Shannon Malkin Daniels of encaptiv

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Shannon Malkin Daniels, the founder and CEO of encaptiv, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of encaptiv – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

Back when I was running sales and marketing departments, I gave A LOT of presentations – internal, external, sales, you name it – and over time, I developed a toxic relationship with PowerPoint (“I hate you, but I can’t live without you!”). Eventually, I got sick of the corporate grind, so I quit my day job and started a communication and public speaking coaching business. Since I’d successfully used presentations as a lead generation tool in my corporate life, I naturally gravitated toward it for building my business. Whenever I gave a presentation, people would line up afterward to talk with me and tell me how excited they were to hire me, so we’d exchange info and the follow-up game would begin. You know what I’m talking about. A bunch of people saying, “I’m definitely going to hire you!” followed by 100 emails and phone calls to get maybe one of them to actually hire you (if you’re lucky). It was the corporate grind all over again, but with less resources. It wasn’t that people didn’t want to work with me – it’s just that life happened after they walked out the door and priorities changed. So I started thinking…what if I could make my presentations more interactive and collect data to understand which attendees are most engaged and what content they’re liking, loving, confused, or bored by. And what if I could use that data and in-the-moment audience engagement to get them to complete my call to action when they’re still at peak excitement and I have their full attention. Wouldn’t that be amazing? And that’s how the idea for encaptiv was born.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

Honestly, every day is a new hurdle. It’s just part of the startup and entrepreneurial journey. If I had to choose what has been the biggest obstacle, it was clarifying early product-market fit and narrowing down a niche market to focus our initial go-to-market efforts on. The reason for this is because our product is industry agnostic. encaptiv can be used by anyone who gives presentations and would like to boost attendee engagement and interaction, gather audience and content analytics to help them improve their presentations, and increase audience conversion rates (call to action completion). To overcome this hurdle, we extended our beta period. This let us learn A LOT about our users, what they want from the product, and who our early adopters would be. It also unearthed another user pain point and enabled us to develop a new aspect of our platform (which we also filed a patent on) that we hadn’t initially planned for – events. So out of the uncertainty came clarity on our early go-to-market strategy and a new opportunity. All it required was a little patience and taking the time to listen to and observe our customers.

What does the future hold for encaptiv?

We are on the verge of releasing our events platform in April, which will support conferences and events of all sizes. We’ve got a really unique approach that solves several problems for event organizers, such as automating deck collection and presenter notifications, and collecting detailed content and speaker feedback – not just tracking which sessions people attend, but a deep dive into what content and speakers they’re most interested in and engaged with.

Once that hits the market, we’re going to move into our work on 1) team and enterprise accounts, which will allow for collaboration and upline reporting, 2) more robust and customizable email automation to make it easier to follow-up with attendees, 3) NLP and ML to further refine and improve targeted calls to action, 4) social sharing and trending presentations, and 5) more robust attendee and engagement filtering and reporting (to name a few!).

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Stamford?

We have an emerging tech startup scene in Stamford. While we’re still working towards being a well-known tech destination, the scene is definitely growing. There are a lot of really cool tech startups in the area, and it’s exciting to see what everyone is doing. We’ve got a great network of entrepreneurs who really help each other out and lift each other up. I’m also a co-founder and board member of Stamford Innovation Week, a week-long innovation conference that started in 2018. In our first 2 years, we’ve seen a boom in the local entrepreneurial community, especially the tech scene. We grew from 2400 attendees in our first year to 5000 attendees in our second year. That shows just how much is going on here, and it’s really thrilling.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don’t give up! Being an entrepreneur is HARD. You’re going to be told no, that your idea is stupid, and that you’re doing everything wrong. You’re going to fail repeatedly, pivot numerous times, and have to make a lot of sacrifice. The key to persevering and succeeding is believing in yourself, your mission, and your vision – and it can’t be all about making money. If you have a greater purpose and believe wholeheartedly in what you’re doing, it will make all the hard work and sacrifice worth it. It will keep you moving forward on the days where you feel like giving up. And you have to be willing to listen and take critical feedback. Remember that you’re not building a product for yourself, you’re building it for your customer. If you keep hearing something over and over, be willing to adapt and meet the market where they are with what they want (as long as it aligns with your mission).

 

For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series

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