Charles Michael Yim, founder and CEO of Breathometer, is a visionary and experienced entrepreneur whose innovative ideas in the hardware and software industries are transforming the way consumers use mobile technology. His many successes include founding Chatterfly and overseeing every aspect of its development, from its initial inception to its profitable acquisition by Plum District.
But his latest pioneering product, a mobile app that allows users to instantly check their blood alcohol level called Breathometer, exploded onto the market after its startling success on the television show, Shark Tank, late last year.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Yim about that ground-breaking appearance—the first time that all five “sharks” invested in a single entrepreneur—and discuss how it felt, as well as what it takes to achieve that sort of success in today’s mobile marketplace. Here’s what we learned:
You already have quite a good track record as a serial entrepreneur, how did you get started? At what point in your life did you make the decision that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
“First out of college I went to work on a start-up called Fortified Software, and within a very short period of time it was acquired by HP. I was basically leading business development…with upwards of twenty plus employees.”
Further explaining that Fortified Software was at that time, “specializing in applications security … [which] “was not for [him].” Yim felt he could learn a lot from his time there, and from the the success of that venture, he apparently did.
“After [the acquisition] I started my first start up, ProBuddy, which was a ‘Yelp’ for local service providers.” By teaming up with a senior engineer at Facebook, which in his words “was still new and cool at the time,” Yim was able to create and then later sell this original venture.
He then explained how he had built his second company, Chatterfly, a mobile loyalty rewards platform, which he then went on to sell to Plum District (a sister company to Groupon). In fact, these two experiences developed his track record and provided him with first-hand understanding about the mechanics of business… which in turn, led to his development of Breathometer.
What was the VERY FIRST thing you did when you came up with the idea for Breathometer?
“I started talking to friends about the idea… [Essentially] the first step was validating the idea.” The next steps, he explained, involved rapid prototyping and a crowdfunding campaign for further validation, and from that point, according to Yim, “the traction…developed.”
This is the first time all 5 sharks participating in the same deal together on Shark Tank, what does it mean to you that all of them believed in your product so much?
“A lot. They believed in the social cause [of the product], the technology…they believed in me as an entrepreneur [and in my] ability to execute.”
Since all five sharks backed the idea he gained even more social validation saying that when, “… proven entrepreneurs believe in you, the product, and the concept… [and] believe it will become something,” that it solidifies the justification of your idea.
What made you and your team believe that appearing on Shark Tank would be of value to your company?
“Free marketing… (chuckling) …I don’t think anyone can deny that.”
What has life been like for Breathometer after getting so much exposure from the show?
“It’s a blessing. [We] got a tremendous amount of exposure from it and it changed my life personally. It has helped us with sales, introductions, tips…everything.”
After raising money from IndieGoGo what was the biggest challenge you faced bringing the product to market?
“Hardware manufacturing. It is not easy.”
You obviously have a lot of experience when it comes to pitching products to investors, what are your top 3 tips you can give to any aspiring entrepreneur when it comes to dealing with potential investors?
(Without hesitation) “Know your product. Know your market. Know your numbers.”
Have you learned any new things from any of the Sharks since you’ve partnered up? Please share!
“I’ve learned that each of them have their own style… in terms of business.” He further explained that he is learning new things every day, specifically “how to scale a business [and]…how to handle a hardware company,” which presents different challenges than a software business.
Yim also stated that “[Mark] Cuban has been the most helpful. He is constantly involved;” And added that he’d observed a familiar “tenaciousness” of business character that was similar to his own, allowing for effective, and productive teamwork.
Many of the top entrepreneurs have had mentors, who are yours?
“Right now…Mark Cuban, obviously.” But Yim also acknowledges a co-founder of pay-pal as an early mentor and influence, who he originally met during the time he spent on his first start-up, Fortified Software.
Is there any advice you could offer a first-time entrepreneur, one who is just starting-up?
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Can you tell us what Breathometer has for us in the future?
“Yeah! We’re building a Breathalyzer platform…moving into the Health and Fitness space…and the medical healthcare space…”
Although he couldn’t reveal exactly what form the product(s) will take, he did humorously quip, “There’s a lot of things you can do with breath.”