The next big internet service won’t come from Korea

 Posted on:  Web 2.0 Asia

Okay, outsiders think Korea is the hot innovation center – For starters, Korea is the only country that has two arrows pointed to itself in the recent presentation given by Morgan Stanley’s Mary Meeker:

Secondly, the whole crew of CNN flew over to Korea for their special coverage called “Eye on South Korea“, for which I wrote a piece and did a live interview:

But I don’t want to sugarcoat Korean high-tech innovations too much.

Korea’s current lead in technology is mostly in terms of broadband infrastructure and digital devices. Korea will likely remain the leader in the next generation web/mobile broadband network (4G, Wibro and all those stuff). Samsung and LG will likely continue to churn out world’s coolest gadgets.

But what about internet services? As far as I can count, the number of ground-breaking, globally game-chaging web services to come out of Korea during recent years – zero, nada, zilch. Copycats to US web 2.0 services abound.

Where is the “software startup fever” that once gave birth to Cyworld and Dialpad and iLoveSchool, the new internet services that unfortunately didn’t end up in the hands of many global customers but were, in hindsight, actually the global trail-blazers that had been years ahead of equivalent US services?

Things like 4G network, broadband infrastructure, digital device manufacturing are all driven by either governments or large companies (Samsungs and LGs). But the next-gen internet services typically come from 2 guys in a garage living on Ramen. Think Google, Facebook, or even Microsoft.

And “the 2 guys in a garage living on Ramen” are exactly what Korea sorely lacks now.

It’s sad to see the lack of entrepreneurialism among the young people in Korea. They are all studying for government agency entrance tests, where the typical acceptance ratio is something like 1 out of 200. Everyone wants a job securty. It’s not very uncommon that less than 100 people show up even at fairly well-advertised startup seminars.

If Korea wants to be the leader in the next gen internet services, there should be more young entrepreneurs. Otherwise, there will be no post-Cyworld, no post-Dialpad, no post-anything. It’s as simple as that.


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