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‘Start-Up’: Strong start as K-drama takes on tech startups

"Start-Up" begins with one of the most beautiful, charming, and heartbreaking first episodes I have ever seen. Image credit: tvN
Image credit: tvN

“I would have grieved over fallen flowers rather than enjoying the flowers in bloom.” The K-drama “Start-Up” begins with one of the most beautiful, charming, and heartbreaking first episodes I have ever seen.

From opening scene to the last one, this masterful episode reels you in and never lets go. “Start-Up” begins and ends with the wonders of technology, as befits a TV drama tackling the world of tech startups. But at its heart are very human stories about the sacrifices we make and the price we pay in pursuit of our dreams — and the relationships that keep us going.

‘I wish I could at least fall on sand’

Now streaming on Netflix, this tvN drama produced by Studio Dragon stars Bae Suzy, Nam Joo Hyuk, Kim Seon Ho, and Kang Han Na.

Bae Suzy plays plays Seo Dal Mi, who dreams of becoming Korea’s Steve Jobs. “Start-Up” takes place in a fictional startup incubator called Sand Box. In fact, “Sand Box” was reportedly the drama’s early working title. The idea behind Sand Box is to be a safe place for startups, helping founders pursue their dreams and aim high by cushioning their fall in case their ideas fail.

As someone who worked at startups, including Lazada Philippines and e27, as well as Silicon Valley tech giant Yahoo! Southeast Asia, I was really interested in watching this show’s take on South Korea’s startups and tech companies. And while fictional, I think startup founders and entrepreneurs will be able to relate with the depiction of getting ridiculed for pursuing their dreams despite failing time and again, and dealing with the stress of looking for funds and pitching to investors.

‘I quit my job to prepare for a new world’

"Start-Up" begins with one of the most beautiful, charming, and heartbreaking first episodes I have ever seen. Image credit: tvN
Image credit: tvN

Since it’s a K-drama, we learn that Dal Mi has surprising connections with the three other major characters in “Start-Up”.

Nam Joo Hyuk plays Nam Do San, a math genius who received media coverage when he was a young boy for being the youngest Math Olympiad winner.

Kim Seon Ho is Han Jip Yeong, a senior investment manager at a venture capital company. The previews for “Start-Up” described him as “the Gordon Ramsay of investments”.

Meanwhile, Kang Han Na plays Won In Jae. She is a second-generation chaebol CEO who has everything people desire.

The first episode constantly shifts from present to past to show how these four young people are connected. The skillful storytelling and poignant moments make us understand these characters, and how they became the people they are now. Also, in just one episode, Dal Mi’s grandmother has become one of my favorite K-drama characters of all time.

We see unusual friendships formed, and family ties broken. We see people dreaming of the future, and reconciling with the past. And all throughout this episode, we see a father’s love for his daughter, and a daughter’s love for her dad.

Start watching “Start-Up”. And see the future unfold.


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