Issue: March/April 2011
NEO Success 2011: Connect More
Brian Deagan's digital marketing firm, Knotice, offers household-name brands new and interesting ways to reach us.
The chief executive of one of Northeast Ohio’s fastest-growing businesses sees smokestacks from his Akron office. Yet Knotice Ltd., the digital marketing firm Brian Deagan heads, has few ties to Akron’s hard-hat past.
From offices in BF Goodrich’s former headquarters, Knotice
, a direct digital marketing software and services company, has gone from a six-person spinoff in 2003 to a company that expects to exceed $10 million in revenue and employ more than 60 by the end of the year. Along the way it has assembled a client base of household names that range from Texas Roadhouse to ResortQuest, Canon to Crocs. What exactly Knotice does varies by customer.
Time Warner Cable uses Knotice’s propriety software, Concentri, to e-mail upgrade offers, programming notices or other information based on a customer's interests and preferences. The Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain pays Knotice to run its text-ahead reservation program. Pet insurer Trupanion deploys Knotice software to track how visitors browse its website to differentiate dog lovers from cat people and display messages accordingly.
In September, Knotice inked a deal with Canon’s U.S. unit to create product-specific websites that pop up on big-box shoppers’ smart phones when they photograph two-dimensional barcodes displayed on store shelves.
“Consumers crave product details and information, and we want to prevent walkout in cases where consumers are seeking information in-store but can’t get it,” says Canon executive Yuichi Ishizuka.
“What we do is applicable to a lot of different folks and a lot of different industries, and it really comes down to companies that need to be relevant and engage their customers and prospects digitally,” Deagan says.
Brian Deagan, CEO of Knotice
» You have to have a plan and a direction, but you don’t want to get too hung up on creating a mantelpiece of a business plan. At some point, you need to step up and really get out and engage customers and sell something.
» Day in and day out, just focus on the things that you can control. The things that are out of your control, don’t lose too much sleep over.
» If you’re trying to round out your management team, it’s critical that you really know the people. Being able to tap your existing network or finding new networks to tap into is extremely important.
» It’s important that people see you as a good place to come and work.
An Akron native and University of Akron graduate, Deagan started his first tech company, a web developer named Link
Media, in 1995 during the dot-com era’s early days. Next came 600 Monkeys, which provided project management software to advertising agencies and in 2000 was acquired by Niku Corp., based in Redwood, Calif. Deagan worked for Niku, which was gobbled up five years later by tech giant CA Inc., before returning to Northeast Ohio.
Deagan says he carried many lessons back with him from Silicon Valley. Chief among them, he says: “These types of companies can be built anywhere.”
There are challenges, to be sure. Finding talent in Northeast Ohio is difficult, Deagan says. But recruitment can also be problematic in high-tech hot spots. “There’s more talent, but all that talent wants to work at places like Facebook,” he says.
After relocating from California, Deagan joined a friend’s marketing firm, Craver Marcom, and eventually spun off the division he ran as Knotice with co-founder and high school buddy Bill Landers, who has been involved in each of Deagan’s previous companies and serves as Knotice’s chief technical officer. Joining them was Jon Grimm, Knotice’s president and CFO, whom Deagan and Landers met during the spinoff.
“One of the main assets of the company is how we’re able to operate and balance each other,” Deagan says.
Knotice won funding in 2006 from nonprofit business incubator JumpStart Inc. and turned a profit the following year. Since then Knotice has seen swift growth. In 2010, the company’s revenue climbed to $7.5 million, more than double the $3.5 million it reported in 2008. With 541 percent sales growth, Knotice finished eighth in Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead 100 regional business ranking last year.
By 2016, Deagan says, Knotice aims to reach annual revenues of $30 million and employ 100, and that could be just the beginning.
“We can self-fund that through our current profits,” Deagan says. “If we’re able to find additional growth capital and the right partner in the right deal, that would more likely look like $85 million and 250 employees.”
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