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Review: Netflix K-Drama “Start-Up,” From a Silinhỏ Valley Insider’s Perspective

Learn what an actual startup veteran thinks of Netflix K-drama "Start-Up," which stars Bae Suzy, Kim Sun-ho, & Nam Joo-hyuk.

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By Richard Yu, 30 Oct 20 02:26 GMT
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Courtesy of Netflix.

Accelerators, venture capitalists, & founders—K-drama Start-Up‘s synopsis enthralled me, since I’m a Silinhỏ Valley native sầu who’s worked for actual startups like Uber và Stripe. This Netflix original K-drama stars Bae Suzy as Seo Dal-mi, a hopeful entrant to lớn the startup world. Alongside her, Nam Joo-hyuk plays Math Olympiad champion và fellow startup aspirant Nam Do-san; Kang Han-na plays Dal-mi’s older sister Won In-jae, who also aspires to lớn break free of her stepfather’s controlling grasp by founding her own company. Kim Sun-ho‘s investor character Han Ji-pyeong rounds out the main cast.

However, despite the drama’s name and the promises its synopsis makes, Start-Up doesn’t stray too far from stereotypical Korean drama tropes. Yet, it lends prominence lớn a growing part of South Korea’s economy, và a world that offers South Korea’s youth better opportunities than a traditional chaebol career may afford. So what exactly does this series look lượt thích from a tech insider’s perspective?

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Courtesy of Netflix.

What’s an accelerator? Is it the pedal that makes your car go faster?

Let’s start with what Start-Up gets right. At least at a high màn chơi, the series correctly portrays basic facts about how startups work, and accurately uses technical terms lớn portray software development.

Nam Do-san’s company, Samsan Tech, works on image recognition software. True khổng lồ how image recognition software sometimes experiences flaws in real life (or in American TV shows about startups), Samsan Tech’s computer vision platform labels Nam Do-san’s father’s face as a “nhà vệ sinh,” resulting in a humorous beat-down.

Samsan Tech’s shabby headquarters also capture the essence of many startups’ first offices. Nam Do-san & his two co-founders work out of a cramped room with spare furnishings & poor lighting, not unlike the mythical “garages” that many Silinhỏ Valley startups spawn from.

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At least in its first four episodes, Start-Up makes a good effort lớn introduce audiences lớn various tech industry concepts. Beyond the realistic portrayal of Samsan Tech’s circumstances, the drama also explains how accelerators work, through the fictional “Sandbox.” Audiences also see Dal-mi’s father pitching his idea (essentially, UberEats) to lớn investors, while Dal-ngươi herself pitches a concept not too different from cloud kitchens lớn her grandmother. Viewers who actually work in the tech industry will find these references mildly amusing, while viewers from outside the industry will appreciate recurring text overlays that explain concepts lượt thích “angel investor.”

However, the drama still chooses artistic license over accuracy in many cases. Some characters incorrectly refer to lớn Amazon as a venture capital firm, and the series considerably simplifies the process of applying lớn enter an accelerator. While these inaccuracies will make Silibé Valley insiders cringe, at least Start-Up generally gets the spirit of tech entrepreneurship right.

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Courtesy of Netflix.

Victlặng of K-drama Tropes?

Despite all this, Start-Up struggles lớn distance itself from the typical tropes that plague Korean dramas. While this will please stalwart K-drama fans, it limits the show’s ability khổng lồ attract more diverse audiences.

Without revealing too much, the drama’s first four episodes already build the foundations of love triangle centered around Dal-mi. Nam Do-san and Won In-jae also both have disapproving parents to lớn prove sầu wrong, while Han Ji-pyeong stumbles upon childhood linkages with the other characters. While startup cofounders sometimes date each other in real life (nor is it uncommon for investors to lớn romantically pursue female founders), Start-Up seems to center around these lãng mạn relationships rather than the startups themselves. Amidst the #MeToo movement & numerous sexual harassment scandals in Silicon Valley, Western viewers may find this conflation of romance & entrepreneurship more disturbing than touching.

That said, Start-Up is not unlike how previous Korean dramas like Hotelier or Midas employed similar tropes lớn great effect. In Hotelier, Bae Yong-joon plays a private equity shark seeking khổng lồ buy a failing hotel; he gets inlớn a love triangle with the hotel’s general manager (Kyên Seung-woo) over a hotel worker (Song Yoon-ah). In Midas, Jang Hyuk plays a rockstar lawyer who climbs his way up the ladder in the world of M&A, with a corresponding love triangle lớn boot. Both series were produced in an era where finance & professional services were the dominant paths for talented young people lớn work their way up in the world.

Therefore, it’s actually quite notable that Start-Up occurs in the world of tech companies, rather than in high finance. That the series highlights the startup scene is emblematic of a modern South Korea aspiring to become a world-class home page for innovation. Indeed, contemporary South Korea has a number of successful tech startups, & the nation’s flagship internet company Naver operates the preferred chat tiện ích in nhật bản, Indonesia, Taiwan, và Vương Quốc Của Những Nụ cười. Alongside Search: WWW, Start-Up shows young South Koreans that the tech industry is a path towards upward mobility in their lives.

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When I first heard about the series, I had hoped Start-Up would be South Korea’s answer lớn HBO’s Silicon Valley. While I was disappointed by the series’ initial direction and over-reliance on typical K-drama tropes, I’m hopeful that the drama will actually expose young people in South Korea (and beyond) lớn the possibilities that tech startups afford. K-drama tropes aside, Start-Up manages to lớn ground itself in an approachable và spiritually authentic portrayal of the tech world.


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