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Experts and entrepreneurs offer advice at youth forum

Sept 19,2017
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Speakers at the ASEAN-Korea Youth Forum pose in Seoul City Hall, central Seoul, on Monday. From left: TaniMac CEO Mohammad Fitri Othman, President Song Jong-guk of the Science and Technology Policy Institute, President Penny Low of Social Innovation Park, Secretary General Kim Young-sun of the ASEAN-Korea Centre, UN East and North-East Asia Office Director Kilaparti Ramakrishna, Seoul Metropolitan Government Ambassador Kim Chang-beom and Diocian CEO Kim Doo-whan. [UN ESCAP]
Over 200 university students from Korea and Southeast Asia gathered at the Seoul City Hall in central Seoul on Monday to meet start-up entrepreneurs and share potential business ideas at the ASEAN-Korea Youth Forum.

This year’s theme for the fourth annual event was “Fostering Global Entrepreneurship, empowering the ASEAN-Korean Youth.” The initiative was to encourage social and innovative entrepreneurship among the younger generation and help them learn through stories of experiences from accomplished start-up founders.

During the three-hour session, representatives of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Asean-Korea Centre, the Science and Technology Policy Institute and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific gave speeches on youth entrepreneurship, followed by young start-up founders sharing their experiences.

Penny Low, founder and president of Singapore-based Social Innovation Park, explained the paradigm shift from profit to social innovation as a core factor defining success for start-ups.

“Before the financial crisis, the single bottom line that defined a person or a company’s success was subject financials like market cap or salary - but it turned out these measurements didn’t ensure stability,” she said. “This led to the rise of people power and more saying they are human not commodity.”

Low pointed out that companies with a good “social mission” actually do better in business. One source she introduced during her speech showed that companies with strong social missions like Whole Foods, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Lululemon managed to grow faster than their peers in their respective industries.

Her company conducts various activities to inspire people to engage in social entrepreneurship.

Two start-up entrepreneurs from Korea and Malaysia were invited to share their stories.

Diocian, the Korean start-up, is an online music platform that has offices in Korea, the U.S., Vietnam and Japan. The motivation for the start-up came from Founder and CEO Kim Doo-hwan’s experience in Silicon Valley when he became popular with his roommates despite his inability to speak English thanks to the success of Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” Having felt the power of cultural content, he made a business plan and eventually found his first investor in New York in 2015.

“You don’t have to limit yourself from adventuring abroad just because you can’t speak their language. Experience and challenge are your best teachers,” said Kim.

Malaysian entrepreneur Mohammad Fitri Othman’s company TaniMac creates agricultural technology. Its main product is a hand-held electronic seed sower that equally distributes seeds in small pots where they grow before being transplanted. Having grown up on a farm, he wanted to find a way to reduce the amount of labor required. His seed sowing machine does just that, helping farmers to do the same job 20 times faster.

“It’s really important to accurately know your resources and you should always explore if there’s more [to use] in the start-up ecosystem,” said Othman. Kim agreed, mentioning his experience of having contacted major foreign companies for partnerships with the help of Hanwha Dreamplus Center and the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

Both entrepreneurs also said that the start-up ecosystem now has more opportunities.

“Under the current education system, the career goal for most Korean students is not to open a business but to enter major private or state-run companies,” said Kim. “They don’t really know what business is nor do they know where to start. But nowadays, there are so many public and private institutes that teach this. You have to look for them because opportunities don’t just come knocking.”


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]