KDrama: 16 Times START UP Reminded Me Why I chose to be an Entrepreneur

I’ve arrived too late to the Start Up party, but better late than never, right? I can totally relate to Start Up’s theme. I am an ENTREPRENEUR. I wasn’t born one, but I made me one. In college, I may have gone through what Seo Dal-mi, Nam Do San and the rest of SamSan Tech crew experienced during the hackathon. In my case, I was just alone defending my business plan, until it was approved to be initiated by the panel on our “Demo Day”. Our hackathon didn’t last for a few months, but for at least 3 whole school years. I didn’t make an app that would help the blind go through life, but I took part in making the special days of newly weds and other families memorable.
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Netflix’s Start-Up revolves around the world of young entrepreneurs who are aspiring to launch virtual dreams into a reality to compete for success and love in the cutthroat world of Korea’s High-tech industry. The series is set in South Korea’s fictional Silicon Valley, which is called Sandbox – a company who wants to help star-up companies to not only financially, but in the whole process of planning and initiating a business venture as it penetrates the market – that is if you make the cut. Start Up stars includes Kim Seon-ho as Han Ji-pyeong, Bae Suzy as Seo Dal-mi, Nam Joo-hyuk as Nam Do-san, Kang Han-na as Won/Seo In-jae (poster photo), and SamSan Tech Team – Kim Do Wan as Kim Yong-san, Yoo Su-bin as Lee Chul-san and Stephanie Lee as Jeong Sa-ha (bottom photo) 
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Sharing with you WHY I fell in love with Start Up and how it reminded me why I chose to become an Entrepreneur and these may actually help you if you are an aspiring one. 

Episode 1 – Start-Up: Difference of having rich family to give money for your business vs Investors vs Make do with what you have.

When I was starting up, I make do with only what I had. I few thousands, my creativity, passion and skills. I don’t have a rich family to support me and give me a capital for business, nor family who understood what having a business meant. I’ve always thought that it was never a career for some, especially that I was only growing it online. It wasn’t a popular trend then. I didn’t have investors. I don’t know whom to ask to invest for my business back then.
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That is why I can totally identify to Seo Dal-mi, who didn’t have a fancy background but most probably had entrepreneurship background because of her father and grandmother, having just her passion, vitality and determination, she joined Sandbox’s Hackathon even without prior experience of opening her own business, but had experience of managing a couple. Won In-jae most likely “inherited” her position in their family’s company, but of course, she is someone who worked hard as well, despite having an easy life. She also joined the Hackathon to prove that she can be successful and create her own name in her own terms and not because of her stepfather. Nam Do-san didn’t have a fancy life, but had a supportive parents who helped him with his start-up. Dal-mi and In-jae’s father, Seo Chung-myung, when he started his business had to work day and night to find an investor to support his business model.
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You see, no matter what path you take, you need money and passion is never enough but it is how you handle the set backs, how you face your struggles, and how you turn risks into opportunities. 

Episode 2 – Family, Friends, Fools: Never let someone’s opinion become your reality.

As I was starting up, it wasn’t the panel who I presented my business plan who would hit my ego. Of course, my mentors and my professors may have said a lot of negative things to help me with my venture. Yep, they went Han Ji-pyeong on me a couple of times but it is to help me with my strategies. I don’t let that eat me alive. But what did, at some moments, was words that came from people whom I feel should be rooting for me. I might have heard that I won’t make it. What I want isn’t viable. I was leeching off my mom, even if I have been earning for myself already back then. At some point, I lose my confidence, but I still continued doing what I love. I brushed them all off, focused and just strived hard not only to show them that I can, but because I want to be successful with the path that I chose.
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Remember, you may hear hurtful words or feel sad with the actions of the people around you. Don’t let them define you. You are more than what they say or do. Let your triggers be your teachers!

Episode 3 – Angel: Sail off without a map. Follow your dreams.

If we are talking about a business venture here, sailing off without a map isn’t what I recommend, especially if you are new in this. Because building your business venture entails a lot of planning, lots of money for some, lots of scouting (whether for location, warehouse, factories, materials, etc), before you can even begin. Having no plan at all will just hurt you and your business. So please make a business plan even if it is a simple one and seek help from someone who might be of help to give opinions and suggestions.
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But nevertheless, FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS. Not what others want you to be, but what YOU want to be or want to do.

Episode 4 – Sandbox: Running a business is hard. Do you think it’s easy to start a business from zero.

Planning your business is hard enough. When you’ve finally initiated it, it will be twice as hard because you need to really work hard to sustain it. You have to market it twice as hard, especially if you have a limited budget for marketing. It will be even harder is you are like me, a one-man team with a sole proprietorship business venture, with no other team members to help me, limited funds and no to zero support.  If you are able, find a good team, find ones that are aligned with your goals.
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Episode 5 – Hackathon: Failing isn’t the end of everything, it is the beginning.

Failing is always an opportunity to learn. It is showing us what works and what doesn’t. When we fail, it doesn’t mean that it is over. It just meant that we can start all over again, with a different strategy. I was actually in the rocks 2 years ago. I was so down and felt like a failure. But I stood up and tried to work on it but Covid came, so I haven’t opened my business since. I hope I get to open it again soon. What I am trying to say is when we fail, it is okay to cry, to feel down, to be depressed BUT make sure that after that, you stand up and start working again.
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Episode 6 – Key Man: Determined. Headstrong. Firm.

A company’s CEO, no matter how big or small the company is, should be determined, headstrong and firm. You will have a hard time leading the team or you will struggle so hard, especially if you are on your own if you don’t have this qualities. Again, it is not all about the money you have or your passion. Running a business is hard, as mentioned in #4 and it will eat you alive if you are weak.
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Episode 7 – Burn Rate: Values are important.

Establishing the core values of the company helps not only with the decision making process of the company but it will also help you and your employees if you know what you stand for. Having core values within your company would also keep you and your employees aligned with the same goal, and in the end will help you in your company’s success. And that’s just the way SamSan Tech was.
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Episode 8 – Back up: Be clear about the why

When you decide to start a business, it is always THE WHY. In SamSan Tech’s case, they wanted to help those with impaired vision, despite the fact that they won’t earn any profit. It was in their heart that they wanted be of help to someone. Do-san thought of this because of Dal-mi’s grandmother’s sudden vision loss, but we all saw how Dal-mi strived so hard with the app, NoonGil, even if she hadn’t known yet about her grandmother’s vision.
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Your WHY doesn’t have to be so deep. It can be something that supposed to be your passion or you realized that there is a need for it. You love baking, so you open a bakeshop. You love to dance, you opened a dance studio. You can sew, so you start a fashion line. You love to cook, so you opened a catering company. You thought life would be easy if there’s someone we can call 24/7 if we need to go somewhere and we don’t have a ride, so Uber and Grab arrived. Back then, I loved doing arts and crafts and can do photo editing, so I ended up opening an events essentials company. When I had my son, and I was having a hard time looking for accessories for his OOTDs, and I realized I can do that myself, I opened Lil Dudes Only. You see, the WHY may be big or small, it doesn’t matter, as long as you think you can do it, then you can.
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Episode 9 – Risk: A good review.. I guess.

Whether you get a good review or a bad review, both are good for the company. Bad reviews could, of course, chase away your customers to your competitor. That is why you should solve those issues right away. Calmly. Apologize. Offer. You wouldn’t know, you might turn around the situation. Good reviews is what  your company needs, as it won’t only bring sales but improve your reputation. With Lil Dudes Only, mommies would tag my Instagram account with their little boys’ pictures wearing my products and it is all I need in my life and what inspires me and keeps me going everyday. It did boost my morale.
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Episode 10 – Demo Day: You can’t persuade someone if you are unsure of yourself.

Demo Day was Panel to us, entrepreneurship students back in college. It was as strenuous. I remember someone judged me because of my course and for someone who doesn’t had to take any board exam. Yes, I didn’t need to take a board exam, but the same as someone who did, I had to go through a needle hole in each panel sessions I had all through out my 6 majors in Entrepreneurship. Not to mention, sustaining the business even after college, and that’s real life already. If I wasn’t able sure of myself and how I can manage my venture in those times, I wouldn’t be able to pass and get approval from the panels, nor I would be able to make sale after sale after sale.
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Episode 11 – Exit: Don’t under estimate yourself

Now if you are a firm leader that has values, knows the WHYS and is assured with your business plans, then you are safe. You are capable than you can ever imagine. You’ll be even surprised with what you can do. In times of trouble, just think of that, and always remember that you have your team to back you up (if you have a company with multiple employees, if you aren’t, then you have your family who will be there for you no matter what).
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Episode 12 – Acqhire: If you can’t beat them join them.

Sometimes defeating your opponent isn’t really the most important thing. That is why at sometimes, collaboration is the key. In Dal-mi’s case, she her company was disbanded, and her sister, In-jae’s company, which is her company’s rival, has an opening which she thinks she could do. Her sister asked her, why? Because they have the same goal and that’s just what it needed. In real life, sometimes, collaboration is the key. There are moments when, for example, company A’s weak spot is company B’s strong spot. But they have one goal, and they could help each other to succeed. Two rival companies, Procter and Gamble and Unilever, who signed up a partnership that would help save the oceans.
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Dal-mi joining In-jae isn’t a proof of losing. She is actually winning, both of them are. This kind of situations are rare and does not happen all the time.

Episode 13 – Comfort Zone: Hey button! Just hang in there until the end of the day

Always remember, that if problem arises, there will always be a solution. HANG IN THERE. You will make it through. Just breathe. You can also take your time, you can cry, be depressed, get mad, be frustrated, whatever. Just after that, you stand up and rise up! Face it and you will make it! PS. It is also OKAY to ask help, if you may!
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Episode 14 – Elevator Pitch: The only thing that gives you confidence is doing what you love

An Elevator Pitch is a quick background of what you do or what you sell and an elevator ride amount of time to persuade the person that you are talking to convince him to get you or buy from you. Now if you know your business so much, even if you are sleeping, you are groggy or you are a little unconscious and you were asked about it, and your get to speak about it with all your might, your passion, your confidence, then you are saved. One’s confidence level matters too.
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Episode 15 – MVP (Minimum Viable Product): You pass failure on your way to success

Now, in making your product or service, you get a couple of mishaps and that is okay. Don’t lose hope and get frustrated. It just meant that you found ways how your product or service won’t work. And in the end, you will be able to succeed as long as you work hard to achieve your goal. As they say, try and try until you succeed, cliché, yes, but it is true.
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Episode 16 – Scale Up: Pray hard, and make it happen

If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to do something about it. Don’t just seat around and wait for it to happen or wait for sales to come to you. You just don’t succeed overnight. Work hard and be patient. Stick to your vision. Keep your passion burning. Work harder. Persevere. Make it happen.
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All in all, Start up ended the way I wanted it to be. Showing how each of the characters, especially Seo Dal-mi’s, grew up and grow into the dreams they wanted to achieve. Team work and camaraderie showed by Chul-san, Yong-san and Sa-ha were also one of the reasons why they were successful and each of these characters for sure had their own share of success.
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The humility and gratitude that the trio showed, especially when they went back to their roof top office showed how they were still grounded despite being a winner in both CODA and Sandbox, having to work at 2sto and growing a huge company.
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Same goes with Ji-pyeong as he humbled himself when he realized how he must be a prick monster with only negative things to say and lastly, how In-jae found her way back home.
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Start-Up definitely got a lot of thoughts to ponder and life lessons to share, be it in the reality of life or as an entrepreneur. But if there is one thing that stood out for me is to how they valued family and friendship, honesty, perseverance, hard word and most importantly, to follow your dreams!
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Remember: All good things comes to those who hustle hard. I wasn’t born with a rich fancy life. I wasn’t born with a family business that I have to inherit one day. I wasn’t even inclined to be one until I was exposed to it and then fell for it. I made myself one and I didn’t regret it. What I would have regretted one day is if I didn’t even try. I’m happy that this was the path I took 13 years ago, it was all worth it. Being my own boss, is all I ever wanted. Start Up woke up the Seo Dal-mi in me and ignited my passion for entrepreneurship once again. 
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I just pray that I can open my business again soon. I just don’t have the heart and confidence for it at the moment that we are still in this pandemic. But I hope and pray that we will be back soon. I promised that I will grow it again after the pandemic. I can and I will. I’ll pray hard. Pray with me and I will make it happen.

All screenshots are taken from the series. No copyright infringement intended. Poster photos were collected from Google.

14 comments

  1. OMG so many spoilers, lol!
    I haven’t watched this series, and thanks for your review, I would love to watch it ASAP na.
    Being an entrepreneur is better than being an employee. You take more risks, and you keep on learning.

    Like

  2. I find this K-Drama series very inspiring.. I got first inspired in Itaewon Class series. Now, Start Up will be the next ‘must-watch’ KDrama series. Thank you for this!

    Like

  3. In Korea, this drama represents the young generations who are starting to build a business and they were called START UPs. I watched this drama too and I really admire the characters on how they build their business and friendship.

    Like

  4. StartUp has brought a lot of value to k-drama. start-up businesses are well supported in Korea at mas lalo ng naging madami ang may gustong mag start-up business after this drama was done.

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  5. OMG! I love to watch this, especially we have our startup homebusiness. I’m so glad to read your post. Gusto ko yung “good review” episode. One strategy that we should master.
    I love how you end: All good things comes to those who hustle hard. I wasn’t born with a rich fancy life. I wasn’t born with a family business that I have to inherit one day. So true!

    Like

  6. Yung hanggang ngayon di ko parin napapanood Start Up. Hanggang first episode lang ako hahaha 😀 Maybe it’s time to watch this para ma inspire to hustle more. 😀

    Like

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