Meet Ryan Clark, founder of Knowta
, a Shaker Heights company with three employees and five board members that provides free print services in universities and public libraries through advertisements that subsidize the cost of printing.
How did you come up with the idea for Knowta?
Free print services at universities and public libraries are no longer widely available. In an effort to save money and reduce waste, these institutions migrated to a pay-per-print system. In the university space, this migration coincided with significant tuition increases, contributing to the mounting cost of a college education.
Our team identified an opportunity to provide users access to an important service by disrupting the newly pervasive pay-per-print model. By introducing ad revenue into the equation, our print management solution enables institutions to provide free access to print services, while ensuring print volume is managed and the service is used responsibly.
How has LaunchHouse helped establish your business?
LaunchHouse fosters a dynamic community of diversely talented and inspired individuals. Engaging in the LaunchHouse community enabled us to connect with new members of our current development team. Through these new relationships we have been able to achieve the next phase of our software development and position our print solution to be implemented at locations across the country in 2014.
What’s the most popular advertisement printed or used?
Food discounts! When we surveyed Case Western Reserve University
students about their ad preferences, an overwhelming majority indicated they were very interested in learning about food options near campus. Qdoba Mexican Grill, Valentino’s Pizza, Mi Pueblo, Jimmy John’s and Guy's Pizza have advertised with Knowta since we launched at CWRU. Discounts offered by these advertisers can be accessed through our print service or from a mobile device
What are the next steps in Knowta’s future?
Our team is extremely excited for significant growth in 2014. Knowta has received interest from numerous universities across the country and will be expanding outside of Ohio during the year. We are also preparing to introduce services at two large metropolitan library systems this spring.
What advice would you give to other budding entrepreneurs in starting their businesses?
First, identify a mentor (or several) that are knowledgeable in your industry and willing to dedicate time to you and your business. Second, don’t be afraid to act now. By nature I am inclined to analyze just about anything to death. There is only so much you can learn without action. Every time I take action, I end up learning something new about our service offering, customers or market that wasn’t previously on my radar. Finally, allow your business to evolve by challenging your assumptions and absorbing feedback. Having a laser focus is important, but don’t let that focus numb you to the feedback you are receiving.
Many of our early assumptions were entirely wrong. Approaching our business with a mindset open to change and adaptation has allowed our team to identify new market opportunities and service features that we had not previously considered.