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Success is made by a flexible strategist, not a freak.
Date 2019.09.02 Hit 52
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Dr. Young-hwan Kim, Research Fellow, majored in industrial engineering and system engineering, and has conducted researches in various methods in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovative start-up and technology commercialization. Joined STEPI in 2013, he is currently the head of External Strategy and Public Relations Team under Department of Strategy Planning.

 

 

1. What led you to work at STEPI?

Honestly, I hadn't imagined myself working in STEPI while I was in the doctoral program. Because at that time I thought my options for the future would be only corporations or universities, but not public research institutions. After the doctoral course in 2013, I went to the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania to work as a post-doctoral researcher, where I for the first time started to consider more various career paths.

Just in time, the Park government encouraged start-ups under its policy emphasis on Creative Economy, which I believed could be well matched with my research topics such as entrepreneurship and technology innovation for start-ups. Eventually, I felt confident that I would be able to conduct further researches on those topics in STEPI, so I applied to STEPI and got lucky to join.

 

2. Your research has mostly focused on innovative start-up. What made you choose this topic?

It was 2005 when I began to research on entrepreneurship and start-up. Starting my master's program after studying industrial engineering as an undergraduate in KAIST, I had to decide professor and lab to go with in graduate school. But then, I realized that I had learned a lot more from the business management club I was in (where the member students study a variety of topics of business from investment to consulting and share their knowledge with each other) than the lectures from professors.

It made me want to research something that allows me to feel and explore the field of business. Luckily, my professor was establishing Center for Science-based Entrepreneurship at KAIST through the funding from Mr. Jong-moon Lee, who made a great success as a Korean entrepreneur in Silicone Valley, in order to provide education and experience regarding business management, economics and entrepreneurship to students with natural science or engineering background. I had no hesitation to join the center as a graduate student and became the professor's 1st doctoral student at KAIST.

Back then, even the word "entrepreneurship" was unfamiliar to not only the public but to KAIST students as well. The majority of postal mails delivered to our center wrote the center's name incorrectly. But now entrepreneurship and start-up are used as often as innovation, and it has become one of the most important policy agenda. It is just amazing to see the world has changed.

 

3. What was your most impressive memory working as a researcher at STEPI?

This may not be the case for other STEPI researchers, but I didn't have any period of adjustment. The organization has a pretty free atmosphere where each researcher can lead their research. Most of all, I was able to maintain my research topics of entrepreneurship and innovative start-up that I studied in KAIST. I think it helped me adapt more easily to the organization that I participated in commissioned researches and training, not just a theoretical approach, to explore unknown areas like entrepreneurship and start-up. As a result, I have been able to look into the topics in more diversified methods in STEPI which provides more various opportunities including its internal project, internal budgeting, as well as an external commissioned project.

Among others, “Young Innovators Talk” event is particularly unforgettable for me. The event was planned to find out young innovators and entrepreneurs, who can create market value through innovative ideas and pioneer new future, and share their success factors and experiences with future entrepreneurs.

Young Innovators Talk was not just another event. Through the event, I witnessed the whole process where young innovative entrepreneurs, who contribute to the nation's future economic advancement and added value creation, are discovered and recognized, win investments, and finally grow their companies to Unicorns. I can feel that I am in the center of innovation paradigm shift from government-centered innovation to supplier-led innovation. I always appreciate this great opportunity.

 

4. Can you share the directions and plans for your future research activities?

As mentioned above, the research on entrepreneurship and start-up was only in the initial stage when I first started. For over 10 years, it has become one of the most popular research areas, in other words, more competitive area. Now I find it more difficult to make big contributions both theoretically and academically. Therefore, more in-depth insight is required when it comes to selecting a research subject.

While the number of researches on entrepreneurship and start-up has dramatically increased, I am afraid it is still too fragmented. Because of this, we can't guarantee whether a theory or a positive analysis established in research will be applied to the other area. Also, we have many successful entrepreneurs today, but there are countless explanations on how they succeeded. After all, this leads to the lack of role model for future entrepreneurs and undermines our effort to nurture powerful start-ups in the future.

In this regard, I believe we need to first establish a system to monitor the current status of entrepreneurship and start-up based on comprehensive and diversified data. Furthermore, we should look more closely into how the two key players, start-up and entrepreneur, behave over time to analyze their contribution to our society and economy from the individual, corporation, regional, and national levels respectively. I will continue to select research subjects based on such direction and produce effective results.

 

5. You are currently leading External Strategy and Public Relations Team. What do you think is the most important factor for STEPI's public relations?

In the graduate school as well as in the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Studies at STEPI, I had many chances to take part in various projects, event and training other than my researches. So I didn't have much trouble to adjust to External Strategy and Public Relations Team. However, my previous experiences were limited to one lab or one research team. This role, which manages the overall PR affairs, is different in terms of work intensity, type, importance, and responsibility.

Public research institutions like STEPI provide their research performance as goods and services unlike private company and other organization. Therefore, it is important to figure out what the attractiveness of goods/services and customers' response, which determine the success or failure of other organization, can be in our institute. In other words, we should be able to identify who our clients are (whether they are public officials or the general public) and provide customized goods/services for the clients (research report, research product, event, promotion contents and more).

So far, STEPI has focused on the excellence and brilliance of researchers, which I am afraid resulted in relentless report publication without enough marketing insight. I believe what's most critical for STEPI's external strategy is a more tailored approach to the research products and target clients.   

 

6. How do you spend a day as the head of External Strategy and Public Relations Team?

External Strategy and Public Relations Team covers a wide range of activities from the planning and organizing of the organization's local and international events (science technology policy forum, seminar and conference) to the promotion and distribution of key research products, collaborating with government agencies and news agencies. That's why I take time for checking what should be done on the day as soon as I arrive at my office in the morning. And I check the news report trends of the day. And then, I dive into contents making like a message from the organization or president. For one-time projects, I tend to make immediate decisions by having a working-level discussion with relevant team members. If time allows, I conduct my research on entrepreneurship and start-up.

 

7. What do you do in your free time? Do you have any know-how to relieve your stress?

In fact, since I became the head of External Strategy and Public Relations Team in the begging of 2018, I haven't had any spare time to do something other than work. Especially, with my baby born this year, I spent most of my time after work for child care. Having a hectic schedule at work and then focusing on the child at home is challenging. But the baby so naturally relieves my stress.

 

8. What advice would you like to give to future start-up entrepreneurs?

As a researcher focusing on start-up, I have asked myself this question so many times: 'What if I start my own business, not just studying start-ups? Why don't I take the risk instead of just looking up to those hard-working, successful entrepreneurs?‘

In my graduate school years, I used to have such foggy aspiration for business. So I participated in the process of company foundation together with friends. But a successful entrepreneur is capable of making a company valuable and sustainable. Even if I had continued, I wouldn't be successful with the vague motive at that time.

For those who dream of starting a business, I would like to clarify that starting a business is not just founding a company. It requires your enthusiasm and effort. It costs the life and aspiration of all the people who take part in the whole stages of a company from the begging to growth and success. Make sure you pursue well-prepared, smart, and feasible start-up based on sufficient experience and actual effort.

 

9. Lastly, what is your motto or slogan if you have one?

I would like to highlight the beauty of "moderation", status or level where things are not excessive, not inadequate, and not one-sided.

It is a good thing to devote oneself in one direction based on firm belief or opinion. If others do not agree with the direction, however, we should be able to stop a while and try to reset the direction.

In the corporate environment, which I have researched, a person with strategic flexibility is more likely to succeed than a freak. I think people who can put themselves in others' shoes will be able to achieve more in their plan, and win more recognition from others.