Gladys Kong is Chief Operating Officer at Near and CEO of Near Americas. Gladys was previously CEO of UberMedia, which was acquired by Near in 2021. At UberMedia, Gladys was responsible for assembling a best-in-class data science team and pivoting it from a social media app developer to a leading mobile data and analytics company.
Gladys, an entrepreneur and founder of multiple tech companies, holds numerous patents in the mobile technology space. In 2015 and 2016, Gladys was named one of Business Insider’s “30 Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising.” In 2016, Mobile Marketer named her one of the 25 “Mobile Women to Watch”. Her expertise and passion for innovation has directly contributed to UM being ranked #16 in The Wall Street Journal’s Top 50 Start-ups and listed as one of Fast Company’s “50 Most Innovative Companies”, one of OnMedia’s Top 100 Private Companies, and one of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur magazine.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Gladys Kong: Hi, my name is Gladys Kong, and I am the Chief Operating Officer at Near. Near is a global leader in privacy led data intelligence, and curates the world’s largest source of intelligence on people, places, and products. Near processes data from over 1.6 billion monthly unique users IDs in 44 countries to empower marketing and operational data leaders to confidently reach, understand, and market to highly targeted audiences and optimize their business results.
Previously, I was the CEO of UberMedia, which was acquired by Near in 2021. At UberMedia, I was responsible for assembling a best-in-class data science team and pivoting it from a social media app developer to a leading mobile data and analytics company. I am an entrepreneur and founder of multiple tech companies, and hold numerous patents in the mobile technology space. In 2015 and 2016, I was named one of Business Insider’s “30 Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising.”
In 2016, Mobile Marketer named me one of the 25 “Mobile Women to Watch”. My expertise and passion for innovation has directly contributed to UM being ranked #16 in The Wall Street Journal’s Top 50 Start-ups and listed as one of Fast Company’s “50 Most Innovative Companies”, one of OnMedia’s Top 100 Private Companies, and one of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur magazine.
Can you tell our readers in what ways you are disrupting your industry?
Gladys Kong: In my role here at Near, together, we are disrupting our industry by bringing together large amounts of data into a platform that provides insights and intelligence to help businesses truly make better decisions. We process, cleanse and stitch together data from many different sources, in a privacy forward and innovative manner, that helps organizations make more timely, more accurate and more strategic business decisions.
The insights we provide are disrupting the industry because we have a full-stack data intelligence platform that turns insights into action– allowing companies to turn consumer insights into targeted advertising to reach their preferred customers, and to communicate with them. This increases our customers’ brand value. We also provide ways to measure the results, so we are empowering businesses with a comprehensive solution that helps them better understand people, places and products.
Did you become a disruptor by choice or by necessity? Tell us more about the journey.
Gladys Kong: I became a disruptor, partly by choice, and partly by necessity. I always enjoyed working with data. For example, the thesis for my master’s degree in computer science was around intelligent databases, building a database that has a more human way of answering people’s questions. I’ve always been interested in data. Though I didn’t come to UberMedia, which is now Near (Near acquired UberMedia in 2021), with the mindset of building a data company.
UberMedia started out as a social media company, pivoted to be more of a mobile advertising company, and then to a data intelligence company as a way to differentiate ourselves. The reason for this is, at the time, we found that there were many other mobile advertising companies, and we were searching for ways to truly differentiate. We took a deep look into the company’s DNA, who we had in the company, and where we had all of our successes.
When we made the pivot, we decided to take data that is harnessed from mobile phones, and take it outside of advertising, to see if we can get businesses to use it for other purposes like real estate selection, forecasting, foot traffic modeling and competitive analysis– that’s when we found traction– so we pivoted towards leveraging data to help businesses answer strategic questions, and that is exactly how we built our business to today.
Now for the main focus of this interview: Many readers may wonder what are the biggest challenges women entrepreneurs must overcome to be successful?
Gladys Kong: There are many challenges female entrepreneurs face. Statistically, I also think it is harder for women to raise VC money. Yet, on top of those challenges, at a certain age, sometimes women have to make a choice about having a family.
Having a family while trying to build a company is a huge challenge, and can be difficult to manage. Finding enough time in the day to make sure you are giving both an adequate amount of time and attention– and you are happy with what you are giving– is tricky. To overcome this, you must learn to master time management, though regardless, you’re always going to say you could’ve done more on one side or the other. You have to be happy with the priorities you have, and accept you will never have enough time for it all, and you must be at peace with that.
How did you overcome these obstacles? Who helped you during these difficult times and how did they?
Gladys Kong: For me, a lot of it is about time management and prioritization. I’m at peace with not being able to get to everything in one day, but also make sure I complete the things I deem very important each day. Having this mindset everyday helps me. Also, no one can do this alone. I have a very supportive family who help and support me greatly.
I also have a work environment where I feel the team is very supportive– for example, I know if I had an emergency, and had to take a day off, my team would have my back. I feel you have to have a team around you, at home and at work, that you can trust. Time management and the right people around you that can support you both at home and at work is what makes you successful in your career.
How did these lessons shaped the way you conduct business today?
Gladys Kong: I focus on results. For example, during the pandemic there were a lot of parents that had to care for their children at home, so the work day became a little different– maybe they have their child on their lap– this doesn’t matter, just look at the results. This is what we should always measure, and for me, that’s what I focus on. I never watch the clock.
I don’t focus on that with my team, but more, what can we accomplish together. I’ve noticed this mindset inspires people to go above and beyond. For example, if you constantly time people, and say I need to see you work eight hours, that’s what people give you. Instead, leaders must inspire people to deliver something beyond what they could ever imagine; people achieve this when you give them the support they need, it’s motivating.
This is where I believe I have been successful, in that my team knows I’m not micromanaging them, but am always driving for excellent results. With a united goal in mind, and a supportive team, we should always strive to encourage people to do their best work.
What advice you wished you had received when you started, that you’d like to share now with aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Gladys Kong: I wish someone told me that it’s a long journey– and to make sure you enjoy that journey along the way too. You need to start out knowing that it’s going to be a long journey, or even a battle, with ups and downs– be prepared for it all. I took on this job thinking it was going to be short term, but as I continue to go with the team and see traction, I make the choice to continue my journey.
The way I see it, we are at times, as close to success as we are to failure, so you must always keep fighting this battle. As the journey continues, it becomes more and more rewarding, but hold on for the long haul, because it feels like everything takes such a long time. Make sure you learn on your way and enjoy the ride. This way, when you look back at all the time you’ve put in, you realize the journey is the reward– it’s the hurdles you’ve overcome, the lessons you’ve learned along the way, bonding with your team and all the shared success that makes it worth it.
Out of all of your proudest moments as an entrepreneur, is there a particular one that stands out the most?
Gladys Kong: Yes. It most definitely is from this past year, 2021, when UberMedia had a very successful merger with Near. As an entrepreneur, this was the moment my journey came to a pinnacle. Also, in December, I celebrated nine team members’ 10 year anniversaries with me. This is a big achievement for any startup, because at any given point, the merger opportunity could have gone anyway, or people could’ve left, but everyone stuck together, and it was amazing. Even after the acquisition, we all continue to have a very exciting outlook. Now we’re a global company, with a very rapid growth curve.
We celebrate this and will hopefully celebrate more in the future– but it’s one of my proudest moments that we did this together; it wouldn’t have been the same if I was the only one that made it through this journey alone, it’s the team accomplishing this amazing moment together. We have so much more to look forward to, the journey continues to get more exciting.
What do you plan on tackling during the 2022 year? Share your goals and battles you expect to face.
Gladys Kong: For myself, I have taken on a global role, so instead of just looking after the American business, I will expand my focus to a global level. To me, some of the challenges are learning how to scale the business globally, at this very rapid hyper growth phase. As everybody says, there’s growing pains, so being able to identify those, and figure out how to change things where we can is key. What worked as a smaller company may not work for a global company. My challenge will be not only to focus on how we grow as an organization in a scalable way, but also, how we bring everybody together as one unit globally.
I’m sure our readers will be very thankful for the insights you have shared. What is the best book you’ve gone through lately and please share some take away lessons from it.
Gladys Kong: I really enjoyed one of Simon Sinekc’s books called, “The Infinite Game.” It speaks to the idea that there’s no end game when you’re building something great. I apply this concept to Near, in the respect that we are trying to build the best company we possibly can in the long term. We don’t just want to do something short-term, or this quarter, but rather we want to build, do well and beat our competitors in the long term. You must constantly challenge yourself and your team to be the best they can always be because there’s no end game, this is a continuous journey. We are building a company of lasting legacy, so we must figure out how we go about building a strong culture to achieve that.
This book’s concept is our focus– rather than focus on very short term gain or competition, we must remember that our competitors actually make us better and in the long run, we will be a better company because of our competition. The book focuses a lot on the important aspects of building a legacy, and a culture, so that we are also contributing to our world as well.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, I do have one more question for you. When was the last time you did something for the first time and what was it?
Gladys Kong: Two weeks ago, for the first time, I went to Paris. I had a plan to visit Near’s office there. Before this planned trip, I had three separate trips planned to go to Paris myself, but every time, something disrupted it.
Every minute before I left for this trip, I was worried something would go wrong– I stayed home so I didn’t catch COVID, I didn’t do anything until I was on that plane. I didn’t trust I would somehow be able to go with my history of planned trips to Paris. I was lucky enough to make it, and I absolutely loved it– and could definitely enjoy working in that office a lot more often! Everywhere you walk feels like a scene in a movie, Paris is a beautiful city. We have an amazing team there, with great energy. The whole experience was truly amazing.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Gladys Kong for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Gladys Kong or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin
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