Watch Episode #46: An Industry Q&A with Kenny Kim
Solving 80% of service calls - remotely
This week's show features our host Ron Callis interviewing Kenny Kim, VP of Connected Products at SnapAV. Recorded Live on June 6th, 2018 at 12:30pm EDT.
About Kenny Kim
Kenny Kim joined SnapAV in 2015 after seven years in product, strategy, and operational roles with AT&T, where he helped launch AT&T Digital Life, a home automation and security service. He is now responsible for leading the connected product lines at SnapAV, including Araknis Networking, Luma/Visualint Surveillance, WattBox Power, and OvrC Remote Management Platform, helping technology professionals deliver the promise of the connected world to their clients.
Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Kenny:
- Kenny's history in the industry
- Importance of remote support - not only for operational efficiencies, but for customer satisfaction, security, and differentiation
- Remote monitoring & management solutions - native and appliance-based type of solutions
OvrC remote management and its connected product ecosystem - mission and focus
Ron: Hello everybody. Ron Callis with another episode. Episode 46 of Automation Unplugged brought to you by my day job over at One Firefly. I hope all of you out there are having an excellent day. It is what is today? Today is Wednesday, June 6th, just about 12:30 here on the East coast here in sunny Florida. And I am gonna go ahead and jump over to our Facebook page here at One Firefly and verify that this feed is coming through. So just bear with me as I check this out. Well, let's see here. Are the interwebs cooperating today? There we are. We are live, yes. Okay, well this is a big week here at One Firefly. Couple of times a year we fly we bring our whole team together. So I probably mentioned it a few times. Back in 2015 we changed our business model a bit and we decentralized, meaning that our team went from being in one office here in South Florida to being located around the country. And we no longer required our team to work out of a headquarters. And as a result of that, we have team members all over the country. And actually a couple down in Mexico and but there's a lot of value I believe in getting together face to face and breaking bread together and training together. So everyone's being flown in today Wednesday, the sixth. And so in case you're one of our customers, we will be mostly shut down for the next couple of days, Thursday and Friday. So that's June 7 and 8. As we do team training, we do manufacturer training. We're going to have all sorts of fun activities so that we can be a better team. So that's happening this week. I'm super pumped about that. But I am happy that I was able to pull off getting an Automation Unplugged show in and we have an excellent guest. So let, without further ado, let me go ahead and introduce all of you to Mr Kenny Kim. Kenny, how are you sir?
Kenny: Hey, how's it going Ron?
Ron: It is good. It's another day in paradise. So for those of you out there you'd have to be, you know dead, or living under a rock to not have heard of Snap AV. Of course Snap AV just has a slew of connected products from Araknis to OVRC. What are some of these other products? Watt box? Luma visualant. Did I get them all? Kenny?
Kenny: Yup. You named them all.
Ron: So Kenny, you're in charge of all of those products. Is that accurate?
Kenny: Yeah, as of six months ago.
Ron: That sounds like a big responsibility.
Kenny: It is. It's a pretty exciting one too.
Ron: Yeah, for sure. So when I always like to do with our guests I've got a lot of questions regarding remote monitoring. It's been a bit of a theme of my shows over the last year. And I'm excited to hear your opinion and Snap's opinion on that topic. But I always like to start with you. You know, what, how did you land in this crazy industry and in this very significant role at one of the industry leading companies? How did you land here? What's your background?
Kenny: So growing up, I was born and raised in Korea, so pretty diverse background. Was always interested in technology. I grew up, my favorite magazine growing up was Popular Mechanics. If you guys know that magazine is still still there today, I still read it.
Ron: It's still one of my favorite magazines by the way.
Kenny: Oh, I love it. Yeah. It has everything. It has everything to geek out on. You got technology, you got automobiles, you got all types of stuff that really geek out on. So yeah, I grew up just really interested in technology. Which ultimately led to me going to Stanford. I really wanted to partake in kind of the community they have there with Silicon Valley and get exposed to that type of energy over there. Which I definitely got. And there I studied management, science and engineering, which is kind of unique to that school. It's a engineering degree mixed with a lot of business. So they really designed the courses around entrepreneurs managing a business. So coming out of that most of my peers and colleagues they ended up going to management consulting, which is a very popular it, you know, it's extravagant, right? You get to travel a lot. There's a lot of dollars as a management consultant, you get to deal with a lot of business problems. So it's really exciting. But at that time it was kind of a really unique time, was 2008. And that's when iPhone was launching with AT&T and they were also launching their IPTV platform called Uverse. So I took a kind of a different route than my peers. I decided to join AT&T's leadership development program which took me all over the country. The leadership development program helps individuals to go through and have a certain team that they manage kind of the fundamental parts of the business. So the first one I did, I had Uverse technicians in Northern California, and that's when AT&T was just rolling out IPTV with UVerse so it was a very exciting time to really understand that technology and be a part of that. Second I went to LA I managed a call center which, you know, got me understanding, you know, how do you deal with customers, how do you support operations look like what does that mean to a business? And then I joined, ended up going to Atlanta, Georgia because you know, with iPhones and mobility was where all the investment dollars were going to. And I'm always looking for, you know, areas of excitement and new technology. So I joined their mobile division. I ran their mobile applications, I did their mobile payments, I was working on their mobile wallet for some time as well. So that was really exciting times. And then a few years in I was also hungry and itching for the next big opportunity. And AT&T was investing, they created a new business group called AT&T Digital Life, which is kind of their IOT division. This is where they were doing security and home automation and kind of combine it to one similar to kind of event or ADT today. So they were launching that platform from scratch. They acquired a platform. They were building up their customer teams. So I joined that team for about three years and did their product strategy over there. So that's how I got exposed to home automation industry for the first time, the CEDIA industry, which to me from being in the AT&T side was kind of a niche market and niche industry, which is really, really cool.
Ron: Yeah, that's what I was, I was curious about, having come from, you know, just a monster company and then looking at the CEDIA space through that lens. You know, what was that like, how did they view this? And I heard you say niche industry, but is it do they even look at this industry or this, the typical customer as a customer?
Kenny: No, very little. It's a really good question. At AT&T our typical customer was kind of the average income. And we were, it's a really a mass market product that we were going after. I mean our goal was get 100,000 customers subscribers a year. That was kind of the goal that we're going after. CEDIA market is totally different. So we didn't really look at CEDIA as a competition or even a market that we were considering, but we knew it existed. I think I actually attended one of the CEDIAs back then to just see what type of products you guys were using in this industry. Back then to me when I was at AT&T it seemed like, man, who would pay for such an expensive system? But you know, once I understood it a little bit, I mean, you take the latest in technology and you can create enjoyable and valuable experiences. This is where real excitement happens or where the technology is kind of leading the market in terms of creating those type of valuable experiences. So that's where I got really interested in CEDIA.
Ron: Yeah. So was it at that when you were with AT&T and that you started investigating the CEDIA spaces. Is that how you happened upon Snap AV or did they find you, did they recruit you? How did that happen?
Kenny: Actually it was a totally random story. I was at a Stanford event. I was one of the panelists talking to high school students and their parents about how to prep for college and how to prep for life after college. And John Hayman, which is our current CEO's brother, was there with his son. So we made contact he was impressed and wanted to continue to talk with me. And then, he's the one who ended up introducing me to John. So John quickly recruited me into Snap cause that's when he was actually joining our company as well. So he brought me with him.
Ron: Oh, that's fascinating. And so he, wow. So Kenny, you were able to make enough of an impression sitting on a panel talking to college kids about how to leave college and start entering the real or enter the real world. And what did you say when you were on that panel? That must've been some really good stuff.
Kenny: I probably stood out, you know, a 6'5 Asian stands out.
Ron: There is that. Yeah, there, I guess maybe there are, I don't want to be judgmental. Maybe there aren't too many, 6'5 Asians. That's funny. Are your parents tall?
Kenny: Yeah, my father is six foot, which is tall for his generation.
Ron: Wow. Okay. So when John recruited you and brought you in, did John already have the vision? I mean, you're saying he brought you with him. Did he already have the vision for the connected product families coming from Snap AV was that already on his roadmap?
Kenny: Yeah, I think at that time we had lockbox, we had surveillance, we had Arachnis so we had the individual categories. But at that time OvrCwas kind of was about a year or two old. And it was really just focused around providing a remote outlet reboot capability similar to BlueBOLT. So OvrCdidn't have a kind of a longer vision, but it was really a tool that's an immediate problem solver for the integrators. So John had a different lens around looking at OvrC. How do we leverage this platform capabilities that we have and providing a better support and better customer experience overall that helps our integrators become more efficient and profitable. So he had the grand vision of how do we evolve OvrC and you know, because I was already working on the service side aspect from AT&T I think that was kind of a nice fit.
Ron: So where do you live now? Do you live in Charlotte?
Kenny: Yup. Yeah. I keep moving with jobs. Who knows what my next one is?
Ron: Yeah, that's right. That's right. Who knows. So tell me a little bit about what it's like just from a management, you know, being a Director of Product, you have to, I imagine you're interacting with all levels of executive management sales and marketing is as well as finance. And it's about, I'm assuming determining, I mean I know how it is in my little company, you know, determining where you want to go and then what sort of products you need and then you're managing, I'm assuming engineering teams are, or development teams. Can you just talk like structurally how that works at Snap?
Kenny: Yeah, sure. We're I think that's not a secret Snap AV runs a pretty lean team. So our products, we have about 14 brands of products and over 2000 SKUs. And those get broken up into three main business units. We got the infrastructure group that has, you know, cables, you've got racks, mounts, all of those type of bent metal products. You got audio and video business unit that has our SunBrite TVs and our speakers, amplifiers and all of those products. And then autonomic also falls into that. And then the third business unit is what I run, which is a connected business unit, which includes Araknis networking lockbox power Luma and visual and surveillance as well as OvrC. We look at product managers at Snap AV as kind of CEOs of their own business. So each of the product managers their mission is to continue to grow the business with new products, set the vision and then how do we continue to growing it whether that's new channels, new products how do we address all the issues that we're finding from the feedback from the field as well. So they're really running their own business within Snap.
Ron: Got it. Now I'm going to just make a wild prediction here. That may be the networking business unit you head up is one of the faster growing business units just based on everything in the home today running over a network.
Kenny: Yeah, absolutely. And actually I'll take a step further. The entire connected categories are, they're growing the fastest within Snap. So definitely, and that's tied to the trends that we see in the shoe where, you know, pretty much every dealer is touching the network one way or the other. So that is definitely a fastest growing category.
Ron: So tell me a little bit more about OcrC and exactly what is the role there of OvrC? Do dealers pay for OvrC? I know that there's been, there's a lot of positive buzz out there. Of course there's all this energy around these various companies. Ihiji was just acquired by Control4 you have Domotz out there doing an app on a device in the home and then the ability to monitor the network and then there's OvrC is obviously a big player. Can you just talk about what that is and what the mechanics of OvrC are?
Kenny: Yeah, absolutely. So OvrC is the cloud-base remote management platform that lets our integrators, our customers, manage systems remotely, monitor and manage. So really the mission of OvrC is making the integrator's life more successful by making them much more efficient and to install efficient in terms of the support and through OvrC finding ways to add value so that integrators can provide that value through to the client. So that's really the mission of OvrC. When we first started OvrC it was really just a watt box. So how do you let integrators reboot devices on a network? And initially that solved, you know, 80% of the service calls cause most things, electronics is a simple reboot, just fixes a lot of the problems. And then a year in to OvrC, we said, hey, that was a great success. We're selling much more watt boxes. How do we expand that value to the integrator? So we expanded to other connected products. So we expanded to networking products. We expanded to surveillance products. By the way these feature sets OvrC, when it comes with our own products. Those are all available for free. No additional charges. It's a free service to the integrator. If you're using Araknis, lockbox, surveillance, now we expanded to autonomic and other products as well. All those products come with OvrC embedded in it, out of the box.
Ron: Well, what does OvrC mean as it relates to this conversation and surveillance? Can you just walk me through what exactly are the mechanics that the integrator now has the ability to do or change or observe with a surveillance? I get watt box; you can reboot outlets at which could restart pieces of hardware maybe that have failed or need a reboot. What does the surveillance monitoring side of it do?
Kenny: Good question. If you think about first of all in terms of having, maintaining the system, it's actually the same story. So, Lockbox original story was how do you help integrators maintain systems to keep it up and make it extremely reliable for their customers? It's the same thing with surveillance and networking. So specifically for surveillance, you know you have an app that we provide as part of the Luma and visual systems that the client gets that lets them look at video and interact with their surveillance system. But from an OvrC perspective, it's really about remote support. So, you know cameras, NVRs, those constantly need firmware updates and these firmware updates can be anything from improvements of reliability, additional feature sets. But most importantly, it's about security patches. So as any electronic manufacturer will let you know we have a lot of firmware updates throughout the year that address security patches and we've, you know, you've seen recently with the cracked incident on access points. You've got the VPN malware is another threat and all of these could be addressed with firmware updates. So being the ability to do that and remote remotely and deploy it without having to roll out a truck is extremely valuable to the integrator.
Ron: How does it happen if someone doesn't have OvrC and you've got a bunch of cameras in the marketplace? Maybe that are susceptible to a security vulnerability that would need to be patched. I mean, does an integrator have to roll trucks and literally connect up to those things?
Kenny: Yeah. Yeah, it's nuts. And they would either have to do two things. One, they would have to roll out a truck and do that. By the way, the way they find out about the new firmware updates is also a big challenge. Usually like manufacturers would post it on their websites, but the dealers would have to know that it's available if you had it.
Ron: Probably not gonna do anything about it because it's going to cost them money out of their pocket, I'm assuming.
Kenny: Exactly. Well, so there are other ways that they've set up maybe through network or VPN, there's ways to get access to that network remotely, but even so you would have to log into each of those cameras remotely to their local UI, upload that file, and do that for every single device out there. If you do it from OvrC, we let you know when the firmware is available with a click of a button you can deploy remotely. So we just make that SIM process extremely simple.
Ron: Now is OvrC giving.. So I understand and I made some notes here cause I am doing my best to keep up with this whole universe of remote monitoring so that I can at least attempt to mildly speak intelligently about it. And so I understand OvrC is enabling an integrator to monitor the network power and surveillance. What about all the other stuff in the house and how do they monitor that stuff? Cause in theory they're going to be better. They're going to be able to better take care of their customer if they know the entire set of circumstances in the home, not just the Snap AV pieces of hardware, no offense but there's more to the system than just those pieces of gear.
Kenny: Yeah, yeah, no good point. You brought up, I mean that's the realization we came to once we started enabling all the Snap AV products and now we support about 200 products on OvrC for Snap AV products. We quickly came to the realization that dealers are using OvrC not just as a Snap product platform, but they wanted to use it as a support dashboard for their entire business. So it's naive for us to think that every product on the network is going to be a Snap AV product. There's control systems, there's products that we don't even manufacture, play in. So integrators need a way to access those devices and monitor those. So that's when we launched a product called OvrC Pro and OvrC Pro was appliance based. So it's a little device you install on a network. It scans everything on that network that has an IP address and reports it back to the integrator. So through the same dashboard OvrC, they can look at the devices, they can monitor it, they can remotely access features through that platform. And it's very similar to what you hear. Demotz are a huge, it's a very similar type of product now. Like that appliance-based approach is very different than the native approach that we have with our Snap AV products. And I think that's a really important distinction. When you have an appliance based approach, it gives you visibility and access to those devices individually, but it doesn't get you access to all the native capabilities of that device. So for even things as simple as a firmware update, you still have to go into the local UI of each of those devices on the network, through the appliance to apply the firmware updates. But if you have a natively integrated product on OvrC, you just have to click a button. So like, even the one example that I share makes a big difference between native and appliance-based. And what we try to do is we have both solutions combine into a single platform for our integrators.
Ron: In terms of the appliance based network visibility, is the level of network visibility that you're giving the integrator comparable to some of the other products you've mentioned? I. E. the other companies that are giving them visibility? I mean, are you more than or less than able to tap in and maybe more easily service or upgrade or update those pieces of hardware?
Kenny: Yeah, I would say we're very comparable. You know, Ihiji has been at it for the longest. They're kind of the initial pioneers into that space, so they had more time to integrate deeply into other types of products. But I think you know, 95, 90% of all of those capabilities now exist through OvrC Pro or Domotz and the approach that we've taken. And this is a similar approach at the most taken as we look at really a standard based approach in integration. So for example, networking products all abide by SNMP standards. So if we do integrations properly with SNMP, it gives integrators immediate access to all types of networking information across all products. And then of course there are products that need more deeper level integration on a case by case scenario. So, for example, control systems, we've done specific integrations with them cause that's an important part of the network. And the way we're going about doing those integrations and what, which one to go after next is really through dealer feedback dealers tell us what's important to them and then we take those opportunities to do deeper integrations.
Ron: No, that makes sense. Now, the OvrC Pro, there's costs associated with that, I'm assuming.
Kenny: Yeah, I'll take a minute to tell a story. When we first launched OvrC Pro, we launched it as a subscription based product. It came with a two year subscription and after two years it had an annual fee. So dealers, if they wanted to continue to use the service they have to pay an annual fee.
Ron: And that would be comparable to Domotz or Ihiji. At the time, Ihiji is now free within Control4, but Domotz and Ihiji at the time were also charging an annual fee.
Kenny: That's right. That's right. And we kind of followed a similar model in the beginning. But quickly after we launched we realized through dealer feedback and our conversation with dealers within six months you know, not a lot of dealers knew how to charge for that service through to their clients. It, most of the feature sets within Ihiji demotes OvrC Pro is really tools for the integrator to be more productive and more efficient and providing that remote support. But there wasn't a direct benefit that the that was tangible for the integrator or for the client. So therefore integrators didn't know how to charge for it through to their customers. To make that even worse. Most integrators who we are, we're all guilty of this are not selling services today. So to change a business operating model to support that was a big challenge. So as quickly, as soon as we found that out and we knew from dealer feedback that Hey, this is a great tool, I'm having trouble selling it through. We've made a very quick decision as a business saying, look, we're going to give up on the annual cost that is going to help us continue to invest in the platform because we think this is so valuable to all system integrators that we're going to just get rid of the recurring fees and make it a one time fee. So we were the first to come out with that. And I think Domotz and Ihiji, followed suit pretty quickly after.
Ron: So what role are you as the CEO in effect of the connected products or networked products from Snap AV in helping the integrator better understand how to use these tools? So not just have great tools that give them visibility into the network, but what do they do with it? And how do, what's the paradigm shift in terms of their support agreement with their customer and what their customers should expect from those integrators? And how do these businesses, you know, it's hard to teach old dogs new tricks. How do we change? How are you thinking about changing their habits? I'm assuming that's gonna affect overall the pull through on your products.
Kenny: Yeah, totally. It really has to be a conversation around solution and less about products. Really the holistic conversation that we need to be having with integrators is, you know using all these tools and products. How are you becoming more operationally efficient? How are you becoming more profitable and how are you able to deliver better experiences for your clients? I think that's really the questions that and the conversation we need to be having. We try to have more of that through our customer support and tech support conversations. But this is some, this is an area that Snap AV is definitely investing into, go that extra step be able to have better training programs, certification programs that we can educate integrators and how to change and think about those type of things. And not just at a product inspect conversation, which we often do in our industry.
Ron: Kenny, do you get to break out of the office sometimes and travel around and do you get to visit with integrators that are perhaps deploying your product successfully or have successful service or maintenance departments that are utilizing things such as your Araknis networks, products and OvrC? And if so, could you have any examples you could share? You don't need to name the businesses, but what you've seen are kind of good, successful models that maybe others could emulate?
Kenny: That's a good question. Yeah, we do get that opportunity. We're actually, it's our company mandate to continue to go out and visit with as many integrators as possible and to get that feedback and interaction with integrators. So yeah, I do spend some time talking to integrators and visiting integrators, you know there's a whole range of integrators that have found success in implementing these types of support solutions. One I would mention is there's an integrator who actually came from the IT space. So his mindset's already around managed services. Oftentimes what I find is in conversation with integrators they have a hard time having that conversation with the customer saying, you know, because they're selling them $100,000 job. They don't want to have another conversation to talk about a hundred dollars a month fee to provide a support. For integrators I think that's an uncomfortable conversation. But what this integrator did, was he started the conversation from the beginning. What he said was, Hey, I can install this home theater system or whatever entertainment system that you're interested in to fully automate your house. But I have to own your network because the network is the backbone that enables all of it. So it's part of an education. But his next level of conversation is, well, if I'm going to install your network, I'm gonna fully support, but it requires a maintenance plan because I already know that. You know, supporting a network requires regular maintenance and support to really optimize it over time. So it was really an education process that this integrator was having with every single one of his customers from the beginning. And going in with that mentality. He said he's been able to sell maintenance plans on every single project that he's worked on and actually his customers thanks him afterwards because they don't realize how much support and maintenance is required afterwards. So I think that story I like to share with integrators that are trying to implement something like this, start early, start having that conversation, educate your customers and have it be a part of your business.
Ron: No, I think that's sound advice. It's not something that should be approached at the end of the project and you supply, you surprise your customer with this new additional fee. If they actually want you to provide exceptional service, it's kind of messed up, right? If you try to sell it that way, I would imagine you wouldn't be that successful. But if you educate your customer that you use all these products and tools that, and there's benefits of consolidating, you know, certain products within an integrators capabilities or toolkit, then they could better service that customer. It seems like a logical way to go about it. Do you see today Kenny, or maybe not just today, but what do you see in the future regarding integrators, you know, the CEDIA space and integrators charging? Do you think they should be charging for service or service plans of some type or do you think that they should or not? What are your thoughts around that?
Kenny: Yeah, I think it's an inevitable evolution. The question is timing. If you look at the IT industry, they went through this exact same thing. They used to be a transaction based industry and they had to, everyone was forced to move over to the MSP model. Because of the the support required to provide good experience and that's what customers were actually asking for it. They weren't asking for a one time experience. They want an ongoing support and make sure someone is there to maintain that service and system. So I think it's an inevitable thing for our industry. It's just a matter of timing
Ron: By the way. My friend Hagi from Access Networks just gave us a quick answer on that question. He commented yes.
Kenny: What's up Hagi?
Ron: That's pretty funny. Well, thanks Hagi, by the way, if you're out there watching live or after the fact, don't forget to please like this content and comment. If you do have a question for Kenny and we're still live, I'd be happy to read it off to him for sure. So Kenny, what is exciting on the next frontier for you and for Snap that you're allowed to talk about? Is there anything that's really most top of mind for you that you want to get out?
Kenny: Yeah I think we kinda touched upon it without sharing all the roadmap items. If we think about, we have a lot of components of the product. We developed the hardware. We have the firmware, we have cloud, we have applications that dealers are using. If we kind of turn that upside down and think holistically from what type of solutions can we create for integrators? How do we make the innovator more efficient with all the capabilities that we have from a product level, from support level? Making him better efficient on an installation and configuration. So that's the way we're approaching it. So our roadmap is going to be kind of based on how do we create more solutions that are beneficial for the integrator. And the other aspect is to OvrC home. So I haven't talked about that, but that's a client facing app that the integrators could customize and brand. So we have a whole roadmap of items that we want to continue to push through, OvrC home that allows integrators to provide much more value added experiences for their clients. So much more exciting things to come there.
Ron: By the way, Hagi, Kenny Hagi has just commented, he said, congrats moving up in the CE Pro rankings.
Kenny: Thank you.
Ron: So pretty cool. Well, Kenny, we're going to wrap it up, sir. I know, you're a busy man and lots of meetings to get into as do I, I need to prep for my team getting into town tonight. So Kenny, I want to thank you very much for joining me here on this episode of Automation Unplugged.
Kenny: Cool. Thank you very much for having me.
Ron: Awesome. All right ladies and gents. Thanks again for joining me on this episode 46 of Automation Unplugged. Don't forget to jump over to the One Firefly website. That is onefirefly.com. If you want to follow us, sign up for our newsletter there. We have of course you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter. And on that note, I'll see you next week with another episode and I hope you have an excellent rest of your week and a weekend and we'll talk to you guys soon. Thanks so much.
Kenny Kim got started in the industry in a position with AT&T where he helped launch a home automation and security service. Kenny joined SnapAV in 2015 and is now responsible for leading the connected product lines at SnapAV, including Araknis Networking, Luma/Visualint Surveillance, WattBox Power, and OvrC Remote Management Platform, helping technology professionals deliver the promise of the connected world to their clients.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing in the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.