Tom Kwon is a serial entepreneur, most recenently becoming CEO & Co-Founder of Scoutsee. Under his leadership, Tom has deployed over 700 sites and online applications; and has founded a number of successful ventures that improve online marketing and business operations. With his first venture, DynaMind, he connected every school and library in the state of Connecticut to the Internet. At DMIND, he developed one of the industry’s first multilingual content management systems and eCommerce platforms. Tom developed and implemented the global Web infrastructure for multi-national sites around the world. In his last venture backed company, Altruik, Tom designed and architected the world first SEO production platform. Today, he leads the next generation Influencer Affiliate Marketing Platform, Scoutsee. The company empowers anyone to make money sharing what they love on social media. The list of organizations Tom has served includes Akamai Technologies, AIG, American Express, American Greetings, BJ’s Wholesale Club, LG Electronics, TDK, The US Peace Corp, Mitsui, The White House, …, and more. He was the finalist for Ernst and Young's “Entrepreneur of the Year Award” in 2001 and recipient of the "50 Outstanding Asian Americans in Business" Award in 2005.
How did you get into the industry?
When I was in my mid-twenties, I saw this thing coming called the World Wide Web and I just wanted to be a part of it. I started by building websites for companies and government organizations. My projects range from connecting schools and libraries to the Internet and building sites for the White House to launching over 700 sites and applications in the B2B space for large companies. Scoutsee is my first consumer facing application and is the result of the last 10 years of experience leading various eCommerce ventures. My 2nd venture, Altruik automated SEO for large Internet retailers. At a time when search engines couldn’t index/catalog deep database product content, my platform was able to index those pages and handle on-page SEO at a rate of 160k pages/second. It ultimately drove 10% of many brands’ traffic from SERP. During this process, I learned the primary revenue channels of eCommerce sites and manically studied and executed ways to optimize them for increased traffic and revenue.
Any emerging industry trends?
I think digital advertising is at an interesting point in history. The advent of ad Blockers has caused a shift in the way display-advertising dollars are spent. 99% of millennials have enabled ad blockers and brands are focused on finding new ways to reach their audience. Influencer marketing is fast growing avenue for brands to amplify their voice and we’ve seen dramatic increased spends in this area.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
After 4 years of forced/paid posts dominant in influencer marketing, we’re seeing that engagements are fairly low, relative to spend. The companies that can prove ROI value will be the disruptors. Scoutsee aims to provide measurable traffics, sales and overall ROI in this sector. Scoutsee activates brands’’ followers/fans into micro influencers that echo the brands’ voice and drive sales from social media. By downloading the Scoutsee App, users are able to tag products to their posts and when their followers click through and make a purchase, brands recognize a new revenue stream and the user receives commission for driving that sale.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
In the ten years in this industry, there’s one thing that has always perplexed me. “Why is the buying experience online the same as it has been since the advent of ecommerce?” Essentially, it’s a product catalog with a shopping cart and a check out process. Sure, there are reviews, chat and even some user generated content (UGC) on product details pages. But for the most part, the framework is unchanged and a solitary buying experience. As a consumer, when you know what you want, you simply go and buy it. However, there is another journey that often takes place prior to purchase consisting of inspiration, discovery, affirmation and trust. Scoutsee sits in this nebulous inspiration and discovery space and the Scoutsee app is a tool for consumers to recommend products based on their interest pursuits and for the buyer to buy based on true affirmation and trust.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
We are working on the release of Scoutsee Enterprise. It’s a self-activation portal for brands to turn their followers into an army of brand loyalists and active sales force. By signing up, brands would promote their customized Scoutsee App download landing page for their social media followers. Brands also have a real-time reporting dashboard. We are also forging key partnerships with leaders in the eCommerce and Social space.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
There are always difficult moments with startups. In 2o years of founding companies and running them, I find the initial phase to be most difficult. The idea or concept of a business often comes to me from looking at and/or dealing with problems. So it’s through contemplation of various aspects of a business and industry that spawns the idea. Then, going from concept to a plan and architecture of the technology platform takes another level of persistence and passion. Once this is complete, I have to assemble the talent and personalities to build it and make it actualize the initial idea.
Being able to see the indicators to modify and even pivot the product is what I’ve learned over the years. In summary, create with passion and vigor… drive without ego and create value for your customers.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
Increased traffic, sales and data insights from inspiration and discovery to path to purchase of the consumers. Our customers are able to turn their dormant followers/fans into a vibrant army of brand loyalists that echo their voice and drive traffic and sales. In this process, their able to obtain valuable actionable data of their customers journey from inspiration and discovery to path to purchase. By empowering brands’ followers with Scoutsee, they are now able to be a part of the inspiration and discovery phase of the purchase journey.
How do you motivate others?
I believe motivation comes from deep inside an individual. I’m fortunate to work with smart people and mostly very passionate people. These people are over achievers and motivating them requires a strong vision and great product. I always talk the long term vision, but I focus on the small milestones and when we achieve them, the sense of accomplishment is a great motivator. Celebrating the small wins eventually gets you to the finish line… and everyone feels good during the ride.
Career advice to those in your industry?
I always talk about deferred gratification. What I mean by that is… pay your dues up front. Invest in yourself and do it deeply. Research, read, learn by talking and associating yourself with people in the industry and think out of the box to differentiate yourself and your capabilities. The most critical personality character trait I look for it determination and grit to execute despite adversities.