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Gnowit: The Pivot Backstory

Entrepreneurs never fail. They dust themselves off, pivot, and charge back into the fray.

A pivot is a shift in the products or target customer designed to help gain traction in the marketplace.

Recently, Gnowit, the company that I founded, made a remarkable pivot, shifting focus from its pre-existing media monitoring tool to developing a new content discovery and publishing platform (it’s important to note that the previous platform, CoreAlerts, has not been abandoned – it is still used actively by analysts from around the world).

The story of this pivot speaks to the power of questioning assumptions and asking for feedback every step of the way.

The decision to devote more resources toward an entirely new service wasn’t easy, and the decision wasn’t made without careful consideration of real-world feedback and the evolving needs of the industry. Many pivots are unsuccessful and end up being the terminal chapter in a company’s story.

The shift began on the last Monday of October 2016 when our Platform Manager, Eric Voyer, gave a presentation to the Ottawa Marketing Meetup. Eric is a remarkable young man, with a gift for cutting through to the core of matter. Eric’s talk explained how businesses can use Gnowit’s CoreAlerts software to identify new leads (potential clients) using trigger signals in the media, which (interestingly enough) is a common thread among a number of our existing customers. This was not the presentation that I would have given — being a PhD with 20+ years of AI research experience, my focus would have been on the abstract benefits derived by business owners, or the magic of the machinery.

After this presentation, the Gnowit team began to engage with its audience and gather feedback and insight surrounding another primary pain point that every small business team faces: the need for stronger content marketing. The Gnowit team realized that few marketers have the time or resources to put towards writing and sharing content for inbound marketing, and that they gravitated toward methods that have a more immediate return on investment.

If it took less time to create and share great content then would it be worth the effort to engage in marketing.

The Brainstorm

The feedback from the Ottawa Marketing Meetup was buzzing in our heads. Naeem (our CEO) and I were coincidentally scheduled for a road trip to a conference in London, Ontario.

We talked the whole trip, and the feedback from the marketing group kept coming up. It was a no-brainer — our news monitoring technology could serve an entirely different purpose: content discovery and distribution.

The new platform www.gnow.it, which is close to final launch, reduces the amount of time it takes to find good content by filtering through millions of documents each second to provide only the best and most relevant content to users. This allows marketers to simultaneously publish content to their email marketing platform, their social media scheduler, and their website or blog using a custom Gnowit-generated RSS feed. There is no other solution in the marketplace to create holistic campaigns via a variety of content marketing methods. It takes so little time each day as well.

Back to the Ottawa Marketing Meetup for Round 2!

It is now the last Monday in January. The Gnowit development team have worked around the clock, right up to the final seconds prior to the first public demonstration of this new vision. Back where they began, the team knew that the Ottawa Marketing Meetup was the perfect venue to gather feedback on their new direction as well as find some early users to test-drive the product.

The verdict from the meetup? Amazing. Everyone loves the functionality, and the look and feel of the new platform. In just three months, the Gnowit team reinvented itself and set itself on a new path.

By early May, we have had phenomenal feedback during the beta period and are about to go for the full launch of the product. It took us a mere 6 months to pivot!

How did we do it?

1) Have a great team

As was alluded to in the previous paragraph, the reinvention of Gnowit could not have been achieved without the belief, support, and hard work that came from the Gnowit team members. Nothing was created for the new platform without the input of every Gnowit team member. The inclusive and democratic development process is what makes Gnowit one of the most exciting places I have ever worked. Giving each team member a voice and the ability to bounce ideas off of each other is essential to building an innovative and dynamic product.

2) Validate your Assumptions

Don’t build something based on an assumption. You must venture into the real world to validate any idea you have. Ask potential customers what they think about your idea for a product before you start building it, and you may be surprised by the responses you get.

Tell yourself to talk to at least one person outside your company about your idea every day. Go to networking events and pitch. Knowing that your assumptions are on the right track can save you a ton of time and energy in the long run.

3) Observe the Users

Gnowit welcomes feedback on the new platform. We continue to improve the user experience and we are constantly adding new functionality to save even more time for marketers. From the suggestion of the product idea, to tweaking the finest details of its interface, our customers have played an integral role in the building of Gnowit’s new platform – a practice that every company could benefit from.

Pivoting is a difficult task for a small company. Balancing new development with the maintenance of pre-existing structures, performing new customer discovery while maintaining relationships with existing clients, and expanding the team in a sustainable fashion are all challenges that Gnowit faced during this period of change. It required a dedicated team, cooperation, and renewed focus on what’s most important: customer satisfaction.

Thanks for reading! Sign up for the free Gnowit beta before it’s too late!

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