Canadian Startup Gnowit Tackles Data Overload for Better Brand Management

by Joseph Czikk | Startups

It took Dr. Shahzad Khan nearly six years to build a high-powered artificial intelligence platform for media monitoring. Finally in March Khan and cofounder Mohammad Al-Azzouni launched the platform as part of their Ottawa-based startup Gnowit.

So what took so long?

“As an academic I have a really hard time letting go,” joked Khan. “I had to make sure that the product was perfect.”

Khan, 34, and Al-Azzouni, 24, met while the latter was running a student entrepreneurship group at the University of Ottawa. Khan had already received his Ph.D from Cambridge and his boss was speaking at Al-Azzouni’s event. Skip ahead a few years after and the two bright minds joined forces.

Gnowit is another startup entering an increasingly hot “actionable insight” space. This is when companies offer brands some form of business intelligence service before the fact. The insight allows brands to act quickly based on the knowledge of what competitors are doing. We’ve reported about it on Techvibes in the past, with Max Teitelbaum’s media buying database, WhatRunsWhere, and even a startup that tracks who opened up emails and when, called Contact Monkey.

Gnowit offers an online brand monitoring solution that scours the web for relevant information relating to a user, their business, or any topic. Typically companies will use this service for brand management, crisis control through media spins, competitive intelligence (or identifying opportunities before others) and detecting threats, like patent infringement.

In an age of information overload the startup wants to offer users real-time, constant monitoring. 

“We want to collect a vast amount of information, tell you where it’s going, and predict where your company’s brand is going,” Al-Azzouni told Techvibes. “You get insights that a human analyst would give and it will save any company a vast amount of time.”

Not only that, but it can save brands a lot of money. Khan said that larger brands have shelled out upwards of $60,000 per year for enterprise solutions targeting brand management. Gnowit offers its services from $99 to $499 per month, and can construct custom packages based on the customer. “$500 looks like a big chunk of money when you look at an SaaS product, but it’s really a bargain as an enterprise product,” said Khan.

The startup is competing with Factiva and other databases that are often more expensive. Khan said these services offer insight about mentions, but not analysis. Outside of Factiva, Khan describes some of the competitors as “Franken-solutions,” or those companies that leverage their data and analysis from third party providers, only custom building the visualization aspects.

Thus far the company has bootstrapped their business, but that could change in an upcoming UK trip for Khan. Earlier this month Gnowit won the UK Trade & Investment Global Adventure Competition. They were selected above 71 other companies.

Another accomplishment was when the pair successfully went through the Lead To Win business development program. Lead To Win council chair and a program director at Carleton University, Tony Bailleti, spoke highly of Khan and Al- Azzouni. He called Gnowit’s platform “quite amazing,” and Khan and Al-Azzouni “very smart and highly-committed people.”  

Bailleti said that the tool could be valuable for any brand trying to create an online presence. “It used to be a nice-to-have tool and now it’s a must-have tool. If you’re going to be in business, particularly at the global level, I don’t know any other way of knowing what people are saying about you,” said Bailleti. “It’s just impossible.”

But will the average startup be willing to pay $100 per month for Gnowit’s technology? Bailleti thinks so. “If your job depends on you having real time information that may affect your company, $100 dollars is a cheap price to pay.”


Gnowit Inc
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Gnowit uses artificial intelligence to monitor and analyze digital media in real-time. In other words, Gnowit automatically monitors mentions and analyses perceptions as they are happening. Delayed decision making, being blind-sided by threats and missing golden opportunities are some frustrations caused by information overload. Those who learn to understand and deal with it will have a major... more

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Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk is a freelance reporter currently based in Montreal. more

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