Interview with Cyndi & Alen, co-founders of Bracketz

Bracketz Co-founders Alen Knapic (A), CTO and Cyndi Knapic (C), CEO

Explain Bracketz in 1-2 sentences.

C: Bracketz creates tournament-style promotions, such as contests and giveaways, that help marketers engage their online audiences with branded content. Our promotions help to increase user engagement and time spent with branded content, leading to increased sales.

How did you come up with the idea for Bracketz?

A: I worked in online advertising at and later at Quigo for 3 and 1/2 years. My large clients such as Papa Johns, Under Armor, and Laura Mercier would always ask how they could differentiate themselves from all the other large brands with optimized ad campaigns. It was frustrating because you don’t want to tell your clients that there isn’t much that I could do for them.

C: Alen and I started realizing that this was a big opportunity and began brainstorming solutions by looking at what was working.

We thought of March Madness and saw how brands like Google were using these tournament-style promotions to promote their products and really engage people online. So we said, I think we have something.

That’s when we built the prototype. Because we were both Carnegie Mellon students at the time we were able to enter into the Keith Block Entrepreneurship Fund Competition and we won. After that we went full speedahead and started focusing on the company full-time.

It was a perfect example of that [Frank] Demmlerism, “You’ll know when to start your company when not starting it is no longer an option.” That’s kind of what happened. And since we’ve started working on this full-time the demand from our clients has been tremendous.

Has your product changed since you’ve been in AlphaLab?

C: Definitely. Our product (pictured right) looks much better than what we had coming in here. Since we’re helping other companies market their products, our job is to make them look good.
So we’ve been able to make our product cleaner, more visually appealing, and dynamic enough to be custom-branded.

A: We also added cross-browser capabilities, dynamic design, social media components, and built the foundation for a self-service platform—something we learned that is very important to our customers.

What would you say is the best thing about being in AlphaLab?

C: I think the word “accelerator” is really appropriate.

A: Definitely. When you’re here there’s this constant push that helps you keep going and keep iterating.

C: Every meeting we’ve had here—whether it’s with Jim or our mentors—pushes us to get more done than we thought was possible.

A: I like to think of AlphaLab as a personal trainer that motivates you, encourages you to stay on top of things, and pushes you to do more than you think you can do.

C: We should really get Jim a whistle. [laughs]

A: Also, AlphaLab has been instrumental in helping us understand who our target market is, what that market wants and how to solidify our strategy. It could’ve taken us a year and a half to figure those things out but we were able to get that solidified early on so now we can focus on going full steam ahead and concentrating on building our product and acquiring customers.

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs just starting out?

A: If you’re a sole founder, I’d recommend getting someone onboard as soon as possible. If I didn’t have Cyndi and the rest of our team to help me out and allow me to specialize, I know we couldn’t have accomplished nearly as much as we did.

C: I agree with that. I’d also say that as an entrepreneur you have to be willing to reach out and ask for the help you need. You have to realize that you can’t do everything and you can’t know everything but you also can’t be afraid to ask for help. Because it won’t come to you. And you know, you’d be surprised how willing people are to help you.

How can people find out more about your product or set up their own tournament-style marketing promotion?
Twitter: @bracketzapp