One afternoon a month, city residents gather at a custard shop for Crosspoint: Creation, Character (交點「創。人物」). They are housewives, street protestors, organic vegetable farmers, web developers and soldiers who sit facing a wall and take turns going to the front of the room. A slide pops up on a screen and the speaker begins. Some have a polished speech, but most don’t.
“I am an optimistic person,” says a visibly nervous young woman.
She introduces herself as a student from Fu Jen Catholic University. “In 2014, my goal is to become truly invested in any one thing.”
Crosspoint is similar to Red Room, a monthly event for expatriates. One main difference is that Red Room participants play music or recite poetry, while most people here pay to do little else but talk on a topic of their choice for two or nine minutes.
It’s an unlikely concept, but one that has caught on. Twenty people attended the first Crosspoint on May 5, 2012 and all were friends or family of the event’s creators, Stan Lin (林宏諺) and Miles Huang (黃敬峰).
“We made them attend,” said 25-year-old Huang.
Today, they host at least eight Crosspoints a month: one themed on books, two on professional development, two for universities and one each in Taipei, Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung, with attendance averaging 60 people per event.
“People like it for different reasons,” Lin, 26, said.
“Some people have something they want to promote, some people come because their existing social circle is too constricted. Other people come because they don’t know where they want to go next.”
A Winding path
In 2012, Lin and Huang were former high-school classmates who didn’t know what they wanted to do next.
Upon leaving college with a degree in library information science, Lin had a brief, abortive career as an insurance salesman.
“I only did that for one day,” Lin said. “That day my dad said, ‘Why are you wearing a suit?’ I said, “I’m going to work!’
“‘He said, ‘I didn’t know you got a job. What is it?’ I told him I was going to do insurance and he became so angry and that was the end of that,” he said.
Next, Lin tried his hand at interior designing, joining his father at a remodeling business. While an interior designer, he decided his future lay in paint. He had seen an old city bridge that he wanted to repaint. He also wanted to fix what he saw as the worst ills of the paint and varnish industry, including a decline of the apprentice system.
“I told [Huang] that in 10 years, once I was established, I wanted to have my own construction business and change all that,” Lin said.
“He responded that I shouldn’t wait 10 years. I should do it now,” he said.
At the time, Huang had been working for six months placing newspaper advertisements for corporate clients. Like Lin, he was unhappy.
“I wasn’t interacting much with friends, I wasn’t communicating with family. All I had to show for my time was extra job experience and extra weight,” Huang said.
“When [Lin] mentioned his paint thing ... I thought, that’s a goal. I should get together a group so he could present his idea. Maybe they could fund him,” he said.
Huang began to conduct research. He read business weeklies and went to workshops. In April 2012, he attended a class and met Chu Ping (朱平), cofounder of Red Room.
“[Chu] had run it for a long time. Three years by then. Red Room was right on the evening of the class — I went and said, this is it!” Huang said. “We immediately started looking at venues.”
One month later, Lin pitched his paint idea at the first Crosspoint — with no results. The crowd was full of familiar faces who had heard it before.
“So we did it a second time. And this time, only 14 people came but they were new people, not just our friends. The feeling was different,” Huang said.
“We found out that people liked it and it was really helping them, and we wanted to keep doing it,” Lin said.
Today, Crosspoint is self-sustaining. Huang resigned from his day job in November 2012, and Lin left interior design shortly afterward. The two of them work on Crosspoint full-time, hosting events, editing video and updating the Web site with participant stories. They cooperate with online crowd-funding platforms to bring in entertainment.
Some participants — though not yet Lin — have found sponsors for their projects. Last year, a woman was offered a free gallery space for an art exhibition she wanted to organize for her sister, who suffered from multiple personality disorder.
“Her sister would sometimes become like a little girl who screamed and shouted. Her social relationships were always turbulent, but she liked to draw,” Lin said.
Other participants — including Lin — have discovered romance. “It’s happened,” Huang said. “He found a girlfriend!”
Crosspoint runs meetings each month across three cities. Sunday’s Crosspoint, titled “Creation, Character,” is for students and their professional development.