Interview: SyCoNet

Jan 25th 1999
This interview is being conducted with Sy Picon, CEO of SyCoNet.com, Inc. SyCoNet and their subsidiaries company Alternative Video Warehouse, www.altvidwar.com and AnimeDepot, www.animedepot.com, is one of the largest distributors of anime in North America.


Anime News Network: Thank you for allowing me the time to talk with you.
Sy Picon: It's my pleasure.

ANN: Can you tell me a little about yourself and how you got involved in anime & who and what is SyCoNet?
Picon: We fell into the industry. Originally we were a comic book distribution company. In 1997, customers started to tell us to start getting anime because that's what they wanted. Nobody except Central Park Media was exclusively dealing with just the anime on a large scale in North America. In October 1997 customers told to go to conventions to meet the people who buy anime and meet otaku in person to find out what type of merchandise they wished to buy. We brought a large selection of the video we had available at the time and just about sold out at the convention.

To better understand otaku, I watched 1400 hours of anime over 6 months. Now that the company has grown and is getting larger I try to watch at least 1-2 films each week. I'm a pseudo otaku. Its part of a cultural experience. The philosophy we wish to bring to otaku and the general public is that you should be able to buy anime inexpensively, and get it when you want you order it without delay.

ANN: Where are you physically located?
Picon: We're located in Manassas, Virginia. We have a warehouse that's 6800 square feet, stuffed with over 50-60000 tapes and DVD's in our inventory excluding new titles. We're expanding to over 20,000 square feet in March to handle our growth and the growth of the anime market.

ANN: Is your company the only publicly traded anime company in North America besides Bandai & Pioneer? How long has it been trading?
Picon: Correct. We went public in February of 1999. We're still a small player compared to those two but we hope to expand quickly. We're also not a producer as of yet.

ANN: How many employees do you have working for you? Do you have any job openings in your company?
Picon: 10 core staff currently. Increasing to 27 over the next 3-4 months with an additional 8 part-time. We're looking for people qualified to work in sales, to join our convention staff, r&d, and we need a translater. Our compensation package is right up there with most big companies and there is a stock ownership plan as well. We need people yesterday. Distribution has increased 400% in the last 45 days from new customers.

ANN: When is the new catalog coming out?
Picon: Our catalog is going to be published monthly instead of quarterly. There's more and more anime coming to North America and we have a responsibility to keep otaku and our new and old customers informed about the latest.

ANN: Do you plan to open a physical brick and mortar store?
Picon: No. We are very content being a wholesaler selling to stores, ecommerce, and attending conventions. We supply anime to over 400 locations across the United States and that number is growing rapidly. Any store can come to us and we can give them the complete anime video and DVD product line faster than anyone else and at extremely competitive prices.

ANN: How do you break apart your business?
Picon: We currently have three different revenue streams. Convention
Ecommerce
Wholesale
We plan to add soon Production/Manufacturing and Licensing/Sublicensing to our list of revenue generators.

ANN: Recently, your company released a press release about the creation of your own music label "Otaku USA". Would you give the history about how your company came up with this idea and how you plan to initiate it into the North American market?
Picon: We went around to all the conventions and what we noticed is that otaku really wanted anime soundtracks at an affordable price, and not buy bootleg music. Also with the emerging world music market, why not Anime and Japanese Music. By starting Otaku USA, we hope to bring this to a reality. The inserts of the CD's will have translated lyrics sheet from Japanese to English, and the Japanese spelled out phonetically so those who wish to sing along in Japanese can.

ANN: Can you announce any titles at this time? When do you plan to start releasing them?
Picon: We plan on releasing our first titles on June 1, 2000. We're still in negotiation right now so we can't give out information on what title's we'll be releasing.

ANN: How many conventions do you plan to attend next year? How does your company participate besides being a dealer in these cons?
Picon: We plan to attend as many anime, comic, sci-fi, and gaming conventions as possible. Our company wants to be as accessible to the North American General Public and Otaku as possible. We attended over 18 conventions for 1999. We plan on attending even more for the years to come. We also are going to help conventions to bring over Japanese guests in the future and we sponsor the costume and cosplay contests at many of the conventions we attend.

ANN: Where do you see the anime industry heading in the years to come?
Picon: I see it exploding. Disney, Funimation, and others have started licensing anime titles and I don't see that slowing down. Anime will become more and more mainstream in North America and the world. We're going to do our part by making our company synonymous with Anime. We want to expand the market for anime. But it is crucial to my firm that we allow the old and new otaku to get what they want when they want it and as inexpensive as possible.

ANN: How much communication do you and your company have with all the anime and manga companies here in North America?
Picon: My staff and I are in constant communication with all the industry players. It's still a small industry but it's rapidly expanding.

ANN: Can you describe to me your new animedepot.com website?
Picon: It's the new entity name for our business. Alternative Video Warehouse will be there for those who know it and we decided to go with the more catchy name Anime Depot to attracted the general public. We plan to sell everything that you can get from us currently: VHS tapes, DVD's, toys, games, etc... We also have started advertising in various publications, on the Web and on TV networks.

ANN: What is your new relationship with Kanakaris?
Picon: Kanakaris Communications is a company that will allow us to do exclusive Premiers of Anime Video over the. Whatever we obtain a license to do, we will premier the title over the internet via Kanakaris's web site using their technology.

ANN: Do you have any final thoughts or remarks you'd like to make to our readers?
Picon: The goal I've set out is to identify where anime is going into the next millennium. We go out and meet face to face with anime fans and talk to them because they have their pulse on what is going on in the Anime community world wide. I will always cater to the long term Otaku, the dedicated. Anime is small right now, and give it mainstream exposure in a BIG way. WE will bring the industry to the next level. We will bring it to the mass market as well. The more exposure it gets, the more we will see that is already produced but not available here now, and the more that will be produced in the future I'm responsible for making money for my shareholders, but also responsible to the otaku to bring over new titles from Japan and get them what they want. We listen to them in order to grow. Talking with thousands of Anime fans, they are the best and the brightest They also make a higher dollar. We are on an upswing with very little downside.

If you know of something that should be brought to the USA, You can contact me personally. Tell me how I can help more products to the USA and help us identify which products they are. If we can't do it ourselves, them we have the ears of those who can. We at Syconet.com care a lot about anime fans and expanding the selections available to them. We cater to them exclusively. You can email me at [email protected]

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