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Series A funding from Insight Partners launches growth phase for Knak

I’m both thrilled and humbled to announce that Knak is partnering with Insight Partners, a well-known and well-regarded venture capital firm based in New York City. Insight is providing Series A funding that will fuel the next exciting steps on Knak’s journey. You can see the press coverage here in MarketwatchVentureBeatBetaKitThe Ottawa CitizenOttawa Business Journal, and MarTech Series.

In this article, I want to explain why we sought out the funding, as well as what it means for us, for our customers, and for the future of marketing.

We see an opportunity

Earlier this year, I talked about how a startup knows it’s ready to raise venture capital.

One of the signs that it’s time to look for funding is being able to see (and demonstrate with solid numbers) that there’s a big opportunity for your business to grow. That’s precisely where we’re at right now.

We have a great product, yet by our estimate, we’ve captured less than 1% of the available market. While we have hundreds of customers, we know that there are tens of thousands of enterprise companies that could really benefit from Knak.

Even in 2021, too many marketers can’t be as creative as they would like to be. They’re slowed down by the need to have emails and landing pages coded by hand, and by the need to outsource work to agencies. By eliminating the need to code, Knak allows enterprise marketers to get their campaigns to market quickly and in a cost-effective way.

What we’re offering is disruptive, and I’m proud of that. Our goal is to eliminate agencies and coding from digital campaigns.

We aren’t against agencies. We just think that agency spend can be redirected to other areas. As far as we’re concerned, agencies should no longer be involved in the process of building out assets for customers.

Our customers tell us they love being in control of the campaign creation process; they can be more creative and they can move more quickly. Emails that took weeks or even months to create can now be done in hours or even minutes.

We have a strong desire to take advantage of the opportunity we see. We want to go for a home run, disrupt the market, and help as many marketers as possible. In other words, we see an opportunity to build the product that we have envisioned from the beginning.

The funding will let us move quickly

Knak has, up to now, been a fully bootstrapped company. This is something I’m proud of. We’ve always believed it’s possible to build a profitable business by creating an excellent product and by listening to our customers. Those customers, because we answer a need and listen to their concerns, have allowed us to generate decent annual recurring revenue in just six and a half years of operation.

But we’re at a point in our growth where we have to change our approach.

We got to where we are today by trial and error and by figuring things out for ourselves. As a company grows, it becomes harder and harder to rely on trial and error. It also takes a lot of time to experiment and fiddle with things.

Time is something we don’t have.

In the software field, speed is essential. To take full advantage of the opportunity we see, we have to act now. Most of the pieces are in place. We’ve built and perfected a product we know provides value. 

To take things to the next level, we need more people.

Our growth plan for 2022 identifies 48 new hires we want to make over the course of the year. If we continued to bootstrap, we could probably add staff slowly. An infusion of investor capital will allow us to hire them much more quickly. That, in turn, will jumpstart the next phase of our growth.

Insight Partners can give guidance as well as capital

I’ve talked to more than two dozen venture capitalists and private equity firms in recent months. Each firm brings something different to the table.

I’m particularly excited to be working with Insight Partners.

First of all, out of all the companies I’ve spoken to, Insight was able to demonstrate that they understand our vision and buy into it. In other words, Insight “gets” us.

They are also experts in our sector, with one of the best portfolios of software companies in the world. We are partnering with a firm that has helped hundreds of other companies grow – including such big names as Shopify, Qualtrics, Wix and Monday.com.

As Insight notes on their website, they have come to understand the strategies needed to win thanks to more than 25 years of operating and investing in software.

They also have scale, with more than $30 billion U.S. in capital commitments. They have invested in more than 400 companies and as a result, they’ve seen it all and can provide access to networks, customers, resources, data, acquisition targets and counsel – all things we need to spur growth.

I’m also impressed by the fact that over the years, Insight has demonstrated an ability to select and invest in software companies that change the world. They know how to pick winners, and have the proven capacity to help their picks be successful.

We can improve our product and our service

We’ve always been a product-and-customer-led company, and that’s how we intend to continue to grow.

Insight’s experience will be valuable not only to us but also to our customers. We will be able to use their investment to keep innovating and growing our product offering. And having more staff will help maintain and even improve customer service as we grow.

In other words, we’re not changing what got us to where we are today; we’re just revving it up.

The road ahead

As we look to the future, it’s important to thank the people who have helped get us to where we are today.

First, there’s Invest Ottawa, the lead economic development agency for knowledge-based industries in Canada’s capital. After years of working with Invest Ottawa, we have in a sense “graduated” and are ready to move on. We’re grateful for their help in getting us this far down the road.

I’d like to thank our employees for believing in Knak, and for making Knak what it is today.

I want to thank our customers. I’m especially grateful to the early adopters, the companies that were able to see our vision and that trusted us. But new or old, all of our customers have been instrumental in helping us improve our product. We work with them and for them.

Finally, I’d like to thank Insight for believing in us. Even though we have a lot of satisfied customers, including some big names, it’s nice to get the validation that comes from a firm like Insight wanting to partner with us. That’s a boost to my own personal confidence, and it makes me ready to take risks and try new things.

The next few months will be really exciting. We look forward to raising Knak’s profile and letting marketers know just how much we can do for them.

Our future vision is that every digital campaign built by large enterprise companies starts in Knak. With Insight, the path to achieving that vision has become easier.

Pierce Ujjainwalla has years of experience as a CEO, entrepreneur, and marketing leader. He has lived in the marketing trenches at companies like IBM, SAP, NVIDIA, and Marketo, and he launched Knak in 2015 as a platform designed to help Marketers simplify email creation. Visit his personal blog, Unsubscribed!, for more of the insight he’s gained as founder and CEO of Knak.

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