Featured Founder: Samyr Qureshi of Knack

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Pete who are scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
Previous to Knack, I was an Emerging Technology Account Executive at Gartner. Our team has always believed the best means of learning is from a peer. So we wanted to foster communities of students who were motivated to teach and learn from one another, especially on college campuses where collaborative collisions were already happening… thus Knack was born.

What pain point is your company solving for? 
Knack helps universities and colleges boost student graduation rates and career readiness by offering peer tutoring/mentoring opportunities to their high-achieving students as a supplement to existing student support services. Our platform allows universities to expand coverage of student support services, invest in student development by creating on-campus jobs for high-achievers to tutor peers, and strengthen university advancement initiatives via corporate engagement.

What gets me excited everyday is the fact that our business is social impact driven with the goal of impacting student success. We value the impact our technology has on a student’s college experience and as a marketplace there’s value for every stakeholder: the tutee (college student needing help), the tutor (the high-achieving college student), and the university (the consumer of data). This means our impact has a massive multiplier effect the more we scale. What’s also really cool is the fact that today we’re using technology to connect people offline and IRL — not many companies do this nowadays!

Name the biggest challenge you faced as you’ve launched your company. How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge we’ve faced as we’ve launched Knack has been bandwidth. As a marketplace business, we’re effectively selling value propositions to multiple audiences which means we’re almost building separate products for each stakeholder. This makes it tough when you’re small, capital restrained, and have limited resources. We’ve overcome this by maniacally prioritizing product/features based on customer feedback and by gauging its potential impact. We really make a concerted effort to speak with all of our customers as much as we possibly can.

Where do you see your company headed next?
Up and to the right :) … but for real, we’ve got an incredible opportunity to change the perception of tutoring and student support on college campuses by building a product students love and can’t live without. The importance of this is beginning to resonate with institutional customers and we couldn’t be more excited!

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.
Put off raising money for as long as you can and just talk to customers. Stay scrappy, talk to your buyer(s) to nail their most pressing problems, hack together a minimum viable product that solves their most pressing issues, get it in their hands ASAP, and ask for meticulous feedback. Rinse, lather, repeat to get as close as you can to product market fit. THEN, if you need to, go chase investment dollars. Raising a capital is an immense distraction and you need to de-risk your business as much as possible to secure your chances of raising a true institutional venture round. That being said, if you do the aforementioned well enough, you may not even need a ton of capital — that’s the dream :)

Learn more about Knack on Twitter , Facebook, and Instagram.