd (聯想) chairman Liu Chuanzhi (柳傳志) among its investors.

Lee, 50, was hired by Google Inc in July 2005 from Microsoft Corp and left Google China in 2009. Born in Taiwan and brought up in Tennessee, Lee raised about US$115 million for his Innovation Works fund when it was founded at the end of 2009. The incubator provides training programs, technology guidance and funds to Chinese start-ups.

CAPITAL INJECTION

Innovation Works announced on Tuesday that one of its projects had secured a first-round capital injection of several million US dollars from China’s GSR Ventures (金沙江創業投資).

The project “Dianxin” aims to build a smartphone operating system (OS) based on Android. It said it plans to work with 10 brands to launch mobile phones that run the Dianxin OS next year.