An Interview with: Amna Aljarwan
1. Please share with us briefly what you do.
Knack is an enterprise talent development platform that gives employees direct access to company experts for coaching & mentoring to unlock their hidden skills. In addition, we built a marketplace of external coaches which gives companies easy access to high-quality coaching services at fixed prices.
We are based out of Abu Dhabi, UAE with a vision to make coaching and mentoring accessible to all employees.
2. What were you doing before this?
Before joining the start-up world, I was working in the field of academic research and engineering. I found myself publishing papers about the next cool tech but no products are being built or shipped to users. It can feel frustrating to not see your work being deployed in the market so I decided to join the start-up world. It’s fast-paced and you can see the impact you make on people’s lives much faster.
I started a company in the area of professional development, that’s when I met my co-founder Divesh and joined forces to pivot to Knack to democratize access to coaching in this part of the world.
3. Describe your product. How does it work?
Knack is currently available on the web and serves employees across many enterprises.
The platform enables HR and L&D managers to create and launch simultaneous mentoring or coaching programs in 5 minutes. They have the flexibility to source internal mentors or career coaches as well as tap into our network of vetted ICF coaches at fixed prices. Here, we are streamlining the pricing model of the coaching industry, to bring better transparency to the business and the coaching market.
Of course, personalization is key here. Knack has a smart matching algorithm that finds the best-fit coach or mentor for each employee to help them advance their career.
Knack also enables HR & L&D to measure the ROI and impact of their mentoring and coaching through advanced analytics.
We are also now working on a set of gamification features to bring even further engagement to the software.
4. What are the key benefits?
It’s hassle-free. Knack is an integrated platform that supports both mentoring and coaching initiatives and truly empowers our clients to run their programs in a way that fits their different strategies.
5. Who are your closest competitors?
We mainly compete with traditional coaching firms in combination with excel and email. This is how our target market manages their coaching and mentoring programs where they manually match coaches to employees and manage sessions and feedback.
Other than traditional methods, we compete with other digital coaching providers like BetterUp and Coach hub who are leading the US and EU markets and offer similar services. We sit in the sweet spot between being a scalable pureplay SaaS platform with the added value of having a vetted marketplace of coaches that can serve our clients at fixed prices.
6. Who is your first customer and how did that happen? What were they using before this, and why did they switch?
One of our first paying customers was Cleveland Clinic. It’s a people-centric organization that has the ideal culture for a target client. As I mentioned, we mainly compete with traditional coaching firms where they’d source coaches from them and manage the engagements using excel, emails and survey tools. The reason for switching was a no-brainer for them. Our platform took care of all admin tasks they would traditionally do while still being 60% more affordable.
7. What motivated you to start this business?
To help and impact people's lives and careers directly as well as contribute and diversify the start-u ecosystem regionally.
8. What is your biggest sacrifice to make this work?
My co-founder and I had nothing to lose when we started. We are very lucky to have the support.
9. How did you get funded?
We’re a B2B start-up that targets enterprises yet we somehow managed to bootstrap till today with solid traction. At the time of writing, we are raising for our first round after testing the market and validating our product.
10. What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Referrals work well and inbound deals close super-fast.
11. Who has been the greatest influence in your business and why?
Every one of our team members. We built an enterprise tech company from the ground up with no funding.
12. What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?
It’s always reading users' feedback. Coaching and mentoring can be truly life-changing and positively impact a person’s career, life and mindset.
13. If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him/her?
I’d say don’t take it slow and act fast. A project can never be perfectly done or planned. It’s only developed and improved based on users' feedback not my own.
14. What’s one productivity hack you can’t live without?
Trello and google tasks to manage work and personal. I can’t remember or do anything unless it's written somewhere. This way I can relieve my brain from holding onto unnecessary information.
15. Where can people find out more about your product offerings and you online?
On our website www.knacklab.co or search Knack - Talent Development Platform on Linkedin
16. Rapid fire questions
First job: Sustainability Engineer
Someone you admire: Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Favourite book: Too many I can’t choose but I like the work of Malcom Gladwell
Favourite Music: Tame Impala and Sleeping at Last
Favourite Gadget: Kindle