Axial's Growth 100 : Kan Devnani

Kan Devnani

CEO, Comtex

Double Threat

Kan Devnani’s resume reads like a tour of the C-suite. Now chief executive officer of leading news aggregation service Comtex, Kan has served as CTO and COO of the company. But Kan’s first experience with the company was as a customer. While leading a data analytics team at FactSet (and before that, as a consultant at PwC), Kan relied on Comtex to provide high-quality content (from press releases to economic and market data) in a digestible, real-time format.

Comtex disseminates over one million documents each day, providing customized news feeds to big-name customers such as Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg. “Our edge is that we offer clients full access to the content and work closely with our sources so they have control over where and how content is being used,” says Kan.

Since joining the company in 2010, Kan has risen through the ranks alongside the company’s strategic expansion. “We’ve always had an eye towards data processing,” says Kan. Building off the company’s core competency, Comtex launched Smartrend, a retail product that applies the company’s data processing and expertise on the news system to market data issuing up and down trends as well as buy, short, and hold signals on 5,000 U.S. equities.

Kan says 2016 should be a promising year for all business lines. But managing three distinct growth opportunities while running individually operating businesses is no small task.

Two-Headed Marketing Strategy

Comtex takes very different approaches to marketing and business development for its two businesses. Kan explains that on the news side, most of their business comes from referrals. Beyond that, it’s a very long sales cycle. “We’ve had deals that have taken 18 months to cultivate and close,” says Kan. In this business, Kan explains, a successful sales pipeline is tantamount to long-term success.

With SmarTrend, the goal is to reach both retail investors and financial advisors. For the former, it’s all about digital marketing. From SEO to social media, Kan is laser focused on being able to track CPA carefully and follow conversions. He conducts end user surveys and is constantly looking at their website to make it better. For financial advisors, Kan explains, “It’s more of a grassroots effort.” His team spends time cold calling advisory branches, trying to get in and then navigate their way up to the corporate offices.

Sweat Equity

When it comes to hiring, Kan says there are specific and unique talent pools for each business. He recognizes he needs to have different checks and intervals to evaluate success for employees in each business. “You can’t expect someone to close a deal with a government contractor in a month but you can expect a marketer to make a big change to the website in a month.”

But he believes in at least one common denominator. “As a general rule of thumb, I’m always looking for people who are passionate about what they want to do but also want to be cultivated and want to grow,” he says. That might mean his employees eventually seek out different jobs at Comtex from the ones they were initially hired for. “If you’re not growing or increasing your purview you’re not learning new skills.”