Tyler Suiters                      

Hey everybody. With the Consumer Technology Association, I'm Tyler Suiters. We are the owners and producers of CES, the largest, the most influential tech event in the world. We are here to help you get CES ready. The upcoming show is January 7th through the 10th 2020 in Las Vegas, and today we are tackling the issue of startups, in a big way.

Tyler Suiters                      

You probably know Eureka Park well, if not in person, then certainly by word of mouth. This is where investors come at CES to find their next unicorn. Major companies from around the world are there looking for acquisitions or partnerships and of course media from international outlets, or they're looking for stories and inspirations and ideas. You'll find startups from more than 40 countries at Eureka Park. More than 1,200 startups overall from every corner of the globe. Today, a conversation about what you can find at Eureka Park.

Tyler Suiters                      

First of all, we are talking to a company called PopCom, which has an interesting E-commerce idea, and yes, there is a vending machine involved. Also, an interview with the mayor of one of the world's technology capitals, the mayor of Seoul, Korea. And we are talking to a company called TriNet, and if you don't know their name, startups know what they need from this company. This is a professional employer organization and again, small and medium sized businesses, full service HR solutions that are tailored by industry. So a wide ranging look at the world of startups and entrepreneurs all framed through the lens of Eureka Park at CES 2020. That's on this edition of CES Tech Talk.

Tyler Suiters                      

Dawn Dickson is CEO of PopCom and a serial entrepreneur. Dawn, glad we got you standing still long enough to have a conversation. Thanks for joining us today.

Dawn Dickson                   

Thank you for having me. It's really great. I definitely love being a member and involved with the CTA.

Tyler Suiters                      

Serial entrepreneur. I know that gets bandied around quite a bit for various resumes and introductions, but that really applies to you. You have a long and more importantly successful history as an entrepreneur and working in the startup space. How's your journey been?

Dawn Dickson                   

That is true. It seems like it goes slow but fast. But I started my first tech company in 2001 in Columbus, Ohio, after I went to study IT at DeVry. I lived in Columbus as I said, and I just wanted to gain some tech skills that will be transferable into me getting a job. Entrepreneurship wasn't in the front of mind when I went to study IT. I just wanted be strong on my resume. But once I got into the program I realized how tech could be applied to everything that we're doing in life. And this was in 2001 so it wasn't like a mass adoption of all the tech we have today. Obviously apps didn't exist, social media didn't exist. People barely had an email address or personal use websites. You know, businesses didn't have websites, there was no Amazon. So, it was the very beginning, but I’d seen then that tech was going to change everything. And that's what really started me to thinking about how can I use my tech skills to change and improve things in my day to day life. It just kept going from there.

Tyler Suiters                      

How did you find your way Dawn into IT then? It's interesting, you were a journalism major in college, which I certainly admire. And then you, as you said, went to DeVry, but why IT, why was that a calling for you?

Dawn Dickson                   

Because when I was in college, my last year of school, when I was just focused on my journalism major concentration, I had a job at the local news station and my job was to upload the news at the end of the day or after the broadcast onto the website. It was the first station in the state to have online news and it was through FTP, which took hours, a long time to process, take the reel and make it into video and nobody wanted to do it.

Dawn Dickson                   

So I had to learn how to do it from the IT guy because I was the college student and nobody in the newsroom wanted to deal with it. But I learned that skill and when I’d seen that I was literally the only person at the new station besides the actual IT guy that knew how to work this. I knew that it would add value to when I go to get a job in the news room, me being able to work with the internet will be helpful for me in a competitive space, it didn't really pay a lot, so that's why I went to school for IT. This will strengthen my overall understanding of just how the internet works and what it is.

Tyler Suiters                      

A true Ninja innovation, adapting to your circumstances and thriving.

Dawn Dickson                   

I have to. I always want to be competitive, always.

Tyler Suiters                      

Well in that sense, this isn't your first rodeo PopCom is your latest venture, however. Talk about the space that you occupy right now and how the idea came together for you Dawn.

Dawn Dickson                   

Yeah, definitely. PopCom is an automated retail technology company and we have a software and hardware solution for self-service retail. But what that basically means is we make software and vending machines and digital kiosks. Self-service retail is just anywhere that the customer self-serves. Meaning there's no person helping them check out.

Dawn Dickson                   

So we use these every day, at the airport with the kiosk, at the grocery store checking out, drug stores have self-checkout, many restaurants they have where you can place your order on a kiosk. This is this space that we operate in. And what I discovered is that there weren't many vending machines that were targeting consumer retail products like they do in like say Japan or China where you can buy almost anything from a vending machine. In the US it's been primarily concentrated on food and beverage and coffee in vending for many years.

Dawn Dickson                   

I had a product that I started, and I still have this business called 'Flat Out of Heels' and they're rollable ballet flats. So women when their feet hurt, wearing high heels, and my idea was to sell these shoes in vending machines to women in places like nightclubs and airports, when their feet hurt. I felt that vending was the best direct to customer distribution method for any emergency product of that type. And I couldn't find anyone to build a vending machine for me, and so I got into the hardware business initial in 2012, and then as we started to build this hardware, I realized that the hardware of that time, 2012-13 was really what I call dumb hardware.

Dawn Dickson                   

It just dispenses. It doesn't collect any data analytics and anything about the customer journey. And I know that retailers rely so heavily on this data. For me having a retail background that I figured that to get mass adoption for retailers to sell high priced items or even anything over $5 in a vending machine, they need data analytics. And that started my journey and building software.

Tyler Suiters                      

It seems like adaptability is a theme we keep coming back to. For your journey as an entrepreneur, is that the main trait or can you even identify a main trait Dawn for what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur to make it as a serial startup entrepreneur,

Dawn Dickson                   

I certainly think that they're just flexibility, having the ability to know when it's time to pivot or make adjustments to your original idea. Really going deep into product market fit and understanding your customer's needs and understanding the industry as a whole to see what gaps we can fill on where you align. And so I identified there's a lot of people making hardware, they don't need another hardware [inaudible] but all this hardware is dumb. So what I could do was come in and be like the windows, operating system to make these machines smarter. And even though there are several vending companies that do have software to make their machine smart, it's not for anyone but them. There is no central operating system that any vending machines can use to update their existing capabilities.

Dawn Dickson                   

So again, it was just me really digging deep into the industry and that's my strength, is research and not really going off of my need but getting an understanding of what the customer's needs are. And that comes from a lot of surveys and reports and talking to people, which is a lost art these days. Actually picking up the phone or just talking to people and not sending out emails and things, but getting to know with what they need and how you can help them.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah. In-person connectivity can be underrated, no question.

Dawn Dickson                   

In-person.

Tyler Suiters                      

Your point about vending machines in the past being dumb or to turn that around, making vending machines smart. Can you outline some of the technology's done, I mean these are high level technologies too that you are implementing, in PopCom's technology in your products, in what you're investing in technology wise to make this venture work to make vending machines smart.

Dawn Dickson                   

Yeah, definitely. Certainly. And I was inspired greatly by Google Analytics and Shopify and of this IoT. The first step in making vending machines smart with connectivity and prior to 2011 when I got my first machine, they were probably 10% of vending machines that even accepted a credit card. So that was a big step that obviously I didn't initiate but it needed to happen. Connectivity in order to be able to access the cloud in order to be able to communicate with device-device. So that was great and FIP definitely helped to lead the way in that space. But what we did is take it a step further and say, okay, now that they're connected and they can be connected and they can accept credit cards, how can we access and understand customer data more without violating that data? Of course, in ages, privacy being the number one thing, how can we learn more about the customer while also respecting their privacy?

Dawn Dickson                   

And so the way that Google Analytics does that is by IP address tracking, but as we all know, we're in a brick and mortar environment, so I thought, what is similar, what can we measure wat would be an IP address in a physical and retail environment? And that's actually the human being, the actual physical body of the person. So we use facial recognition to do things like count traffic that walks by. So that's your traffic I'm just counting the people. Then we'll take it a step further and capture the gender to 92% accuracy, whether it's male or female, identified gender, which helps you get another layer of understanding of who's walking by and what does that traffic make up, demographic profile in traffic pattern. Then when they walk up to it, we get an understanding of what are your conversion rates? How many people are engaging, this using the face recognition and machine learning to pass in the data and analyze that data.

Dawn Dickson                   

Then when they get up to the machine, we do the journey analytics, which includes what will be called heat mapping and eCommerce environment. How are they interacting? What are they clicking on? How long are they spending on these pages? How long does it take them to, go through the transaction cycle or if they abandoned their cart in this instance, walk away. What is the turning point for them? How are they feeling in front of the machine? Are they happy? Are they neutral? Are they frustrated at any certain point of the user journey, so that the retailer can get an understanding of how they can improve the actual POS and the user, the UX of that experience. So that's what we do is use face recognition and machine learning to capture a customer data at the point of sale and in the venue.

Tyler Suiters                      

Mm-hmm (affirmative) While we're talking strategy Dawn, you are not a CES newbie. This will be your fifth time⁠—

Dawn Dickson                   

No.

Tyler Suiters                      

Attending CES, working at CES. What is your business strategy going into there without, without giving away too many secrets, how does a veteran like yourself approach the show and engage with the people you need to meet?

Dawn Dickson                   

Obviously, there's so much to do and see and it can be overwhelming if you don't have a plan. The great thing about CES is you can see who the exhibitors are and the programming ahead of time. And so for me, I really focus on, into specific things. I am a consumer so I like to go see the cool things in between time, like the just fun activations that brands do, but for me the primary thing is to go out and engage with companies and exhibitors that aligned with automation, retail, anything cool. I found at CES a couple of years ago, a company that would put makeup on the face, like an app you can look in and they put different makeup, and for me that was cool because I felt you could do it on a vending machine. So I always discover new things to get new ideas that apply to my product there.

Dawn Dickson                   

I also look in seeing who speaking in companies I want to partner with or of course if companies that I want to partner with are exhibiting and go and try to just make a contact there, it's great to make contacts. Also like the member lounge is awesome that's why I love being a member. Access to be able to go sit and network and interact and have a time to just like sit down, in the space. But getting to meet other CPA members is always a benefit and also just mapping out the time from the show hours and it's official events to all of the other events and networking things that go on after hours. So I map my schedule out in advance.

Tyler Suiters                      

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Great pro tips including remembering to sit down once in a while during show hours. What about CES 2020 Dawn, what are you looking for as CEO of PopCom? What is your anticipated take away or the goal you're trying to come away with once we hit January 12th, 14th, a week or so after the show.

Dawn Dickson                   

For us we have a booth in your Eureka park, so just gaining more visibility for our products. We're finally launching our products. We did exhibiting in Eureka park in 2017 and that was more just to get validation and product market fit to see if people even thought what we were building was cool. And they did and it was like overwhelming response and lots of great contacts. But we had to go back and modify, make some updates and fix the product based on the feedback that we heard from just people using it. And so now we're ready to actually, go to market and so just really debuting the product interacting and engaging with people on the floor and just the getting the buzz built.

Dawn Dickson                   

There's so much buzz there, there's so much media that walks by. There's so many people that walk by that I don't know that I could work with them to even point them out in advance, but they walk by and they identify whether they can work with us. So I just want to meet new people, connect, get the buzz going. I'm going to be speaking there as a part of the faces of innovation, part of addition. So being on that panel and getting more visibility again for the business and I'm making, making new connections for sure.

Tyler Suiters                      

Dawn Dickson is CEO of PopCom and if you don't feel energized and more enthused listening to her, you need to rewind and play this podcast one more time and pay closer attention. Dawn, great to have you with us. I feel like this conversation could go for a few hours, but we'll push pause for now and really looking forward to connecting and seeing you in PopCom doing your best at CES 2020.

Dawn Dickson                   

Thank you so much. I'm super excited.

Tyler Suiters                      

With us now is the Mayor of Seoul, Korea Park Won Soon and Mr. Mayor, wonderful to have you with us today. So Seoul, Korea is known as one of the technology capitals of the world, if you would describe the startup scene there in Seoul.

Park Won Soon                

As of September 2019, there were a total of 166,326 startups in Seoul, which is a significant increase from four years ago. Startups in Seoul account for 24.2% of startups in Korea and most of them are in the field of knowledge based services, utilizing information technology and science technology. Seoul is truly the startup hub of Korea. Also nine out of 11 unicorn startups in Korea are headquartered in Seoul. Korea ranks number five among world series in terms of the number and size of unicorn startups.Furthermore, investments in venture startups are very active in Seoul. In fact, in this year alone, more than 4 trillion Korean wons (approximately 4 billion US dollars) have been invested in venture startups.

Park Won Soon                

Indeed, thanks to the active investments being made by the private sector and the policy efforts being made by public sector, including the central government and local governments of vibrant ecosystem for startups and ventures is being created in Seoul. Currently there are around 400 startup intermediary organizations in Seoul, 46 startup support centers have been established by the Seoul metropolitan government and also 111 out of 207 accelerators in Korea are located in Seoul. Seoul's overall ecosystem for startups is becoming increasingly more developed and advanced.

Tyler Suiters                      

Mr. Mayor, how is Seoul itself and really the country as a whole, how are they supporting innovators there?

Park Won Soon                

The Seoul metropolitan government is striving to make Seoul one of the top five global startup cities in the world. We are providing a package of support to startups throughout different stages. The initial investment stage, the product manufacturing stage and the testing and demonstration stage, so that these startups can scale up quickly and enter in the market successfully. Also, we are providing specialized and customized support to startups in various sectors. The "Seoul Startup Hub" is serving as the control tower for our startup support policies. The "Seoul R&D Innovation Hub" is providing support to startups related to AI and the Seoul bio hub is providing support to startups related to biomedicine. We will also open an "innovation academy" by the end of this year to foster talented young individuals who will not only begin their own startups, but also lead the fourth industrial revolution era.

Park Won Soon              

Furthermore, we will create a “Seoul Future Innovation Growth Fund” worth 1.3 trillion Korean won, approximately 1.3 billion U.S. dollars by the year 2022, so that we can lay the foundation for an ecosystem for startups, that will help create more decent jobs for the future generation and lead the future growth of new and emerging industries. I highly recommend everyone who is watching this podcast to come to Seoul and begin your startups. We are pursuing a visa free program for young and promising entrepreneurs for overseas and are providing public rental housing at affordable prices as well. In addition, we are cooperating closely with global startup intermediary organizations and accelerators in the U.S. Europe and Asia to help startups in Seoul attract global investment and enter into the global market. Earlier this year we had a global startup festival called, “Startup Seoul Tech Rise 2019.” More than 4000 participants including startups, investors and accelerators from 20 countries came to Seoul to exchange their views on the recent trends of startups and discuss about opportunities for investment and growth.

Tyler Suiters                      

Mr. Mayor, what can we expect from the city of Seoul coming up at CES 2020?

Park Won Soon                

Actually, this is the first time that Seoul is participating in the CES. We are going to open up a "Seoul Booth" at the CES venue to showcase the city's smart city policies to participants from all around the world. Since several years ago, we have been establishing very advanced and modern smart city infrastructure and technology throughout the city. Our goal is to solve various problems that citizens face in the daily lives regarding transportation, environment, economy, and more through smart city infrastructure and technology so that these citizens can lead much better, healthier lives in the years to come.

Park Won Soon               

The Seoul booths at CES will be operated under the theme of smart city and smart life. We will display a smart city platform called  "Digital Mayor's Office.” Through this platform, participants will be able to see everything that is happening in the city in real time and the way that we make policy decisions during urgent situations. They will be able to have a firsthand experience of a "smart city" and "smart life." They will also be able to see the startup ecosystem that we are creating in Seoul and also the innovation products that various startups have made, which we will display separately.

Tyler Suiters                      

Seoul Mayor, Park Won Soon, a pleasure to have you with us sir, thank you for joining us.

Tyler Suiters                      

Michael Mendenhall is with TriNet. He is senior vice president, chief marketing officer and chief communications officer. Michael, great to have you with us talking startups today.

Michael Mendenhall      

Yeah, a pleasure. Very excited and excited for CES.

Dawn Dickson                   

I'm glad to hear that. Let's start up, first of all, tell us a bit about TriNet, what your marketplace is and what your plan is moving forward.

Michael Mendenhall      

Yeah, so TriNet is a 30-year-old company. We seem to be somewhat new. We've grown in the last 10 years, almost 30 fold. And what we do is we provide HR solutions to small, medium sized businesses. And why is that important?

Michael Mendenhall      

Well, 50% of the GDP in the United States comes from small, medium sized businesses, 98% of the workforce. And what's really important is about 43% of all scientists and engineers actually sit in this space. And it's where you see a lot of innovation taking place through, seven different verticals that we look at as a company. What does that mean? While a lot of these, these companies, these startups, these entrepreneurs really have amazing ideas that they're solving for, whether it's in biomedicine, using technology. A lot of these industries like Beyond Meat, they're using technology to really transform an industry and provide what is socially a really good benefit for people, healthier lifestyle, healthier eating. And so a lot of these folks are very focused on that type of innovation they're given vertical, and they don't have the time to really build out a huge operation relative to managing their people.

Michael Mendenhall      

When you begin to think about when you're managing people, you think of HR and HR solutions, you're really talking about risk, compliance, compensation, investments, and investing in your people become really important. And why is that, is we have the lowest workforce population we have ever had, probably in the last certainly 60 years. And we also have very low unemployment. You just saw the most recent data on that, the lowest in 50 years, you start to think about, Oh wow so the competition for skilled talent is becoming really important. And so as you start to add up that sort of census data and then you look at an entrepreneur, whether they're in technology, life sciences, professional services, financial services, they're looking for quality people but they want to hold onto their people. And what we do now is, most people now today, change jobs every two and three quarter years. So you've got to not only find the right talent, but you also have to hold on to them and retain them and retain them.

Tyler Suiters                      

On that note, Michael, I'm curious about your background, because you have a unique perspective on this. Your resume is peppered with major names in the space, right? IBM, HP, Disney. What is your point of view that you bring to a company like TriNet about what those startups really need when you're coming from these major corporations, these global conglomerates?

Michael Mendenhall      

Well, it's really to just support them because, well first I'll go back and I'll talk to you about what a lot of these companies that I've worked for really were looking for. Many of them were looking to either transform their business, start a business, or acquire a business. All of these companies were looking for a narrative to actually accomplish something, whether that be to grow a business, launch a business, do an IPO, and or build a brand, and that's become really important in a commoditized world.

Tyler Suiters                      

What is TriNet's strategy for engaging that audience you want to reach at the show?

Michael Mendenhall      

Well we started out with, most people think of HR as just a function within a company that handles mechanics and we really believe, again, when I talked about that census data and what these companies are trying to achieve, certainly the small entrepreneurial companies who we really want to break through, communicate their idea and the necessity of that. A lot of them are really looking for help, like I don't want to have to deal with all this back-end. I know what I need, I know the talent I need, I know the experience I need and I've got to go out and find this and I need some people to help do that. I don't have the resources, nor do I want to apply to capital to do that internally, I'm too small, I have 50 people or I have 20 people. So I'd rather outsource that.

Michael Mendenhall      

And so what our intent is to really showcase to the CES community, how we can help them actually scale very rapidly, gives them the kind of benefits that somebody would have at a Google yet they're only 20 people. And why is that? Because we provide great scale and that scale gives us leverage to help provide those services to these companies and help them build success. So what we're going to do is we're going to be over at Eureka park with a booth, that's in the Sands Convention Center and, and we're going to meet and help share with these folks how we can build success for them.

Tyler Suiters                      

Michael Mendenhall is Senior Vice president, Chief Marketing officer, chief Communications officer as well for TriNet. You can find them at CES 2020. Michael, interesting conversation. Thanks for your time.

Michael Mendenhall      

Thank you.

Tyler Suiters                      

All right. Coming up next time on CES Tech Talk, a broad, wide raging conversation on all things CES, a conversation with the leaders of CES and CTA among the topics, why every company today is or needs to be a tech company.

Unknown Speaker          

Well, CES is such a smorgasbord of great ideas that there is a tremendous amount to see.

Tyler Suiters                      

That's coming up next time on CES Tech Talk.

Tyler Suiters                      

Now we want you to be CES Ready, so hey, download the CES app, you can build your own agenda, find your favorite exhibitors, also look for the speakers and the panel sessions you really want to see. That's all using the CES 2020 app.

Tyler Suiters                      

A reminder, the show is January 7th through the 10th in Las Vegas. You can get more information to plan your trip at CES.tech. None of this podcast would be even remotely possible without our true stars. Our executive producer, Tina Anthony, and our senior studio engineer, John Lindsey. You all are the best in the business. I'm Tyler Suiters, let's talk tech again soon.

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