We recently wrapped our 2022 Everyday Economy Accelerator program. To celebrate this cohort’s graduation, we will be spotlighting each team on the NextView blog over the course of the next few weeks.
These interviews were conducted halfway through the 12-week program, and they provide a human snapshot into the minds of our driven, dedicated, determined accelerator founders. Real people, building real companies, which are really redesigning the Everyday Economy. So without further ado, let’s jump right in and meet Dennis, shall we?
Company: Influencer Direct
Founder: Dennis Chim
“Creators don’t want to just refer traffic towards random products to make money, but rather prefer to directly sell products which they truly believe in. Influencer Direct puts the tools to create their own eCommerce business directly into the hands of influencers.” – David Beisel
Get to know the business
Rachel Hodes (RH): What problem exists in the market that your business is trying to solve?
Dennis Chim (DC): Monetization is difficult for influencers, but social commerce has given them the ability to sell directly to their fans rather than referring away traffic to online retailers like Amazon. However, influencers currently don’t have easy access to purchase high-quality products wholesale from brands nor do they have the time or skills to run their own eCommerce businesses.
RH: How is your company planning to solve this problem?
DC: We allow influencers to launch and automate their social commerce businesses in just a few clicks by:
- Allowing influencers to purchase products wholesale from brands
- Creating storefronts for influencers that also connect to their social commerce platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube)
- Automating their end-to-end eCommerce operations (from managing inventory to order fulfillment to customer service)
RH: Who are your customers?
- Short-term: Do-it-yourself (DIY) social media influencers in the United States with 100K+ followers.
- Long-term: Influencers across the world with 10K+ followers and across all major verticals (e.g. automotive, home improvement, home & gardening, beauty, health & wellness, etc).
RH: And last but not least, why should the world care about this problem and how you’re solving it? Feel free to speak to the potential economic impacts, environmental impacts, social/political impacts, etc.
DC: Social commerce is fundamentally changing how consumers shop online. Just a few years ago, we discovered products on social media, then went to an online retailer to make the purchase. Today, the points of discovery and purchase are becoming the same.
Influencers today are leveraging social commerce to sell various print-on-demand products like apparel, mugs, and small accessories. However, there is so much more influencers could sell. For example, Marques Brownlee is one of the most prolific technology reviewers. He gets first access to review the latest iPhones, etc. If the latest iPhone was listed on his store, he would easily be able to sell this to his 15+ million followers.
We believe social media influencers are the next generation of online retailers and we’re building the platform to arm them with awesome products to sell.
Get to know the founders
RH: Founders, please introduce yourselves.
DC: Hi, I’m Dennis and I’m currently living in Dallas, TX. I grew up in Houston, TX and come from humble beginnings; my mom was a single parent and refugee from Cambodia. Growing up, I loved solving problems and building things; I was a curious and adventurous kid. My goal was to become an astronaut.
So in college, I studied aerospace engineering, joined Air Force ROTC, and eventually was accepted by the Air Force to go to flight school upon graduation. 6 months before graduation, I met my now wife, who led me to reconsider my choice to commit the next 13 years of my life to being a pilot. I switched career fields at the last minute and ended up serving as an Air Force engineer where I worked on a few drone programs.
Upon leaving the Air Force, I went to business school and then landed a job at YouTube where I helped up-and-coming creators grow on the platform. It was during that time, I created my own YouTube channel to understand the struggles creators faced. To my surprise, people actually watched my channel and several years later I launched an eCommerce website to better monetize my channel, which became my top revenue stream. About a year and a half after starting my own eCommerce businesses, I realized the opportunity to do this for other creators and at a much larger scale and started Influencer Direct.
RH: What’s your favorite thing about being an early-stage founder? And your least?
DC: Favorite thing: Seeing your input turn into tangible output/progress.
DC: Least favorite thing: Administrative work (e.g. legal, bank accounts, government filings, etc) behind setting up a startup
RH: What show are you watching right now/what book are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?
DC: Show: jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy.
DC: My thoughts: Love him or hate him, Kanye West has a fascinating and highly inspirational life story that every entrepreneur could relate to. Despite obstacle after obstacle, he had an unshakable determination to become the greatest rapper. Even when he was a nobody in the rap game, he believed in himself and outworked all of his peers to make his dream come true. Great documentary with so many parallels to high-growth startups and founders.
RH: What are you hoping to learn/get out of your time in the NextView Everyday Economy Accelerator?
DC: Leveraging the accelerator to refine Influencer Direct’s value proposition, business model, and positioning.
RH: Close your eyes and imagine where your business will be in five years. What’s the same and what’s different?
DC: What’s the same
- Focus on creating real value for influencers, brands, and consumers; this means focusing on helping influencers sell products they actually use, love, and are passionate about.
- No ego culture than values and rewards people and rejects politics and unnecessary bureaucracy
DC: What’s different
- We’re powering over $5B in GMV and serving over 100,000 influencers and 10,000 brands worldwide.
- We have a full-on organization with established leaders, departments, etc.
- We are cash flow positive and can operate indefinitely without external funding