Scott Cohen has a strong track record of building several successful tech companies from start-up to exit. In addition to being the Co-Founder of byte, a leading direct to consumer brand for invisible aligners, Scott was most recently the founder and CEO of 180fusion, a leading search engine marketing platform that was acquired by Deluxe Corporation (NYSE: DLX). Prior to this, Scott has led Silicon Valley software companies PSS Systems and Certus from pre-revenue stage to market leadership positions before being acquired by IBM and Cisco respectively.
Hi Scott, your business journey is so impressive. It looks like you were born to create and manage businesses. Do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made?
I think entrepreneurship is a little bit of both being born and being made. I didn’t know I was interested in creating my own businesses until I did it. I actually went to college to become a lawyer, but I started my first business at 19 while in college and sold it prior to graduating. From there, it’s a risk/reward equation. You have to be passionate with a strong conviction about what you’re setting out to do, but willing to risk losing it all for having a chance at that reward.
Tell us briefly about your journey as a serial entrepreneur.
Like I said, I started my first business at 19. I’ve been an entrepreneur now for two decades, and byte is my fifth business. I began my career in Silicon Valley with three successful outcomes of building enterprise software companies from pre-revenue to an ultimate exit of selling to Fortune 500 companies. Most recently, I was the CEO and Founder of 180fusion, which we sold to Deluxe Corporation, and the others sold to IBM and Cisco.
What is your secret to being an effective business creator in terms of building the company culture you need to make the company successful?
I don’t believe there’s a secret to building a great culture. I think it starts with being authentic and transparent at all levels of the company. You set up measurable, metric-driven goals and a vision—your purpose for the future—from day one. From there it’s about your team, your customers and your community. Company culture is much bigger than one person, but it can certainly be driven positively or negatively by the overall management team. So you hire world-class management teams who can ensure the culture isn’t lost as the company grows. At byte, customer adoration is our number one key performance indicator. To build a great brand, you have to be consistent with your customers. Then, you take it a step further to your community, like our byte cares program, through which we’re working to provide 10,000 smiles to people who can’t otherwise access treatment by 2022.
At byte, customer adoration is our number one key performance indicator. To build a great brand, you have to be consistent with your customers.
Looking at your career, we noticed you have a strong interest for new technologies and innovations. What fascinates you the most?
Starting my career in Silicon Valley during the dot-com era, I was able to see many innovations and technologies, but what fascinates me the most is when you’re able to disrupt or change a large market opportunity for the better. byte is a great example of that. Remote invisible aligner treatment is already disruptive in its own right. byte is making the inaccessible now accessible and affordable by being 60% less than traditional braces.
Tell us more about byte, which is one of your companies on the forefront of the teledentistry industry.
We’re putting customer adoration first. We’re building a stand-out brand. We’re introducing technology other brands don’t have, like HyperByte, our high frequency vibration device that allows us to do things faster and better. Other invisible aligner brands average six months for treatment. Our average treatment is three—and we do it safely, effectively, and under the guidance of a licensed dental professional. We’ve also partnered with one of the top names in cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Jon Marashi, who works with some of the best-known people in Hollywood on their smiles. We’ve taken his approach, called SmileScience, and applied it to our customers. Instead of putting people through the same software every other invisible aligner company is using, we’re customizing treatment based on someone’s full face, not just their teeth.
When scaling a company like byte, what do you focus on first and why?
From the very first day we thought about building a company for scale. We started by making sure we understood the market needs and “the why” behind what would make our customers choose us—going back to that focus on customer success. From the start, we invested in the company with world-class people, best-in-class technology, highest quality of product, and compliance as core pillars. You can’t be pennywise if you want to build a company that can grow the way we want to see byte grow. We’re also very metric and data driven in our decision making. I learned the importance of metrics early on in my career. When you can measure all the key drivers of the business, it provides great clarity and takes some of the emotion out of it.
One of the biggest lessons you can learn from your failures is to not let it go to your heart the same way you shouldn’t let successes go to your head.
Any tips for effective time management?
Effective time management starts with focusing on understanding what your real priorities are. The day can be filled with all kinds of tasks, but if you start by focusing on your big goals and objectives and then plan around that, you’ll be better able to separate the busy work from the critical, important work. In terms of work-life balance, I’m a big believer in starting the day early. I get my “me time” in before 7 a.m. You can never get that alone time back once you hit the office, so I’m purposeful with my mornings, getting in exercise, reading and time with my family at the beginning of the day.
What’s your next challenge?
We’re already on pace to exceed the ambitious goals we set out for 2019. We’re continuing to set the bar high so we can overachieve and scale the company in 2020 to provide a great product and experience to the millions of people that would like to straighten their teeth. We’re seeing a growing demand for partnerships, so next year is going to include being thoughtful around the companies we choose to partner with and the additional products and markets we consider rolling out. We’ve created an amazing brand, which has positioned us well for that. Read Scott’s full story here
Entrepreneur Mindset magazine Fall 2019 featuring Josh Ostrovsky, Tanoa Tales, Lauren Shirreffs, Kelli Gautreau, Kail Walker, Ryan Laverty & Sal Campisi for Vide etc…
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