Eric Kim – Twylah 1 of 2

"To build the next level company you need a higher purpose." Twylah enables you to easily create beautiful brand pages for your Twitter timeline.

Matthew: Hi, this is Matthew Wise with FounderLY We empower entrepreneurs to have a voice and share their story with the world, enabling others to learn about building products and starting companies. It’s with great excitement that I’m here today with Eric Kim, who is the founder and CEO of Twylah. Twylah is the easiest way for you to create Twitter brand pages. With that said, Eric, we’d love for you to give our audience a brief bio.

Eric: Well, thanks so much for having me, I appreciate it. Brief bio, I’m bi-cultural, I grew up and spent about half of my life in France. Went through elementary education over there. Did high school and college here in the States, went to University of Illinois and MIT for engineering studies, study of mechanical engineering. And then went back to France to work. Most of my family is over there.

But about 12 years ago, I was asked to join a startup here in Silicon Valley and it was right around the heyday of the dot com boom. And I thought to myself, this is a unique opportunity, let’s explore. So, I came out to San Francisco in January of 2000, and got into the world of online direct marketing. Was part of the early team at a company called QuinStreet, which is now one of the largest online direct marketing companies. A company that went public two years ago.

And basically got my teeth into and started working on figuring out how to do direct marketing effectively online. And that’s where I spent about six, seven years of my time at QuinStreet. I spent another couple of years at another startup called the Definity [SP] Labs which was an extension, I call it an extension of the QuinStreet model of online direct marketing online lead generation by bolting on a continuity piece to it. It’s a community management piece to it.

So, basically spent about ten years in the world of online direct marketing and basically how do you approach marketing online with a very analytical flavor to it, is what it is. And about two years ago after the second startup I got a [inaudible 02:22] and decided to leave and start a thing of my own, so. And that’s when I started thinking about the idea of what Twylah is about and start working on that.

So, a mix of background with a mix of some engineering by training. A lot of, I would say, marketing and strategy, I worked five and a half years at the monitor company in Europe, so strategy consulting. And then, a chunk of my career has been in online marketing.

Matthew: What makes Twylah unique? Who’s it for? And why are you so passionate about it?

Eric: So, first of all, just to take a step back, we know what Twylah is about. Twylah is, essentially what Twylah does is it takes your [inaudible 03:07] dream and transforms it, as you mentioned, into a beautiful brand page composed entirely of your tweets. It creates a highly visual experience that’s much more user friendly or friendly to a broader audience than just a stream of tweets.

The reason we created Twylah and the problem we were trying to address is if you take a step back and you look at every single day now, around 20 to 50 million tweets get generated on Twitter. And, what happens to those tweets? The half life of a tweet is about eight minutes. Within an hour, about 95% of any interaction with the tweets is going to happen within the first hour.

So, the question we wanted to address was what happens to all that content that’s been generated after it’s been spent, right? And the answer was that basically nothing much happens. After, I think, it’s 6 to 8 days, you can’t even find the tweets on the Twitter search anymore, they just kind of disappears from the search indexes.

So, that’s one of the elements that we were looking at. The other one that we looked at was, contrary to what the press and the media would have you believe, only a very small percentage of the U.S. population is actively on Twitter. So, watching CNN or any kind of TV, you’re kind of led to believe that everyone’s on Twitter and you’re the only one who’s not. I’ve talked to so many people and asked them the question, “Are you on Twitter” and they apologetically say, “No, I’m not, I must be one of the few last people.” And honestly that’s not really the case.

Something like 10 to 12 percent of the U.S. adult population is actively on Twitter. So, it’s still relatively small in terms of the population that engages with tweets or that kind of content. That being said, that means that there is 88 to 90% of the population that when they see Twitter content they don’t really get it. So, it’s really not that understandable for just little bits, little random bits of information just kind of flowing in front of you.

And so, looking at these situations there’s content that’s very formal and content that’s not really understandable to a lot of people. What Twylah sets out to do is take this random content and start organizing it. And organizing it by subject matter, by topics. And then presenting it in a way that’s really understandable to a much broader audience. Basically, the end result is a page of your content organized by the subject matter that you talk about the most for something along with visual content bringing it to the forefront to address two things. One, make your content more persistent and then make it more accessible to a broader audience as well.

So, all the effort you’re putting into tweeting now isn’t relegated to just 10% of potential audience. And it isn’t relegated to just the 8 to 60 minutes after you posted tweets, right. It really addresses that from a larger perspective. On top of that what we do is we organize your tweets in these topical pages in a way that’s very search engine friendly. So, now all of a sudden the content is more understandable, it lasts longer but it’s also findable in search. And so, that’s at the essence the problem we are solving with the product.

For me, what really excites me about what we’re doing is, I think what we’ve managed to do is create something new. Something that wasn’t there before and something that on a bigger picture scale, I think, addresses the thing that I set out to do in the first place a couple of years ago when I started working on this. I didn’t set out to build Twitter brand pages. That wasn’t the idea. The idea was with ten years of experience in online and direct marketing, at the time, a little over two years ago, Twitter was just growing phenomenally. It had hit a big inflection point after South by Southwest, and it was growing really fantastically.

I thought to myself, well here’s a new form of media nobody really quite understands it yet. And in addition to that, nobody has actually figured out how to monetize it effectively. There was a lot of press about Twitter and how fast it was growing. There was absolutely no press about anyone figuring out how to monetize it. There was a few attempts, and I think there’s companies out there that have been fairly successful. And, Twitter’s becoming more and more successful with some of the mechanisms they’re putting into Twitter itself.

But I thought to myself, this is an interesting problem to work on. I have this knowledge and expertise, here’s this new form of media, it’s a complex problem. Let me try to figure this out. That’s what I set out to do. So, basically when you marry that notion of how do you monetize to it effectively and then all the other stuff I just talked about before, you end up with a product that not only is more understandable by broader audiences and prolongs the life of your content, but now also a product that allows you to monetize that content more effectively.

And so, for me the exciting part was working on a problem that nobody’s figured out before. I think, what drives most entrepreneurs? It’s figuring stuff out that’s difficult. If it’s not difficult then it’s, anybody else could do it, right?

Matthew: What are some of the technology and market trends that currently exist? And where do you see things developing in the future for your space?

Eric: Platforms that are becoming really popular and that are getting a lot of consumer adoption, and one particular brand of those types of applications is what I would call a short form publishing. And Twitter is kind of the original granddaddy of short form publishing. Basically, how do you make it very easy for people to express themselves in 140 characters?

But some of the newer players that I’m very excited about, and it’s basically not necessarily technological breakthroughs, but it’s a plain technology in a way that really facilitates something, an urge that people have had anyways to do, which is people want to express themselves. People want to be seen, people want to be heard. And if you can make that as easy as possible and as friction free as possible, then you’re going to get more and more people to do so.

And so, platforms like Instagram, absolutely just… I started using Instagram only a couple of months ago. So, I’m kind of late to the game. But, Twitter makes it easy to express yourself. Instagram makes it even easier. Because it’s even easier to just take a picture and to annotate and say something about the picture than it is to come up with an original thought. And so, I think there’s going to be more and more of the short form types of applications that are going to make it easier and easier for a larger percentage of the population to express themselves.

And you see it also in the realm of video, I recently discovered an app called Viddy, it kind of does what Instagram does for photos it does it for video. So, you take video clips that are 15 seconds long, it’s limited to 15 seconds. And it allows you to apply filters to make your content look beautiful, and then just publish it. Those are the trends, at least, for me that I am most focused on because they enable a kind of societal trend to getting more and more people to actually speak what’s on their mind or to express themselves creatively.

Then there are other applications that make that easy that have gotten a lot of success lately are like, Pinterest. One of the things that I like is being known for the things that you care about and doing it in a beautiful way. Making you look good in doing so as well.

Matthew: Who is your co-founder? How did you meet, and how did you know they’d be a good fit for your team?

Eric: Yeah, well, it’s interesting. My co-founder, I met over 10 years ago. And I married her about seven years ago, and we have two children together. So, my co-founder is my wife, Kelly. And Kelly is, if you’re on Twitter @Twylah, the Twitter handle for Kelly is @Twylah. She’s Twylah.

We actually did not set out to build a company together. It’s something that never even crossed our minds. It’s like, hey let’s get together and let’s build a company together, it’s just the last thing on our mind. So, what happened was two years ago I quit my job and I started working on this project. And six months into the project, I’m spending all my time and effort into it and, of course, not earning any money as well. And staking some of our livelihood on the success of this. Kelly, one day says, hey since this is a large part of… Hopefully, we’ll be making some money in the future. Can I help out? Is there something I can do? And that’s when she started taking on tweeting on behalf of the company, taking care of the communications, doing the …


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