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Interview with Douglas Krone, Founder and CEO of Dynamism


dynamism logo

Some of us have become addicted to the yummy imported subnotebooks, phones and gadgets that Dynamism offers. In fact, we've reviewed several of their offerings such as the Sharp Zaurus C860 and the Samsung NEXiO S160, and our Editor in Chief has fallen in love with them and purchased the units from Dynamism.

So who is the face behind Dynamism? When shelling out the big bucks, it's always nice to know the company you're dealing with. And besides, importing the coolest Japanese and European devices is very interesting business— who wouldn't want to know more about it? We interviewed Douglas Krone, founder and CEO of Dynamism, to get the scoop.

Interview: First, please tell us a bit about yourself, Douglas. What is your role in running Dynamism these days? Do you spend much time in Japan and can you speak Japanese?

Douglas: The challenge is managing growth. I spend time in the U.S. looking at new opportunities for us and trying to refine what we are already doing. And, I spend a lot of time in Japan, keeping up vendor relationships, searching for new and interesting products, and generally soaking up all the cool technology. Now tell us about Dynamism. How long have you been in business and how has the business evolved over the years? Why the name "Dynamism"?

Douglas: Dynamism started in 1997. That was sort of a golden era before the Asian bubble burst, and just as the internet was really getting hot. There was a lot of excitement about global economic dynamism, and all its fruits. And that's just what Dynamism wanted to do--go into these hotbeds of innovation and technology and make all the greatest products available to everyone. So, that's where the name came from.

When we first started, we focused only on notebook computers--namely the IBM PC110. Obviously, we have since expanded to a wide range of notebooks and beyond--digital cameras, PDAs, phones, media players, and a bunch of random gadgets that are hard to categorize. What differentiates Dynamism from the competition?

Douglas: Let me talk about Dynamism. First, we have complete and total focus on customer service. We approach every day, and every interaction, with the knowledge that you are only as good as your last performance. Happy, repeat customers (and their friends) have propelled growth since inception.

Second, since most imported products are not under warranty outside of their original country (e.g. Japan) by the maker, the warranty and support have to come from the seller. Our seven year track-record is something that, I know, customers appreciate. Over time, we've had plenty of competitors come and go. Customers know Dynamism will be here if we're needed.

Another differentiating factor is our warranty itself. In addition to unlimited toll-free tech support (free for U.S., Canada, UK, and W. Europe), we offer a rescue service. Under that, customers pay nothing in shipping for warranty service on their computer for the first year. If a computer has a problem that requires a visit to the service center, it is sent overnight to our office (and/or sent by courier to Tokyo) for service, fixed, and returned by the same service. We can even email/fax the prepaid shipping label, to make it easy.

We also supply and service the widest range of bleeding-edge products. So whatever the customer wants--from the latest laptop from Japan, PDA from Europe, impossible-to-find credit-card sized cell phone from NEC (although it only works in Europe!), or special order product--we have it. Our global reach also means we have customer conveniences like the ability to accept payment in local currency at local banks in over 30 countries. After all, that's the stuff global dynamism is all about. Dynamism has a tantalizing range of technology items, from ultra-portable Japanese notebooks, to high end phones, PDAs and innovative digital cameras. With so many technology products to choose from, how you decide which items to stock and carry?

Douglas: It's hard. If you visit Akihabara (the Tokyo electronics district where our office is located), the scope of unique products is overwhelming. But we want Dynamism to be a boutique, not a catalog. So, we constantly parse it down to only the coolest and most compelling devices. We meet with vendors to look at upcoming products, and we pound the pavement looking for undiscovered jewels. Despite a near-constant effort (to deal with a near-constant stream of information), we sometimes mess up. Maybe some gadget that we liked doesn't take, or we completely overlook a neat device. There have been multiple instances where our customers have turned us on to gadgets that were great sellers. Tell us about the typical Dynamism customers. Are they CEOs with money to burn and people to impress, are they techno-wizards wishing to test the limits of technology, or. . .?

Douglas: In the early days, they were exactly CEOs with money to burn. At that time, hardware pricing was much higher across the board, and price points were very high. But there has been a tremendous drop in pricing (especially in notebook computers), and so our ultra-portable PCs from Japan now have a much broader appeal. Now, we still sell to those same CEOs, but we also sell to lots of regular folks. Because we can compete with domestic alternatives, we can win business from students, small business owners, traveling salespeople, knowledge economy workers, etc. Our products still aren't as cheap as the domestic alternatives, but they're in range. Buyers in the U.S. are tremendously value savvy. Part of that equation is that they are going to be with this product 5-6 days out of the week for a year or two, and if you can provide something that is really special, it can be competitive even from a higher price point. So, it's not just CEOs anymore, but mainstream users who either have a need for something unusual (usually small), or just have a little technolust. What are your best selling items?

Douglas: The LINUX-based Sharp Zaurus SL-C860 is a super popular PDA. We also have a Sony CLIE TH-55 with Bluetooth (from Europe). That sells well. The Sony U50/U70 is very in-demand, particularly among people who want something approaching PDA-size, but want all the power of a laptop. Another coveted Sony product is the HMP-A1 HDD-based portable media player. Our TV wristwatch is impossible to keep in in-stock, even though we tell people it's a one-month toy at best. (You will only enjoy so much TV on a watch.) Japanese mini notebooks and technology have been hot since the mid 1990's, when I remember drooling over an IBM PC110, the first Vaio 505's and several others. Now Japanese manufacturers are more willing to sell some of their specialty small notebooks here (I'm thinking of the Sony Vaio TR3A and even the X505 which just hit the US market after its intro in Japan in December 2003). Does that make it harder to find items that are unique enough for the US market?

Douglas: It makes it harder but not impossible. Sure, everyone would like to sell everything globally and simultaneously. The reality is that global markets vary. The Japanese market, the world's second largest, has a different set of demands than the U.S. market. And it is large enough that makers must work to please that specific market. So, unique products will keep flowing (and not only in Japan).

Look at the CLIE series. PDAs aren't even big devices in Japan, since the cell phones handle PDA functions for most people. Yet, Sony will continue to offer its CLIE only in Japan. Why? Because they want to offer a high-end high-margin product, and the Japanese PDA market (though it may be much, much smaller than the U.S. PDA market) wants that kind of product. What are you current favorite high tech toys? What notebook is your daily driver?

Douglas: I use two different notebooks because of the different work/lifestyles in Japan and the U.S. For Japan, I use a Sony U70. In Tokyo, I am constantly shuttling around for meetings, and often by train. I need to have a PC, but I want it to be as small as possible. At the office in Tokyo, I can stick it on the docking station. But for the U.S. I am using a Panasonic Y2. It's still only 3.3 pounds, but has a 14" screen. Great for watching movies on the plane, especially when combined with the Bose QuietComfort2 headphones (which we do not sell). I am not moving around so much, and when I do, it's by car. So, the slightly large size doesn't bother me.


Among their offerings are the Sony U50 & U70, Sony Vaio X505, O2 XDA II Pocket PC Phone, Sharp Zaurus C860 and the JVC Interlink 7310, all of which are reviewed on our site. They also sell a unique range of digital cameras, video players and even a TV Wrist Watch.





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