TechopiaLive: 25 million reasons why email marketing is still alive

In the second part of this episode of TechopiaLive, OBJ publisher Michael Curran spoke to the CEO of Knak, a company that specializes in unencrypted emails and landing pages for institutional marketers. CEO Pierce Ogenwala discussed the $25 million US venture capital increase, how the company will spend that money, and what it expects to achieve in 2022.

This is an edited version of the second part of our two-part interview with Ujjainwalla.

OBJ: Your company has received an impressive round of venture capital, Series A. Tell us how much money was raised.

PU: We raised $25 million from Insight Partners in our first pool, this was our first ever fundraising round. So we booted the company over the past five years, and we felt ready to take the next step. There are some huge growth opportunities ahead and we wanted to build the team a lot faster than we would have been able to if we kept booting. Very exciting times for sure.

OBJ: There’s often a backstory, especially when it comes to a Series A tour that you’re raising, like I said, for the first time, is there a bit of a narrative about how that money was raised?

PU: Michael Potter from Rewind is someone I definitely would love to keep in touch with and talk to some of the other founders as well, it just seemed like a good time in the venture capital markets and that aligns with our company’s timing in terms of when we really wanted to hit the throttle. So we’ve talked to over 30 companies, and we’ve had a lot of great conversations and a lot of great partners out there. We ended up getting six term papers and decided that Insight Partners would be our best partner in terms of providing a lot of the resources we needed as we looked to expand the company.

OBJ: When you say it’s a good time to raise money, I suspect you’re probably talking about ratings and availability, but can you expand on that a little bit?

Bo: In reading and speaking with other founders, I think it’s a very competitive market for venture capital right now. There are some new players in the market that are asking traditional venture capital firms to be more aggressive than they were before. I think what results from that are friendlier terms to the founder, as well as ratings we haven’t necessarily seen before.

OBJ: For someone who might be watching and have never raised any venture capital before, what would you say to them?

Bo: One of the biggest things for me is that I knew this was going to be a huge endeavor, but I don’t think I fully realized that it would basically occupy your life for about a quarter. So I think it’s important for other people who might be considering doing this to make sure they have a team and people who can continue to run the business. Whoever you eventually get as an investor will be interested in how the business is doing at the current stage. So making sure that you can have business continuity is really important.

OBJ: We talked about the $25 million raised and reviewed a little bit of that story. Where do you plan to invest all this money?

Bo: We really want to develop our teams. We want to continue investing in our products, in our customer success teams, as well as in our sales and marketing teams.

OBJ: As you look to 2022, what business barriers or challenges do you think you will face in the coming year?

Bo: This is really probably the most competitive time ever to recruit talent. There’s a shortage in the market, we’re competing with American companies that we haven’t had to do before, post COVID. Therefore, as a business owner we strive to get the best people and that is why we invest in making sure we have some of the best benefits packages as well as creativity in what we offer employees. Things like getting a free dessert or a foosball table were really compelling to people. Now it’s about being flexible and working on a task that aligns with people’s personal goals and objectives.

OBJ: Of course you’ve mentioned the fact that we’re out of COVID-19 here, Pierce, and many companies are embracing a mixed workforce. Is this a positive or negative thing when it comes to this recruitment challenge?

PU: Flexibility is something employees are looking for more than ever. We have an office here in Ottawa and some of our employees like to come to the office every day of the week, while others like to work from home. For employers now, it’s about understanding that different people have different preferences and being flexible with them. We love Zoom, we were actually a far company before it would have been great to be a far company. We also truly understand the value of meeting face to face, collaborating, having these whiteboard sessions, and building those relationships with your co-workers. It can be very difficult to do this exclusively via Zoom. And so, at Knak, we really try to balance that default component and stay out of the way to find the best people and also have a home base and a place for people to encourage those personal interactions.

OBJ: Knak was an award winning Best Workplace. This is the internal validation that she is a great workforce and a good employer. Pierce, if you look at the end of 2022 and look back, what will you achieve? I heard you want to double the size of your workforce, but what else can you achieve in 2022?

Bo: We have an incredible list of clients at this point, but I still think we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible out there. So our goal over the next year is to keep building the team with really great talent, people who are great additions to our culture, improving our product and making the lives of marketers easier and really letting them use that creativity. If we talk again in a year, I hope we’ll be able to do that for more marketers out there and that we have a bigger team that embraces and adds to our culture and I think we’re still at the beginning of our journey.

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