TechopiaLive: Why Email Marketing is Ripe for Innovation
For those who think email marketing is dead: think again. Knak is an Ottawa-based software company that specializes in no-code emails for enterprise marketers, and they have 25 million reasons why email marketing is alive and kicking. Coming up on “Techopia Live,” OBJ does a series of interviews looking back at 2021 and some of the brightest and most intriguing tech prospects in Ottawa. In this episode, Michael Curran spoke with Knak CEO Pierce Ujjainwalla. This company helps its clients, primarily corporate marketing teams, create code-free emails and landing pages.
This is an edited transcription of part one of a two-part series with Pierce Ujjainwalla.
OBJ: Pierce, can you give us your business case?
PU: When everyone gets this beautiful email in their inbox with beautiful images and beautiful buttons, there’s actually a lot to do, and marketers spend a ton of time and effort. money to create them. Even though it’s 2022, a lot of it is still done by manual coding, or these marketers outsource it to expensive agencies. So what Knak does is allow marketers to do it themselves, no coding required, and puts a lot of the creativity back in the hands of those marketers.
OBJ: We’re going to spend a lot of today’s show digging into your product and the business challenge you’re trying to solve now at Knak. But Pierce, let’s get to know you a little better.
PU: I was born and raised in Ottawa. I went to high school here and to Carleton University where I studied international business. This is really where I found my passion for marketing. I found that I was still a creative person, but I didn’t know how to channel that creativity. When I discovered marketing, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I started my career as an email marketer at Cognos, and my job there was putting together emails and landing pages for our demand generation campaigns. And that’s where I got this passion for email and marketing and saw firsthand the challenge that Knak would eventually solve.
OBJ: Let me ask you a question about the management team you are building at Knak. Give us an idea of who you gather there.
PU: We have a great team here at Knak. One of my co-founders, Brendan Farnand, is someone I worked with at the time at Cognos, and he was more on the product marketing side, but then he went to Trend Micro here in Ottawa where he led their marketing operations teams. He really lived like the customers we sell to every day and he’s someone I’ve always wanted to work with. Patrick Proulx, who is our other co-founder and CTO, has a very technical background. He worked, like so many people in Ottawa, with the government for a few years, then started his own company and was one of our first developers here at Knak. We have Chris Davies as creative director. He spent 25 years at some of Canada’s top agencies and was Creative Director of TELUS for many years. If you’ve seen those pet ads, he’s the one to blame. Rounding out the team, we have Kelly Rigole as VP of Operations and Head of Human Resources, Legal, Security, IT, and then Chris Chan as Head of Finance. He is amazing at what he does and really helps us leverage this new capital for future growth.
OBJ: Is this your first business, Pierce?
PU: This is my second company. About 10 years ago, my first business was a marketing consultancy. We focused on marketing operations specifically around the Marketo product. So this is my second time. And that’s where we found the opportunity for Knak.
OBJ: Can you give us some other metrics of the business in terms of number of employees or offices or what markets you focus on, number of customers, etc.
PU: Our head office is here in Ottawa. Our office is located in the Nepean Business Park. We are currently 45 employees. This number is increasing every day. We have hundreds of customers around the world and thousands of marketers who rely on and use Knak every day to do their job.
OBJ: I wanted to talk about the business problem you are trying to solve for your customers. And I’m someone who’s been using email marketing, probably like all of us have been for many years, maybe 20, 25 years. So Mailchimps and Constant Contact and all that stuff, that’s not what you do, is it? So help us explain where Knak really fits into this chain of email marketing solutions.
PU: Knak focuses exclusively on the creative aspect. In many of these other systems, you still have to code emails and landing pages. Knak removes any coding knowledge requirement. Plus, Knak has the full suite that lets you build, control their brand, stay compliant, and let everyone collaborate in real-time within one system.
OBJ: Does it really come down to this increased ability to be creative in email marketing and onboarding? Are these the two main points of differentiation?
PU: Yes. The ability to be creative is something that excites all of us at Knak. Something that got me into marketing was my creativity. And unfortunately, with much of the technology that marketers use today, they’re getting further and further away from their ability to be creative. So by breaking down those technical barriers, we bring people closer to that creativity. I think the other thing for sure is our integration. Whichever platform a marketer wants to send those emails or host those pages is very unique to Knak. If you look at cryptocurrency fields right now, it’s all about decentralization. And at Knak, we’re really decentralizing those marketing assets to where they used to be the sole property of the system you were using to create them. At Knak, you can take your assets and take them everywhere with you. So it’s a whole new concept.
OBJ: I like the sense of this portability. I don’t believe it, but let me play devil’s advocate for a second, Pierce, and say there might be someone watching, again, I don’t believe it , but saying, “Oh, email marketing, it’s a thing of I get too many emails. Why do marketing teams at companies have to send emails?” What’s your answer? to something like this?
PU: This is nothing new for us. People constantly say, people say email has been dead for 20 years and I’m sure they will continue to say that. But if you look at email marketing, it’s a place where you have complete control over who gets your messages and no algorithms will interfere with that. So I think a lot of marketers realize that. And, therefore, they double down on email marketing.
OBJ: I would tend to agree, by the way, when we do different types of marketing at OBJ, email always wins in terms of conversions. I keep talking about corporate marketing teams, and that’s a bit of lingo. Tell us about these customers.
PU: We’re really used by some of the biggest and best-known brands around the world. So we have two of the top three pharmaceutical companies that have hundreds or thousands of marketers around the world who care deeply about their brand and brand consistency. It’s always been like that here at Knak, we’re a very customer-focused company and we plan to continue to grow the business that way.
OBJ: Maybe just a quick follow-up to that, how do you acquire those customers?
PU: We have a lot of marketers on this team and that’s really our experience. And so all of our business is currently incoming. So people who find us on the internet or see one of our advertisements and request the demo and want to learn more about our product, or who have spoken to other marketers in the space who have done the product praise. So there’s a lot of organic growth, a lot of word of mouth, and a lot of people who are interested in what we’re doing.
In part two of this series, OBJ talks to Knak about the company’s recent venture capital round and exploring some of its barriers to growth, as well as what to expect in the future. coming year.