Let Your Content Fuel Your Flight

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Anda Gansca is the Co-Founder and CEO of Knotch, a content intelligence platform enabling companies like Amazon, Facebook, Walmart, Bank of America, Salesforce and others to plan for breakthrough content, as well as measure and optimize it across channels. A regular thought leadership contributor to the trade media and industry at-large, Anda has been named to both Forbes’ and Inc.’s annual 30-Under-30 lists, AdWeek’s Young Influential List, Campaign’s Female Frontiers List, and AdWeek’s Top 100 Creatives, to name a few.

I had the opportunity to interview Anda recently. Her are some of the highlights of that interview:

Jill Griffin: You’re the co-founder of Knotch, a content intelligence company. I want to talk about your entrepreneurial journey, so let’s start with your background. I understand you’re an immigrant. Tell me about that.

Anda Gansca: I’m originally from Transylvania, which is the northwestern part of Romania. I grew up trying to become a professional dancer, then became one, and I was also good at math and computer science. I was trying to figure out which path I would follow, so when it was time to apply to university, I applied to 10 top universities I found online. I got accepted into several, including Stanford. The admissions officer there called me and said, “Based on your application I can tell you’re an entrepreneur, and this is the place for entrepreneurs. You should come here.” I had never talked to anyone from the U.S. at that point, so it was such an impactful moment that I decided that Stanford was the place to go.

Griffin: Was the fact that you weren’t a native English speaker a problem in business?

Gansca: I didn’t speak English very well until after I started the company and began fundraising. I realized that I was already an anomaly for being a woman in enterprise software, so I had to learn English really well to be sure that I could be understood.

Griffin: What is content intelligence, and why did Knotch get into this space?

Gansca: Companies today are investing heavily in digital content, including websites, blogs, video, social media, business email and paid branded content. Nearly one out of every five marketing dollars is now spent on content. Yet content teams have difficulty determining what’s working and proving that their efforts are helping drive business. That’s because you can’t tie the success of content to things like views and clicks. It must be linked to longer-term metrics like the impact on branding, sales and audience growth.

Content intelligence – which is a term we coined when we built our platform – measures the success of content initiatives in the context of business outcomes. The Knotch platform does that by using artificial intelligence to calculate success in three different categories and express the result by a score of 1 to 10, We also consolidate all content data across all content channels into a single location for easy analysis and monitor competitors’ content activity in real time to facilitate content planning. We are currently the only company that offers all of these capabilities.

Griffin: What should content creators focus on when they’re writing or producing other work?

Gansca: It depends on your goals, which gets back to our focus on tying content to business outcomes. 

If your objective is to increase brand perception or brand awareness, you should focus on creating engaging content that gets people to pay attention. That’s challenging because there’s so much noise today, but if you can provide something of value, you’re likely to improve how they feel about the brand.

If your goal is to get more people to buy a product, then you have to create content that explains how that product is empowering customers to achieve their own outcomes, whether it’s a toothbrush or a complicated software product or a jet engine. The more difficult a product is to explain, the more content you need to create. It’s all about increasing demand or conversion to generate a strong ROI. 

If your goal is to build audience by something like collecting newsletter sign ups or increasing followers, what you’re really trying to do is collect more first party data to have a more direct relationship with your customers or prospects. In that case, you need to give audiences something of value that they know will continue providing value over time. 

The Knotch platform measures the success of all three of these goals – that is, how content enhances the brand, drives ROI, and builds audience – and displays the results on scorecards that help marketing teams improve their campaigns and also demonstrate the value of their work to the CMOs who control their budgets.

Griffin: How did you come to the realization that the market needed a content intelligence platform?

Gansca: Aron Tzimas, my co-founder, is a content creator. I’m a data scientist.  Aron came at it from the perspective that “I’m a content creator and I don’t know if what I’m doing is working or not, and I don’t even have to tools to optimize things in real time.” From my perspective as a data scientist, I thought that was a really interesting and complex problem because the challenge is to analyze many different data points from many different sources and spit out a very simple answer that enables content creators to optimize their work. You have to take something very complicated in high-level math and convert it into an actionable insight in real time.

Then we started meeting content leaders from companies like Bank of America, Citibank, Square, Dropbox and many smaller businesses. Everyone has the same problem. They know content is important and they’re putting all this money into it, but they have no idea what’s working or how to optimize their work. 

From our research we realized that 80% of the content created doesn’t have any impact. That means you’re wasting 80% of your money that you could be using to drive the media for the 20% that actually works. But if you don’t have a platform to tell you what’s the 20% and what’s the 80%, it’s impossible to optimize. We created Knotch to solve that problem.

Griffin: How did you and your partner get connected?

Gansca: I was starting a consumer-facing company with the idea of building a social network centered around opinions. It was a fascinating product and we loved working on it. Aron moved from Australia to join us as our first designer, but eventually we realized that it wasn’t really our passion. We didn’t want to build consumer products. We wanted to build a data platform. We had 5 or 6 people at the time, and we decided to move from Silicon Valley to New York to be close to the media companies and marketers who believed in content.  That was in late 2015 or early 2016. Now we’re almost 120 people. At the time it wasn’t the normal thing for a Silicon Valley startup to move to New York, but rather vice versa. It’s interesting how the ecosystem has changed, and I believe that’s what’s helped make us successful.

Griffin: Tell me three things that you have learned that have fueled your success that other entrepreneurs should know.

Gansca: First and foremost is the saying, “Companies don’t fail, people give up.” The first 4-5 years of a company’s life are Darwinian, where every day feels like you’re living and dying. You don’t have money, you’re not paying yourself, there’s a lot of stress, but competition and lack of money can’t kill you. What can kill you is giving up. As I kept repeating this to myself, we broke through some really big barriers and impossible odds. 

Second is the Spanish quote, “Because they didn’t know it was impossible, they did it.” This is what entrepreneurship is. It’s about taking something that has not been done before, and all the odds are against you, and you build it before you become a cynic. It’s really difficult to be an entrepreneur once you’ve gone through many years of work experience and many different startups, because you create these rules and they take over the way you think about the world. But when you’re a first-time entrepreneur, there are no rules. Everything is a possibility, and that creates a beautiful and hopeful environment as…

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