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‘Start-Up’ Episode 6: A good person or a CEO?

"Instead of looking for answers, make choices." In "Start-Up" Episode 6, Seo Dal Mi turns to Han Jip Yeong for advice. This is his response. Image credit: tvN
Image credit: tvN

In “Start-Up” Episode 6, Seo Dal Mi (Bae Suzy) turns to Han Jip Yeong (Kim Seon Ho) for advice. This is his response: “Instead of looking for answers, make choices.”

She has a lot of questions. Jip Yeong, however, points out that ultimately as CEO she must make decisions instead of always trying to look for the right answers. She won’t find it in a book, or in another person’s opinion. He tells her: “Whatever you choose, you’ll be criticized. You can’t make any decisions if you’re afraid of criticism. And if you can’t make decisions, you can’t be a CEO.” Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the episode.

‘You can’t be both’

Jip Yeong even tells Dal Mi that you can choose to either be a good person or a CEO, because you can’t be both.

I don’t agree with that assertion, but I do think Jip Yeong is correct in saying that Dal Mi shouldn’t always think there’s a correct answer. Sometimes you just have to make a decision, even when you don’t have all the facts. Sometimes your decision will have unintended consequences. And, yes, sometimes you have to make a decision that you know will hurt someone.

What I like about “Start-Up” Episode 6 is that it shares a lot of insights on what it takes to be a CEO. It’s hard enough to be the CEO of any company. But it’s even tougher if it happens to be a startup. So it’s great that this tvN K-drama on Netflix is not romanticizing the tech startup world.

Sure, it shows the glamorous side through the fictional startup accelerator Sand Box and all the perks and cool tech. But it also realistically depicts the constant pressure that startup founders and their employees are under, and the often cutthroat nature of competition. And how even the strongest friendships can break when it comes to money.

Case in point: just after showing the euphoria of the Samsan Tech crew upon seeing their swanky new office in Sand Box, we immediately see and hear a catastrophic falling out between the founders of another startup.

‘Did you plan this together?’

In fact, this foreshadows a bitter quarrel among the three Samsan Tech co-founders when Jip Yeong, whom Dal Mi chose early on in this episode to be their mentor, conducts due diligence on their startup. Due diligence is a requirement before Sand Box can transfer the 100-million-won funding to their startup.

Jip Yeong is shocked to find out that they have equitably distributed the company shares among them. He points out that without owning the majority of the shares, the CEO’s position is weakened and investors will just be confused. He also points out that when future investors come on board, they might end up with more shares, or team up with one of the co-founders to take control of the company and force out the CEO.

These are all realistic scenarios in the world of startups, but Nam Do San’s (Nam Joo Hyuk) co-founder Lee Chul San (Yoo Su Bin) reacts violently. He accuses Dal Mi of teaming up with Jip Yeong to steal his shares. Do San, of course, doesn’t take this sitting down, and the three of them end up fighting and Chul San declares they will now go their separate ways.

It’s this falling out that prompts Dal Mi to try to find out what makes a good CEO and ask Jip Yeong for advice, even after he bluntly tells her when he walks away from the quarreling Samsan Tech co-founders that she’s the problem. Because the biggest problem is that the CEO can’t resolve the situation.

‘And that person is me?’

Of course, we know that the three friends will reconcile, and what’s good is that “Start-Up” Episode 6 shows us more about their friendship through flashbacks to the days when they were setting up Samsan Tech. Actually, it was originally just Dosan Tech, before a convoluted series of events convinced the two to join Do San.

I also like how in this episode, the focus was on the business relationship of Dal Mi and Jip Yeong, as CEO and mentor, respectively. It’s clear that Jip Yeong is much more confident and comfortable dealing with business matters rather than personal relationships, and he gives sound, if often cynical advice.

His mentoring of Dal Mi parallels the way he has been helping Do San become the man Dal Mi thinks he is. We can also see the two mentoring relationships evolving, with Do San becoming more assertive and seeking independence, and Dal Mi making a decision that she knows would be criticized by Jip Yeong.

‘About the letters?’

It makes me sad, because it seems Jip Yeong’s role is always to help or inspire others, but somehow he can’t make himself happy.

As the young Good Boy, his letters helped Dal Mi make it through that tragic summer, and he even became her first love. And now he’s still trying to make her happy, while giving her and Do San help and advice. In fact, he’s helping bring Dal Mi and Do San closer to each other — even when he seems to have developed feelings for Dal Mi.

By the way, I realize that a lot of things involving Won In Jae (Kang Han Na) happened in “Start-Up” Episode 6. But honestly, just as in the previous episodes, In Jae has just been a foil for Dal Mi. I haven’t found her interesting yet.

Maybe that will change soon. At any rate, keep watching “Start-Up”.

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