Interview of Tim Sae Koo, Founder of HypeMarks
Tim Sae Koo is the Founder of HypeMarks, a web discovery engine based on social relevancy. HypeMarks recently graduated from StartEngine first program. In this interview, Tim shares with us his vision for the site.
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Giang: Hi there, it’s Giang Biscan from TheStartupAngel.com. I have today with me Tim Sae Koo from Hypemarks. How are you Tim?
Tim: I’m great, thank you, how are you today?
Giang: I’m good, what is Hypemarks?
Tim: Sure, so Hypemarks is basically helping you and your friends, easily discover the web to each other. And so what we do is we essentially turn you and your friends, into each others personal tour guides, through the web, making it that much easier to find new and awesome sites worth checking out.
Giang: Well that sounds very ambitious; I mean exactly how does it work?
Tim: Yeah, so the core of the product really, is allowing you to create a collection of your own favorite sites, you would like to check out or you just find interesting. And to showcase to your friends, so they can discover the web through you and vice versa. Allot of our users previously, have coined us as [00:00:51] for websites and links, and so that allows you to kind of, gauge, what our products are all about, gives you a better idea then, more than happy to kind of, coin it that way.
Giang: I see, so how are you different from Pinterest then?
Tim: Sure, so Pinterest right now is focusing all on images, and really holding on that area. What we are really doing is trying to take it to the next level in trying to say, how we want to provide you, to find co websites, links, articles, videos whatever it may be, to help you navigate through the messy and overall over whelming web. And to help you find only the cool sites to check out all recommended, by friend that you trust and find interesting. It’s interesting that, we were talking to some people, they said that, your difference from Piterest, your difference from Pinterest is more so on, the lack of content that they would approach to, because there’s only so much fine amount of images on the web, whereas there are millions and millions of infinite amount of web links and websites out there and continually emerging. So we are really trying to hold in on that area.
Giang: If you say the way it works, I assume it connects to your social channels in some way, right? Facebook,
Tim: Correct, and what we do is actually instead of what our competitor do, which will require you to manually build up your collection. What we do is actually building on top of your Facebook, Twitter and later on, other social networks. And really capture on that sharing behavior already existed, and what we do is we collect all the sites you are already sharing on there, and the beautifully organizing to your Hypemarks collection. So what we do is, we’re not trying to create a new sharing behavior, we are building on top of the existing ones, that ultimately makes word discovery more efficient and meaningful.
Giang: I see, okay so instead of Google where it’s, sometimes as a search engine work out for you. It’s something that now can actually discover from people that you trust.
Tim: Correct, so whereas Google it’s kind of like, you know you type in what you need and look through pages and pages results. What we are trying to do really in the end, is saying, “Oh I know this friend who I already go to for cool music sites”, so instead of me having to Google and look through pages results, I can just easily tap it to my friends collection and see all his or her music recommendations. And, you know most likely there will be relevant or you know, very interesting to me because I already have an instant connection with that peer, with that friend.
Giang: Right, so is this like the next level of Digg or Tumbir?
Tim: Sure, sure, so aside from the Digg whereas, there are community of random people, which you might not care or really know who they are. We are really focusing on the niche on the beginning of friends that you trust and care about. So again building on top of Facebook, and what we do is we hope you automatically follow all your Facebook friends already in the system, so makes discovery really quick, immediate and relevant as soon as you sign on. So whereas even Stumble Upon allot of people think we’re similar to Stumble Upon is some kind of inherently a lonely discovery experience. What they are is a discovery engine, where you kind of, flip through a magazine style, whereas us is all about pure to pure recommendation, recommending you and your friends, cool sites worth checking out kind of vetted by me already.
Giang: So this is a very huge feel, what do you think, like what would make you, your team as a winning team?
Tim: Sure, so I understand, the vision is really, really big. What we are doing is we’re starting small, so right now we’re really starting our own community of friends and then building up from there. What we are doing right now is really, you know, starting small and then building on top of that as soon as you know we start gaining some more momentum or you know, people are a team. I understand that our team is pretty young, I’m really young myself but I feel that without a big vision, you can’t get to where your ultimate goal is or really make a change. And so we dream big but we start small and execute small, so allot of people have doubted us but you know, I have my vision and my team has that vision and what we need to do is take steps at a time to get to that. We know we can’t get it immediately but we know what it’ll take to get there.
Giang: I see, so this is [00:05:17]?
Tim: Correct, correct so I have other three other people on my team and I found them of through my USC network I just graduated from there. And it’s been a great, great experience, just because we’re all so young but at the same time because we are so young, we are so ambitious. I’m super optimistic and very, very creative in terms of, you know thinking that we can do what we think we want to do and not letting anyone decide and tell us kind of, we can’t do it. So I guess at a young age kind of gives us that advantage.
Giang: No, it’s aright attitude for an entrepreneur.
Giang: That’s fantastic.
Tim: Thank you.
Giang: So how old are you, do you mind if I ask?
Tim: Sure, I’m 21.
Giang: Very cool at such a young age.
Tim: Yeah so and then I just graduated from USC with an entrepreneurship degree in December of 2011.
Giang: I see, so you’re barely old enough to get a drink?
Tim: [Laughing] Exactly, that was actually kind of funny because, allot of times I actually realize that, you know, having these meeting, or just meeting up with someone up, it was actually kind of important to you know, talk over some drink sort of, and just kind of ease things and so just enough to start having a drink now.
Giang: I see, okay so you’re building this product, you know, for how long have you been working on it?
Tim: Sure, so I came up with this idea back when I was in USC primer junior year and I really didn’t start on it until this past summer of 2011, when I was in New York working on this and, so that’s kind of gauging by when I started this probably really holding in on the idea and developing it in the summer 2011. And I started building it probably in October, November and then finally launched initial version in, two weeks ago, a week and a half ago, in March.
Giang: I see, and how is the attraction so far?
Tim: Sure, so in the span of a week and a half or approaching two weeks, we already hit around 550 users, and that’s just within our own network, we haven’t really gone out in mass about this and the main reason is that we want to be able to kind of watch every activity and see what things are breaking or there are allot of bugs or really try to and ultimately try to foster this community to kind, of make them, you know involved and engaged with this product also we’ll have them, you know be the ones to spread this word around to their peers. And, so it’s been great attraction, we got some celebrities and some other people on this platform already, which is very encouraging for us and ultimately we are just trying to kind of gauge their feedback and see what they are saying about the product to make this a better product, as it is right now.
Giang: You mentioned celebrities?
Tim: Sure, so we have Shannon Marketic who is former Miss USA and wife of Travis Barker already in the system. We have Bill Gross, CEO of Idealab and Adam Bernhard, CEO of Hautelook. So it’s been exciting these big names coming on and trying to see what, you know, what we’re all about, what we are trying to build. That encourages us to kind of, take it to the next step and build first and make it better and stronger and more fun, I guess for the community to use.
(to be continued…)
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