Joel Steel Of Komo Technologies On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Apps are a great resource, especially for gathering data about your customers. But sometimes you need to bring your content out into the world to really see it flourish. Companies need to focus on what makes the most sense for the user, not what’s most convenient for their backend, or their technology, or reporting. Asking someone to download your app just to participate in a promotion is unreasonable, especially when web-based applications can do just about everything an app can do. This was something we learned through experience. Years ago, when we transitioned from a native app to a web-based app, our reach exploded.

Digital transformation has become a crucial component for businesses striving to stay competitive and relevant in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. As technology continues to shape industries and redefine business models, companies must adapt and leverage digital tools and strategies to unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation. In this interview series, we aim to explore various aspects of digital transformation, including best practices, challenges, success stories, and expert insights. We are talking to thought leaders, industry experts, entrepreneurs, technology innovators, and executives who have firsthand experience in driving digital transformation initiatives within their organizations. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Joel Steel.

Joel Steel is the co-founder and CEO of Komo Technologies, a Digital Engagement SaaS platform that enables the rapid creation of interactive campaigns that engage, convert, and nurture customer relationships. Along with co-founder Glenn Morton, Joel has steered Komo from a shared dream between friends to a thriving Australian start-up, to a global leader in digital engagement that partners with some of the world’s biggest brands and agencies.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

The business began as an idea between best mates. Glenn Morton, our CTO, and I brought together a wealth of experience: me in sales and marketing, and Glenn in software development. We had this shared vision of combining our skills to create a platform that would bridge the gap between brands and consumers.

Komo was founded back in 2014 as a native app called QuizAid. The general premise was to create a mass multiple-player trivia game to help not-for-profits and charities raise funds and awareness for their causes using gamified experiences. However, Apple doesn’t allow charitable donations to be used to unlock sequential stages in an app, so QuizAid never officially launched on the app store.

We took all the learnings and R&D from QuizAid and the general premise that gamification can enhance the connection between any brand and an end consumer and created QuizJam. QuizJam was the number one app on the Australian App Store multiple times, and we had some early success with some enterprise brands who wanted more of an immersive and engaging connection with their customer.

While we had success with QuizJam, we weren’t achieving the required recurring revenue targets. We also had a couple of core issues that were holding us back. 1) End users didn’t want to download another app just to engage with a quick piece of content, even if they found value in the outcome of the engagement. 2) Our customers wanted the end users to engage with the content in their digital ecosystem, not on our app.

It was in 2019 that we decided to take all these learnings from QuizJam, change the name to Komo, and build the web-based platform we have today. Of course, we have continued to run into problems that we turn into opportunities. But we learn, we iterate, and we keep moving forward.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our amazing team, we’ve expanded our reach globally and teamed up with some of the world’s top brands and agencies, helping them collect first-party data and grow their sales while delighting customers through highly engaging web-based digital experiences. This has transformed Komo into Australia’s go-to digital engagement technology company and supercharged our entry into the US market.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

This would have to be our very first investor who took a chance on us and who made all of this possible. This person will tell you that they did not invest in the idea in the deck; they invested in Glenn and me as individuals and as entrepreneurs with a combined skill set that very much complemented each other.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

A few books I have loved and been inspired by, mostly due to how their stories revolve around never giving up, believing in yourself, and always learning and moving forward, include; That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph, The Virgin Way by Richard Branson, and Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.

I also love the Rocky movies, and find inspiration in the quote: “It’s not how hard you hit, it’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

If you truly believe in your idea, in yourself, and in your ability to find a way to achieve your goals, and if you never give up, keep learning, and fall forward, you will get there.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We have a very exciting product roadmap that will continue to separate Komo from our competitors. I can’t say too much, but we’re focused on continuing to make it easy for marketers to create compelling content to win a customer’s attention at any moment in the customer journey, while at the same time using the rich data and insights obtained from that content to personalize the customer journey in real-time. This is where the magic happens when there is a two-way value exchange that serves to strengthen and solidify the relationship between brand and customer. Komo is all about making that easy for everyone involved.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. Digital transformation can mean many things to many people, from your perspective, how do you define digital transformation in your industry?

From my perspective, digital transformation in marketing means creating more efficient, effective strategies using the latest digital tools to meet the evolving needs of businesses and their customers. As technology advances, it continually opens new ways for marketers to connect with their audience.

We’re seeing key trends as brands undergo this transformation. They’re streamlining marketing tech to simplify operations and improve data integration, which boosts the effectiveness of their strategies. There’s a strong focus on enhancing customer experience, with investments in platforms that manage relationships and personalize marketing efforts to increase loyalty and satisfaction.

Additionally, the use of AI and machine learning is expanding, automating processes and yielding deeper insights to optimize campaigns and predict behaviors. Brands are also prioritizing agility and scalability, adopting cloud-based solutions and SaaS models to quickly adapt to changing market conditions.

With heightened concerns around data privacy and security, brands are enhancing their digital infrastructures to comply with global regulations, thus building trust and maintaining customer loyalty.

Overall, these shifts toward more integrated, customer-centric digital ecosystems in the MarTech industry are helping brands meet modern consumer expectations and drive growth.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

Any company looking to establish strong relationships with their customers, instigate repeat business, and maximize long-term value, whether they’re a retail brand, a manufacturer, or a service provider, will benefit from investing in digital transformation. Any company that currently leans on third-party cookies to learn about their customers and deliver personalized, relevant communications must invest in the next evolution of digital transformation, or risk their ability to effectively meet those customers’ expectations.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

I think it can be intimidating for some brands to look at what’s out there and think, “How are we going to get from where we are now, to where we want to be?” Not every brand has the resources to build truly engaging and entertaining digital experiences for their customers. They take time, they take personnel that you would need to divert from other responsibilities; they can require significant investment. Like any other tech product, you have to iterate, because it’s unlikely you’ll get it exactly right the first time. And whatever you do build must integrate with the various platforms you’re using to manage customer data and communicate with customers. And if you’re collecting customer data, the product you’re building must comply with the ever-growing list of regulations. That’s a tall order, even for some of the world’s biggest brands.

We’ve already gone through the trouble of building these engagement tools. And we’ve done so in such a way that they’re fully customizable for any brand and require no coding. They integrate with all data management platforms, so whatever information is gathered can be piped directly into a company’s CRM, CDP, or data lake. They’re compliant. And they’re entirely self-service, so we’re putting control over every aspect of the experience in the hands of the people who know best how to manage the brand.


Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”?

1 . I don’t think we can talk about digital transformation without talking about gamification. It’s not a new concept in the least, but I think what is new is how easily a company can get up and running with games and gamification as tactics. We humans are a competitive bunch, so anything that allows us to one-up each other or show off our achievements is something that we’ll latch onto and engage with. H&M Kids worked with us to create a personality quiz for parents to take. They answered an engaging quiz about their child’s preferences and personality, which then directed them to the H&M Kids website to shop for clothes tailored to their children’s personality quiz outcome. The game earned a 30.8% CTR to their website, 615x better than their average.

2 . Apps are a great resource, especially for gathering data about your customers. But sometimes you need to bring your content out into the world to really see it flourish. Companies need to focus on what makes the most sense for the user, not what’s most convenient for their backend, or their technology, or reporting. Asking someone to download your app just to participate in a promotion is unreasonable, especially when web-based applications can do just about everything an app can do. This was something we learned through experience. Years ago, when we transitioned from a native app to a web-based app, our reach exploded.

3 . If you give a little, you can get a lot. Most consumers are willing to part with personal information in exchange for something they value. And there are many, many things that consumers value beyond discounts and markdowns. So, a company that can strike that balance and discover what their consumers are willing to accept in exchange for personal data can build out detailed profiles of their customers. These richer, fuller profiles can then help that company deliver highly personalized messaging and experiences to individual customers, which they will still expect even after the death of third-party cookies. The more personalized the messaging, the more likely it will be for a customer to make another purchase. And in this day and age, inducing repeat business from existing customers is far less expensive than acquiring new customers.

4 . There’s a tremendous opportunity to bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds. What I mean by that is, using digital tools to augment or complement the real-world experience. One of the industries we’ve had a lot of success with is live events — sports, concerts, festivals, and the like, partnering with sponsors to deliver customized experiences to attendees that are contextually relevant and highly specific. It might be prompting fans at a match to predict the outcome of the game they’re watching for a chance to win an exclusive prize. It could be pitting fans against each other in a live trivia contest at halftime to see who can own the title of most devoted fan. Each of these provides an opportunity for that sponsor to connect with a captive audience, engage them for minutes at a time, and collect data from potential customers.

5 . Start experimenting. A lot is going to change in the next year, and the companies experimenting with alternative ways to capture data, the companies experimenting with AI and machine learning will be the ones who come out on top. We’re still only beginning to understand what’s going to be possible with AI and machine learning. Of course, generative AI is something that any company should be exploring, but sometimes the biggest benefits come from the less glamorous applications. We’re leveraging AI and machine learning to automate many of our behind-the-scenes processes to improve efficiency and help our clients achieve better results with less manual effort. It might not garner headlines like DALL-E or ChatGPT, but it’s providing immense value for our partners.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

Glenn and I are deeply committed to creating a work environment where everyone feels empowered to innovate and excited to come to work each day. We foster a culture of agility and adaptability within our team, encouraging everyone to embrace change and be proactive in finding solutions. To build high-performance teams, it’s essential to make sure each person feels valued.

We also invest in employee training and development, promote diversity and inclusion, and create a supportive and collaborative work environment.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The famous quote from Rocky Balboa, “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

For me as an entrepreneur, this quote serves as a powerful reminder and motivation that the journey of building and sustaining a business is often filled with challenges, but success comes from the ability to withstand adversity and continue pushing towards your goals.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I post regularly on LinkedIn about what’s going on at Komo and in the general marketing landscape. They can also follow the Komo Technologies LinkedIn page to see what we’re up to.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.