Start-Up is set in a fictional Silicon Valley in Seoul called Sandbox. Sandbox is a place where young entrepreneurs get the chance to build a company from scratch and score funding along the way.
Seo Dal Mi comes from a poor family; her father was a budding entrepreneur before he passed away. She dreams of becoming the next Steve Jobs. There, she meets Nam Do San, an unconfident boy Dal Mi remembers as her cool first love.
In his youth, Nam Do San won many math competitions but failed to get anywhere with his start-up. He meets Dal Mi and hopes to make her dream a reality.
The best thing about this show is its secondary characters.
I love Han Ji-pyeong and Won In-jae. They feel more real and likable than our protagonists, Dal Mi and Do San. Ji-pyeong is the second male lead, and In-jae is Dal Mi’s older sister.
Ji-pyeong has a sharp tongue, and he doesn’t mince words. However, he also knows how to be grateful. When Ji-pyeong was a teenager, Dal Mi’s grandmother helped him in unimaginable ways. She gave him a place to live and even shared a bank account with him. Her kindness was the boost Ji-pyeong needed to succeed later in life.
When they meet again years later, Ji-pyeong watches over Dal Mi as a way to repay her grandmother. Ji-pyeong even mentions to Do San that he wishes that this debt could be repaid in money.
There are countless times that Ji-pyeong helped Dal Mi when she needed it. Despite his harsh criticism, Ji-pyeong is a realist, and he and gives solid advice. But he’s also more than willing to lend a hand and exchange kind words when it’s appropriate.
Ji-pyeong is the complete opposite of Nam Do San. Like Dal Mi, Do San is quite idealistic. Both boys do what they can for Dal Mi. However, you can easily see the emotional maturity difference between Ji-pyeong and Do San. Do San is easily influenced by his emotions, the most obvious proof was when he smashes Dal Mi’s stepfather’s glass nameplate without thinking of the consequences.
Do San is also more inclined to follow Dal Mi at whatever she says, while Ji-pyeong isn’t afraid to speak his mind in front of her even though he knows she won’t like what he says. But, it’s with good intentions, and it shows that he genuinely cares about her.
In-Jae is the supposedly “evil” sister. She’s driven, has money, and has a good educational background. However, she enters Sandbox because she wants to prove that she can make it on her own without needing her stepfather’s help and connections.
In-Jae is similar to Ji-pyeong. She has a sharp tongue and isn’t afraid to challenge Dal Mi. When the sisters’ parents divorced, In-Jae chose to go with her mother, who later remarried a wealthy but arrogant man.
Dal Mi chose to stay with her father, who was a struggling entrepreneur. In-Jae is a realist, and Dal Mi is an optimist. She believes that In-Jae made the wrong choice, but you can’t deny that In-Jae had a “better life” because her family had money.
There was a scene where Dal Mi “confronts” In-Jae for whatever reason. However, In-Jae retaliates by saying that she worked hard to get where she is today. The drama cuts to a scene where In-Jae was busy networking with investors while Dal Mi was sleeping.
At that point, I was just rooting for In-Jae to succeed.
Right now, I could care less about our main characters, Dal Mi and Do San. Though, Dal Mi did surprise me when she smartly retaliated against her stepfather. She also saved Do San in the process.
However, I’m not as invested in their relationship as I am with other characters. Dal Mi and Do San are too idealistic, too emotional, and just aren’t strong characters.
As for the plot, I really like this premise, hence why I watched it in the first place. But I’m slowly falling out of it because of how dull our main characters have become.