Knoitall joined the Catapult community as an Associate Resident in May 2014. We were immediately impressed by the passion, dedication, and experience behind the company.
Knoitall, Inc. manages an online marketplace that connects the buyers and sellers of continuing education. The company’s unique approach gives learning providers the tools to build, manage, and sell their learning inventory, both through their own web properties and through Knoitall.com, and helps learners find, evaluate and connect with products and classes to plan their future. Knoitall was recently announced the winner of the DEN-City Alumni and ExL Pitch Contest.
We had the chance to speak with John Zappa, COO and co-founder of Knoitall, about his experience in the continuing education industry as well as his journey to where he is today.
How many people are currently involved with your company?
We have two employees.
How long have you been working on your idea?
We have been focused on the current direction since May.
What inspires you to continue growing your company despite possible failures/difficulties?
I believe that there has to be a better way for people to connect with learning. We have many options for pursuing education but more options do not mean better choices. We created the Knoitall learning marketplace to help people plan their future by connecting with the right learning opportunities for them or their child.
I also think that the current market and technology forces will inevitably lead to learning marketplaces; we have seen it in other industries. Why not our company as the one to fulfill this need?
What do you enjoy most about working in Chicago?
Chicago reminds me of my hometown of Pittsburgh--there's not a lot of pretense among the residents--what you see is what you get. That's refreshing.
What is the best part about being your own boss?
Taking actions and making decisions that directly impact the company.
What is something that the average person may not know about your company/team?
My partner and I both ran competing education services firms that we successfully grew and sold to the same buyer. We were direct competitors and yet we had a healthy respect for each other. Now we get to focus our energies towards the same goals.
What were you doing prior to beginning your business?
I was the CEO of EdLink, which was a company owned by ACT and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. We helped employers manage tuition assistance benefits more effectively for their employees as they went back to school.
Are there any companies/business models you look up to?
I like what TripAdvisor has done to help consumers gain better insight when planning a trip. I think a similar metaphor applies to our world of education and learning.
If you were not an entrepreneur, what career would you pursue?
Several years ago I built my own bike to have a better/safer ride for commuting in Chicago. I'm amazed by the growth in commuting by bicycle and would consider a role enabling/supporting this trend. Or I'd pursue some other passion!
Where do you see your company in the next 2-5 years?
To be known as the place to go when I want to learn something.
What is most beneficial about sharing a space with multiple entrepreneurs? What is the best part of Catapult?
The community is great. Meeting other people that are growing startups is very energizing. And the Founders Forum is a wonderful way to engage and build mutual support.