Season 02 • Episode 03
Thomas Pan, STEEZY
No other podcast brings you both a whale noise competition, and discussion of different app growth archetypes…but the Appy Hour Talk Show does! We catch up with Thomas Pan about his remarkable keychain collection (yes, you can send him literally any keychain for collection), and his growing Sneaker Head collection. A fun talk show with a splash of talking nerdy…that’s The Appy Hour Talk Show podcast!
Louis: Hey, we’re here with Thomas Pan. How are you doing, Thomas?
Thomas: Doing well. Good morning. Excited to have an Appy Hour in the morning with you all.
Louis: I know, right? So I’m Louis Tanguay, the founder of App Growth Summit. And she is …
Ariel: Ariel Niedermeier, the queen, oh no, director of content at App Growth Summit.
Louis: You are the queen of content as well.
Ariel: Thank you. I’m glad that you came in, and popped in with that correction.
Ariel: I just wanted to make sure it was …
Louis: Yeah. I recognize who you are.
Ariel: So Thomas, we hear that you’re into shoes.
Thomas: Yes I am, and specifically sneakers. Compared to many people who might be listening to this podcast, you could consider me a late bloomer, so to say. Got interested a couple years ago, in 2018, in a serious way. My girlfriend actually sort of introduced me to the world of Adidas Ultra Boosts, and then it turned to Jordan’s. And now I have a healthy, small collection of 30 pairs that I wear. And I just moved about 15 shoe boxes outside from the closet, due to complaints from her, and put it on top of my shoe box rack. So it’s a little bit more of a visual reminder to either sell them, or get rid of them, or unbox them and actually wear and appreciate them. So I like to jokingly call myself a baby sneakerhead, because I’m not willing to shell out a couple thousand dollars for the coolest things maybe just yet, but I’m getting there.
Ariel: So would it be safe to say that you have more shoes than your partner?
Thomas: I do, yes. And if you asked either of us a couple years ago, or any of my friends, I think that would be a little bit surprising. But, yeah, I guess you could say it’s a little bit of a hobby and passion of mine outside of just work, and it’s fun. If you ever come to visit, you sort of see the shoe racks, hers and mine, and it’s turned into a little bit of an interior-decor piece, with the way it’s displayed and all that, so it’s sort of fun.
Louis: Or when she ever complains you have too many shoes, do you ever say this is the monster you created, baby?
Thomas: It is. No, she’s fully aware, and we both collect different things. She collects a lot of cups, so she gets all the kitchen shelf space. I also collect key chains. I have just about 300, a little over 300.
Thomas: Yeah, it’s a fun fact I like to share. I have collected key chains since, inadvertently at first, since I was about seven years old and in grade school. One of my first key chains was actually, don’t ask me how, but literally we drew and made our own key chains, and it says gangsta, G-A-N-G-S-T-A, with hearts, because that’s why OGs do.
Ariel: As they do.
Louis: Gansta love.
Thomas: Yeah, exactly. So there’s a lot of fun little history with my collection, and it’s a great sort of reminder of all the places I’ve been and things I’ve done. So yeah, a couple of collections here and there, not just a mobile app growth person. But yeah, it’s been fun sort of seeing what sort of changes in that world.
Louis: So when did you first started collecting the key chains, at what age?
Thomas: So around seven years old, I’d say, first, second grade. And proof of that, on top of the poorly written and with hearts gansta key chain, I also have a key chain of my elementary school, John Muir Elementary school. So-
Louis: Where’s that?
Thomas: I’m from the South Bay, so San Jose area.
Louis: Okay, so local?
Thomas: Libertino, San Jose. Yeah, local.
Thomas: Yeah, represent. So that’s another validation, like oh my gosh, this sort of started way back when, about 15, 20 years ago. So, yeah, it’s fun seeing that collection grow. I have a six by eight cork board, and that’s pretty much on its very last legs in terms of space. So we’ll have to figure out what to do next.
Ariel: Do you have any growth marketing key chains?
Thomas: That is, I have a GDC one.
Thomas: I have a GDC one.
Thomas: I intentionally went to GDC, not for the meeting-
Louis: For the key chain?
Thomas: Yeah, just to get a key chain, because they have a little merch collection.
Ariel: For your collection, yeah.
Thomas: So that was like three years ago, actually. So other than that, not really though. So if anyone, any event of AGS-
Louis: Oh no, you’re going to do it now, they’re going to send you key chains.
Thomas: Oh yeah. Hey, I’ll collect them.
Ariel: Every clap for them-
Thomas: That I will take-
Ariel: We’ll send you a key chain now.
Thomas: Yeah. I don’t know if that’s a typical swag thing, but hey, send them over. I’ll give you the address to send them to.
Ariel: Just so we cover our bases, what would be your most coveted pair of shoes to get right now, to really just impress you. If someone was going to send you a pair of shoes, what shoes are you fiending after right now?
Thomas: Whoa, I’m not expecting anything. And please do not send me anything for anyone that might be listening, but-
Louis: Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. That works.
Thomas: No, I sincerely mean it. Let’s have a conversation, but don’t do that. But, I mean, there’s definitely different categories of shoes. There’s the “hype” shoes, that range $500 to a few thousand dollars. But I think my philosophy around sneakers, and what got me really interested in it, is not just the fact that something’s really popular and the tastemakers like it. Like if you know, you know, like the off-white Nike Kolabs. Those are great, and I’d love to have one or two pairs of those, but I also appreciate the history behind it. And that’s sort of the way I think about a lot of things personally and professionally, and the art of that.
Thomas: So, for example, there is a sneaker Silhouette. And for anyone from Nike, the UA team there definitely understands this, or Goat and StockX, and those folks. There’s a silhouette called the Nike React Element 87. And what’s really cool about that is they actually did a lot of research, in regards to the stress of someone walking and their gait, and how that impacts how a shoe should look and fit. So they actually created sort of support buttons, so to say. Hard to describe just verbally, but if you look up the shoe you’ll see what I’m talking about. And the first color silhouettes were basically an all white and all black. The all white is very limited, and it’s called the Sail Colorway. So that would be something I’d love to get, just because of the original story behind how that Silhouette was created.
Louis: And at this point, can you just buy it online, or do you have to order it?
Thomas: You can. It’s only in secondary marketplaces, like some of the apps I mentioned. Prior, you could get it on eBay, or Facebook Marketplace or something, but, yeah, a shoe like that typically retails for $160. Resale right now is around $500. So you can make money off of it. You could also just appreciate it and wear it. Or you could hold onto it just like a stock, literally, and see if it goes up over time more like art.
Ariel: That’s so interesting that shoes are becoming like that, where they can grow in value. Growth.
Thomas: Yep, incremental.
Ariel: Incremental growth. Okay, here’s a fun question. What is your favorite dessert? Actually, let’s make it more fun than that. So the dessert cart comes out, the plastic dessert cart with all of the traditional standbys. We have key lime pie, lemon meringue pie, flourless chocolate cake, some berry tart thing, tiramisu and a classic cheesecake. What do you pick?
Thomas: I am a sucker for chocolate cake. Don’t ask me why or how, it’s just been a thing over the years. I’m not a big dessert guy at restaurants and things, but when I see chocolate cake I’ve just got to get it. Call me basic, whatever you want, but I’m going to own up to that. I need my chocolate cake.
Ariel: No, I’m the same way. I’m a chocolate girl.
Ariel: Yeah, totally.
Ariel: But you said you’re not usually a sweets person? So in the morning for breakfast, are you savory or sweet?
Thomas: Yeah, that’s a great question, and it might help explain why I don’t even know why chocolate cake’s a thing, I’ll just get it every time. But Greek yogurt, protein shake and a breakfast bar. Pretty wholesome, hard-boiled eggs, things like that, so that’s literally the opposite of chocolate cake, more or less.
Ariel: Yeah, it’s very healthy. That’s very low carb, low fat.
Ariel: That’s good.
Thomas: Yep, yep. I’m just a hungry, growing boy that’s hitting his thirties, but I still need my chocolate cake still.
Louis: And what flavor of protein powder.
Thomas: Oh, good question. So right now, s’mores.
Ariel: What is one chore that you actually like doing?
Thomas: That’s a funny one. I wouldn’t say I like it. I definitely don’t mind it, so borderline liking, I guess, since it’s a chore. Washing dishes. I don’t mind washing dishes. I think I honestly have a little bit of OCD, which probably lends to why I don’t mind washing dishes. But I’ve watched many documentaries about dishwashers at restaurants, and oh my gosh, I have so much respect for those people. But yeah, that’s something I wouldn’t mind doing for an hour or two at a time if needed. But once I cook, I pretty much immediately wash the dishes, and do it happily.
Ariel: I think that’s really, yeah, that definitely … I agree with you, there’s a meditative … Okay, so my last apartment, I didn’t have a dishwasher, which I was abhorrent of when I first moved in. I was like what is going on here? I wasn’t used to that reality. I started washing dishes every night, and you get into a meditative state when you’re washing dishes, I think.
Thomas: I haven’t thought about it that way, but I agree.
Thomas: Yeah, it’s a little, I wouldn’t say it’s completely mindless, but you’re able to sort of block out whatever else is happening in the day, and just focus on a relatively simple task.
Ariel: It’s like a wax on, wax off, sort of principle.
Ariel: I know you can’t see it out there, but I’m doing the wax on, wax off with my hand.
Thomas: And it’s also a little bit of, what I’ve realized over time in having, even on the professional side, working in different companies, I think the physical manifestation of what you’re trying to do, especially people who work in a very digital world like our industry. It’s very fulfilling to sort of see you do something in the physical world, and see the results of that immediately, more or less, right? That’s not always something that we’re able to see in the work that we do on a day-to-day basis, especially in this type of world.
Louis: I used to be a professional dishwasher.
Thomas: Wait, are you serious?
Louis: Yeah. When I was a … He’s shocked.
Thomas: No. I mean-
Louis: Well, when I was-
Thomas: Let’s talk about that. No, I love, I …
Ariel: I love it.
Louis: It’s not as interesting as being a competitive dishwasher. But no, when I was in high school I had long hair, so no one would hire me except except restaurants.
Louis: So I had to tie my hair back, and then that was the only job I could get was washing dishes at restaurants. So I did that, and then delivered newspapers.
Thomas: Wow. Yeah. I mean, again, going back to the mini-documentary I watched, I mean, it is an intense job, so you really gain a lot of respect from the rest of the crew. And even in that segment I watched, famous chefs oftentimes had stints as dishwashers, to really understand and appreciate each part of the kitchen, and how it operates and how it works. So lots of different parallels again, and we’re going into the professional world, but dishwashing is an under-appreciated role in the kitchen.
Ariel: Okay. So now that we’ve chatted a little bit about your personal life, we’re going to move on to a little bit of a more serious section called talk nerdy to me. I love a personality test, and I feel like you see on growth marketing teams, more and more, people taking on different roles. Would you say there are different archetypes for a growth marketing team that people play?
Thomas: Yeah, definitely. I’ve had the fortune of working in multiple different verticals, all more or less within the UA world, whether it’s in the ride share space, in the gaming space, in the FinTech space. But yeah, through my experience I really have worn a fair number of hats in the growth-marketing world, but also have observed others exhibiting stronger traits in these different archetypes and personalities. And I wouldn’t say this covers everything, and of course there’s overlapping qualities of all of these.
Thomas: But I think some different ways to think about these personalities are, one, the very analytical type of growth marketer/ They’re able to understand numbers really well, they might have a finance or banking background, and they’re really able to just optimize things really well, right? And that’s a very important trait, and a lot of growth marketers need to, at least at some degree, be able to do that well.
Thomas: There’s the manager, sort of cross-functional growth marketers. So they’re great at building relationships across teams, communicating goals, communicating performance and building a narrative around that. So that’s very valuable, especially in larger organizations, and especially as individual contributors, where they’re able to figure out, okay, well product has a release at this date, because I have a regular conversation with this person. What does that mean for marketing? What does that mean in regards to the conversations I need with the engineering, to make sure that we’re able to introduce this effort on the marketing side, or the growth-marketing side, to make sure we sort of hit those deadlines and we can hit our goals?
Thomas: There’s also the deal maker, the business person, right? Again, they know many, if not all, things related to growth marketing. But they’re often running around having meetings with different partners, trying to figure out what the next big channel is, how to get ahead of everyone else to test out. For example, probably a year or two years ago, Tik Tok, right? The deal-maker types would have been the first ones to jump on that. So there’s a lot of interesting archetypes to sort of understand, especially for those that are building out teams of growth marketers, and how do you sort of unlock their “superpowers”, right? I think that’s something to think about as someone building a team, and sort of applying that in the growth-marketing world.
Ariel: Oh, I just love it. Okay, super part, so I have so many questions. First, which archetype do you feel like right now today?
Thomas: Good question. Today? You could ask me probably based on the hour of the day. I mean, the fact that I’m, and I’m fortunate, I guess, probably because of my background working in so many different verticals, working in growth-marketing teams ranging of just myself, to one of over 50 people in a growth marketing team. That has lent itself to my being much more of an agile growth marketer, which is great, pros and cons though sometimes. But I would say, as of this morning I was much more of the analyst. Right now I’m a little bit of a deal maker, in the sense I’m here, and sort of evangelizing whatever I’m going to talk about, and what I have talked about. And later in the day, more of a manager, whether it’s managing up and managing down, and that cross-functional team-player type.
Ariel: Thomas, tell us how you got into growth marketing.
Thomas: Great question. So I was originally I have a finance background, so I was in corporate finance. It was a little stale for my preference being in the back office. For those that have finance backgrounds, they sort of know what that means. Basically I just didn’t interact with anyone, worked on Excel all day, and that just didn’t really fit my personality. So I started going on TechCrunch, and realizing that as an outlet and resource. And I started applying to a whole bunch of interesting companies, and eventually landed at a company called Scopely, a big, now very prominent, gaming company. And they took a chance on me, I took a chance on them, and the rest is history, I guess.
Ariel: Okay. So we are going to switch it up a bit, and do a this or that segment. I don’t know if you’ve ever played this or that, but it’s very complicated, okay? I’m going to say two different things, and you have to choose one, but you have to do it lightning fast.
Ariel: Don’t think too much.
Thomas: Lightning round, let’s do it.
Ariel: Okay? We want your real, it’s like a Rorschach test. Let it come out, like what are you really feeling? Text message or call?
Thomas: Text message. It’s faster, more efficient.
Ariel: Morning or evening?
Thomas: Evening. I’m a night owl.
Ariel: Pancakes or waffles?
Thomas: Whichever one’s healthier probably, honestly, unless it’s the weekend and brunch, like whatever.
Ariel: Sandals or sneakers?
Thomas: Sneakers. I already talked about that.
Ariel: Sweet or salty?
Thomas: Generally salty, unless it’s chocolate cake.
Ariel: There you go. Comedy or horror?
Thomas: Comedy. I love standup. Yeah, I saw Godfrey sign something actually right outside the studio. For those that know Godfrey, a great standup comedian, New York based.
Louis: Did you ever do standup?
Thomas: I haven’t. I actually have a personal note where I’m like stand up comedy ideas and topics. Like, for example, the three years I lived in the TL. Many interesting stories there.
Ariel: The TL of, you know what the TL is, right?
Louis: I have no idea what the TL is.
Ariel: Atlanta, right?
Thomas: Oh, sorry.
Ariel: Oh, I thought you said ATL.
Thomas: It’s the Tenderloin district in San Francisco.
Thomas: So for those that don’t know-
Ariel: They call it the TL?
Thomas: Yeah, so-
Ariel: I’m behind.
Louis: And there was lower Knob Hill, no.
Ariel: Oh, it was with the ATL.
Thomas: Yeah, yeah, that’s what they like to call it, depending on which block you are, or how far you are away from the TL Proper. But, yeah, many interesting, fun anecdotes that could be added to a standup routine, if I were to do it.
Ariel: Oh, I’m sure.
Louis: Yeah, I’m sure there’s lots of material in the TL.
Ariel: Pandas or whales?
Thomas: Ooh, panda’s are cuter.
Louis: See, that’s a tough one.
Ariel: Yeah, like what would you … Oh, I would say whales.
Ariel: Because I feel-
Louis: This is what we need to know.
Ariel: Whales are kind of mystical, and it’s just so crazy how massive they are.
Thomas: That’s true.
Ariel: I find it fascinating that they’re just under the water, and they’re massive.
Louis: Yeah, that’s true, and you probably respect the whale more.
Louis: Whereas pandas, no one really respects that they’re actual bears, because they’re cute.
Louis: They’re like oh look, a Panda. Rawr. And-
Ariel: I feel like-
Thomas: It’s chewing on bamboo.
Ariel: I think it’s something about I always want the thing I can’t have, too, and you can’t find really-
Louis: You can have a panda?
Ariel: Well, no, but you can find really funny panda YouTube videos, where it’s like the people at the zoo, and they’re picking up the rolling pandas-
Louis: Oh, the little cubs, yeah.
Ariel: And they’re all jiggly or whatever. And with whales, you can’t really get that YouTube content. So it’s like I can’t, I don’t know what it’s, I just … It’s more of a mystery, so I want it.
Louis: But you’re Ariel the mermaid.
Ariel: That’s true.
Louis: So I’m sure you can roll around with some baby whales if you want.
Ariel: Yeah, just make whale noises.
Louis: Oh, that would be great.
Ariel: Oh my God.
Louis: Make a whale noise, please.
Ariel: Don’t. Only if Thomas does it first.
Louis: Okay, Tom, let’s … Make a whale noise for us.
Ariel: I’ll do a whale noise if you do.
Thomas: Oh wow, okay. Now I know what this podcast’s really all about.
Louis: Right? Screw this tech talk. Make whale noises.
Ariel: Okay, ready?
Louis: There you go.
Ariel: Oh my God.
Thomas: Okay, I promise-
Ariel: That was really, no that was really good.
Thomas: I’ve never practiced this before.
Ariel: No, that was good.
Louis: You know what? As far as I know, that is accurate.
Thomas: I’ll take it.
Ariel: Okay, I would be like oh, I’ve got this, this is going to be ridiculous. Don’t they do like a-
Thomas: She added the extra little snorkel thing.
Ariel: They do not, they like the clicking, or is that a dolphin?
Thomas: Yeah, I think that’s a little bit more on the dolphin side, but they’re related.
Ariel: Somewhat. There’s some, yeah, they hang out.
Louis: I’ll do one.
Ariel: Okay. That was really sweet, Louis.
Louis: Yeah, I’m a sweet whale.
Ariel: Yeah, yeah.
Louis: I’m much sweeter as a whale.
Thomas: That was a good one.
Ariel: Yeah, that was really sweet.
Thomas: That was a good one.
Ariel: I found that soothing, like-
Louis: It was almost like-
Ariel: That could be on the Calm app or something.
Louis: I think he had just woken up. The whale had just woken up, and was like, well?
Louis: There you go.
Ariel: Okay, cake or pie?
Ariel: Oh yeah, well you did say chocolate cake.
Louis: For the two people that are still listening at this point.
Ariel: Your answers, they’re all linear, you know? They come back. You have a nice flow. There’s a narrative here. Working alone, or working on a team?
Thomas: Oh, a team. I love the community feeling, and achieving the goals and success together.
Louis: This is not an interview. I love it.
Thomas: For those that think it’s an interview. Yeah, I’ll pull this episode of the podcast up, and I don’t have to do any talking.
Louis: Yeah, just splice it up.
Louis: Bath or shower?
Ariel: Oh, I just don’t have enough time for baths. I should probably start taking baths, but it’s shower.
Louis: What about on a weekend with chocolate cake?
Louis: Let’s just say if there were chocolate cake in the bubble bath.
Thomas: Next weekend, this weekend. That’s a great-
Louis: But don’t take off your sneakers.
Ariel: Yeah, yeah. Oh, I love this one, because it’s so random. Cups in the cupboard, are they right side up or upside down?
Thomas: Ooh, right side up.
Louis: I do right side up as well. Do you do-
Ariel: Wait, really? You guys are, no, upside down, or else … Don’t you ever get nervous that there’s like a bug in the glass if it’s right side up?
Louis: No, because I don’t live in a place …
Ariel: I’m just saying I think about things like crawling, and then dropping, and then they get stuck.
Louis: Well, why don’t you look at it? You wouldn’t look at it before you pour something into it?
Ariel: Yeah, but you still have to tip it over, and what if something falls out? I just would rather, I don’t know, that’s actually an interesting …
Louis: You know what I’m going to do now? I’m going to alternate them. I’m going to go home and make every one up and down, up and down.
Ariel: Yeah. Okay, last but not least, train or plane?
Thomas: Plane. I take it a lot more, but I like trends.
Thomas: People have called me Thomas the Train though.
Louis: Was this in college?
Ariel: Yeah, why?
Thomas: All the time, just randomly.
Louis: Thomas the train.
Thomas: Friends’ kids loved Thomas the Train. And they’d point at me, look it’s Thomas. Wait, he’s not a train.
Ariel: That’s right, there was that train that kids … It was a show, or was it a book? Thomas the Train, right?
Thomas: Everything, yeah.
Ariel: Yeah, it was a thing-
Thomas: Thomas the Train has evolved into a brand of all sorts, so-
Ariel: Yeah, right. Okay, well fascinating.
Louis: All amazing things must come to an end, Thomas the Train.
Louis: So, unfortunately we have to take our whale sounds and sail away.
Ariel: Don’t let, that was good.
Into the sunset.
Louis: So I just made that sound, just ad-libbing.
Ariel: It was amazing. Yes, Thomas, it was great talking to you. Thanks for coming, and-
Thomas: Likewise. Thank you both for having me.
Louis: Thank you, and hopefully you can join us at a future App Growth Summit.
Thomas: Definitely. Have attended before, and will continue to attend.
Louis: Best conference ever, right?
Louis: Yeah, okay, shameless plug. We’ll cut that. Okay. Okay, thanks everyone.
Ariel: Hey thanks everyone.
Thomas: Bye bye.