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Brian Deagan of Knotice

Historically known as the Rubber City, the City of Akron has diversified its economy and is now home to growing high tech, research and financial companies. Digital marketing software firm Knotice is one of Akron’s fastest-growing startups, having soared from eight to eighty employees in its first five years alone.
Knotice’s innovative Concentri software allows companies to integrate their disparate systems into one, powerful direct digital marketing platform. The company has consistently been ranked among the region’s fastest-growing companies, and last year alone hired 35 people. A few of Knotice’s clients include Fender Music Instruments, Telltale Game and Akron Children’s Hospital.
Knotice cofounder and CEO Brian Deagan has also taken a unique, innovative approach towards finding fresh talent in Northeast Ohio. To help attract the best and the brightest, he once erected a billboard along I-77 North near downtown Cleveland that reads “Grow with us” – a message that’s certainly a welcome sight in today's economy.
What is Knotice?
Knotice is a software platform company and agency that provides both professional services and platform support. The premise is that process automation can increase the relevance and improve the performance of a client’s interactive marketing communications, such as email, text display or websites. The software collects data about consumers through their email, mobile phone or web browser, and clients use that information to maintain targeted and consistent marketing to the individual consumer through email or text display message.  
Why did you start your business?
I am a serial entrepreneur.  This is my third venture. My previous company was acquired in Silicon Valley, and after the tech bubble burst I came home to my professional roots. Cn opportunity with an agency here in Akron grew into a chance to spin out a new business.
How did you come up with the idea?
My entrepreneurial experiences intersected with a previous business relationship at an existing agency. When our clients began to show a need for the type of support of direct digital marketing that our software now provides, the agency supported a spinoff division for those types of services which evolved into Knotice.  
What resources or organizations in Ohio did you take advantage of, and how did they help?
We are an early portfolio organization with Jumpstart. They invested a half million dollars in 2006, which was paid back in full with interest in 2010. Those funds allowed us to create 80 to 90 jobs since 2006.  We have been a tenant of the Global Accelerator building in the City of Akron since 2007. The Accelerator is a super effective place to build a business; they provide a lot of support in terms of infrastructure and flexibility in use of space. It has never been easier to start a tech business that it is now, even in the “go go” 90’s. There is government support for building businesses in Northeast Ohio.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
Certain industry segments view being from Northeast Ohio as positive, neutral or negative. We found the investment community to be more neutral to negative than anticipated and have taken steps to address it.
Where did you find your first employee?  
An employee from the existing agency joined the division when it started. . 

What are some of the advantages to doing business in Akron?
There are no big disadvantages. As long as a company is realistic, takes advantage of the talent that is available to them in Northeast Ohio and has strategies to augment talent, they’re in good shape.  To meet that need, we also have an office in Seattle.
What inspires you?
Being alive every day and making the most of that day
What companies or founders do you admire and why?
Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle and Google are all huge contributors to the industry who brought something to the table in their own way. Within those organizations, I admire founders who can grow with their company and take them to the next level.
What’s next for you and your company?
Knotice is looking to grow this year with revenues between $16 and $17 million. We hired 35 people last year and will hire about 15 more this year.  My focus is on building a material footprint regionally, nationally and globally within the next 5-7 years.

Writer: Mona Bronson-Fuqua

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