Last week, I watched the latest episode of a very popular reality show about entrepreneurs in China called "创业英雄汇" which translates roughly as 'Entrepreneurial heroes'. As I watched the show, I couldn't help wondering: is TV encouraging an entire generation of gifted talent to start their own companies?
Since television became an integral part of life, dating back to the 1950s, it has reflected what matters to society at the time. A 2019 article by Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip B. Levine goes even further, showing that what we watch on TV has the potential not just to reflect, but to change the behaviour of entire generations.
Today's equivalent of TV is Netflix, a top-down entertainment platform that must produce highly popular content to remain relevant. That makes it a great way to understand what's on people's minds. Not a day goes by without friends telling me about the latest drama they've watched on Netflix. In the last few months, everybody has been talking about "Start-up", a drama about young entrepreneurs in Seoul.
Western equivalents include the drama series, "Silicon Valley" or the reality show "Dragons Den," in which entrepreneurs have three minutes to pitch their ideas to five multi-millionaires. Shows are appearing worldwide; in France, "Qui veux être mon associé" has become very popular. These dramas and reality shows present entrepreneurs and investors in different ways, but everyone looks a little bit like a popstar.
As someone who is building a company from scratch, I can say with confidence it isn't easy. Nor is becoming a singer, performer or concert pianist. By making the idea of becoming an entrepreneur popular, it's showing that anyone can try it. While most of these budding entrepreneurs won't make it, the idea that they could build something meaningful is going to result in some fantastic creations. Companies like Korean e-commerce giant, Coupang, which made worldwide headlines this month with its listing, only add to the sense of what can be achieved.
Building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is as much as anything about fostering drive. The success of these TV shows in Korea and China illustrate they are supporting start-ups not just financially, but culturally as well.
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