85: How Cosmetic Surgery Community RealSelf Uses Technology & Innovation to Help Developing Countries

Aug 02, 2016

As you know I like to bring different stories and look at technology from different angles on the show. Tonight I talk with a guy named Tom Seery. He’s the CEO of a company called RealSelf, the world’s largest community for learning and sharing information about cosmetic surgery, dermatology, dentistry, and other elective treatments. When you think of cosmetic surgery you don’t automatically think of technology, innovation and creating a difference in people’s lives. This is the exact reason I invited him on the show tonight. It’s time to challenge our preconceptions and learn how this technology is used for the greater good.

Can you tell me a little about yourself and your role at RealSelf?

I’m Tom Seery, the founder and CEO of RealSelf. RealSelf is an online community that has been described by many as Trip Advisor for the body, face and smile. We’re helping consumers find people like themselves but also information that helps them on a journey to a decision about changing something that they want to about their teeth, their nose or their smile. It’s a community that’s global and growing very quickly.

Tom Seery

Tom Seery

I believe your journey started back in 2006 when you were an Expedia executive. Can you tell me a little about those early years?

People have always wondered how I went from travel to something much different. One of the interesting things about Expedia is we had acquired Trip Advisor which really opened my mind and eyes to how powerful it was to shift information to consumers that would normally be in the marketers hands. One night my wife was telling me that she had been at a facial clinic getting a facial and they said, “you might want to consider getting a $1,500 laser treatment”. She showed me the brochure and said she didn’t believe anything in it. That light bulb moment for me was that was what travel agents used to do before Expedia. They would say when you go to this place it will be like this but once you get there it is totally different and disappointing.

You were recently nominated for Entrepreneur of the Year. Can you tell me a little about that?

It’s always nice to get feedback that you’re doing something right. There’s a lot of self-doubt when you’re doing a start-up and it’s been almost ten years. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from our consumers through our doctor community. But this was a really great testament of the value our team has been delivering to the marketplace. I’m more proud of the recognitions we’ve gotten for being one of the best places to work. In the state of Washington, I believe we were 24th last year and this year we were 5th. That’s from our employee’s surveys and straight from their hearts and minds.

One of the reasons I invited you onto the show today was hearing the recent news about creating a cosmetic surgery community to send doctors abroad. Can you tell me a little more about that initiative?

We’ve long been interested in knowing how we can use our scale to good. We have a very large community of physicians and consumers. The physician community really is made up of individuals who got into health care because they like to deliver care. Yes there are plastic surgeons who are doing it to make more money but at the heart of it what we see in our community is a motivation that is shared by their peers of making an impact on people’s lives in a positive way. So we created a fellowship program here that is about showing doctors that this is important and influencing them to be humanitarian in their acts but also supporting more of these acts of good that come from physicians.

How big a part does technology and innovation play in your business?

We are more of a technology company then would be seen from the outside. We are running a real business that reaches and is important to millions of people each month. The challenge is that we need to run this business while also moving quickly in changes we want to make in our design and user experience.

What’s next for RealSelf?

We’re about to hit our ten year anniversary and we’ve landed on two strategic pillars that are aligned to what we hear from our community and consumers. They want our product to work like a marketplace where it’s a super efficient way to find the right providers or clinics in their area or other regions. The other pillar is becoming a trusted advisor.

For anyone listening who wants to find out more information or contact a member of your team what’s the best way of reaching out to you guys at RealSelf?

Personally, I’m on LinkedIn as Tom Seery and on Twitter @Seery. If someone wants to reach out to our team and talk to us you can contact us at www.realself.com

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