Written by Kevin Volz.
Libraries and universities are important parts of Ohio’s communities, but continuously face restricted budgets, presenting a need for new sources of revenue. Cleveland, Ohio startup Knowta has built a revenue solution for both libraries and university printing services intended to engage patrons through advertising at a checkout point.
For libraries, the result is either a pop-up ad on a self-checkout kiosk or advertising content on checkout receipts. For universities, ads either pop up on computer screens when students go to print or appear on digital screens near the printers. Knowta started in 2012 after receiving coaching and support from LaunchHouse, an Ohio Third Frontier partner in Cleveland.
“At library checkout points, we have the customer’s attention for 30 to 40 seconds,” said Ryan Clark, CEO and co-founder of Knowta. “The ads are either messages from the library or university, which are free for our clients, or sponsored content from local businesses.”
This sponsored, external content is the key source of revenue for Knowta clients. The Knowta team handles selling the ads for the platform, and currently focuses on businesses that are local to the library/university. The next goal is to expand their advertiser network regionally, making Knowta a more scalable business.
The company has seen a great deal of success in the Cleveland area. Knowta technology is in place at both the Cuyahoga County Public Library and the Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve University. The Cuyahoga County library system is the 12th largest in the country and sees 8 million visitors to its branches each year.
“Having such a large library system here in Cleveland is extremely beneficial,” said Clark. “They were critical in helping us develop the idea for our company, plus they are an influencer in the market.”
Knowta’s relationship with Cuyahoga County has helped the company get attention from other potential clients across the country. They are currently in discussions with large library systems and universities outside of the Cleveland area. To accommodate the coming expansion, the small Knowta team of four is currently looking to add new positions to handle regional advertising sales.