Startup Spotlight: Knotis looks to turn merchants into happy daily deal users

Knotis CEO McLean Reiter

You’ve heard the horror stories of small businesses getting overwhelmed by daily deals from the likes of Groupon and Living Social. Knotis founder McLean Reiter, a 28-year-old Seattle entrepreneur, wants to help those merchants navigate the tricky landscape with a new service called Knotis.

Offering merchants a flat-rate of $14 per month, Knotis offers tools that helps small businesses create, promote and track daily deals and other social promotions.

There’s no shortage of daily deal startups trying to crack this nut, so we touched base with the folks at Knotis for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight to get a better sense of what they’re all about.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “What deal sites should be: Knotis is a powerful, effective, and affordable marketing tool for the small business owner.”

Inspiration hit us when: ”We realized how third-party deal sites eat away local merchants’ margins, eroding local economies and bankrupting small businesses. At the same time, the influx of customers demanding service all at once after purchasing a daily deal causes undesired stress on inventory, staff, and customer service, which in turn leads to negative reviews of usually excellent merchants. Worst of all, such deal sites keep the relationship with the consumer for themselves to further distribute spam. We saw an opportunity to enter the space with a sustainable, yet different, merchant-centered approach. Empowered merchants, better business, happier customers, economically stronger community.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: ”Bootstrap/Angel. The only way to learn how to drive is to get behind the wheel. We welcome guidance and advisors but we want to make our own mistakes and try to grow from them.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: ”The knowledge and insight we have gained from working hand-in-hand with our merchants with our sister company 4th Avenue Maps — a dynamic, neighborhood walking map. The success and market reach has already proven vital for the quick start and development of Knotis in both merchant relationships and credibility.”

Erik Anderson and McLean Reiter of Knotis

The smartest move we’ve made so far: ”Choosing to make the merchant the priority. Instead of assuming we know what problem to solve, we have listened to what our merchants truly need. After all, they are the ones that know their business best.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: ”Choosing to make the merchant the priority (in jest). Merchants, but more specifically small businesses — our target user — are often very busy and are slow to adopt new ways to help themselves unless they see immediate success. They tend to do what they know works, whether its by experience, copying what successful competitors are doing, or if they read a credible press story. Merchants are bombarded by emails, calls, and contacts from third parties making the truly helpful ideas to be often dismissed without due attention.”

Jeff Bezos

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: ”Our godfather would have to be Bezos. He built a business centered among sustainability and long-term gains, while focusing on small margins and large quantities. He understands that customer loyalty and customer support prove vital to a businesses success. Knotis believes in these same business practices and would benefit greatly from a strategic genius such as Bezos.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: ”A critical mass of merchants are aware of the full capabilities of the Knotis platform. This begins by both merchants and consumers realizing that any company imposing revenue sharing is parasitic to local economies and more often than not, supports undeserving third parties. We hope to win the world over by first educating merchants that there is a better alternative to incentivizing customers, second by helping consumers understand the detrimental effects of their spending habits with our competitors, and third rewarding consumers for being conscientious/supporting actors in their local economies.”

Rivals should fear us because: ”We put merchants first and money second. We are more interested in making a difference than making millions. And, we have the merchants’ interests at heart. In the end, they are the ones offering the deals and without them, nobody wins.”

We are truly unique because: “We are offering a fundamental tool for a business to thrive at the absolute lowest cost. We are unique as a company because the combination of our team’s experiences, innate skills and synergistic personalities coupled with the feedback from our merchants makes us creative, selfless and nimble.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: ”The typical chicken-or-the-egg problem – getting merchants and consumers in the same space at the same time. We have relied on our merchants and their relationships to make this happen.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Success is like getting pregnant. Once you’re pregnant everyone congratulates you, but only you know how many times you got screwed to get it.”

Startup Spotlight is an occasional look at a Seattle area startup company. Have an interesting new venture you want spotlighted in GeekWire? Fill out the questions above, send  photos of the founder(s) and company logo to tips@geekwire.com. Past profiles can be found here.