As an island on the Pacific Ocean, torrential rain is a typical characteristic of the climate in Taiwan. Therefore, umbrellas have always been indispensable for the Taiwanese.
Thirty years ago, constant need for umbrellas provided a golden cow for Taiwan. When the industry was most prosperous, there were more than 300 umbrella factories in Taiwan. At that time, on average, one in every 40 people in the world used an umbrella made in Taiwan, thus the region’s nickname “umbrella kingdom.”
Today, Taiwan’s umbrellas have once again become the focus of the world. In July of this year, the “inverted umbrella” invented by the Taoyuan brand “Yexin,” raised nearly NT$ 20 million within 62 days, winning the 2019 German Red Point product awards. It will officially enter the largest international fund-raising platform, Kickstarter, in October.
All that originated from a visit in mid-March last year.
During my regular Wednesday office hours, Ms. Li Fengzhu, the one in charge of Yexin, walked quickly into my office in the social center. As soon as she sat down, she started to tell the company’s story.
Li Shengqun, the founder of Yexin, Ms. Li’s younger brother, is an expert in making umbrellas. When he went to Japan on a business trip more than a decade ago, he was busy looking at people coming and going at the bus station in Tokyo. They were in a great bustle, taking down their umbrellas. He was thus inspired to develop a reverse umbrella which would allow the umbrella to be folded in the opposite direction to avoid getting people’s clothes wet.
Mr. Li did not expect that even if he made a patent for it, he still could not stop the rampant problem of copycats. Besides hand-wringing, he chose to improve his product continuously. It took him ten years to successfully transform the long umbrella, which is hard to put in the car, into a short and instantly reversible version.
They asked: How can we introduce the new inverse umbrella into the market without being affected by copycats?
As to that, I suggested that they adopt crowdfunding to tell their own stories. That would not only establish their brand name before the launch of the product and avoid copycats, but also let investors understand the work schedule, and even provide all manner of advice, so that more people could identify with the concept of the developers.
After a year of preparation, Yexin officially launched a special campaign in April this year, targeting the raising of NT$150,000 in two months, which was accomplished within ten minutes. In the next two months, the company received a hundred times more funding than the original target, reaching nearly NT$20,000,000.
“We must push the brands of Taiwan to all over the world,” Ms. Li told me during her third visit. They were greatly encouraged by the success of the fund-raising and made a firm decision for the next steps.
Through a new model of crowd collaboration, traditional industries such as Yexin now shine again. I look forward to seeing more inventors in the future go global and bloom all over the world.