What? Koreans least creative?

Other | 2007/04/15 22:39 | Web 2.0 Asia
Jun Lee pointed me to Michael Hurt's blog article, The Mis-execution of Korean UCC. Michael points out that although Korea has had arguably the best broadband infrastructure since circa 1999, the country failed to produce Youtube. This led him to an observation that Koreans are generally risk-aversive and there have not been many world-changing ventures coming from Korea.

Well, I think I generally agree with his observations. But I don't think Koreans are genetically risk-aversive. Believe me, Koreans love to venture into things - you gotta come to Japan to realize how entrepreneurial Koreans are (sometimes Koreans can get too entrepreneurial, watch out.) It's the Korean system that turns the venture-loving Korean students into bookworms stuck into libraries studying for the government officer aptitude test.

Koreans jokingly say:

There can't be Korean Bill Gates, since when a guy drops out of college, he has to go to the Army within 6 months.

There can't be Korean Steve Jobs, as when a guy fails at his first venture, the only choice left for him is to land a job at Samsung and work his ass off for 20 years to pay his debt.

So what's the cure? How can we expect the next Youtube or Google to come out of Korea? This is a ridiculously grandish topic to be covered in a single post by a single blogger, but I'm just tossing in my 2 cents here.

1. There should be more clever Korean VCs around

Korean VCs, please, please do not ask the entrepreneur to bring a co-signer when you invest in a company, because you are not a bank or a money-loaner. (Fortunately our VC, Softbank Ventures, didn't do such a hideous thing - but then they are of Japanese origin.)

Also, why does Korea not have a single VC blogger? Fred Wilson has half a billion dollars in net worth and yet still gets up at 5:30 in the morning and blogs. What time do you get up in the morning, Korean VCs?

2. There should be a venture role-model

If you look at the start-up period of Google and Pantech (a Korean mobile phone company that recently flopped), you see the two companies were strikingly similar in many ways: Founded by bright graduate students, started as a garage venture with a piece of technology, etc. But after about 8 years, Google founders fly private jets, while Pantech has sinked. Why? Is it simply because the Pantech guys didn't have "it"? It could have been the case, but what bugs me is almost all Korean ventures nearing towards a certain revenue limit (they say it's $500M) have been killed by some unknown force. (Wait a minute, I smell some "Chaebol" here.)

Pantech was one of the companies that almost made it to the position of "venture role model". I wish there could be a Korean venture role model that every college student can look up to and aspire to become one day. Right now the closest thing to such role model, I think, is NHN Corp (the company behind Naver).

3. More Korean companies should brag about their product. In English.

Cyworld was way ahead of Myspace, and Dialpad was way ahead of Skype. But both Cyworld and Dialpad didn't become a global household brand. Why? I think a large part of it was the lack of efforts to get those services known across the outside world.

What they teach you at Harvard Business School is how to make other people believe you have $50 when you only have $10. In Korea, under the same situation, you say you have $5 as you think it makes you look more humble. Korean entrepreneurs, speak up for your product - and make sure you do in English, as nobody will understand Korean other than fellow Koreans. And those fellow Koreans will copy you in no time.

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