Leadership Corner: Bruce Kim
Interviewed by Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
Name: Bruce Kim
Title: Chief technology officer
High school: Iolani School
College: Master of science in information and computer science, University of Hawai'i-Manoa
Breakthrough job: None. "To me, it's more of an ongoing growth process," Kim said. "You learn a little bit from everything you do."
Little-known fact: Despite being born and raised in Hawai'i, Kim didn't start surfing until this year. "Go figure," he said.
Major challenge: "I find the greatest challenge is trying to balance my work life with my personal life," Kim said. "As an entrepreneur, you are always pushing yourself to reach a goal and sometimes you lose sight of enjoying the ride."
Q. Inovaware provides ISP billing software, billing solutions and customer management software to companies, most of them located outside Hawai'i. Why is that?
A. It's based on what we do. We're not like a retail store, we're not selling locally. What we do is we sell software to Internet companies. That's a worldwide market.
Q. Did you make a conscious decision to market to companies outside the state or did it just happen that way?
A. It's both. It was definitely a conscious decision. In Hawai'i the market is small. There's really not the size of companies here that are part of our target market.
Q. Then why base Inovaware in Hawai'i?
A. I guess because I was born and raised here and I wanted to keep it here. Maybe it's a quality of life issue.
Q. Do you think it's a challenge for a local companies to do business with clients on the Mainland or abroad?
A. It is more challenging, but it's not impossible. If we were on the Mainland, it would definitely be easier to sell (our products) to Mainland-based companies because we frequently have to meet with people. But on the flip side, it's not impossible to do that from Hawai'i. Some of the largest clients we have are companies in Japan and Europe. And (our location) hasn't prevented us in getting business. It does make it more time-consuming to get there, I guess.
Q. In addition to offering ISP billing software, your company has started marketing an online service that helps companies manage their corporate giving programs. What motivated you to enter this field?
A. The same motivation you would do anything you perceive there's a market there. Especially on the giving side, the ability to do something good and hope you can profit from it, that's the motivation. Hopefully it will benefit a lot of different parties.
Q. What's the benefit of using this service?
A. It's more efficient. Everything is automated. ... The reality is this seems to be positive times (economically). There are people looking our service. It's about how to make corporate giving more efficient. We do see there's a pickup of interest in this.
Q. What are the challenges in this kind of marketplace that seems to be constantly changing or evolving?
A. The biggest challenge for any technology company is that technology changes so quickly. Right now the big thing is wireless access. There was a big thing about WiFi, but that's very limited. If you were in the parking lot, it probably doesn't work. The new technology coming out is WiMax. It's like WiFi on steroids. With WiFi you get 100 feet max in terms of range. With WiMax, it's the same idea but it extends the range to something like seven to 30 miles. So the goal of that is to provide access to rural areas and to cover entire cities.
Q. How does that affect your business?
A. It's a great opportunity, actually. One of the things that will come out of this is that there'll be a lot of new WiMax service providers. They're looking at a national deployment of this technology. And we want to provide business infrastructure for them. So it's a really good opportunity for us. It's keeping us busy.
Q. How has the market changed since the inception of Inovaware in 1996?
A. The early days of the company were during the "Wild West" days of the Internet. People were spending money like crazy and it was really easy to grow a business. One of the key hurdles we've faced since then was how to adapt and operate in a more subdued business climate. Things are picking up again, so we know there's a lot of growth potential out there.
Q. Has the business climate changed at all in Hawai'i? Has it become more business-friendly?
A. Act 221 was a real benefit to the high-tech industry here in Hawai'i, and hopefully it will continue to be supported. As a high-tech company, we were able to raise additional investment and that has allowed us to grow the company and expand into new initiatives.
Q. What's the most rewarding part of your job?
A. Traveling. It makes you appreciate how similar people are all over the world. But it also make you appreciate how truly special Hawai'i is as a place to live.
Q. What do you consider has been your biggest accomplishment in terms of growing your company?
A. As with any growing company, it's always an uphill battle. And I hope the biggest success is yet to come.