Let our youth launch start-upsThe world’s top IT companies, like Apple, Google and Microsoft, have one thing in common: They all began as start-ups in tough times. The 1975-76 period, when Bill Gates set up Microsoft and Steve Jobs established Apple, was swept by extreme inflation from the devastating oil shocks of a couple of years earlier.
At a critical moment when other companies were reluctant to invest in new businesses amid skyrocketing interest rates hitting 20 percent, they turned the tide by introducing personal computers and a new operating system to the market. Google is very similar. It made a huge success by entering the search-based advertisement market - dominated by frontrunners like Yahoo - in 1988 when the IT bubble was about to burst.
A feature story commemorating the 46th anniversary of the JoongAng Ilbo entitled “Young entrepreneurs, don’t be afraid of failure,” gives us a sinking feeling. A piece of software developed by a group of college students, which Bill Gates praised upon seeing, was soon buried under the weight of red tape, which required 70 documents to set up a factory.
The reluctance to allow people to fail is a problem, too. Despite strenuous efforts to draw funding for start-ups, countless entrepreneurs had to give up on their dreams because of single failures. This eventually led to an asymmetric increase of herbivorous youth - who want to find jobs instead of aggressively launching start-ups - in the carnivorous IT habitat.
This has cost us immense opportunities. The Internet phone, which was first developed by a local company, was hijacked by Skype, while social network services, first introduced by iLoveSchools.com, were snatched by Facebook and Twitter. One missed step pushed the prime movers into the abyss.
Our start-up boom has also subsided too fast. The government needs to ease various types of restrictions and encourage our youth to launch start-ups. Only when the new start-up industry grows bigger can the IT industry become more lush.
The relative flexibility of the U.S. economy comes from the flourishing start-up businesses, which can fill the vacuum left by a collapsed manufacturing sector. Without Apple, Google and Microsoft, the U.S. economy would lose its main driving force. Korean youth do not lack creativity. What they need is an awareness that failure is an asset, too. The entire society should help boost their morale by letting them know that failure in IT is a blessing in disguise.