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Bridge to InnovationStart-ups at Yonsei University: Where to start? Where to go?
Kim Min-seo  |
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승인 2017.03.08  23:42:47
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NOWADAYS, WITH the spread of smartphones, producers can easily promote their products over Social Network Services. Additionally, as consumers demands diversify over time, small enterprises with fast and flexible features are able to satisfy such expectations. Hence, in order to respond to the rapidly changing needs of the consumers, young entrepreneurs rise to the surface by creating their own small enterprises.


Start-up trend in South Korea

   Most of the countries around the world are encouraging an entrepreneurial spirt by focusing on start-up enterprises. In the United States, President Barack Obama revived the idea of “Start-up America” in 2011, as America’s new vision and the EU similarly actively provide loans and grants to young people who are preparing for start-ups. The reason behind activating the entrepreneurial spirit can be majorly attributed to youth unemployment. Many people suffer from unemployment due to the economic recession, and there are practical constraints on getting a job through large corporations. Consequently, governments are encouraging youths to implement business start-ups to lower the rate of unemployment and increase economic activity.

   South Korea has also been recently experiencing this start-up trend since 2009, when smart phones marked the IT boom with their faster internet accessibility and innovative design. With the rise of smart phones, there has also been an increase in start-up ventures through creation of applications. According to Statistics Korea, the number of businesses has increased by 3.8% from 2013 to 2014. Amongst these businesses, businesses run by entrepreneurs in their 20s had increased by 15,865. As youth entrepreneurship is trending in South Korea, Yonsei University provides its students with the Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation to further foster youth start-ups.


Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation following the trend!

Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation was founded in 2011 in response to the societal trend of entrepreneurship. It aims to support students who are either pre-founders of advanced technology or new founders with innovative ideas by providing them with space, equipment, and business management practices.


* Box 1:

Theoretical entrepreneurship classes

The Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation provides students with classes to virtually guide them through entrepreneurship. The classes consist of five different categories: introduction to start-ups, ideas, practical business, experiencing start-ups, and discovering skills for start-ups. For instance, in the “Campus CEO” class, under the ideas category, students are able to directly contact venture capitalists and learn about forming an innovative venture business by analyzing the ideas that are likely to hit the next generation.


* Box 2:

Practical entrepreneurship support programs

The Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation also offers practical support programs to students. These support programs are again classified in stages of growth: getting ready for entrepreneurship, pre-entrepreneurship, beginning with entrepreneurship, growing entrepreneurship, and establishment of entrepreneurship. One of the support programs is called “Student Start-up Team,” in which the Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation recruits teams that consist of over three students from universities in Seoul. If these teams are acknowledged for their innovative start-up ideas, they are selected by the Foundation and are funded with an average of ₩2 million.


Successful Entrepreneurship at Yonsei: Kim Kang-an & Kim Byung-hoon

   There are several cases where Yonsei students succeeded in entrepreneurship through the help of the Enterprise Support Foundation. The Yonsei Annals interviewed Kim Kang-an (’10, Dept. of Computer Science), a CEO of the game company 111%, to hear about how he managed to effectively start their business and what role the Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation played in his success.


Interview with Kim Kang-an


Annals: You are currently respected by numerous Yonsei students who also dream of start-ups. Can you tell them how you began diving into the field of start-up?


Kim: Honestly, just to earn money. You may have expected something grandiose but I merely dived into start-up to earn money. At first, I tried to earn money in stocks or lottery. But, I only lost money in the process and changed my plans to start-up. It is mainly because my mother herself started a restaurant business. Growing up with my mother and witnessing her start-up, I was definitely influenced by her leadership and passion. Moreover, since I am a graduate of the Dept. of Computer Science, I did not have to put much budget into the technology aspect to start a mobile game company.


Annals: What type of support did you get from the Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation? Was there any specific service you enjoyed?


Kim: The Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation opened several Young CEO competitive exhibitions to encourage youth entrepreneurship at Yonsei University. They usually get financial support from minor enterprises and government-related businesses to open such competitive exhibitions. Hence, I was able to audaciously start my first business; I invested in development expenses with the financial support I received from the exhibition. In another case, I received over 50 million from a government-related business. Apparently, Yonsei University was selected as the “Leading business university” by the government-related businesses and I was fortunately able to grab the opportunity of being funded.


Annals: You always emphasize the “3S” strategy to be successful at a start-up. Can you explain further about the “3S”?

Kim: By failing in business several times, I learned to always start with the simplest things. For instance, if you were to establish a soft drink company, you should look at the most fundamental yet smallest factor: taste of the soft drink. You should not be looking for product line nor should you be looking for the perfect designer to design your bottle. It is all about the taste at first. You must simply make your soft drink and go around asking people how it tastes and observe their responses. So, that is one of the “S”s: simple. The other two are speed and satisfaction that are equally important when starting a business. What I figured out through my experience is that it is always possible for the most perfect businesses to fail. Thus, companies should be quick at producing products to satisfy the customers.


Annals: Do you have realistic advice you would like to give to Yonsei University students who also dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur like you?


Kim: As far as I know, government-related businesses recruit potential entrepreneurs in March and April. If you are truly interested in start-up, I recommend you to go on, a web site that funds start-ups, everyday to check announcements and get prepared in advance. Another advice I would like to give is to give up on starting a business if you are not genuinely passionate about it. In my opinion, opening an alternative path while preparing for start-up does not prove enough passion to succeed in start-up. When I began entrepreneurship, I was ready to give up on my grades and if necessary, drop out of university. A person who has the DNA for start-up would definitely save most time to prepare their business like I did.


Interview with Kim Byung-hoon


 Annals: How did you start your successful start-up business, April Skin?

Kim: Many people think that April Skin was my first start-up business but I had a few other businesses that I had tinkered with before April Skin took off. I was dealing with online marketing in an advertising business venture. However, as my employees increased, I felt my responsibility increase. In order to pay my employees on time, I felt the need to search for a more lucrative and trending market. One thing led to another and eventually I started a business in cosmetics. I put my education on hold and gave my new start-up everything I had. It came to the point where I had to succeed because I had no other option but to.


Annals: What role did Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation play in your success to start-up? Can you tell us what service was most helpful in start-up?


Kim: I received a support fund as a prize in the Yonsei Global Leader Competition that was hosted by the Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation. I was awarded for creating an application called Mr. and Mrs. I was able to use my award to fund my start-up business. I also benefited greatly from Yonsei Universitys policy that allows students, who are preparing for entrepreneurship, to take two additional years of absence. I personally believe that this is the greatest merit the university provides to students who are beginning their own start-up businesses. To succeed in a business, you have to go all in. You cannot take classes, while taking care of a start-up business. Starting a business is hard work. You have to invest all your time and concentration. Since the school already provides three years of absence, getting two more years of entrepreneurship absence allows students to pour all time and effort into preparing for a start-up business. This policy really encourages students to build their own start-up.


Annals: What are the main obstacles you had to overcome in process of start-up?


Kim: Most people think it takes extra courage to jump into preparing start-up ventures as a student. However, I think it takes least courage to begin start-up as a college student. The more you age, the more you have to lose. I poured everything into my start-up without leaving any alternative routes. When I first started my business, the most difficult things were, surprisingly, the most mundane things. One of the tasks I found most difficult was paying my taxes, which turned out to be a complicated process which I knew little of. It was not something I learned in school; nothing was easy. I had gone through many trials and errors, and during these times even my friends had doubted me. But I had to stay strong and keep faith in myself.  I did not have the luxury to fail.


Annals: What are some advices you could give to students who are preparing start-up as a senior who has achieved greatest start-up success?


Kim: Endure five years. If you really want to start your own venture and are really desperate to make it work, give yourself some time. I believe that to succeed in business, you need to invest at least five years. Five years of hard work and the tenacity to endure the multiple failures and hardships during that time are what led me to success. It is five years of hard work, adversity, and tribulations, but in the end, it is worth it.


*                   *                   *

Universities play a key role in encouraging and producing young entrepreneurs, as they are primary institutions that prepare the student to set out in the world. Amongst them, Yonsei University effectively implements theoretical classes and practical resources to promote youth entrepreneurship. As seen through the interviews with young CEOs of Yonsei who have succeeded with the help of Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation, Korean youth entrepreneurship seems to be an inviting prospect.


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