In Seoul’s Sinchon district, Colin talks with Danny Crichton, researcher and writer on regional innovation hubs and a contributing writer for TechCrunch. They discuss the hardest thing about being a Korean entrepreneur; what the concentration of Seoul has facilitated about Korean innovation; how he got from an interest in China “because it’s China” to a more fully developed interest in Korea; what happened to Sony, and thus Japan; how he responds to the current Korean of question, “Is this really a developed country?”; how people have stopped putting up with the country’s corruption, perhaps one of the drivers of its astonishing growth; how the ideas of the “heterodox” economist Ha-joon Chang apply to all this; why the concept of the subway-station “virtual grocery store” caught his eye; why Silicon Valley is so much more boring than Seoul; the significance of Kakaotalk and its abundance of purchasable “culturally ambiguous stickers”; why so many things, like playing Starcraft in stadiums, seem only to work in Korea; how Korea got a highway torn down in eight weeks; what thinking led to the new city of Songdo 43 train stops outside Seoul, and what it proves, negatively, about how “people want to live near other people”; why you can’t just “build innovation”; how he found both Hello Kitty Planet and a giant Bible; organic agglomeration versus the deliberate agglomeration the Korean government has tried to incentivize; the country’s distinctive capitalist-socialist “hybrid model”; whether the government can really pick winners; how much advantage hugeness gives a country these days; what he learned from Singaporean entrepreneurs, who have to go straight to the global market, and why the United States hasn’t had to think globally; his early exposure to Silicon Valley culture, and how he got interested in the connections between universities, industries, and government; how the strength of America’s universities, even today, remains the country’s strength; how the idea of “what Korea needs” still has more traction than the equivalent in the U.S., though less than it did in the past; whether Americans have begun to realize that they can find opportunities in other countries; why Americans cling so tightly to the decade or two after the Second World War as if it were the rightful state of things; what comparisons he can make between the challenges facing San Francisco and those facing Seoul; the “pragmatic urban development philosophy” in Seoul versus the “almost religious zealot” one in San Francisco; the difference between cities that think of the future as good, and those that don’t; why he thinks “a little bit about Thailand”; why strategically wrong choices don’t persist in Korea quite as long as in America; whether Korea can cure it’s “education fever” and resultant title culture; and the greater effect Korea’s laws have on its entrepreneurs than its culture does.
- Notebook on Cities and Culture’s Korea Tour: Stickers, Starcraft, Success with Danny Crichton
- Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)
- Notebook on Cities and Culture’s Korea Tour: Wormholing with Charlie Usher
- My Favorite City Book of 2014 in the Guardian
- Notebook on Cities and Culture’s Korea Tour: Literary Aejeong with Gregory Limpens