So asks Jasper Kim in the WSJ:
The U.S. has Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Japan has Masayoshi Son of Softbank. China has Jack Ma of Alibaba. South Korea has . . . who, exactly?
Steve Jobs has gone on to push his Apples in another world, but the once popular question on the peninsula of “who will be Korea’s Jobs” is actually the wrong question to ask, says Kim.
The better question is who is South Korea’s Accell or Graylock —the venture capital firms that take chances on start-ups.
South Korea falls short with an answer:
…venture capital is in woefully short supply in Korea. While VC boomed in the late 1990s—with 29,000 investors putting up 549.3 billion won in 2000 ($485 million at today’s exchange rate)—that number had fallen to a mere 32.6 billion won by 2010, representing a mere 3% of total capital invested in South Korea that year.
Kim blames it partly on culture, saying Americans are bigger risk-takers and more willing to invest in the unknown.
He also cites poor policy:
Korean law requires local VC funds to be formed as stock corporations, as opposed to the partnership structure more common in the U.S. This foists on venture-capital firms a short-term focus on quarterly results that’s at odds with the kind of patience more characteristic of successful Western funds.
Aside of the questionable premise about Koreans not being risk-takers, and no mention of Chaebol’s monopolizing capital and talent, it’s worth a read, if for nothing else than Kim tying up the story by calling Korea a “venture-capital vortex.” (For some reason I enjoy repeating that aloud like Elmer Fudd)
In other K-biz news, the KT says today that Smoothie King is set to take on Starbucks.
CEO Kim Sung-wan:
“The new smoothies lineup will help promote the supremacy of Korean farm products, particularly Korean ginseng.”