KnowEm Turns 5: How We Built a Brand

First, our back story: In February 2009 my partner Barry and I launched a website called CheckUsernames.com.  There was a similar site that had just decided to close down due to the owner’s time constraints on maintenance, so we knew there was already an interest for such a tool. Upon closing, however, that owner did decide to list those sites which had decided to pick up the cause of social brand and username searching, and CheckUsernames.com was listed as the go-to alternative for our quality, and for the fact that we actually had a privacy policy which guaranteed users we would never track any queries or personal information.

It proved to be pretty popular, and we started to get a flood of emails.  We listened, we kicked around some ideas, we tested, but most important, we learned. We learned from what our audience was saying to us and what their needs were asking from us. So we decided to create a new commercial service for social brand protection, which of course required a new name for our brand — and that name was KnowEm.

Now, I’ve told the story from here on out a bunch of times, so there’s no point in telling it again.  Please check our archives of other anniversaries to get the rest of the story. After being in business for 5 years, I’d rather tell the story of how I came to meet my co-founder Barry Wise and how we created a successful partnership.

I met Barry on the internet.

And no, not in any shady  back channel forum or craigslist way, but because we shared something in common — SEO. We were both trying to rank for SEO local terms and I couldn’t handle all of the work alone. I was still working full time in NYC at this time and was starting to get a lot of leads. So I called him and we spoke.

The initial conversation isn’t important as the next few years. We worked together on a few projects and we jived very well.  As it turns out I’m pretty good at business development, sales and marketing and Barry is an amazing coder with the additional insights of a marketer, so combined our skill set turned out to be just about perfect.

I won’t lie, some of the projects we tried failed miserably. We even had a pretty great idea going well that got completely de-indexed and banned from the SERPs.  We both got angry and screamed at each other more than a few times back then, and when that didn’t work to get us re-indexed we took a step back and learned from our mistakes. But we stuck through these times and continued to grow, learning how to work together and with each other. And then came the day that we launched KnowEm.

We flipped the switch April 20th, 2009, and within hours we hit some big media publications.  Within 2 weeks we’d been covered by some major global media.  Things really started to get rolling at that point and we decided we couldn’t continue to work on client projects.  Yes we were busy, but mostly due to the ethical issues of working with some amazing marketing agencies, knowing their clientele and what they were doing and the possibility that we could have our own clientele competing in a similar vertical.

We were lucky that to date, by the last time we dropped a client we have not had anyone in a competing market. I believe this sense of ethics is another reason we have been able to grow our client base — our trust, and the ability of our customers to trust us.

This same trust is why we do not outsource any of KnowEm’s work, why all of our staff are signed under strict NDAs with background checks, and why we are fanatically devoted to insuring that our clients are safe and satisfied. Of course over the years others have seen our success and tried to clone us, to create and market a KnowEm alternative, and in some cases have actually gone so far as stealing our code and graphics outright.  In the end they failed because they lacked what makes us succeed.

Our brand is not an app, or a technology, or a social presence. Our brand is trust and customer service.  And by keeping our heads down and working on those 2 core values, we have built around our brand an app, a technology, and a social presence.

I’m well aware this sounds pretty self-serving, self-aggrandizing and maybe even ridiculously arrogant.  But cut me a little slack please, we’re only 5 after all.

Tags: birthday, knowem, news, Social Media

Comments

4 Responses to “KnowEm Turns 5: How We Built a Brand”

  1. David Iwanow on April 22nd, 2014 12:42 pm

    Happy Birthday Folks!

    Really happy that it’s going strong after all these years!

  2. Barry Wise on April 22nd, 2014 1:02 pm

    Thanks David!

  3. Ajriam on April 25th, 2014 9:09 am

    thanks Michael 🙂

  4. Michael Streko on August 6th, 2014 10:40 pm

    No problem!

KnowEm Turns 5: How We Built a Brand

by Michael Streko time to read: 3 min
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