π-Ville 99 #1. Infusing individuality
π-Ville was made by stacking 38 shipping containers that had traveled the five oceans and six continents. The containers will be where students mature into pioneering intellectuals, similar to how Steve Jobs started out in a garage. Furniture from KU’s auditorium, which is under renovation, were used to decorate the interior. They include old scribbled-on desks and heavy cast iron legs. Filled with an assortment of desks and chairs dug out from the university’s warehouse, the container building of π-Ville conveys a unique character while symbolizing the co-existence of past and present.
π-Ville 99 #2. Doing the enjoyable
The π-Ville studio looks for new and recently formed teams. Those that show improvement are recommended to the Business Incubation Center or other related organizations. Teams transformed into startups leave after securing their own workspace. All teams are assigned a space in the studio for two months, which can be extended up to six months at most. Everyone graduates in the end, regardless of performance. And so, teams easily come and go, and are easily put together and separated. The lowered barriers to entry have attracted teams with unprecedented ideas, hobbyist teams, and teams just wanting to have fun. Here, there is no clear boundary between hobby and business, but everyone is connected in that they are pursuing what they enjoy most.
π-Ville’s slogan, which was “Distractions” last year, has been renewed into “Thinking Zone.” The Corner Cinema at the staircase screens movies for students. Live performances have been held on the rooftop, and seemingly useless events on making toys and growing succulent plants were organized. 99 Market is a market for students to share the results of “spending time on not-so-productive ideas.” Some products get picked up as startup items, and students can receive funding along with feedback.
π-Ville 99 #3. Collecting ideas
π-Ville supports the development of ideas in the early stage, making them more specific and feasible. This is why ideas or items are not the focus of evaluations. When selecting new teams every two months, π-Ville looks at the team members instead. Hidden Track, the developer of the popular calendar app Linder, started out with a completely different idea. The company is now under incubation at Samsung R&D Center. Since ideas constantly evolve in the development process, π-Ville picks teams composed of diverse members, teams that would significantly benefit by having a workspace, teams with strong work ethics, and teams interested in working with other teams. As a result, the teams at π-Ville range from those with extraordinary ideas to those just looking for fun.
01_An auditorium, filled with colorful felt chairs, made by connecting eight shipping containers.
02_2017. Exhibition “Dachae, Roun” (literally meaning “colorful”) held in the first semester.
03_2017. 99 Market, where students sell products handmade or grown by themselves.
π-Ville 99 #4. Sustainable distractions
At π-Ville, teams present their ideas at meetings to be evaluated by others. The meetings are attended by the Business Incubation Center, Korea University Research and Business Foundation, and Korea University Holdings. Students are given valuable feedback from patent attorneys and company representatives to help develop their ideas.
The most interesting aspect of π-Ville is the student-run education system. There are teams that help with programming education, design education, idea sharing, and patent applications. For instance, Like Lion is a team that teaches app development to students who have not majored in programming. By organizing hackathons, the team has allowed students to turn their ideas into practical apps. Coin is a nanoincubator that offers software education to middle and high school students. The team shares their knowledge and skills for no fee, and finds satisfaction in watching the students grow.
π-Ville has also gained a host of supporters. Leaders in Industry-University Cooperation Plus (LINC+) provides funding for high-cost activities.
Among the sponsors are Kim Jeong-ho, the CEO of Bear.e Kim Jeong-ho, the CEO of Bear Better, Park Hee-jae, a professor at Seoul National University, and KCC. Unexpected Thinking, a project launched in 2018, was funded by the Wooran Foundation. In addition, LOGOS Law, LLC has signed an agreement to provide free legal advice and consultation.
π-Ville 99 #5. Always by your side
For the past two years, many teams that took their first steps at π-Ville have enjoyed success, and teams that took up hobbies have seen significant improvements. Most of them have graduated from π-Ville with happy memories, and are now scattered throughout the campus. π-Ville is an institute that supports students who are about to take on new challenges, giving them a gentle push. It relieves students from the burden of study and entrepreneurship so that they can comfortably embark on any creative endeavor. π-Ville believes in the potential of students, and offers a space to play and rest while exchanging interesting ideas.
01_One-day class. Dreamin, a team under incubation at π-Ville, is participating in the herbarium workshop.
02_Student Steering Committee. Team FUN is holding a meeting for the November event, “Bukjeok Bukjeok Geuljeok Geuljeok.” The Student Steering Committee, which runs π-Ville, is in charge of studio assignment, as well as organization of seminars and exhibitions.
03_99 Cafe. Kim Hyeon-seong, the chair of the first Student Steering Committee, has recently acquired the café. He is the CEO of the social enterprise Napster by day, and the owner of 99 Café in π-Ville by night.
04_Studio. ATP is a club founded by students of the Department of Biosystems and Biotechnology. They are making educational songs to help high school students who face challenges in studying and memorizing facts in biological sciences.
Chung Seok, director of π-Ville (Professor, School of Mechanical Engineering)
▲Director Chung Seok (Professor, School of Mechanical Engineering) (middle) and staff member at π-Ville
Teams that have grown through “idea incubation” at π-Ville have moved to the KUBS Startup Institute and Crimson Business Innovation Center. π-Ville promotes the startup ecosystem, with its low barriers to entry, in a style unique to KU. It is where students gather to do something fun, in whatever way they find enjoyable. It is not limited to startups. Looking at how the studio team changes every two months, I am reminded of how today’s students are embracing the ever-changing culture. A few months ago, someone left a note on the entrance to π-Ville. It read, “Festivals organized by the Student Union are part of mass-produced culture, but π-Ville has its own festivities, with students celebrating their individuality and engaging in things they are passionate about.” This was a good summary of the aim of π-Ville. The role of π-Ville is to plan various events that have low barriers to entry, encouraging students to take on new challenges and go beyond their limits.
Thanks to KU’s startup-related departments and entrepreneurial network, the student startup ecosystem of π-Ville has stabilized. It is important to create startup tracks that are organically connected with one another. After developing ideas in π-Ville, students can create their own prototypes using 3D printers and scanners in the X-Garage, due to open in the basement of the International Studies Hall.
π-Ville triggers new ideas and discovers students’ potential. Rather than focusing on outcomes, π-Ville aims to maximize fun, paying attention to the voices of young people. There is no point ordering them to ask for help, and then scolding them for not doing so. It is more important for us to understand their way of thinking and preferences, to experience how they spend their time, and to ponder over what it is that they truly need. There will come a moment when they voluntarily seek advice, and that’s when we offer a helping hand. I think that’s the role of π-Ville.”