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John Fan Pic Collage CoFounder: Creating Jobs for Taiwan’s Most Talented Since 2011 Ep 179

By Felicia Lin

A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

So much has happened since I interviewed John Fan, one of the co-founders of PicCollage back in December. PicCollage is an app that allows you to create fun things with your photos and videos. It is one of the most popular apps in the photo category in the app store.

We actually spoke the day after Talking Taiwan won a Golden Crane Podcast Award. It was a fascinating conversation not only about PicCollage, but about what it was like for John being in Taiwan when it was one of the few places in the world relatively unaffected by COVID at the beginning of the pandemic, and how it attracted COVID refugees that included some of Taiwan’s most talented influential diaspora. John also talked about how the startup scene in Taiwan has changed in the ten years that he’s lived there.

Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • How PicCollage is an app that allows you to create fun things with your photos and videos
  • How PicCollage as a company that creates a variety of apps related to greetings, video editing, and wellness
  • The WOWSHI app inspired by Japanese washi tapes designed to mimic the tactile experience of applying washi tape, which can be a form of relaxation
  • The idea for the WOWSHI app came out of the realization that during the pandemic people were looking for ways to de-stress
  • How PicCollage was started 10 years ago and was initially designed primarily for the iPad
  • 10 years ago apps like Uber, Instagram and Snapchat were still relatively new
  • How PicCollage was started in Silicon Valley but has much of its operations in Taiwan
  • John’s experience as a Taiwanese American having moved to Taiwan and lived there for 10 years
  • The challenges of running a business in multiple time zones
  • The advantages of running a business in Taiwan
  • The freedom and creativity in Taiwan
  • The popularity of bubble tea and cat cafes of Taiwan
  • How Taiwan is connected to and influenced by China, Japan and the U.S.
  • Taiwan’s kawaii i.e. cute aesthetic which has been influenced by Japan
  • Kawaii culture in the in the campaign for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian
  • How Bitmoji was created in 2007
  • PicCollage’s Silicon Valley values and Taiwanese employees
  • How PicCollage has offered its team members U.S. $3,500 to spend on learning about or getting training on something of their own choice
  • How PicCollage’s values are a mix from Silicon Valley and Taiwan: Always Be Learning. Be Proactive and Overcommunicate. Win As A Team.
  • How PicCollage has changed and evolved over time
  • John’s work experience prior to PicCollage
  • What it has been like starting and running PicCollage
  • How PicCollage values user feedback and has invited users to come in for user interviews on Fridays
  • What they have learned from user feedback e.g. the ability to save/back up the collages on their phone in the cloud
  • Artist collaborations with PicCollage have included collaborations with individual artists, Sanrio, and tokidoki
  • What it’s been like being in Taiwan when it was relatively unaffected by COVID at the beginning of the pandemic, and attracted COVID refugees
  • How Taiwan was one of the first countries to be aware of the threat of COVID early on in the pandemic and was prepared due to its prior experience with SARS
  • How Taiwan was able to maintain zero COVID cases up until April/May 2021 and attracted COVID refugees, like the founders of Rotten Tomatoes, Twitch and YouTube
  • The use of Gather and Kumospace as Taiwan has gone into partial lockdown and adopted working remotely
  • How has the startup culture in Taiwan changed in the 10 years that John has been in Taiwan
  • How software startups exist in the shadows of Taiwan’s two major industries: the semiconductor industry and ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) industry or contract manufacturing industries
  • How Taiwan can play a role in the software industry
  • How people in Taiwan vs Japan and Korea, are more willing to take a risk and work for smaller companies instead of large companies and conglomerates
  • How the startup Gogoro has been able to get a lot of funding
  • How Appier went public in Japan
  • There’s been greater investor interest in Taiwan startups than in the past
  • 500 Startups has set up a branch in Taiwan
  • How there are more VCs (venture capital) in Taiwan now
  • How there are more VCs investing in software
  • How Taiwan can excel in creativity and design
  • Pinkoi. “the Etsy of Asia” that was started in Taiwan
  • GagaOOLala, an LGBTQ+, “Netflix for Asia” that was started in Taiwan
  • How Taiwan needs people with senior level experience with product marketing, and engineering management, and this void could be filled by Taiwan’s diaspora or those interested in working with Taiwanese companies
  • How PicCollage is hiring


Related Links:


John Fan on Twitter:




PicCollage is Hiring! See open roles here:


PicCollage on Facebook:


PicCollage on Instagram:


PicCollage on Twitter:


PicCollage on YouTube:


What is washi tape:


500 Startups accelerator:


500 Startups branch in Taiwan:


The Five Best Cat Cafes of Taipei:




Chen Shui-bian:


KAWAII IN TAIWAN POLITICS – International Journal of Asia:


John Oliver’s segment about Taiwan (from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO):




2014 interview of John by Ho Chie Tsai of, Inside the Taipei Office of PicCollage with Co-founder John Fan:


Takashi Murakami:


Takashi Murakami on Instagram:




tokidoki (an LA-based clothing brand with Japanese-style designs):


SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome):


Photo of the Day: Grand Hotel Taipei celebrates zero coronavirus cases (from the Taiwan News):


Patrick Lee, founder of Rotten Tomatoes:


Patrick Lee: Let’s make Taiwan a metaverse (an article from Taiwan News):


Twitch Co-Founder Kevin Lin returns to Taiwan as free agent after Amazon Buyout (an article from Yahoo! News):


YouTube co-founder Steve Chen bets on Taiwan for next startup:


YouTube Cofounder Lays Plans To Help Taiwan Startups (an article from Forbes):


YouTube, Twitch co-founders back Taiwanese online media startup The News Lens:






TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company):








Exclusive: How Appier became Taiwan’s first digital unicorn:


Eslite bookstore:


Venture Capital (VC):






Yao Huang: Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist, Founder of The Hatchery (Episode 147):


Covid 19 Taiwan Fundraiser: Raising Money for Society’s Most Vulnerable (Episode 139):


HoChie Tsai about (Episode 29):

About the Host

Felicia Lin is the Host and Producer of Talking Taiwan, a podcast which seeks to introduce you to interesting stories connected to Taiwan and the diverse individuals who make up Taiwan’s global community.

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