At the dawn of the new Millennium in London, Alex Macpherson and Brad Down met through a group of like minded friends who embraced the British golden age of music, freedom, and exploration. The next destination was just a £49 flight away; It seemed like nothing was out of reach.
Every day while commuting by train across London, Brad would look out the window and see a word scrawled by a graffiti artist on every available surface. The word was “Known”, and over time this word would become etched in his brain, connecting ideas around the internet and marketing. He thought to himself: “Everyone wants to be known.”
20+ Years in the making
Upon their return to Australia in 2004, Known PTY LTD was founded as a digital agency. Starting with a shared office and 2 desks in Surry Hills, they experienced early success signing Blackmores, Macquarie, Baulderstone, and the Leukaemia Foundation in just their first year of operation. Shortly thereafter, they leased a small warehouse in Sydney’s Surry Hills precinct. Top floor for the agency and bottom floor for another business they had invested in, a fancy dress shop called 'Snog the Frog'.
As an ambitious and fast-paced agency they started to hit a wall of desire in late 2006. The agency model of create and ‘Pitch’ for work, and essentially giving away free IP did not make sense. As part of servicing existing customers they were using a small range of scale up Web 2.0 tech platforms. They took a lot of inspiration from this and the startup culture out of Silicon Valley, and knowing that the agency model was not suitable for them, a new business direction was born.
BeamMe was founded in 2007 with 400k in angel investment. Before the release of the earliest smartphones, It was a technology platform designed to move the internet to mobile via SMS. The concept was well received and . Alex & Brad immediately started expanding the team with talented engineers, designers and sales personnel.
They started to dive deeper into what customers were looking for, and Burst SMS, which was a testing tool for BeamMe they realised through customer feedback was in higher demand. This is when they realised listening was the most important part of the conversation in product market fit. Hard but powerful lessons.
The mass adoption of the new iPhone alongside the 2008 GFC eliminated BeamMe in quite short order. The necessity and value of the tool waned with the iPhone and funding dried up with the GFC. It was time to do some further reflecting on why the project failed.
They started to dive deeper into what customers were looking for, and it was clear that Burst SMS needed to become the new anchor. This is what the people were asking for all along, and this is when they realised listening was the most important part of the conversation in product market fit. Hard, but powerful lessons.
Known made the bold move to go all-in with Burst SMS. The new model would be prepaid and self-serve, which allowed the business to run a leaner team once the initial launch phase was complete.
Burst SMS launched as a simple self-serve A2P SMS platform in 2010, adding new features along the way including SMS templates, email to SMS, and unicode-compatible keywords towards 2013.
The founders believed in providing exceptional customer service from the start and were personally onboarding every client to ensure that they knew how to maximise their usage. This led to a different type of fatigue than in 2006. Overwhelmed with the task of growing lean while remaining agile they found themselves with the realisation they needed help. It was time to diversify their thinking and seek some like minded talent to join their team.
Alex and Brad took their time in the recruitment process. They knew they needed to find the right recruits to help solidify their foundation. They found a fearless trio that would stick together no matter how daunting the challenge: Mike Bissett (Engineering), Maria Doolan (Technical Support), and Leana Yang (Marketing).
Trust was instilled in this new group to build something that could scale into the future. They began to strip back the layers and imagine a product for the future. Ideas were flowing from the early hours into the night, speaking these ideas into existence from a nearby bar, and willing them into existence the following day.
2016 -2017 were solid years of growth for the company. 50%+ YoY, landing in the Deloitte Fast 50, and AFR Fast 100 a couple of years running. The team was expanding, excitement of the possibilities were abound. The physical office space and the product became intertwined, and towards the end of 2018, both significantly outgrew their expectations simultaneously. This was the type of high-quality problem that budding entrepreneurs dreamed of. After no more walls could be demolished in the first CBD office the founders sourced a new home, and signed a lease to increase our office capacity 10 fold. At the end of 2019, the Burst SMS platform was also completely refactored to pave the way for the future.
It took 7 years to reach 100 million messages sent, and just 5 more years to reach 1 billion messages. The team also grew over 400% in a span of 4 years.
Alex and Brad began to pursue opportunities up and down the messaging value chain. From the pointy end of telephony & carrier connectivity, through the fragmentation of messaging channels into an omnichannel world, and through to high value add’s of SaaS Automation and ‘conversational commerce’ using AI/ML technologies.
Known has been tenacious in its ability to overcome unprecedented challenges. Surviving and pivoting past the invention of the iPhone, growing through the GFC, and persisting through the economic challenges of a global pandemic.
As a privately owned business without the luxury of venture capital, we’ve controlled our destiny privately. Known has remained cash flow positive since 2012, expanding organically with steady long-term growth.
While some would say that the strategy is not “modern” and fast growth should be funded by investment, Known has always innovated not just through its products, but also in how it operates as a business. The move to remote work for example, was effortless as a policy had already been implemented years prior to the pandemic.
Although incredibly challenging for all of us, we’ve rallied and adopted a fearlessly agile approach to where and how we worked. Our flexible strategy resulted in a 200%+ increase in messaging volume across a diverse variety of industries and sectors.
As a company that has grown entirely out of revenue, Known’s focus was entirely placed at building and innovating to meet immediate customer needs. We are a leader in shaping the future of customer engagement for businesses. The Known brand powers the products it holds in the background, representing a clear mindset deeply rooted into all our endeavours. Enhancing customer experiences is at the forefront of our product suites, ranging from best in class messaging capabilities to automated conversational AI. All innovations are designed to grow with both the sender and receiver, increasing engagement at a global scale.
We believe that a return to the markets is what consumers seek, where conversations are natural and free-flowing through contextually driven communications. Businesses want to connect with their audience in a more meaningful way, and are looking to partner with not just a software provider, but a like minded solution that they can scale into with ease.
Humanising business through the power of conversation is our mission, and frictionless innovation is what we strive for.
Out comes Known.