From My Backyard to Seoul

While I was attending school at MIT, one of the things that we were constantly being reminded of is how important it is to seek out a global understanding of our industry. In fact, in one of our required readings, the author advised that we should, at least once a year, attend an international conference specific to our industry. Initially, I did not see the importance of this. Why would we ever need to go anywhere when we can Google everything? And what I quickly came to realize is that you can do all the research, build predictive analytics models and hypothesize all you want but only going to a place will actually enable you to understand its culture. And when it comes to launching a business idea and deploying an initiative, the culture of the place you’re deploying it at is more indicative of how well that business idea will be adopted than all those math models and computer research.

For my final project for my MBA from MIT Sloan, I was tasked with working on a global assignment studying the business models of biotech incubators in different biotech hubs (i.e. Paris, Boston and San Francisco). Now, I get that Boston and San Francisco are not exactly “global” relative to where I was at MIT but gaining the perspective of the biotech incubator business models based in these two American hubs compared with a foreign one gave me the global perspective I needed to better understand the biotech incubator business model. In Boston, I learned that the concept of sharing lab space and expensive research instruments in an incubator was seen by its residents as an opportunity to collaborate with co-inhabitants in an academic setting to solve problems. However, in San Francisco, the perspective was that shared incubator space was an opportunity to mingle with other entrepreneurs and dream up innovative ideas. While in Paris, this shared space was seen more as hindrance as people preferred the privacy of their own labs. Blog post summary here:

From this experience, I realized the value of seeking a global perspective on various aspects of my industry (life sciences). For, in learning to analyze business models from a cultural lens, I’m better able see facets of a business initiative that may need to be adjusted before they are deployed in certain geographic regions.

It is under this lens that I’m heading to Seoul to understand their beauty and wellness industry. Why are they so much more ahead of the rest of the world in beauty innovation? How are their consumers driving this innovation and how are these products adopted by the market so quickly? What is it about their culture that makes this industry so successful? I’m searching for these answers in hopes of finding a way to make the door wider for South Korean beauty innovation to come into the United States. Stay tuned! πŸ˜‰

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