I feel like we have to commend you because, you know, so many young people are gravitating towards the old ways of doing things and now analog in general. Do you see yourselves restoring everything back to that, the Polaroid times?
Smolokowski: I think it's significantly different now because of the smartphone. So there's this incredibly capable digital camera in your pocket, anywhere you go. Initially, that had a very bad impact on analog photography, but then there was the second wave of a resurgence of like, OK, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a photography experience. If you can take a photo with the thing that you always have in your pocket. And people started getting curious about different experiences. So I think whatever is happening, it’s definitely different. And when you look back at Polaroid history, a lot of the film that they sold in the ‘80s and ‘90s were for corporate use. Whereas today, digital just makes a lot more sense for corporate use. I'm talking about like, insurance companies and police departments and dentists, you know, all sorts of stuff like that and people that needed to keep records and that used to be more than 50 percent of instant photography whereas today, it's pretty much a hundred percent consumer use.
And the crazy thing is it's actually bigger today than it was back then. When you look at consumer use, instant photography today is actually bigger than it was in the ‘90s when you put all the players together. Which is pretty crazy. So in terms of restoring it to how it was, I think it will never be the way it was. I mean Polaroid used to be the most instant way to take a picture, look at it and share it. Right? So right now we're probably one of the slower methods out there in some ways, right? ‘Cause your phone just immediately records it and you can share it to thousands of people, which is the power of digital.
And the power of Polaroid is a kind of meaning, that you would use it because you choose to take a portrait photograph, you choose to create it. You choose to spend a couple bucks on developing it. You choose to kind of create it and to bring meaning to it. And the big difference is that you've got a few of these photos, but they mean a lot versus having pretty much infinite digital photos that ended up meaning, most of them at least quite little because you never look at them again.
Would you say Polaroid is a journey versus your cell phone and taking a quick photo?
Smolokowski: Yeah, for sure.
You became a CEO in your mid-20s, for a brand that a lot of people idolize. How do you explain that feeling? What was that like?
Smolokowski: So I first actually became CEO of Impossible Project before I became CEO of Polaroid. My hope, my kind of passion was always in products and the way I grew in the company was through product and working on projects that have to do with that product. So becoming CEO was a very different ballgame. It's about managing people, it's about trying to fight your instincts, having to not try to do every little single thing yourself cause you just can’t. It was definitely a steep learning curve. It was the kind of feeling that I needed to learn all sorts of new things to be able to be successful.
What advice would you have given your younger self, from what you've learned through that process?
Smolokowski: I would say mentorship is something that I think is super important. When you're in your 20s, you just don't know everything and you're kind of figuring things out through common sense and with time. Having some sort of mentorship with the right kind of person or people who can really advise you and guide you and you can come to with questions.
I think I would have relied more on that than trying to figure out everything myself.