Interview with Ilbong Kwon, Entrepreneur of Smart Fragrance Device Company “Deep Scent”

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Currently, the fragrance market still employs traditional methods, which include scented candles, diffusers, and air fresheners. Although there are some products that utilize technology, such convergence has been limited to products such as aroma oil added to humidifiers. CEO Ilbong Kwon focuses on the process of creating smart designs and commercializing them. Ultimately, traditional methods and technologies will converge, so that the smart designs can be used, like home appliances that utilize IoT technology. The goal is to provide the opportunity for consumers to enjoy fragrances more intimately, economically, and diversely through engineering technologies.

“In the beginning, there was nothing. There was not enough manpower, funding, or underlying technologies. All I had were my experience, academic studies, and ideas that I came up with during lectures. The Institute for Startup KAIST and K-school helped me very much as I thought about how I could commercialize my ideas.”

  • Genuine relaxation with smart fragrance device

Members of modern society are constantly tired and require rest. So, people seek out ways to heal. Among numerous healing methods, CEO Kwon discovered that fragrance had growth potential. Fragrance related industries have constantly experienced growth in the US, Europe, Japan, and China. Fragrance related products have become mainstream over the last few years in Korea as well. CEO Kwon’s experiences using fragrance related products provided the foundation for cultivating invaluable ideas.

“Producing sensual devices that everyone can use economically and with ease through fragrances is the value proposition of Deep Scent. We are creating products according to this value proposition. The smart fragrance device developed by Deep Scent contains 4 fragrance cartridges. The device is unique in that cartridges with different fragrances can be blended together according to the consumer’s emotional state.”

People’s moods constantly change. Facial expressions change depending on the situation and mental state. Does fragrance preference change whenever there is a change in emotional state? Preferences could change. However, traditional methods like scented candles, diffusers, and air fresheners cannot express such changes because a single fragrance is produced until the candle completely melts and the diffuser oil is all used.

“The smart fragrance device will go beyond this limitation of traditional methods. The device contains our technology, from cartridge manufacturing technology to the fragrance recipe and the algorithm connecting the consumer’s mental and emotional states.”

The traditional methods cannot be personalized to the preference of the user because these products are mass produced. “I believe this does not provide the user with the opportunity to choose. Being able to make a blended fragrance that fits my inclination is what I consider to be more personalized. We wanted to give consumers genuine rest with unique fragrances.”

  • A device bringing together technology, design, and sensuality

Kwon considers design to be the key aspect in the development of this device because this product not only prioritizes functionality but also instills a sensual impression. Scented candles do not exist only as tools to spread a fragrance. Survey results show that the flickering of the candle light in a dark room provides a sense of emotional fullness to the consumer. This result sparked a discussion of the direction for the smart fragrance devices.

“This is the part that we have to contemplate the most for the next 1-2 years and focus our efforts on developing this aspect of the device. Of course, the corresponding technologies will also have to accompany the product. We intend to blend intuitive design and analog sensibility based on HCI(Human Computer Interaction) technology.”

  • Institute of Startup KAIST, priming water for startups

When Kwon was working on the commercialization of the smart fragrance device, the Institute of Startup KAIST and the K-school helped out significantly. Kwon received support from the Institute of Startup KAIST and the K-school when he was lacking manpower, funding, and underlying technologies, so that Kwon could move closer to his goal one step after the other.

“To me, the past year felt like climbing a stairway. One step, followed by another. I learned as I went on. I learned about idea materialization in a lecture for creating business models. while I learned how to apply what I learned through understanding of the users of products in a lecture for design thinking. In this way, I developed the prototype using the information and insight I learned through the curriculum, which also motivated me to continue on to the next step. During this process, I was able to meet many people from various fields.”

The Institute of Startup KAIST supported Kwon through 3D printing for product design and initial seed money investment. The wide range of support allowed Kwon to mature as an engineer and entrepreneur.

  • The value of how to live, growth of the company, and giving back to society

In the past, Kwon had concentrated on what he would become, but now his focus has shifted on how to live. The decision to begin a startup and give up a working life in a large domestic company, foreign affiliated company, and overseas foreign company was the result of thinking about how to live.

“I believe that beginning a startup independently is more valuable and proactive for how I live my life. It also fits well with the mindset of an entrepreneur. Starting a startup is the act of starting a new business. Like that, a new company is made, along with a new culture. In this process, if profits become fruitful, they will be shared with those who worked alongside me. When the company grows and sales increase, we will pay more tax and create new jobs. Recently, I like the term “company patriotism”. There are things that we can give back to the country, like the things that we received from the country. That is giving back to the country. I think that realizing the value of how to live in this place is fitting.”

Although the workload is 150% of the workload that Kwon experienced when he was employed, Kwon said he feels a greater joy. The smart fragrance device will be released in 2018. Starting with the Korean market, Kwon aims to expand into the markets of the US, Europe, Japan, and China, where the fragrance industry has grown significantly. The smart fragrance device developed by Deep Scent using technologies for people will provide true healing for the body and mind throughout the world.

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