|Participants of HYU Start-up Academy. (HYU Global Entrepreneurship Center)|
Kim Deok-hoon returned to university to set up a business. He enrolled in a start-up course and took advantage of the free office space the campus offered.
“I think I’ve learned a lot over the past six months,” said the 37-year-old, who graduated from Hanyang University with an engineering degree in 2001.
He had worked for nearly seven years as a consultant, but never had the chance to receive practical, hands-on training in starting and running a company until last summer, he said.
“Every weekend during the course, I had the chance to meet entrepreneurs who set up companies that were later listed on the KOSDAQ. I found it very useful as they told us everything ― not only about how they succeeded, but also how they failed.”
His project, an online search engine for fashion items, called Play Pac, is currently being tested and almost ready for its official launch.
Kim is among hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs at Hanyang, and several thousand trained by colleges and universities across Korea.
Hanyang University opened the HYU Global Entrepreneurship Center in 2009 as an “all-in-one” service center for entrepreneurship. The center has run a 10-week start-up course since July 2012. It has already produced more than 230 graduates, with nearly half of them having gone on to set up their own companies, according to the director of the program.
“We especially target graduates who majored in engineering and science, and who have three years of work experience,” said Ryoo Chang-wan, professor and dean of HYU Global Entrepreneurship Center.
One of the most common mistakes that young entrepreneurs make when launching start-ups, he said, is that “they just jump in and start with basically no knowledge in business management.”
“You need time to plan, learn and train if you want your business to be successful, and that’s why we started this course,” Ryoo said.
During the 10-week program, participants are led through a rigorous, meticulous process on developing and forming a business plan and combating any potential legal issues that may arise.
“Our aim is to provide them with practical business knowledge and a better chance of launching a successful start-up,” he added.
KAIST, Korea’s top science and technology university, has also been expanding its programs and support for student entrepreneurs.
This summer the school established a liaison office in San Jose, in Silicon Valley in the United States, to help their graduates and faculty members in starting a business.
It plans to allow students to take a break for up to eight semesters and faculty members for up to six years to boost the university’s entrepreneurial culture.
The school also announced its plan to open the “Start-up KAIST” studio next year on a space of about 650 square meters, where students can conduct various experiments round the clock and receive professional advice from professors, mentors and veteran entrepreneurs.
Graduates of KAIST have started more than 790 companies since the university was founded in 1971, creating about 23,500 jobs, according to the school. For instance, companies such as Naver, Korea’s No. 1 portal service company, and the top game developer Nexon were started by KAIST graduates.
But the figure is still well below those of other leading research institutes, such as MIT and Stanford in the U.S., according its president.
“We’re planning to develop an ecosystem that creates a science-based entrepreneurial culture and helps (young) entrepreneurs to launch their start-ups globally,” KAIST president Kang Sung-mo told The Korea Herald in a recent interview.
The efforts to help university start-ups and young entrepreneurs are part of a national campaign to develop a “creative economy.”
The government plans to create more than 650,000 jobs over the next five years by promoting innovative start-ups and training young entrepreneurs as part of its creative economy drive. The Ministry of Education aims to raise the number of colleges offering entrepreneurship classes from the current 133 to 217 by 2017.
Ryoo noted that there were many benefits to university start-ups, the obvious one being not having to leave campus to seek resources.
“But, most importantly, universities can provide entrepreneurs with the vast alumni networks that are crucial for start-ups,” he said.
By Oh Kyu-wook (email@example.com)