THE ENTREPRENEURSHIP OF LI-CHEN PENG
My philosophy as an entrepreneur is that the goal of any entrepreneurship is to solve problems, and with success, wealth will follow.
I was working for National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology after college. Almost all of my peers in my unit were men. They secretly wanted to hire a woman to lighten up the mood in the office, someone to tell jokes and pour coffee. Little did they expect that this woman would end up becoming their project manager, briefing the Minister of Defense on behalf of the institute, and then ended up being the first woman to study in graduate school on the Minister of Defense scholarship.
The first year after graduation, I started my first business venture, solving numerous trouble cases that many corporations had failed to address. In the next six years, I made my first 10,000,000 NT dollars. As a young person in my early thirties, I did not consider the money I made, but the entrepreneurs I came to know along the way, to be my most valuable asset. Their ideals and experiences had a profound impact on me, and I became convinced that entrepreneurship could be the answer to many of the problems in our society.
My second experience starting a business was in Hsin-chu Science-based Industrial Park. I had observed that hi-tech manufactories were at the last mile of the global supply chain, and their logistics play an important role in fulfilling worldwide orders. The over 100,000 personnel in shipping and logistic departments were undertaking a tremendous amount of manual operation and were working overtime on a regular basis. Yet, there were lots of mistakes occurred. I could not see on their faces a sense of achievement from their work. As 1,000 hi-tech companies in the park received orders from all over the world, boosting country’s GDP, I discovered a group of inefficient and unhappy people. Therefore, I invested 10,000,000 NT dollars to start my second business venture, raising 5 million USDs in total. My goal was to create a Cloud platform that would integrate the factories, suppliers, freight forwarders, the warehouse industry, custom brokers, and the transportation industry in the global supply chain. Both sides of shipping department and logistics service team could access the data shared by their partners in the upstream supply chain. The data is processed on the platform and automatically delivered to the partner further down the network. The platform actively monitors every step and time in the supply chain and this process is called collaboration. It was a challenging undertaking, but my entrepreneur team succeeded! I’m extremely proud of the product developed by my team: Glory@Platform. Till now, the Glory@Platform continue to deliver world-widely at least 3 millions of shipments per year. It was a rare demonstration of the soft power in manufacture industry. For me as a founder, a problem solver, The most exciting is that Glory@Platform dramatically reduced everyone’s working overtime！Think about the girls have much more time to date with his boyfriends. And also mothers have much more time to take care with their kids. Every time when I saw my clients with face happy, I felt happy, too. I want to thanks my team at Toplogis that has been with me every step of the way. Without you, there wouldn’t be Glory@Platform.
The late Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate, Wangari Maathai, put it simply and well when she said: "The higher you go, the fewer women there are." I would like to tell women with ideals and ambitions that in almost all the environments I’ve experienced, including the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, Hsin-chu Science-based Industrial Park work with the logistic industry, and the IT industry, 95% of the founders, C-levels officers were men. In addition to being detail-oriented and attentive, I took full advantage of the available technology to fix problems and cultivate the industry. All of you are capable of what I’ve accomplished. I wish to encourage more women to become entrepreneurs through the APEC Policy Partnership on Women and Economy. There are a lot more problems in the world waiting to be solved and we can all help to make the world a better place!
In 2017, female legislators in Taiwan rose to 38.1%. In 2018, the percentage of female city mayors increased dramatically to 37.5%. In 2018, Internet access rate was up to 88.2% with women reaching a slightly higher rate than men. In 2019, Taiwan is ranked globally at number 8 in terms of gender equality and number 1 in Asia. From the statistics above and my personal experience, Taiwan can be considered as a relatively woman friendly society.
Recently, there have been a lot of news stories in the media regarding global female entrepreneurship that seem positive on the surface.
The first positive news story is that according to Facebook, between 2014 and 2015, the fan pages of small-to-medium enterprises founded by women grew by fourfold .
Second, according to a survey by Crowdfunding Center analyzing nine crowdfunding platforms in 205 countries, the success rate of seed crowdfunding campaigns led by women is 26%, higher than the 20% among those started by men. However, male-led businesses still procure more funding of larger amounts. This shows that women are better at framing their projects in a way that appeals to the public while men get the approval of backers more easily. We all know that when the ambition for the scale of a business is larger, we will need to raise funds from venture capitals to obtain the necessary backing. However, based on the analysis of data, VCs have been shown to have serious gender bias against female entrepreneurs. In the US, while 38% of entrepreneurs are women, only 2% of them successfully procured funding from a VC. This reminds me of my fund-raising experience with a VC firm. The person in charge asked me if my husband was supportive of me starting a business. I hesitated, and then responded with a question, “Would you ask me the same question if I were a man?” Upon hearing my response, he hesitated too, before replying “No.” It’s evident that even though more and more women are becoming entrepreneurs, the capital market is not a friendly environment for women looking to fundraise. This means that it’s much harder for women than for men to start a business. Especially in Asian societies where the stereotype of a woman’s central role in the household persists, Asian women who wish to start a business are still expected to take care of their families. Thus, it is much more challenging for Asian women to procure financial backing from the capital market.
The third piece of good news is that according to the 2018 Global Startup Ecosystem report, startups with a higher degree of local connectedness have better sales performance and bigger impact in startup ecosystem. What’s interesting is that female-led businesses tend to have higher local connectedness tahn mali-led-ones. In terms of global evaluation, women are only behind men in terms of their connectedness with investors.
These three pieces of good news mentioned above illustrate the same problem: it is still extremely difficult for women to obtain funding of a substantial size due to the deep-rooted gender bias in our society.
Another issue is the root cause of the gender disparity in the digital world. According to a report published by Global Entrepreneurship Network, common characteristics of Deep Tech startups are highly-educated, female, and immigrants. In a world where technology is rapidly changing, every industry going through updates and transformations requires interdisciplinary talents. However, according to a joint report by Harvard and MIT on open courses in the period from 2012 to 2016, female participants made up only 33% of all course takers, while female participants taking computer science or STEM courses didn’t even reach 20%. These courses are all essential in cultivating the necessary abilities in the Industry 4.0 we’re facing in the near future.
Taiwan has been promoting Seminar of Empowering Women through ICT for Inclusive Growth since 2015. And the government provided tremendous ICT training courses for women. In 2019, the Women Entrepreneurship Flying Geese Program provides full funding for female entrepreneurs to receive training in starting a business at Silicon Valley, allowing them to come into contact with the international market and resources at the early stage of their development. With that said, the percentage of women in STEM is still too low. I’ve realized that the root problem lies in the education system in Asia. In Asia, students are asked to choose their disciplines, usually between the humanities and the sciences, as early as in high school. This division determines their majors in college. Generally, only 30% of girls end up in the scientific discipline, which means that about 70% of girls don’t have the opportunity to be exposed to foundational STEM education. If we stop forcing girls to choose a field to focus on in high school, then every girl would have the opportunity to take STEM classes, which would cultivate a lot more interdisciplinary female talents.
BALANCE WITHIN FAMILY AND BUSINESS
A common problem facing female entrepreneurs is the balance between family and career and the education of our children. I’m happy to share my experience in this area. A woman starting a business will be bound to sacrifice her time with her family. Therefore, I believe the most important thing is to cultivate in our children independence and critical thinking. My son graduated from Harvard University while my daughter is a student at NYU. They each have their own dreams, and I respect and admire them both as individuals.