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THE INVESTOR
November 15, 2019
Big Reunion

Startups & Investors

Startup Seoul kicks off with stories of failure

  • PUBLISHED :September 05, 2019 - 10:07
  • UPDATED :September 05, 2019 - 11:00
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Glossy startup conferences and events usually highlight innovative ideas and companies in the spotlight. But Startup Seoul: Tech-Rise 2019, a three-day event taking place across multiple locations in Seoul this week, kicked off with stories that usually take a back seat: failure.

“I was sick and tired of success stories so I wanted to put a spotlight on failures,” Samuel West, founder of the Museum of Failure, said on the first day of the event at Seoul Startup Hub.

Run by Seoul Metropolitan Government and Seoul Business Agency, Startup Hub presented 12 “failures” selected from more than 100 items at the museum until Sept. 6. The pop-up exhibition showcases products ranging from Apple’s personal digital assistant Newton that was introduced in 1993 and frustrated users with slowness and inaccuracy to Google Glass, which raised privacy concerns and proved to be impractical. 


Google Glass displayed during Startup Seoul: Tech-Rise 2019 at Seoul Startup Hub on Sept. 4
Choi Ji-won/The Korea Herald




The first day also offered a forum for startups to discuss their flops and the lessons learned.

Three startups that have already experienced the bitterness of failure shared anecdotes.

“I created a platform that links university students who have free time and (those) who need certain services, but I think we did not provide a distinguished key value for users,” said Ryu Jin-yong, a 22-year-old who is now serving in the Navy here.

“Even though I failed with this idea, I realized building up a company gives me a sense of achievement, so I will continue to try after my military service,” Ryu added.

Another startup founder attributed his failed attempt to his passion for products. “I was too much focused on making products I love but not necessarily products customers want,” said Choi Eun-hong, CEO of Myren. Choi’s company produces a folding emergency automobile traffic warning sign.

Kim Ung-seok, a 31-year-old founder, faced myriad challenges despite receiving much positive feedback on his ideas for an app that shows compatibility or incompatibility of different medicines people take. “The idea was good but I belatedly realized that the bio industry is an industry with very high entry barriers and regulations,” said Kim, who has no background in medicine.

While learning from failure is as important as innovation, West of the Museum of Failure said it is crucial to distinguish failure driven by sloppiness from good failures.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 recalled due to exploding incidents in 2017, for instance, was one of the examples of failures that could have been predicted and prevented, he said. Galaxy Note 7 is an item people often want to donate to the museum, but West said the smartphone has no role in the collection because it lacked innovation.

But Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, which was recalled due to a technical glitch earlier this year, is a good failure that resulted from the process of innovation, West added. The Korean electronics giant unveiled Galaxy Fold earlier this year, a much-anticipated folding smartphone the company rushed to introduce to become the world’s first mass-produced with a foldable screen.

West emphasized that failure is not just a luxury for big companies like Samsung, Google and Amazon, armed with seemingly endless resources. “Regardless of the size of the countries or companies, there is no other option other than innovation, and it inevitably entails failures,” he said.

By Park Ga-young (gypark@heraldcorp.com)

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