KnowledgeHound co-founders Andrew Soep and Kristi Zuhlke
We all know dog is man’s best friend. But KnowledgeHound CEO Kristi Zuhlke is proving that woman’s best friend isn’t dog.
It’s big data.
Zuhlke, a former marketing manager at Procter & Gamble, identified some major pain points while performing million-dollar market research for some of the largest brands in the country. The major complication? Corporate amnesia.
“I was spending millions and millions of dollars in market research every year to go out and make the right business decisions for the company,” she said. “I was bringing in all this information into the company, and then I was saving that information on our hard drive.
“That created a problem, because I wasn’t the only person doing that in the organization—everyone else was, too, and we had no way to share knowledge across the organization.”
As a result, Zuhlke said that market research done for specific brands that target the same customers often get unnecessarily duplicated. Or, she added, marketers waste time and money looking for information they already had tucked in a corner of an unknown shared drive or hard drive.
After learning her frustrations were shared by other market researchers, she set about finding a solution, and KnowledgeHound was born. The software organizes all of a vendor’s market-research data into an easily accessible platform, meaning that marketers and brand ambassadors can navigate data just as easily as a data specialist.
“Our fundamental belief is that knowledge is power, and everyone should have access to that knowledge,” she said. “But right now, knowledge is tracked on unsearchable shared drives and hard drives. We’re hoping to unleash insight."
The company just announced it closed a $1.2 million seed round, with participation from Listen Ventures founder Jeff Cantalupo and Mitten Group founder Mark Mitten.
Chicago, through and through
According to Zuhlke, she’s proud to say that round of funding was entirely raised in Chicago.
“Going into fundraising, we were told a couple things,” she said. “One was that we need to go to the coast to secure funding. There are sometimes a lot of negative conversations about the money situation here in chicago...but we were able to do it all with independant angels here in Chicago. I'm really proud of that, and I think it says a lot about this city.”
The funding has been used to grow their human capital — also all from Chicago.
Perhaps the best talent she found in the city was back in 2012, when she met co-founder Andrew Soep at one of the first Built In Chicago events ever hosted. She needed a developer; he wanted to get back into the entrepreneurial scene.
“Two and half years later, we’re a company that just raised $1.2 million with nine people in it,” she said.