Finding success in failure

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Finding success in failure

About 40 million new jobs were created in the United States from 1980 to 2005. Most of them came from companies less than five years old, according to a study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit organization set up to foster entrepreneurship and innovation.

The findings offer an important message as the U.S. looks to ease its current unemployment woes: Startup companies and young firms are key to creating jobs.

Our government certainly seems to understand that message.

In a recent economic cabinet meeting chaired by the president, the government mapped out measures to support emerging technologies and promising young companies through various programs and projects. The government plans to invest 350 billion won ($295.8 million) annually starting next year into fostering a new generation of entrepreneurs, financing startups and establishing a Korean version of the Kauffman Foundation. During the meeting, President Lee Myung-bak repeatedly emphasized the importance of encouraging entrepreneurship among younger professionals.

“Young people these days seem to eschew risks and challenges,” Lee said, adding that the relatively slow activity in the nation’s startup community is tied to a lack of entrepreneurial spirit.

But we cannot blame them for shying away from taking risks. Our society has little tolerance for failure and attaches a stigma to mistakes, discouraging people from picking themselves back up and trying again.

We do not have the same understanding of failure as professionals in Silicon Valley in the United States, where the business community actively encourages big risks. In fact, entrepreneurs there who fail once can often actually raise money for another venture more easily than the first time around, as investors view them as wiser and more competent.

The saying “failure is the mother of success” has motivated numerous young entrepreneurs in the United States, including those behind companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter. In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, Twitter co-founder Isaac Biz Stone emphasized the importance of failure on the path to success. If you want to really achieve something in the business world, he said, you must brace yourself for epic failure. American society values young people who throw away stable jobs to jump into risky new ventures, he said.

Here in Korea, we should establish a new mind-set when it comes to failure and risk-taking. We must applaud failure and help those who fall down get up again and aim higher.
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