A Q&A with Knotch co-founder and CEO Anda Gansca. The San Francisco-based startup, which is a social network that connects people based on interests, announced the completion of its $1.5 million Seed funding round in mid-November. Investors include Bebo founders Michael and Xochi Birch, co-founder of Google Maps Lars Rasmussen, Greylock Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners. It was founded in early-2012 by Gansca and Stephanie Volftsun.
Gansca: Knotch is a network that connects people based on shared interest. Our primary innovation is twofold: First, the Knotch Color Spectrum is what our users use to express how they feel about their interests, and it helps us power meaningful content and people discovery via the data we collect in the backend. Second, the architecture of our community is such that our users don’t need to work to gain a following and be heard—when you knotch about a topic with thousands of followers, you immediately reach them, and as such immediately get feedback.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Gansca: Our target market is people who are not huge Twitter content creators, and who are looking to have more meaningful conversations and relationships in their daily life; people who want to be themselves and connect with like-minded people. So far, our most active users have been 18-to-35 year olds from all of the U.S., but not from the main cities like San Francisco or New York City.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Knotch from the competition?
Gansca: In terms of who is competing for our target users’ attention with Knotch, we have very little competition. There is no other way to have topic-driven conversations and connect with like-minded people today. There are many other social networks and many other ways for people to express how they feel, but none that really bring the right components together like Knotch.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $1.5 million in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Gansca: We raised the money in spring and early summer of this year. That is a good time from a fundraising perspective because investors are still open to investing before the summer vacation. From a company standpoint, we had achieved quite a few milestones that proved that we really have something here with Knotch, so it made sense to go out and try to convince some awesome people to become our supporters.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Gansca: Hiring the people with whom we will build the Knotch Revolution. That’s 90 percent of the money. The rest goes into making sure that we have a tightly-knit team that is well taken care of.
Gansca: There was definitely an ‘aha’ moment initially, when I first realized that there is no way for people to express and gauge how people feel about things they’re interested in. That being said, over time the idea and the product has evolved so much, especially under the guidance of my co-founder and the Knotch CTO Steph.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Gansca: Step 1: Finding a technical co-founder; Step 2: Figuring out the idea and the first implementation of the product; Step 3: Actually incorporating the company; Step 4: Finding our first few investors.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Gansca: A ‘knotch’ means ‘an indent,’ so when our first designer recommended the name to us, it made a lot of sense—make an indent into how the world feels about a topic. Plus, it had a cool sound to it. It was the sort of name people would remember, and also the sort of word that could become a verb—“why don’t you knotch it?”
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Gansca: Of course. But first we need to achieve a few more milestones before we got out to raise the next round of funding.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Gansca: By far the biggest challenge has been dealing with our own emotions. Building a company is mentally and emotionally challenging beyond anything I have ever done, and trying to gain the strength to deal with our challenges in real-time as they were getting ever bigger was difficult. I’d say the second hardest thing was building a team that would mesh well together and be as efficient as possible.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Gansca: We think Knotch can become a marketplace between people who want to be heard and people who want to tune in. We think brands, marketers, celebrities, politicians and so on could gain a lot by listening to what our community is knotching about. On the other hand, most of our users are knotching because they want to be heard. We think revenue is going to come from creating that win-win situation—that exchange between the two willing parties. That being said, the most important thing to us right now is to create an incredible user experience and a vibrant community. Revenue needs to be an organic consequence of that.
SUB: What are your goals for Knotch over the next year or so?
Gansca: We want to make Knotch more people-centric and enable our users to connect and interact with like-minded folks even more. I can’t say too much, but we are very excited about Knotch 2.0, which we hope to push out early next year. We also are working on a product for publishers who have been reaching out asking if we have a way for them to use the Knotch Color Spectrum. We’ve been very flattered by the interest and will soon answer that request.
Knotch – www.knotch.it