KnowEm Turns 5: How We Built a Brand

April 21, 2014 · Filed Under Announcements, KnowEm News · 4 Comments 

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.

KnowEm Turns 2 Years Old!

April 20, 2011 · Filed Under Announcements, Domain Names, KnowEm News · Comments Off on KnowEm Turns 2 Years Old! 

It seems like only yesterday I was up until 2 am making sure everything was ready for our launch. Myself and my partner, Barry Wise (@BarryWise), were about to launch our first product-related site.  It was a far stretch from the affiliate sites and client consulting work we had done in the past but we both thought it would work.

KnowEm was originally born from an off shoot of our site CheckUsernames.com which launched in February of 2009 after the original concept site by Jon Sykes was taken down. I was at IM Springbreak in Florida when I began to speak about the service of KnowEm and what we planned to do with a few other marketers.  One of the first people I spoke to was Brian Chappell (@BrianChappell).  When I told him what we were debating to do with username signups he thought it was a great idea, as did everyone else I spoke with.  We started development right away.

Partnerships and New Features

I have always believed that products need to evolve and adapt to keep fresh, new and useful. With that in mind it’s with great pleasure I announce a new feature that we are launching today:  Domain searching on over 200 tlds and gtlds, thanks to our new partnership with United Domains.  Now with one simple search you can look at over 200 domain names and social media usernames, all from one interface.

Where to Next?

Our company is at a bit of a turning point.  We have two more products on the burner for launch and are looking forward to releasing them to the public shortly. To give you an idea, we have always received the same request over and over again, “Now that I have all these social sites, how can I update them all?”  We are working on a dashboard solution to solve this problem, as well as a first-of-its-kind dashboard for businesses or agencies with small business clients to manage their local search information, social media presence and reputation from one centralized place.   As always both of these platforms will be available for white label.

Often Imitated Never Duplicated

We are still proud to be considered the number one trusted source for helping individuals, brands and companies secure their username across the ever growing social media landscape. We are still the only company that uses our own in-house on-shore staff to do this. Security and quality has always been our main focus.

On behalf of Myself, Barry, Richard, James and everyone else – thanks for a great 2 years and here is to exciting times ahead!

 

KnowEm’s 1 Year Anniversary; Relaunches CheckUserNames

April 20, 2010 · Filed Under Announcements, KnowEm News · Comments Off on KnowEm’s 1 Year Anniversary; Relaunches CheckUserNames 

Today marks the one year anniversary of KnowEm‘s public launch and we could not be any happier with how much success we’ve enjoyed during our first year in business.  We also thought it might be fun to celebrate our birthday by relaunching the original social media name checking service which started it all, CheckUserNames.com.

How It Started

KnowEm started as a service that would claim your username, trademark, brand or identity on 120 social media sites.  Almost instantly we were contacted by companies who were looking for a more robust service that would also fill out all complete profile information and continue doing so on an ongoing basis as new social media sites were released.

As an answer to this business need, on May 15th 2009 we launched our beta Enterprise Dashboard.  As of today, we’ve been able to use this dashboard to help our clients (ranging from local businesses to the Fortune 500) secure over 500,000 profiles as well as detect over 30,000 cases of brand squatting or trademark infringement. We’re extremely proud to report that all this work  has been completed by our local in-house staff.  Since security and privacy are our biggest concerns at KnowEm, we will never trust your sensitive data to any 3rd party, and none of our work is outsourced to offshore labor.

Last May we also met our primary Business Advisor, Paige Craig, who seemed like a perfect match to join our board.  Paige is an Angel investor out of the Los Angeles area who truly knows his way around a startup. Brian Solis also joined around the same time as a business advisor and PR advisor.

In October we decided to take the business a step further, so we relaunched KnowEm offering some of the services that our dashboard clients had been using all year.  We were also happy when Matt Inman decided to work with us and come on board as our creative director and give our site an excellent new interface.

It was around this time we were introduced to Robert Siciliano, and invited him to join us as a board member.  Robert is nationally recognized as an expert in identity theft, so he seemed to be a perfect fit to make sure that our order processing was as secure as possible and that our users were not at risk for identity theft.

Since the new year began, the last 3 months have been very hectic; we acquired another site, we were selected out of 200+ finalists for the SXSW Business Accelerator, and we have formed some new amazing and unique partnerships (you’ll hear more about those in the next few weeks).

We just want to say thanks to everyone who made this first year a great one!