Podcast Series

The Happy Market Research podcast publishes interviews with insight leaders on the last Tuesday of the month.

Ep. 120 – Dyna Boen, President Marketing Research at Survata

Today, my guest is Dyna Boen, President of Market Research at Survata. Survata offers a technology platform that informs business decisions used by today’s top brands including GameStop, Clorox, Gartner, and Disney. Dyna is a serial entrepreneur who has worked in all aspects of the marketing research space.



Twitter: @DynaBoen1

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dynaboen/ Survata’s Data Quality



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Hi. I’m Jamin Brazil and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. Today my guest is Dyna Boen, President of Market Research Survata. Survata offers a technology platform that informs business decisions used by today’s top brands, including GameStop, Clorox, Gardner and Disney, my favorite brand of all time. Dyna is a serial entrepreneur who has worked in all aspects of the marketing research space. Dyna, thank you so much for joining me today on Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thank you for having me, Jamin. I would say that I’m a Happy Market Researcher.


I love it.


So very smiley, happy market researcher. So I’m glad to be here.


We all are, we all are as long as we’re making a payroll. What we found is our audience is really interested about what Survata is doing today, what you specifically – how you are specifically fitting in. But what I’m really digging is the background of what got you here. So could you tell us a little bit about what it is that your parents do and how that’s informed what you’re doing today?


Yes, absolutely. Well, my dad was an auto broker and he was in the car industry. And so, he’s a very dynamic sales person. He’s your quintessential car guy and I grew up with him owning his own business. SO also an entrepreneur. And so what he did was he bought fleets of rental cars from Hawaii and then sold them as used cars all over the mainland. And so for me, I got to travel with him, which going on a business trip to Hawaii is like how I thought business was done growing up. I’m a little spoiled. I’m looking back and I’m like wow, that was really fortunate. But I would get to travel with my dad when I was on school breaks and sit on business dinners that he was having, and just a lot of it was observing the way he did business in the Pacific Rim and my mom was a teacher and an educator. So my parents were always very supportive of education.


The sales side of things that your dad had, that sounds like directly it fed into, obviously, your marketing background. Did he use TV, radio, et cetera or was he more network-based distribution?


He was more network-based distribution I would say. We’re very similar in that we’re very – just social animals, both of us are. We like to talk to people, we like to network, we like to build relationships. And that to me, whether it’s Survata or in the market research industry, that’s what I enjoy most. We all spend a lot of time at work. My daughter will sometimes call me a workaholic, but it’s because I love my job and I want that to be an example to her, that you can be a professional and love what you do, and it’s about the people that you spend your time with every day, and life is short and we spend a lot of time at work. So if you can surround yourself by wonderful people and partners, and colleagues that support you and support them, I think that’s pretty good life.


Yes, no more Mondays. So I was, I had a conversation with John Dumas, entrepreneur on Fire is like one of my aspirational podcasters. Got about a million listeners, million listeners, what I mean by that. He said, “Jamin, every day for me is Saturday.” That’s right, literally. I woke up this morning early, I couldn’t wait to get in the car, come down here, meet you face to face, have the conversation. It’s just like when you love what you do and you love the people that you do it with, it makes all the difference.


Yes, I agree. And, you know, Saturday is my most energetic day of the work week, which sounds really strange, but I go to the gym and I’m on the elliptical catching up on everything that didn’t happen during the week and it’s my catch up. So I tell my team, “Don’t feel compelled to respond. I’m getting back to you.”




But I think it’s the time when I think most about social media posts and blog posts, and just I don’t know. I think it’s because you’ve got a little bit of space for yourself and my mind goes to business a lot of times in a fun way.


Do you think the Saturday mornings, I’m going to call it three hours, do you think that, it could be more, it could be less, but do you think three hours of work, that invest that? That has a bigger lever of what you get done during the week? Do you think that three hours actually equals a whole day?


Sometimes in terms of just quiet get things done work and thought time, absolutely. I also think that, my observation is – I’m not unusual in that regard, I actually think that certainly in the market research industry, a lot of executives use that time because you’re used to getting up early anyway. And so, you’re up and you’re family is still sleeping in or doing their thing and it kind of gives you that quiet time with your coffee that’s not your regular work day to do that. So it’s pretty, pretty common actually. And I’ll out Kristin Luck, but Kristin Luck and I sometimes will be late night on a Saturday or at Friday night and we’re like, “Look at us, emailing now.”




Yes, no, you know. Not trying to set an example there at all, but you know those Friday nights you have on occasion. Hopefully, not every Friday night.


I do, I do. Kristin and I have had – she’s my work wife so to speak. I really always say that in the industry and we’re not two sides of the same coin. We’re literally the same side of the same coin. And so, yes, [CROSSTALK] those Friday nights.


Yes, work wife and work husbands, yes, I had several of those I think in my past.


Let’s talk a little bit about your background. Nursing, super interesting. How is the healthcare? So you were originally going into nursing?


So I started out going into nursing. I have to tell you, self admitted, I’m not the most nurturing person. If someone says a Band-Aid in my family, I’m like get it yourself.


I love it.


They are like, “But I’m bleeding.” I’m like, “Then stop it.”


Put the light pressure and get it yourself.


Yes, while I think of myself as a nurturing business mentor, maybe not so much on healthcare side. So I decided to pivot and go into business. But you asked about my parents earlier, I grew up with a dad that said “Hey, you should grow up to be a teacher or a nurse.” And that sounds a little bit old school, Archy Bunker I think.


A little.


But he wasn’t saying it because he was trying to restrict my choices as a woman. It was because he thought that that would be a successful path for me. But I didn’t want to be a teacher or a nurse. And so, I went into healthcare, but what I really loved was business. And what happened is when I transferred over to the business healthcare program, the business school at Oregon State was sponsored by Hewlett Packard and we had state of the art technology. Our technology was all of the newest stuff that the business world didn’t even had yet. So as a function of the time and space I was in, when I came out of school, I had technology skills that were beyond using the software and the hardware, beyond what was in the business world. And so, I took in that direction. I took healthcare and went into healthcare technology.


Interesting. I wonder how much of that – because you were able to see maybe a year or two, maybe even three or five in some cases, because I know especially in medical kind of education, it’s not like they are on the cutting edge of technology usually. They are usually using older stuff.


That’s right, yes.


So having that view, did it enable you to identify gaps in ways they could do better in using technology or more modern technology?


I think I hit the job force at a time where everything was still moving from, you know. In some cases I would be doing code into a green screen to put networks in place for hospitals and everything was moving to Windows interfaces. So, I was going in, replacing systems in hospitals with Windows interfaces and making it easier for people. But that was new to that world. It was something I’ve been doing for years in school. And so, I came out – at that time, I was a young woman, I choose technology. Nobody was really doing that. Most of the people I was working with were older IT guys, fantastic mentors by the way, but I was just very different in that. And here I am, fresh out of school, first person at the company I work for to get a laptop to use in the field. Like at that time, if you remember back, late ’90s, it was still computer consoles in businesses that everybody shared, printers that everybody shared. So today I think about Google, Women In Coding and its thing now to be a female engineer in Silicon Valley. And I’m not an engineer, but there’s so much more for women in terms of supporting them in technology today and at the time, I was just trying to figure it out because it would just happened to be something I’m interested in.


And I think everybody in those days, those super early days were just trying to figure it out. There was – the application of technology reflect on the ’90s and 2000s, and really the last decade that we’re getting ready to close soon, it feels like it’s very unstructured and then all of the sudden, I want to say in ’99, you know, X, triple XML formats came out for market research, data structures, that actually informed us in the industry of how single selected, multi selected question should be coded digitally. And so you see this structure that keeps getting narrower and narrower, which is one of the reasons why, I know that you’re involved in Wire, Kristin Luck’s organization, God, this is turning into podcast about Kristin Luck, it’s so important, is because as I think things are getting narrower and narrower, we need to make sure we’re more and more inclusive as we continually see in the data. The more diverse the teams are, the higher probability of success and the greater the outcomes. So, to shift gears a little bit. If you were young professional wanting to get a job in Survata or another insights based organization, whether it’s a brand or agency side, what are some of the steps in order to secure your job?


Well, it’s kind of interesting I think because I just did get a new job. Survata is very real. It’s real for me and it’s real for young people. I think I’ve done three interviews for young people for Survata coming out of school. And so, I would say for any of us looking for a job, people always say networking, but networking is really important and fostering relationships. As it relates to young people coming out from school, number one for me is attitude, just a good attitude. You can bring somebody with a good attitude in the room and it lifts everyone in the room up. And if you have somebody that has not so good attitude that brings everyone in the room down. And I like things to be up, I like upbeat. We have hard days, but attitude is how you get through those hard days. So attitude is by far number one. Number two is willingness to get there and roll up your sleeves, and be part of the solution. And so, stylistically as a leader, I’m roll up your sleeves leader. I’m player, coach operator because that’s what I’d like to do. I like to get there and be part of the team, and co-sales and work together and do things together. So, I look for team members that come on board to Survata that want to be part of that. I want to say the thing that is fingernails on a chalkboard to me when I’m talking to candidates or even people young in my career is, “Well, that wasn’t in my job description.” And when I hear that, I’m like oh, my Gosh. I don’t know if that’s going to work because I think back of the job description I had at Market Tools when it was a startup, and it was like it wasn’t in my job description. I came on board to be implementation manager, I moved out to General Mills to run a remote team, I was kind of a client service person at that point/implementation manager that went on to lead sales, that went on to start the central region for Market Tools and all of those things build my career in market research and none of those things were in my job description, none of them, not one. And so, I – you know, the thing too that I would say is some day it’s your job to be a C-level executive and other days it’s your job to just take out the garbage. If you’re entrepreneur, you’re the janitor and the CEO, and everything in between. And so it’s really about not to feel entitled. I just spot that degree so I don’t do that. We all do that, whatever that is, to get through the day to work together, to have a team culture. And so, I would say that that for me, it’s the attitude that it’s just willingness to jump in and I love people that make mistakes of action. It’s the inaction, when you do nothing, something clearly had to be done, but you did nothing. If you did something and the client or your team member sees that you’re trying. You might not be perfect, you might not be all the way there yet, but you’re trying. Anybody that I see that’s trying, that’s rolling up their sleeves and getting there is somebody who I want on my team.


So much to talk about.


A lot there.


I want to hone on two things, attitude, attitude, attitude. You’ve got to bring it to the table. Like if you’re the kind of personality where when you come in you’re looking at receiving, it’s going to be tough. But when you enter into conversation and you show up to work Monday morning even if you were out Sunday night, you need to expect you’re giving your energy to the room. That is huge, the impact. And one thing I really want to hone in is as you went through the – I would call it the accidental job promotions at Marketing Tools, and that would be nothing to –


It’s absolutely true. Yes.


Not only did you not say, “My job description has not changed or that.” And I’m hypothesizing here. So please if I’m wrong, correct me. It would be a normal course in the show, you probably did not say, “Hey, I need to be paid more money.”


I was, you know, I even talked to some folks on my team about that recently. It’s interesting conversation, the conversation of title and the conversation of money, because they are just practical realities, they are just practical realities of your cost of living, of paying the bills and things, they are practical realities of how people view you inside and outside the industry, you know, it’s just our culture. But most of the jobs I’ve done, I was already doing the job before I got the title and before I got the raise, and before I got the commission check, and whatever. It was like, “Yes, I deserve that.” But the things to get to that point were already happening. And I think as a young person coming out of school, that’s just misnomer that all of us as leaders need to mentor people on, which is hey, it’s not like you get the promotion and then you level up your game. When I get the promotion, now I’m going to act more like an executive or now I’m going to act more like a manager. No, no, no. You’re doing these things already and when somebody sees that in you, you’re like yes, I want that person to be in charge and I want them to have the title and have the appropriate salary, and you’re happy to give it to them because you’re like, “You deserve it,” and you’re rooting for them.




And with Wire or even with any of my mentees, whether they are through Wire or not through Wire, or people from my team, you can start to see the signs of people that you know are on the C track. You can just see that and be like I’m betting on that person, I’m betting on them and I’m betting on them too. It’s fun. And I would say, I know I’d mentioned Wire, but I’d say that’s true of women and men and that’s really important for me to call out, is I’m an equal opportunity mentor and I’ve mentored both men and women throughout my career, and it’s true for both of them, attitude and doing the job before you get the title.


So you talked a lot about the values you have with the characteristics. Do you look at LinkedIn? Is the resume important?


I feel like I should say yes, but no, it’s not. I’m an in person person.


Totally. Let me back up. How do they get the interview? Like are you interviewing everybody that applies?


Actually, at Survata the people that are interviewing right now, my managers are putting them forward.


So they’ve already done some of that work.


They’ve already done some of the work. So I would say on the LinkedIn comment, yes, LinkedIn is important to me. I think being mindful of your public persona is important at this day and age. I call it public is the new private. If you don’t have a picture of yourself on LinkedIn, what’s wrong with you? They are shady. Why don’t they have a photo? You have more people, more privacy when people see that who that person is. There’s a little bit of that. But I think it’s important too, we’re in market research, it’s a function of marketing and the person and the thing you should care about in marketing the most is yourself when you’re looking for a job especially. So at Survata, something that we’re working on, and I won’t go into too much detail on this because it will be a little bit of our secret sauce, but we’re working on social selling strategy. And so, you’ll see more of that over the coming months, but you guys know me, that I like to social sell and it’s part to connecting to people beyond San Francisco and across the world. But also for my team of young people that are new to their careers or to anyone who’s in their careers, is how do we lift each other up. And it’s about hey, it’s your turn to write your blog post this month and it’s about creating thought leadership, it’s about using our networks to raise each other up. So, LinkedIn is important and people on my team have been cleaning up their LinkedIns and their Twitter, because they know this thing is coming.


That’s good.


So yes, LinkedIn is an important part of looking for a job and that right out of school you should be – we had an intern this summer from Duke University and her LinkedIn, I would have loved to have that LinkedIn coming out of college, but his last day at Survata, I was like, “The number one thing you need to do today is send every person in this company a recommendation request to write you a recommendation because you’re going to come out of Duke with an internship at a Silicon Valley startup with these people that have loved all the great things you did for us this summer.” If you’re at school and you’re doing internships, start building that up, you know.


I love that. That’s so important. Because I’m old, you’re not, but I’m old.


Thank you. That’s generous of you.


So, after 20 years working in this industry after leaving Focus Vision as a CEO in September last year and kind of stepping into this I didn’t know exactly what, I’m like I know the CEO of that company and the CMO of this company, and so on and so forth, the CPO, and so on and so forth. I’m like that’s so weird because I remember when we were bootstrapping 18 years ago, you know, they were project managers and partners. You know what I mean?


Yes, I do.


And then as time progresses, those relationships that you’re building when you’re literally on the trenches on Christmas Eve trying to solve the problem, that pays forward. It’s like compounding interest on steroids, right?


Yes, I believe that. I call it – I talk a lot about the Market Tools mafia because –


Yes, this is great. [CROSSTALK] I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you. This is a great point.


I talk a lot of mafias in general in a good way. So, the Market Tools mafia, and everybody that’s listening that worked with me at Market Tools knows this is near and dear to my heart. And that team of people, we’ve built – I was there for 12 years. So we’ve built I think all of the best leaders that I know in the industry that went on to different things were at that company at one point in time. And so, as I think about that, there’s a strong network of people that supports each other, that recommends each other, has networks. I’m having lunch tomorrow that was Market Tools mafia at all the different companies sample technology research. And so, it’s about going through the trenches with somebody and you see this with any business. When you’re building something together, you become family and you have good times and bad times, but whatever they are, they all make you stronger and connect to you. We do that as people. That’s why I think people in the military are so tight. You see that. So you see that in the military, you see that in work environments when people are starting companies. But there’s other mafias out there. There’s the Decipher mafia out there, there’s GreenField mafia, there’s the Research Now mafia. You think about all of these companies that were build as market research emerged and I get to watch all these people that went on to build their own companies. We are sort of managers or directors, or you know, tier two executives that have all said, “Hey, I want to go out and build something, and take a shot at it.” No matter what that outcomes looks like, you’re rooting for that person that’s just gone out there and taken a shot at it. I’ve kind of digressed.


I love that.


But that network is also a LinkedIn network.


And it starts on day one as you walk into the room, which is why it’s so important people get energy and not take it, because how you behave when you’re 23 and 24, and getting paid is how you’re going to be perceived 20 years later.


And Survata team is that energy right now.


You get it when you walk in.


So we’re in the middle of a build. There was a team early on that was just rock and rolled through series A. And then I get to come on board at this really exciting time when it’s just closing series B and help grow the business at that time. And so, we’re in the middle of another one of those things, I just love that feeling, and I look at everyone at that team and I remember when I was at that level at Market Tools and it was pre-married, pre-babies, pre-you know, manager director titles, C-level title, all of that and we were all entrepreneurs, and I look at this team and I’m like this is so exciting. You don’t even know what you’re in for. Like fasten your seat belts.


And that’s the best part of age. We were talking, probably the best skill that I have is pattern recognition, you know. So it’s great. And then what’s going to happen, because you know that there’s these floodgates of cashing. And I was around at the ’90s, I lived through the “.com” crash with my company. That is going to happen again at some point, that is going to happen and we’re going to react. It’s totally different, right? You don’t have to go through it the first time.


Yes, it’s interesting. I was reflecting on the first.com bust and the Market Tools because I think one of the questions you guys have sent me was about Survey Monkey, right?




And so, I think back to all – Survey Monkey and what happened between Market Tools and Survey Monkey. It’s like Harvard Business Review case. Some of it is just classic stuff, but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s really hard to see the forest through the trees.


You can’t.


And so, Market Tools, we were the first online survey platform and that was Zoomerang, DIY, won lots of awards for that in the years 2000.


Zoomerang, closed if I remember correctly, around ’99. Gosh, over $20 million in funding I think. It was a big, big round in those days.


In those days, right?


Yes, absolutely.


It was the high flying days and –


And definitely, the dominant – just because of the audience because maybe they don’t know, but they were the dominant force in the DIY survey platform.


That’s right.


They were the [CROSSTALK]


Yes, and my job actually, when I came on board, similar timing actually of coming on board at Survata, at that time I came out as an implementation manager because of the network experience. And so, I was the implementation manager for Ztelligence, which was the enterprise platform. There were no DIY consumer platforms [INAUDIBLE] and there were no enterprise platforms. And I think ConfimIt was starting around the same time. And actually, we saw ConfirmIt as more of a direct competitor to us at that time than Survey Monkey. Survey Monkey didn’t even get started until 2004.


That’s right.


I was four years into moving from San Francisco to Minneapolis to take on running the General Mills account and they started at Wisconsin above a record store. Today we think of them as Palo Alto, Silicon Valley and all that it is now, but they were not a treat at all. It was a classic you don’t think they are a treat until it’s too late. And so that was 2004 and we thought they were going to go under. They didn’t really get going until 2006 and get momentum. And so, by the time we realized they were a treat, they had too much momentum already. Unstoppable momentum. And so, we actually focused on building capabilities they didn’t have. So as opposed to just this race to be the same, we focused on what are the key things that could be different and in the end, those were the things that Survey Monkey actually ended up acquiring and also just the service base and everything else.


Yes, panel asset.


The zoom panel that we built, yes, we’ve built the zoom panel originally at General Mills. Then that went on to be our big consumer panel asset.


Such an interesting story. They had – I think one of the first things that stood out to me is when they first entered in 2004, it felt very copycat and then, no offense Survey Monkey people because I love them very much now, but at that point, I was like really. It felt like the same thing But then, like you said, about two years later, it felt like their marketing, I don’t know if they had funding or what happened, but it felt like –


Dave came on board and yes, he came on board and yes, I think it was a game changer for them at that point. And they focused on DIY, they focused on the long tail. We were, at Market Tools, we – so we pivoted to survive the.com boom and that’s what happened. That’s what changed things. We had to do that to survive. And so, should we have focused more on Zoomerang, maybe. But would have been around to talk about it, don’t know. So we pivoted into the panel, we’ve pivoted into full service research. We focused on big brands and enterprises, and they focused on that long focus of DIY.


That’s all they cared about.


So, you know, at the end that was what ended up driving the evaluation of the sale of Zoomerang too to Survey Monkey.


And congratulations to Survey Monkey because as you know, they recently filed their C1.


Yes, I’ve heard that.


So it’s kind of a big deal, big deal. I’m just watching them right now just to see what’s going to wind up with the evaluations. I’m excited for them. They are going to do well. So let’s shift gears. Survata right now, congratulations, series B. It’s a really, really big deal. What’s Survata doing that’s got you most excited and it’s getting purchased amongst your customers?


Survata us so exciting to me because I think I was so in the mobile kind of blinders on that it was all I was thinking about and when that wrapped up and when that chapter closed, I started looking around, realizing, really observing what was happening in the industry and thinking mobile is an important part to a research business, but it’s one piece. Online is one piece, mobile is one piece, they are component part to a much larger thing that’s going on with data collection and reaching the consumer. So as I look at Survata’s assets is our publisher network. So, Survata has two business lines, the marketing research part, which I’m responsible for, and the ad measurement business line. And thinking about how market research can apply ad measurement types of functionality and capabilities of market research is very exciting to me. So I’ll use an example of True Sample. If we think about True Sample, when we created that company, we weren’t inventing validating who people were. We were just inventing it in the market research industry. So the team looked towards the credits in the industry. It was a team who built True Sample. So my colleagues that were part of that. It was like how do people validate credit scores today and how do we take that concept and apply it to validating surveys as real and unique. So, that was take from one industry, apply to another and have new applications of how you can use. So as I think of Survata and market research, ad measurement, Survata started with market research and we have a strong – we have a survey platform. It’s really cool one. It’s Device Agnostic.




And it’s easy to use, very simple. But the secret sauce to that is it plugs into our publisher network. And that is for all intensive purposes, our intensive source. It’s an audience. It’s not a panel, but it’s access to publisher samples to what I call net two sample. So part of the challenge with panels is [INAUDIBLE] different. I love panels and they have a purpose, and we use panels on part of our business. But they are a lot of times you’re talking to the same people that have been part of a panel for a long time. The people that we access through our publisher networks are not on panels. The way that we incentive people is we unlock content. So they don’t get points, they don’t get gift cards or rewards. So we unlock Wi-Fi, we unlock Wall Street Journal articles. And so, when you’re on LinkedIn and you click on article, and it wants you to subscribe, and you think I don’t want to pull up my credit card right now, not going to read it or answer six questions, answer 10 questions, get it for free, I’ll do that. And so, while we may not be part of a panel, we might be willing to do that to get access to that service or that article, that app game, whatever it is. And so, we have a unique way of reaching audience and we have massive scale in the way that we can do that across the web. And so, our respondents are not your typical panel respondents, but we’ve got a lot of them, we’ve got them across all devices and we’ve got national rep sample going out the door. We don’t have to wait to balance it. You just go. So our survey platform is connected to survey wall and when people do surveys with us, they go up to the publisher network and you can do that in a DIY capacity. You can go to our platform, you can set up your survey, you can launch that survey and it gets send out to the publisher network and then you get your results.


Very unique. You know, in terms of how you accessing the completes, the user on the platform that’s very powerful. You obviously define the sample frame after you – or at some point during the project creation.


Right upfront, yes. You just click, age, gender, you set your parameters and then you just say how many people do I want. Do I want 100, do I want 500 and then drag, drop, setup your survey and boom, launch.


So, the unique selling proposition is really centric to the quality sample they are able to use on the Survata platform?


That’s right. We’ve done some research on research comparisons between traditional online panels and our publisher network. And the thing you don’t see on the publisher network is fraud because there’s no incentive. So you don’t see duplicate survey takers, you don’t see people lying and biasing the data to get through screener because you can’t stop pile free Wi-Fi. You can’t exchange free Wi-Fi for cash or gift cards. And so, there’s no incentive. It’s hard to do because of the way we deliver the surveys to begin with, but then on top of that, there’s no incentive to lie through the screeners because you’re not trying to game it in any way.


Super interesting. I’d love to see that white paper. Maybe we can put that in the show notes.


Absolutely, yes. I can share some information with you on that.


That would be great. My guest today has been Dyna with Survata. Dyna, thank you so much for joining me today.


Thank you.

Ep. 119 – Kristi Zuhlke, CEO of KnowledgeHound

Today, my guest is Kristi Zuhlke, CEO & founder of KnowledgeHound. KnowledgeHound is a search driven analytics platform that enables anyone to find answers and tell stories with their customer survey data.

Prior to KnowledgeHound, Kristi worked on the Tampax and Always brands at Procter and Gamble, as well as developed retail strategy.


Twitter: @zulk10

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristizuhlke/ https://www.knowledgehound.com/



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Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. Today my guest is Kristi Zuhlke, CEO and founder of KnowledgeHound. KnowledgeHound is a search-driven analytics platform that enables users to find answers and tell stories with their customer survey data. Prior to KnowledgeHound, Kristi worked on the Tampax and Always brands at Procter & Gamble, as well as developed the retail strategy. Kristi, thank you very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thanks. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.


I like jumping right into – it’s hard for me to postpone the getting to KnowledgeHound piece, but our audience has found it particularly interesting learning about the backgrounds of our guests, and then ultimately what wound up leading them into their current careers.


No problem.


Would you tell us a little bit about your parents, what they do and how that informed what you’re doing today?


Sure. So my mother was a part time nurse and full time mother growing up. And at one point she even though retired from nursing and started her own retail, online retail store. It was interesting. She – it was right during the dot-com boom. And so she was always a very cold person, and so she always wanted hats and scarves and mittens. So she created an online retailer that sold warm clothing to women. And of course when that bust happened, that didn’t work out, but very entrepreneurial journey for her, and I watched her go through that. And then my father, he grew up on a farm, which is probably one of the most entrepreneurial things you can do. And he really wanted to be a farmer, but his parents said, hey, you know what, we’re really poor, and we do not want you to be poor as well, so don’t be a farmer. So he instead went and started working for a utility company in Wisconsin, and worked his way up from picking rocks in the field to being the executive that ran their wind energy business, so very entrepreneurial in thinking as well.


God, I love that story about both of your parents. As you know, I went through that whole dot-com phase. Started – Jamie [ph] and I started Decipher along with Evan Andreas [ph] in 2000, and then lost 93% of our business in a three hour period during that dot-com bust. So it was a little bit white knuckle ride there for a year. So I respect tremendously what your parents went through. Your dad is super interesting. So coming from humble beginnings, hard work, sounds like it was part of your culture, core values.


Yes, absolutely. We always were taught hard work. Also, my dad still owns the farm that he grew up on, and so we still go up to Wisconsin and plant trees and do all kinds of work on the farm as well.


How big is the farm?


So it’s over 400 acres of land, and it – we don’t have any animals on it now. We mostly grow trees and make it a place that deer and turkeys and all these things that we want to hunt will come and live, so that we can live off that land.


I am an avid – my father’s from Arkansas, and so we’ll go back once every other year or so and do a bow hunt.


Oh, yeah.


And I’ve tried wild turkey a few times. Unfortunately, always come up with a big zero on that one. But –


Because it’s not easy, not easy.


No it’s not, and it’s certainly not in my natural skill either, unfortunately. I wish it was. It’s a fun process though, the whole camouflage part of it, and the –


Oh yeah, calling them in, and any – it’s definitely a good way to get back to our roots as humans, in my opinion. It’s a – you really have to know the land. You have to think like an animal. You have to think about what they love to eat, and how you can sit near something that they would love to eat. It really kind of puts you in touch with nature, and goes – kind of goes back to our roots and how we used to think as humans thousands of years ago.


Such an important point, an opportunity for people to connect with nature. And if hunting isn’t the thing, I think about fishing frequently. Fly fishing, you don’t actually have to use a fly rod for it, but you can use flies, and as – you need to pay attention to what things, what insects are hatching at that particular point in time in that particular location so that you can make sure you have the right flies that are in line with where nature is at that point. And then – so it’s a – I love that educational component, and really connecting, as you said, with what’s going on around us.




Felix [ph] – it’s a company you started at Xavier about – and you ran it for, gosh, seven years? Is that right?


So I actually ran it – so the way that it worked was, it was – so it was a movie rental store, which makes me feel really old. There was a gap – I noticed – I realized there was a gap on our campus for people to have a way to rent movies, and so I went out and created a movie rental store. It was called FliX [ph] with a capital X, because obviously, Xavier and Flix, whatever. Anyway, so I went and got a loan from the student government, and they gave me a very low interest rate on the loan, and started the first student run and owned business on the campus. And then the idea with that, we would get interns, and “we” meaning myself, and there were two other guys who worked with me. And we would get ourselves interns, and then we would prep them and groom them to then own the store, so we would pass it on to generations after us. And then it was also set up as a nonprofit, so that when we did have profits, they would go back to the scholarship fund for the university.


So key lessons there, when you think about the transference of knowledge from – you said generation, right? It’s that class cohort.




There’s a lot of learning involved in what’s in – what that means. How do you actually do that?


Oh, I had no idea what I was doing in general, so that was – there was so much learning from both the legal side, and I [INAUDIBLE] up to, how do you do that? How do you manage people, and how do you give them so much responsibility that they want to take over something after your time at the university is over?


I wish that universities did a better job of – across the board of creating that entrepreneurial opportunity at an earlier stage in people’s careers, maybe even at the high school level. I feel like the lessons that we learn when it’s our vision are so much greater than when we just plug into the workforce post-graduation. It allows us to see really the whole thing, and then also learn how we can fill the gaps ourselves.


Oh, absolutely. And I think that the hard part is, when you learn by owning something or leading something, it’s some – it can be very painful. And so I think academia can sometimes protect us from the pain, which is great because as humans, we’re naturally wanting to avoid painful circumstances. But at the same time, we won’t learn as much. So it’s maybe an easier route to go, but it’s certainly not the way at least that I learn the most.


So on the subject of being a student – and then post-graduation, of course everyone’s looking for a job, they want to put that knowledge to work – if you were a recent graduate or someone interested in entering into the insights arena from a career perspective, what advice would you give them in terms of how they can get a job?


So I found my job at Procter & Gamble, and the way that I found it was through my network. And so when I was at Xavier, I – because I started FliX, I sat at on the board of entrepreneurship for the university representing the student body. And there was a woman who also sat on the board of entrepreneurship at Xavier who was a director of insights at P&G. And she – that’s how we met; she was on the board representing entrepreneurship. And so she was like, what are you going to do when you graduate? I was like, I’m not really sure yet. She’s like, why don’t you come to P&G and we’ll teach you how to grow a billion dollar brand and how to be a leader, and then someday you can go start your own business again? And I was like, that sounds like a great idea. So it was really through my network that I found a job in marketing and insights, but I – the reason why P&G hired me was because of my leadership. So they really looked at – and they hire – so P&G is unique in that they don’t necessarily look at what degree you have. They hire a lot of people who have Spanish degrees or English degrees, history, political science. It’s very interesting. But what they look at most is what leadership positions you had. Did you start a company? Did you – were you a leader in a club? Were you leading a movement on your campus? What are those – can you be a leader? And they – their philosophy is, they can teach you the skills that you need to know. They will – that – they’re just looking for someone who’s ambitious and a leader. Now, I don’t think that’s most cases for most companies, so I think really it’s about networking with people early on in this field that you want to be in, and figuring out what it takes to get hired at their organization, what skill sets are they looking for. But I would bet that most of them would say leadership is key. So think about how many things can you be involved in and take a leadership role in as well.


Insight nation, this point that Kristi just made is huge. Two things stand out. One is the importance of developing your personal network. You can do that best in person where you are among your classmates and among your professors. The quote that comes to my mind is what Yoda said: Do or do not, there is no try. And it’s all about starting. You want to start – if you’re going to be a researcher or aspire to be a researcher, do research projects. It doesn’t even matter what they’re on; you can go to a small – local small business. It could be the bookstore on campus. Do a customer satisfaction, or intercept at the doors where you talk to people – how was your experience? What could the bookstore do better? Put that on your resume. It is a big differentiator from the people that have just spent time in the classrooms and focusing on grades.


I totally agree.


So what are the three characteristics of an all-star employee? And I’d like you to reflect on that in terms of both in the corporate environment, but then also as a startup.


So I think the number one thing of the employees that I am just over the moon about at KnowledgeHound, and with a consistent quality at P&G when I worked there, was that when you give them a problem to solve, they not only solve the problem, but they came back with two more additional solutions. So it was kind of like when you give someone one thing and they give you back three. And it’s this way that people see a bigger picture. They don’t just execute; they go above and beyond. So I think that is the number one thing that you can do to be the most productive employee for a company. I think the number two thing is really about being passionate about what you’re doing, and that means learning in the office and outside the office. So what are you doing in the evenings? You’re networking, reading a book. There’s extroverts – get a lot out of networking and learn a lot that way. Introverts get a lot out of reading. So whatever matches your style – you – it doesn’t mean you have to go to all these networking events. You can match it to your personal style. And then the third thing I would say is that really, it’s being proactive. So even when I don’t present you a problem and say, hey, come back and give me something, it’s being proactive and saying, hey, there’s actually a problem over here and I’m going to go solve it, and here’s the solution. I love that. That is the best thing an employee can do, is say, I see an opportunity, and let me go fix it.


Lifelong learner – I love that point. Recently I hired three staff; the people that I wound up hiring were – for example, we have a vlogger. It was – she actually had an active vlog on YouTube, was working on [INAUDIBLE sounds like: SEO], paying attention to how – the content that she was going to provide, how it related to current events to ultimately drive her viewership, her subscribers, level of engagement. All that activity, she was doing before she started working for me, so I knew she had a body of knowledge that she could transfer. But the thing that excited me the most about her was she had the capacity to figure out how to get stuff done. And that’s one of the reasons that I encourage all my employees, if they want to have side hustles or whatever, that – go ahead and pursue those things, because it’ll only make you a better employee and provide more value along the whole value chain. I think a lot of times people, especially right out of school, get locked into, this is my part of the process. But as you said, the people that are really valuable, they extend up and down that process chain so that the more comprehensive view they take, ultimately the better value they’ll add, because they’re identifying areas of inefficiency, etc.




So while you were at Procter & Gamble, I’m really curious, how does Procter & Gamble process, use insights to make business decisions?


Well, what do you mean by process and use? I guess that’s – there’s –


Where’s the inception point of, we need to do a research project now?


Oh. Well, so everything is led by a business problem. So – and this isn’t exactly how it works, but let’s say in a bubble, you start at the beginning of your fiscal year, and you go, what are all – what are the key things that we need to achieve this year? We need to grow share on – I’m making this up, but we need to grow share on Tide. So we know that’s the big broad question. We do some analysis on – some internal analysis on what core consumers we want to focus on. We probably have a segmentation that we use, and so we know that we have a huge share opportunity with a specific type of consumer. And so that’s where everything stems from at that point. Then we go through, here’s all of our hypotheses; now let’s go bust those. And we make a list of all the research that we need to do in order to achieve those objectives. And what I loved about P&G is they really taught me how to think about research that delivers an ROI back to the business. I think there’s oftentimes – now in the position I’m in at KnowledgeHound, I see a lot of insights functions where they don’t do a great job at explaining to the organization the ROI that they’re delivering. And I – and P&G would even say that they’re not – they have opportunity area here as well. But it’s – the key here is that, how do you make sure that you’re not viewed as a cost on the P&L, but rather a revenue driver? And the way to do that is to deliver research that drives – has a direct link to driving revenue. And what P&G did that was a really good practice I thought was, whenever they would do a study, there was always success criteria afterwards. And that success criteria – and before, we – when we were setting up the research, that success criteria was aligned to, decided upon, and everyone [INAUDIBLE] like, that means success for this. And that success criteria would be based on how it was going to drive revenue. And I think that’s really important to understand as an insight person, is that you’re not there to drive insights. You’re there to drive revenue, and your way of doing that is through insight. But at the end of the day, the business cares about revenue, and I don’t think I ever grasped that when I was at P&G. I think the first time I really got that was when I became a CEO of a company.


Oh my gosh. Probably my favorite quote I’ve heard so far interviewing everybody.




I love that. Listen, it’s not my job to deliver insights; it’s my job to deliver revenue. That puts such a profound focus on how I spend my time and what I need to deliver to the organization that moves the organization’s revenue numbers. It’s all about that.


That’s right. And I think especially when we get inside these large companies, the revenue, it becomes a magical number. It’s just like a number that shows up. Your salary shows up in your checking account magically, and you forget how that got there, and you forget that, oh, I actually needed to sell X many number of [INAUDIBLE] at Walmart to make that happen. But because you just start in a large organization and the money shows up automatically in your checking account, you forget that you’re actually directly linked to that. And until you really start your own business, or at least until I started my own business, did I realize, oh, every single thing I do on a daily basis is reflected in what happens with my checking account at the end of the month.


It’s huge. It’s a huge point; it’s on point. Thank you for that. So when you think about the impact of an ROI view on insights, do you think that’s part of what’s fueling the shift [INAUDIBLE sounds like: and spin] in our industry with a transition away from these long, large trackers, and more towards nimble, ad hoc based work?


Absolutely. I think there is – I think the pressure is becoming great – I think two things are happening. One is, the pressure is getting greater on companies to move faster. And so it’s like, we need to drive revenue faster, so how do we make decisions faster? And so what that is resulting in is that they’re either going – they’re just either going to make their decision without the insights, or when the insight’s conveniently there, they’ll make it with it. And so we are being forced in the insight function to go fast. The [INAUDIBLE] happening is that millennials are growing up inside these organizations, and millennials are used to getting things instantly. They have – they’ve all grown up with Google; they’ve all grown up with an iPhone. They’ve all – everything is instant gratification, and so they have no patience for the long cycle of going, here’s my business question, now let’s wait four weeks until we get the answer. That’s unacceptable to a millennial, and they will get scrappy and figure out how to get that answer, regardless if it comes from insights or not. And so as the insight function, we absolutely need to adopt these new technologies and embrace these new technologies so that we can be agile and make sure we stay relevant, because we will become obsolete in my opinion if we don’t – if we aren’t agile enough.


The shift in the generational focus to scrappiness, as you say, is on point also. I see that a lot with young researchers who haven’t been steeped in my two decades of, well, this is how a survey question needs to be asked; these are the three questions that always have to be at the beginning of my screening criteria. The fact that they’re starting with a speed to insight mentality is really driving significant behavior shifts in our space, and I think for the better, to be honest.


I agree. I think also there’s – a shift that’s also happening is, it’s good enough, versus, the data have to be absolutely perfect and pure. And that’s a really hard shift for many of our friends who have been in the – who are the purest market researchers who’ve been in the industry for 20-plus years. And there is unfortunately – with moving fast, there is a bit of a compromise. And so we, as insight professionals, need to get better at triangulating three different data points that may not be perfect, but being – saying, this is good enough to make – and the risk is this low that we can just go forward. And that’s a different mentality than what we’ve had in the past.


It’s interesting. I love this point. The – having started my career doing in – mall intercepts, doing telephone based surveys, I am – there’s probably not a lot of people that know how dirty the data really is, or was, I should say, in those golden years. But I take your point entirely and agree with it. So you’re at Procter & Gamble; obviously you recognize there’s an opportunity. What was that opportunity, that white space, to propel KnowledgeHound?


So I think it’s actually very similar to what we have been talking about, which is agility. So the story that I tell often is that I was in a meeting; our GM of male grooming at the time, Chip, turned to me and he’s like, Kristi, what percent of men shave in the shower? And I was like, I’m sure we know that. And I was actually thinking in my head about the banner tables that we get back from our suppliers, and I’m like, I’m sure it’s on tab 200-and-something on some banner table somewhere. And –


It’s 55% though I think. I just saw it on the Web site. Sorry, go ahead.


And in – so that’s where the genesis of KnowledgeHound came from, which I was like, hey, this is silly that I can’t just have a Google-like experience with my data. And so I set out to create the Google of market research data. Now, that’s ebbed and flowed throughout the past five years. That’s exactly what we are, and the market’s taken us one direction, and now we’re coming back to another. But it’s been really interesting in solving this problem for the insights world, because it was one that was felt and is still being felt today, and by many, many insights functions.


So the tension being, there’s this vast amount of data that exists inside of people’s inboxes at large corporations, and even inside of research management tools. But being able to find that data in an easy way is very, very difficult, and then being able to incorporate that in a broader view is difficult. How has the market created a pivot for you?


So it was interesting. When we started the company, the – we – I was like, here’s this amazing tool where you can search any data that you want. And they said, oh, this is great, but you know what, I just need to search my PowerPoints and my Word documents first; I can’t even get that done. And I wasn’t really excited about doing that piece, and – but in order to close deals, that’s what we needed to do. So we really kind of – the market brought us back, in my opinion brought us back, to square one, which was, hey, you’re at the one phase; we’re at the crawl phase, so come back and help us index our PowerPoints, and then we’ll get to the data later. And so we spent a couple years trying to go back a bit, and now we’re back on, now let’s think about data. And finally the market’s catching up with us on this whole data piece.


Because the structure of the data is the issue, right?




How do you identify and pull out survey based data, which all has – wrapped up in meta, so you understand this is a multi or single or open end or whatever data structure. But how do you make sense of that and then make sure that it matches other stuff? So if it’s a gender or age question, it’s a little bit easier mapping that across other projects. Is – has the problem been the metadata issue inside of the different survey platforms? Or –


Yeah, so I think the – for our clients, it was really – it was more so – they just were so lost in curating their own knowledge. So for them, the problem was, hey, I can’t get to my PowerPoints and my Word documents. But for us, from a data standpoint, we are – we’re more so like, well, how do we take the brain out of getting you a data point? So for us, it’s actually been less about the data structure. It’s been more about the user experience, and how do you get someone who’s never done analytics, never done a cross-tab before, never done a filter on data, to understand how to do that, or even eliminate that step so that when they ask a question, they can get right to the data point that they want, versus having to layer on top a filter, having to create a cross-tab?


So it’s a lot like Statistica for research.


Yeah, exactly.


The – I want to hone in on this Statistica connection. Has the organizational adoption been a barrier? In other words, they already have a way of getting, quote-unquote, their insight, whether it’s just some manual digging, and they’re used to that and they’re just unwilling to start in an unstructured way, like a Google search.


So the adoption actually hasn’t – so we’ve got a full – so on the adoption piece, it’s really about, how do you get into someone else’s work flow? How do you work your way into their day so that they need – they think, oh, first I use KnowledgeHound, then I use this tool, then I use that tool? And it really is fitting in part of their day to drive adoption, whereas – and so we have a whole client success team that helps people do this, because habit change is really, really hard. And so really, it’s about staying top of mind for them, how to get into a work flow that they currently have. And that’s what’s really important about driving adoption, is making sure we’re there at that point when they need us, and we’re top of mind for them.


What is KnowledgeHound offering right now that’s getting the most purchase in the market?


So we – it is our data offering, which is the ability to search across every single consumer survey platform you’ve ever done and generate charts on the fly. So a company like a P&G could go in and be like, percent of people that – I’m making this up, but percent of people that shave in the shower. There you go, example from before. They can go in now and type that in and get their data point instantly. So really we are serving a data management, helping people think about, how do I manage all this data that I have? We are that solution for them, and that’s what’s getting the most traction today.


Last question. Really want to crack into your entrepreneurial roots here. What is the one secret that you have – I can’t believe I’m asking; this is awesome. What is the one secret that you have that drives either profitability, growth, or overall success for a startup?


Oh my gosh. There isn’t just one thing. And I don’t even know if it’s a secret, but you know –

Ep. 118 – Jake Pryzlak, Purveyor of Research Geek

Today, my guest is Jake Pryszlak. Based in London, Jake works in the marketing research technology space, has extensive experience in marketing analytics for the sports industry, is an avid-blogger and speaker. We first met 2 months ago on Twitter.



Twitter: @Jake_pryszlak

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacobpryszlak/?originalSubdomain=uk



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Ep. 117 – Rogier Verhulst, Director of Market Research at LinkedIn

My guest today is Rogier Verhulst, Director of Market Research at LinkedIn. Launched in 2003, LinkedIn is the dominant social networking platform for today’s professionals with over 500 million members in 200 countries.

Prior to joining LinkedIn, Rogier was a restaurant manager in the Netherlands and has worked at both Research International and Microsoft.


Twitter: @rogier_verhulst

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rogierverhulst/



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Hi. I’m Jamin Brazil and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. My guest today is Rogier Verhulst, director of market research at LinkedIn. Launched in 2003, LinkedIn is the dominant social networking platform for today’s professionals. With over 500 million members in 200 countries. Prior to joining LinkedIn, Rogier was a restaurant manager in the Netherlands and has worked at both Research International and Microsoft. Rogier, thank you very much for joining me today.


Yeah. No. I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me.


So we’re sitting inside of your offices in San Francisco.


That’s right.


Thank you very much for hosting us today. We’re thrilled to be here. For all of us, it’s a thrill anytime we can come visit a big brand. I’m sure it kind of wears off for you as you walk in but anyway, we spent a good five minutes in front of the LinkedIn signage doing selfies and updating our social media. I know. It’s just that big of a fan boy. One of our signature questions has become centric to where you come from and what has formed your career today? So could you tell us a little bit about your parents, what they did, and how they helped move you to where you are today at LinkedIn?


Yeah. So my parents are both in education. They were both teachers. And I think if you think of market research there’s a big aspect to it that has to do with educating, educating your stakeholders on what’s happening in the marketplace and doing research is sort of an academic exercise. So obviously the notion of education is really important to us when we grew up. Some of that probably rubbed off in terms of my curiosity for looking at human behavior, studying human behavior, and translate that into solving problems for the business. So I think not exactly my parent’s didn’t tell me like you should go into market research but I think there was definitely some of that was rubbing off in terms of their emphasis on my education, emphasis on studying, and which inherently is what market research is about.


Yeah, I mean market research at a fundamental level is a scientific test. So it’s build a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, and then be objective in terms of the learning so that makes perfect sense. The educational component is a little bit more I guess abstract and what I mean by that is 10, even 20 years ago market research was I think more of a checkbox for companies and now it has moved a lot more into being a driver of decisions. So how does that fit inside of what you’re doing right now?


Yeah, I think market research – I mean back in the day when I was back in school you didn’t have a formalized degree in market research. If you ask one of my peers most people say they kind of rolled into it. They were either on their path to becoming a PhD or doing something academic but felt like they couldn’t get comfortable with the pace or weren’t quite ready to do publications. And so you see a lot of these people kind of move in market research but very rarely do you hear people say like I was born and from the day that I was born I wanted to be a market researcher. So it’s kind of unusual. Me in my case, I love doing – I always had curiosity and I loved kind of observing humans and studying that and I love the part of writing reports about it and sharing it with the world. I think market research here at LinkedIn has evolved quite a bit. I think it’s come from more of a, kind of like you said, a checkbox kind of thing to something that executives really look for answers on questions that quite frankly they cannot answer with just looking at data or financial metrics. More and more companies are realizing that you need to ask the questions to your customers or member to really understand what are you building and where do you find product market fit. I think we’ve come a long way. I think there’s still a lot of room for elevating the world of market research within organizations. There’s still a little bit of a stigma that things take a long time but I think that technology has come a long way in terms of being more agile and data begets data. So when there’s more data, people are naturally inclined to understand what is the motivation or what’s the why behind that data. So I think you’re absolutely right. I think market research is a growing field. I expect it to grow pretty rapidly in the next couple years.


Yeah, so do I. I’m really excited about – I feel like market research finally is having some tailwinds from a visibility perspective. It’s almost like we’ve been relegated to the kids’ table and we’ve finally gotten through college now and the parents are willing to sit and have a drink with us.




I think it’s a super-relevant.


Yeah. No. There are some great programs. We hired a few people from the University of Georgia, University of Michigan. They have very good programs among research now, which we didn’t have 10, 15 years ago. And so I think there’s much more focus around it in the same way that you see a lot of focus on product management and product managers.




And so it’s really a growing field. Yeah.


Yeah. Part of our audience is aspiring researchers. These are either recent grads like you said, Georgia, Michigan. They’re looking at how do I enter in and penetrate the marketing research world. What are some steps they could take in order to set them apart from their peers so that a company like LinkedIn, yourself would be interested in hiring them?


Yeah. I think the most important thing is kind of your heart is in the right place. I think a lot of people still make decisions in their careers with like I want to be in that world, I want to be a doctor or a lawyer just because it’s going to make me more money or because this is going to get me to where I want to be. But I think the most important thing for people to realize even if they come out of a program from University of Georgia or Michigan that they really have the heart in the right place, they’re passionate about data, they have a natural curiosity for studying human behavior, studying why people make certain preferences for certain products. So I think that’s really important. That’s number one. I think the second thing is – and I tell people this. It’s like you know rather than jumping into one of those cache brands over LinkedIn or Facebook, one of the best education you can get actually is on the vendor side and working with a variety of companies, on a variety of kind of problems to get a breadth of understanding and variety of understanding. Now what you don’t get from working on the vendor side is you don’t get sort of to see how things get implemented or how it drives particular decisions. So at the same token, I always kind of advise people when they’re early on is to look for kind of roles that are sort of related to market research but maybe more closer to the user, the end user or the end customer. For example UEI or customer success even. These roles, which give you kind of a good role and an affinity for what the customer or end user is feeling about the products. And so combining those assets will set you kind of apart from the other market researchers. But I’d say those are the most important things. So obviously you need to understand the fundamentals of market research. But beyond that it’s really looking for like experiences that will help you understand either give you sort of general business understanding or general understanding of how decisions get made within organizations.


Yeah, I think that there’s a lot of – I’ve obviously spent my career almost exclusively on the agency side of things, servicing small and large firms. And I get a massive swatch of types of project exposure, qualitative and quantitative in nature, which is really exciting. But you’re right, it’s much more of a short-term life cycle and one of the things – I used to do a lot of work with Visa. As they matured their data management systems, it was very evident to me that I was actually missing on the 90 percent – in other words, once the data was delivered and the why was declared, then there’s a bunch of things that happen and being able to – and you lose that visibility on the vendor side, which is just sort of like satisfaction I think that a person could get out of it. So it would be helpful probably to have both.


Yeah, you need to have both but I think when I look at some of the most successful hires we’ve made, I mean they have had sort of this vendor experience early on. It’s good schooling in terms of not just looking at the theory I think you learn in school but how do things work out in practice. And it gives you kind of the underpinnings and help you kind of accelerate. I think when you come out of school, you have a marketing research degree, and you go into a company often times the problems you’re facing may be more limiting. You may not be exposed to all of these techniques that you would be on the vendor side. So it’s a good first move.


There is a lot of bailing wire and duct tape on the agency side, putting things together right. So you develop this like scrappy nature of just how to get stuff done. This just came up in a conversation I recently had where the person had grown up on the vendor side, now has moved onto the brand side, and she said I can operate at a macro level. So in other words setting vision and understanding objectives but if I need to I can roll my sleeves up and get it done. Right.


Exactly. That’s the other advantage. Like you kind of know enough but you’re not just becoming a project manager, a program manager, but you actually can.


Yeah, you can add value at the logistical level as well.




For sure. Three characteristics of an all-star employee.


Well, I think this sounds kind of obvious but obviously you need to have analytical horsepower, analytical skills and problem-solving skills. That’s just like number one. I rarely would ask anyone on that that doesn’t have that capacity to do. So you want to demonstrate – this is obviously through the coursework you’ve done – being able to distill information, large amounts of information through insights. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be just quant; it can also be qualitative. I think the second thing is really I mean obviously you need to have technical skills, but more important is that you have sort of the influencing skills that you can take a particular insight and influence the organization to take action. It’s one thing to kind of understand kind of the research and what the findings are but in translating it to kind of the so-what and now-what is almost equally important than coming up with the insight in the first place. I’d say that’s number two. I think the third thing is being proactive. I think often times organizations are moving at a certain pace. And so you need to understand kind of where’s the business, what are the problems that the business is facing and look at it a little more holistically. Otherwise, often times the research you’re doing it’s kind of doing confirmatory research, just kind of validating what the executive wants to hear or know.


More of that old-school checkbox.


Yeah, versus like you want to be a little bit more provocative and looking at the data maybe from the perspective of what was the data really telling me that maybe is a little bit different than I wasn’t expecting, what was the surprise here. And so then be proactive about communicating the insight back to the organization. So the ability to have that takes a certain experience and skill set. You have to be provocative. You have to be able to sort of get up in front of fairly executive people, particularly when you go in front of sort of a big brand, you quickly find yourself actually in a room with a lot of VPs. So you need to be strong in terms of how you make your arguments and how you make sometimes very provocative statements. So it requires also to build a kind of trust and credibility.




Internally. That relationship-building aspect is really important as well.


That is one of the things I’ve seen very successful corporate researchers do an amazing job of managing their personal brand internally just handling the political dynamics of the room. So how is LinkedIn using insights today, and what I mean by that is you’re a piece of an inside of a machine and it’s driving things like business outcomes, marketing spend decisions, etc. And the second part of that is really what sort of tools or techniques are you employing?[00:11:34]

Yeah. So the way I always kind of think about our role is that we play sort of in theory. Like one is we provide metrics that are suggesting what the health of the business is. So to help us understand how strong the relationships are that we have with our customers or members to things like NPS or customer satisfaction. So metrics that are not necessarily financially related, but gives a little bit richer insight in terms of what’s really going on in the minds of our customers and members. So it’s kind of like what I found about the business health and brand metrics and brand formal metrics is part of that, but also churn and why is churn happening on our accounts. I think the second thing is kind of this deep question around where should we play, like who are the markets that we’re going after, what do the audiences look like, so segmentation will often be applied, understanding kind of the competitive landscape. So what’s the arena we’re playing in with different products. Obviously we have a lot of different business lines. The competitors we’re up against in our talent solutions business are very different than competitors in marketing solutions or sales solutions. So understanding that landscape and the board of dynamics is sort of like where to play. And then the last category is really like how do we win. So how do we differentiate ourselves from for example Indeed, how do we differentiate ourselves from Facebook or Google when it comes to ad buying in the ad space. Yeah, that’s generally how LinkedIn uses and leverages the insights that we’re producing and sort of informs those three big questions of business health, where to play, and how to win.


It’s interesting that you play such a role – you mentioned churn. So can you talk a little bit more about how you guys are employed in that proces


Yeah. So an example would be we have sort of what I call kind of foundational studies or studies that are running sort of on an ongoing basis. And so when churn is happening at an account level, we want to understand why is the customer churning. And so we would often times follow up with a survey to just kind of understand is it because of mac-economic situations; is it because of competitive pressures; or is it because of things that we are missing in our product like dissatisfaction with the product. So research is often the only way in which you can understand kind of what is the right sort of mix of variables that influence that churn decision and how much can we control versus how much we can’t control.


So just – sorry, I’m a logistics guy. So logistically speaking, the person churns for the audience means they stop being a customer. An example could be the LinkedIn business – the name is escaping me now.


Yeah. Talent solutions or marketing solutions.


Marketing solutions. That’s right. Yep. And then you follow up with a survey directly?


Yeah, so essentially someone can obviously when there’s a new – there are a lot of times the way our business works is like we have renewals. And so the annual renewal comes up and the customer is spending less than the prior year. So if that’s a significant amount less than what they were spending last year, that’s a churn signal and we call that partial churn. And the other extreme is like people completing churning and stop being a customer altogether. So both situations we want to kind of understand what the dynamics are.


So a follow-up with a survey.




Do you do qualitative in-depth interviews or try?


Absolutely. We do that as well. I mean qualitative tends to be – it used to be that quantitative was very time consuming and qualitative was fast.


Remember the good old days.


The world has changed where qualitative now is arguably actually slower than quant. So we tend to do more I’d say quantitative research than qualitative, but we do qualitative research too when we really want to get a deep understanding of the issues that people may have around usability of our site or the user interface or really try to understand kind of what are their motivations. So we definitely have a mix of things that we do. And often times we have – we have created these sort of insights communities where we can do discussion forums and discuss things fairly quickly around a particular topic or issue.


Are you using any specific technologies that might be outside of the market research arena?


I’m not sure quite how you define outside the market research arena. We obviously are dabbling in things like mirror imaging and more of the advanced ways of getting sort of signals that are not the traditional survey instrument. It’s like an online survey or an interview. And so yeah, we’re playing with some of these techniques, what are some of the logistical challenges around how do you bring people in a lab and how do you make sure it’s representative. There are some questions around that. But yeah, we’re absolutely looking at other ways of doing or doing interviews at scale where you have interview bots where the bots sort of responding and answering questions as they come in. So we haven’t done that last one yet but that’s something that I’m intrigued by as well.


That’s super-interesting. The whole qualitative at scale that’s now empowered by AI. I think that space for market research is going to solve a lot of problems because it lets you get to that qualitative why that has been – is very difficult to do.


Yeah, exactly. And then you layer in sort of sophisticated text analytics where you can look at the sentiments or you can derive what the themes are that are coming up through essentially doing interviews at scale. And that to me is really interesting. That’s going to be really interesting.


For sure. So how are you seeing tech disrupt what is traditional market research? I’ll pick on the Decipher platform for a minute.


No, the interesting thing is I don’t think tech has quite disrupted market research like in ways that it has disrupted some other industries in the sense that it’s replacing people or it’s replacing things or processes that we naturally would have done. I think what it’s doing is it’s actually adding more to the toolkit or the toolbox of the market researcher. It’s allowing us to do things that used to be harder to do. It makes us more agile. It allows us to do things in more real time. I’ve seen some disruption in terms of the digital transformation in terms of like everything is moving to the internet. So you see a lot of companies do a lot of AB testing and sort of testing themselves to what they perceive to be their perfect products or they’re arguably people recognizing you need to understand the motivation behind it. So things that we’re doing less of than I think 15 years ago like conjoint studies, like these heavy duty sort of tradeoff exercises that are lengthy and very sort of cumbersome on the respondents and you see more and more being replaced with like AB testing. But like I said, I think where technology has been really powerful in addition to the interview bots and like mirror imaging and I think it’s going to be also very interesting how it plays out in terms of plan measurement in terms of how you derive sort of the signal from a large volume of data to understand kind of what’s the brand trying to – or how well is the brand regarded when it comes to trust. So I think we’ll start to see a lot of investments in that regard as well. But again, the core idea of looking at data, interpreting it, making meaning out of it, I think that’s core. That’s sort of where market research sits and I think it will continue to play a really important role in that.


How is storytelling being changed inside of research?


I think storytelling – I mean short stories, more sound bites. And so can you come up with things that are shorter as opposed to the 20, 30 PowerPoint deck – slide PowerPoint deck. Can you – how do we know that specific insight that drives that particular action. I think that’s how storytelling has changed so the story becomes more of like a mini version of that. Also I think how storytelling has changed or what I’ve seen especially over the last 12 months is like you can’t just leave the story with cold facts. You need to make it emotional, you need to make it – you need to connect it to a more deeper emotional feeling in order for it to have an impact. So what we’ve learned over the last 12 to 18 months is that when executives look at the data and the statistics, if you can out men them, make it come alive with some of the qualitative findings or qualitative quotes or videos it just lands much more effectively.


I had a presentation about four years ago where it was an Amazon versus eBay study. And the – and actually co-presented the paper. There were slides, normal, and on every slide where we presented data we would have a video of a respondent actually addressing the point of the slide, the headline of the slide, which then informed the data. And it had a lot more impact at the executive level than any presentation I’d ever given before.


That’s a great analogy. I think the one I always refer to is the sea turtles. We’ve known for a long time that sea turtles are an endangered species and they’ve been using a lot of cold facts to make that point but people didn’t start to take note of it until they saw that turtle that was wrapped around in plastic and the whole world became disgusted by it and so many people are paying much more attention to it. So making that connection at that point yeah, is really important. And I think that’s what a quote does and the voice of a human being does.


It’s almost like in thinking about what makes a video go viral, it’s sort of that same mentality but for market researchers, which traditionally we’ve been a little bit more on the boring side I would say.


Absolutely. We’re changing that


Yeah, a little bit. What is the number one gap that you’ve experienced working on the brand side. In other words, if you wake up in the morning, gosh darn it, if this one thing was fixed or I wish somebody would address this.


Yeah, I think the world is getting – it’s easier nowadays for people to do a survey, with Survey Monkey we decipher, you have these insight communities and so it makes it really easy for anyone in an organization to launch a survey. And quite frankly what we find ourselves in is we do quite a bit of education and people think that they are a market researcher but there’s a real craft to sort of design a questionnaire, interpreting the data, formulating hypotheses. And so I think where there’s a gap is in terms of just consulting and education and making sure that market research is not confined to the market research group anymore. Market research is – it’s everywhere and it’s embedded in the entire organization. And so the ability of the market research industry on the vendor side to sort of recognize that and to be able to help the market research function, the central function with sort of like here’s how we best can equip the rest of the organization to sort of do their own surveys and get to the answers quickly.


So what is LinkedIn doing right now that has opportunity to add value to the market research space so our listeners.


Yeah, I mean LinkedIn is a great platform obviously just to find a job, but it’s also a great platform to learn. And so we acquired [INAUDIBLE] a couple years ago, which just actually we have access to a really rich library of online courses. And I happened to take a look at it the other day and we have a pretty vast sort of collection of market research courses that are very targeted, very specific, around specific skills. So that’s one thing I would encourage people to check out. I think the other thing we haven’t historically invested a lot in sort of groups, LinkedIn groups, but there are a couple of market research-oriented groups on LinkedIn. There’s the market research professional group on LinkedIn, which has about 90,000 members. And so people share interesting articles and engage in a way there to sort of get up to speed on the latest. So I’d say that’s one. And I think the last one is a lot of people think of LinkedIn again as sort of a network of people that are connected but it’s also a fantastic database of companies and company profiles. So if you’re in the market research industry and want to understand sort of an industry or particular set of companies, you can actually glean a lot of interesting information from just looking at company insights through our premier subscription.


So to that end, I’d like to give an example.




I recently created Happy Market Research podcast. I’m trying to get connected to insight pros like yourself. I reached out to a CMO, said hey, give her the value prop pitch and she responded back the following morning and said I would love to be on the show. So it would be impossible – and I know a lot of people. It would be impossible for me to be able to penetrate the corporate wall to get in front of her to even give her the idea. But what LinkedIn enabled me to do versus any other platform, and my personal network even, is to be able to cut right to it and drop that note, which she could have ignored or reported me. But she didn’t and she actually found value in what I was contributing. And one of the things that I’ve noticed being an avid user of LinkedIn is the more I invest in the platform, the more trust I build with my – and I don’t have a lot. I have about 16,000 connections.


That’s a lot.


Among that group. And that group then starts feeding on itself so I can post a question and get an answer. I can post a job and I can get resumes. I haven’t tried finding a job fortunately maybe on that front but it’s an exceptionally powerful platform. I do want to ask you a question about the groups though because – so we are in the process of trying to create a framework for insight pros to have dialogues, ask questions, etc. There’s a few different insight communities that we found that are more forum-based, old-school, forum-based. We were talking on the drive up today maybe we should consider LinkedIn. It sounds like groups on LinkedIn are a viable option.


It is. I think we obviously have – we’ve had a long history with groups and I think we’ve made investments and we’ve made heavy investments sort of in the past and we sort of dialed back the investments. And so I think we’re finally trying to understand kind of how to do this well and it’s an important piece of our strategy of creating kind of a vibrant act of community on LinkedIn. But we need to make sure – the challenge with groups is that you need to have sufficient number of moderators and people who actively manage it and want to sign up for doing that to keep things vibrant and fresh. So you’ll start to see us doing more of that and sort of injecting a sort of energy into those groups, but also integrating a little bit more cleanly into the overall experience on LinkedIn where right now it’s actually very difficult to find groups on LinkedIn. You have to go to a separate tab to actually find it. But make it more integrated with the overall experience along with another thing that we’ve launched. It’s called Hashtag so you can actually follow particular hashtags, sort of a hashtag for market research. And what that allows you to do is allows you to get sort of content that we’re sort of curating across the entire ecosystem into your feed. And so then you’re able to sort of indicate what your preferences are and what you’d like to hear of more in addition to what’s happening in the groups you sign up at where you can have that sort of intimate dialogue and two-way conversation.


And the hashtags work exactly like they do on Twitter for example, right?




I know most marketing researchers are using new MR and MRX and then I like the idea since we don’t have the character limit of also expanding that to market research. I’ll definitely start improving my posts now thinking about that.


Absolutely. I think the other thing is like the more people that are using it the more people will naturally be attracted to it. And I think it’s kind of a flywheel that we need to respectively play in and keep going. Yeah.


My guest today has been Rogier. Rogier, thank you very much for joining me today.


Yeah, you’re welcome. Pleasure.

Ep. 116 – Patrick Comer, CEO of Lucid

Today, my guest is Patrick Comer, Founder and CEO at Lucid. Lucid is the first global exchange for market research sample which introduced programmatic buying and selling to the market research industry.

Prior to founding Lucid, Patrick has a decorated career in market research and consulting that spans 2 decades. He lives with his wife and children in New Orleans.


Twitter: @comerpatrick

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/comerpatrick/ https://luc.id/



Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/happymrxp

Twitter: @happymrxp Instagram: @happymrxp

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch/


Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. Today, my guest is Patrick Comer, founder and CEO of Lucid. Lucid is the first global exchange for market research sample which introduced programmatic buying and selling to the market research industry. Prior to founding Lucid, Patrick has a decorated career in marketing research and consulting that spans two decades. He lives with his wife and children in New Orleans. Patrick, thank you very much for being on the podcast today.


I am super excited to be here and to support you in this new venture. I’ve been excited to see what you’re going to be up to, and this seems to be the perfect fit, so glad to be here.


Ah, thanks very much.


Hell yeah. Rock and roll.


We all know that our parents and upbringing have an impact on who we are and what we do, varying degrees of course. What did your parents do, and how did that affect your career?


So my parents were both priests, which meant that I got to see my father do a sermon every single Sunday, and values and the articulation of those values were important in the household, but also obviously in church every Sunday. And I was reflecting on, what did my parents teach me? What were their core, fundamental lessons that I learned? And I was reflecting on my mother and how she really taught me that it’s not really about me, that the things that I do, the success that I’ve had with Lucid, at the end of the day, it’s not about Patrick Comer. I’m not trying to achieve things for me. It’s really about influencing and impacting the people around me. I’m really not the most important person in the room, and that’s a humbling thing to learn from your mother. And it’s really helped me, I think, be a CEO, because my job is to support the people around me, not to be the focal point myself. And I also reflect on my father, and his big lesson for me time and time again was that everyone mattered. I saw him so often spend an incredible amount of personal time with what would be conceivably the least important person in the room. And it was that presence that he had with everyone-helped me treat, quote, important people as human beings, but also the least among us as people of importance and people that need to be spent time with. And so I really look at those two things, that it’s not about me and everyone matters, as kind of the bedrock of my core values from my parents.


It’s interesting how the core values informs really who you are and what you spend your time doing. Entrepreneurship of course, and then one of the interesting things about the company that you started is where you started it, New Orleans. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?


I’m just really lucky I moved to New Orleans when I did. People always ask me, did you have some strategic plan of moving to New Orleans and starting a business? And it couldn’t be more complex than, I had just gotten married and my wife and I were starting a family. And she’s the youngest of 12, and so we decided to have that family be raised among family here in the Big Easy. So we moved three years after Katrina to New Orleans, and I thought that I was just going to connect with and network with the startup community here, the venture capital community, and find some company to join and help build. And the reality on the ground three years after Katrina is that there were no startups, and I was going to have to build something in order to contribute. The remarkable thing about a startup in New Orleans is that there are two passions at play. It’s really normal for a startup company or a new company to get excited about the mission of the business. We’re going to build this thing; we’re going to be disruptive; we’re going to grow fast; we’re going to get excited about it. That’s normal. But there’s always been this other passion, this other thing, which is the importance of contributing to the community, that our work was really helping the community, and job by job, hour by hour, rebuilding something. And it’s been a core part of our culture where impact on community is a big part of what we do, and is an equal partner to success of business in terms of how we spend our time and what’s important to us.


So thinking about those early days starting in New Orleans, wanting to make a meaningful-build a meaningful company that creates jobs, and that’s a-I’m hearing that’s a big motivator, did you start out with funding straightaway?


I was able to hash together about $350,000 out of the gate, which is funding. That’s not a non-trivial amount of money, but it’s not millions of dollars. And all that was from local investors and local friends and family, honestly, who was willing to support the venture. So it wasn’t a lot of money out of the gate.


And so straightaway, were you spending most of your time talking with customers, [INAUDIBLE] developing the technology?


Yes, sometimes, as you well know, entrepreneurship is part luck and timing and luck of timing more than anything else. I started the business in 2010, which is still in the end of a downturn, from 2008 to 2010. So it was just beginning to swing back. People were looking for alternatives, brands were looking for alternatives, market research firms were looking for alternatives, and how they were going to approach this survey business, this research task that they were looking at. And so most of my time on the ground early was revenue, getting clients, building relationships and building trust with those companies that were going to really help us scale in the future.


We talked relatively early on, I think it was about 12 months after you started Lucid-it was a big movement, right? There really hadn’t been adoption of anything like a platform-based sample transaction, right? This whole marketplace’s very early days-can you talk to us a little bit about the education of the market that had to take place?


Well, I call that pushing sand uphill, because we were-it was a constant battle. You feel like you’re moving something forward; it’s hard to tell when things actually catch on. But we were constantly talking about the future of the industry, which is kind of an odd thing for a new entry to be talking about, where all the industry can go in terms of researchers, and brands, and buyers and sellers of sample and data collection platforms. But we had a clear vision that there was a future state where a lot of this activity was easier and technology driven, versus a brokered process that was the standard when we got started. But it was really hard, because changing operational process within any organization is hard, because you’ve got habits formed, you’ve got behaviors, you’ve got perceptions about how things should or should not work. We were basically asking our clients to change their operational paradigm, and it was really, really hard, while at the same time trying to build a two-sided marketplace, which if I had known what I was actually trying to accomplish out of the gate, I might not have stated the company, because talking with other marketplace leaders, two-sided marketplaces are kind of the hardest business to create, because you’re building both sides at once, and there’s a constant chicken and the egg problem. So for years, it was building one side, then building the other, and convincing client by client that this change of operations, this change of approach from manual to automated, was going to have a significant impact on their ability to delight their clients. Over-it took probably four years for the word “programmatic” to be OK to say in public. And then it’s only been this year that automation has been normal, where clients come to us and say “We would like to transition our business to DIY and automation; how can you help”, whereas before, we were always calling them and saying “Have you heard about this thing we can achieve together? Would you like to learn more?” And that’s been a sea change in terms of how we approach our clients. So we’re over the hump in terms of sand uphill; there’s a lot of runway to go still.


It’s certainly exciting times. I love your perspective on, it’s been the last 12 months. I completely concur with that. But before we leave those early days, I want to talk a little bit about partnerships. Did you have any partners that helped you found the company? And then how did that partnership or lack of partnership impact you?


It’s a very interesting topic among entrepreneurs, is, should you have a co-founder or not? And I remember in business school at Columbia taking the entrepreneurship class after I’d been in a startup, because out of curiosity, what did academia think entrepreneurship was? And I remember the professor would just bring in founders every week and have them tell their story. And the thing that I learned most is that there is no single path up the mountain. There were some founders who were religious about having an equal co-founder partner, and they could see it no other way. And yet other founders who thought it was-they had to be the only founder and that was it; there was no other path for them. So what I pulled out of that entire conversation was, it’s really up to the founding team or person the path they want to take. There’s no correct or right answers-the right answer for them. For Lucid, my founding partner was kind of my brother Walton, who would fly down from New York every weekend to help me think about what kind of business would be worth doing. And he had a remarkable amount of influence preparing Lucid to become a marketplace, and really building the language and the business model out of the gate. But he didn’t join the business, and so when we started the company, it was me in my garage apartment. And that’s-when they talk about having a startup out of the garage, that literally happened with Lucid, and then to a co-working space and on. So one of the other challenges, it was in New Orleans, and in this town in 2010, not only had a lot of people left because of Katrina and not returned yet, but honestly, I don’t think any one of them knew what the word “sample” meant. So there was no industry knowledge anywhere. Every person I hired, I had to train from the ground up in terms of what this space was, what is research, what is insights, what is sample. Now the good news is, they learned to repeat what I said, so they didn’t have any preconceived notions, which is a positive and a negative. But it was just hard because there was no talent around that knew how to be a project manager, who knew how to program a survey, who knew what any of that was. So it was really from scratch literally; it was hard to get the ball rolling.


It’s almost like pushing sand up two hills at the same time, right?


I couldn’t just hire people that knew what I was talking about. That just didn’t exist.


How did you wind up-from an HR perspective, that sounds like a very difficult challenge.


Yeah. Because of this, because we’re in New Orleans, a remote employee is a more natural thing to have. And so we’ve had-yes, we’ve had the abundance of our team in New Orleans, but we always have team members across the country, and in Los Angeles and New York and other places. So that’s always been a part of our culture, that you can be anywhere and work for the company. And that’s out of necessity, because there was no one in New Orleans who really could join at the beginning.


Let’s shift gears a little bit. After you started the company, I think it was a few years, you wound up starting what is now I believe the largest sample-oriented event in the market research space, Samplecon. What’s the mission of Samplecon, and why did you start it?


Well, it’s funny. The-Samplecon was started because there was no user event for Lucid at the time. And so in 2013, we basically invited all of our friends who were working with us or wanted to work with us to New Orleans to talk about what we’re doing, where we’re going. And it was-that first Samplecon was very Lucid-specific. But once we had the conference, we realized that we’d missed the real value. The real value wasn’t about Lucid at all. The real value was that a lot of sample experts could talk about where the industry was going, its pros and cons, in a relatively safe space. Yes, they were among competitors, per se, but they weren’t at a more research-oriented or brand-oriented conference where their primary function is to sell, and all the content is about how brands approach research, or how researchers are approaching the process. And there wasn’t a place where you could go as sample experts to talk about sample itself, where the content was very specific about where the industry was going, and what were the challenges and opportunities in front of us. So we quickly pivoted to the next Samplecon was not about Lucid at all. Now, the challenge was that a lot of people had quickly associated Samplecon and Lucid, and so we-I think we had three Samplecons in 18 months. We were on this rush, because literally there had never been a place to have this conversation before. Over the last couple of years, it’s become its own independent entity with its own board. Sima Vasa at Paradigm Sample is now the chair of the board. I’m still a board member, but I officially roll off in March. So literally, it’s completely independent conference and process from Lucid, but it still has that mental tie to Lucid for obvious reasons, because we were the main driver of it out of the gate.


Thinking about the early days in LA of your career, you started at, I believe, OTX, which pioneered the River methodology.


Well, I do have a point of clarification. The River, in my mind, was founded by DMS, by Chuck Miller, long before any of us showed up, or at least I showed up, to the scene in ’96, ’97. And the DMS/AOL patents are the River patents. We at OTX always held a distinction between River, which is a Web intercept model, and routing, which was yield management aggregation of many different sample suppliers. I will make that subtle distinction because I think it’s important to give credit where credit is due, that Chuck Miller, in my mind, is really the godfather of modern sampling from that team which included a lot of people like Mike Billingsley and others that were part of the initial AOL/DMS team. They really were pioneering very, very early. The big insight that OTX had is that it’s valuable to pull together many different sample sources. The norm at the time, in say 2000 to 2007, was that most research agencies would use one, maybe two, sample companies. All of their work would go to one or two. Shelley Zalis, the CEO and founder of OTX, her thesis was that she didn’t want any one or two companies to have that much influence over the research and quality of research, but also the ability or not ability to deliver a project. So she went down the opposite path, which was, we want as many suppliers as possible. That gave OTX the control over quality, the control over delivery, and let’s be honest, the control over price. And it was that mentality that created the first versions of routing, and blending, and aggregation. All those things that are normal today that everyone uses across the board, all that was kind of early days at OTX.


So you fast forward, it’s now very obvious-congratulations-that a marketplace wins.




I know.


I’m glad it’s [INAUDIBLE] now, because for a long time we weren’t so sure.


I remember.


I’m glad I was right in 2010, right?


What three challenges-I like threes. What three challenges did you have to overcome in order to disrupt the space?


I would say the biggest challenge is that most people in research and in brands didn’t understand where sample actually came from. So for years, the expectation was that there’s this fantasy panel that’s really, really big, that delivers all the things. It’s double opt-in, and you can buy it, and it’s special and perfect and good. And that’s the story that myself and everyone else in sample had been telling buyers for years and years. But the simple reality by 2010 was that just didn’t exist anymore. There were great panels; don’t get me wrong. But the reality of sampling was aggregation; it was routing; it was River. It was all this sourcing and blending. The biggest challenge was that the researchers and brands had been sold a bill of goods in that respect. And getting them over the hump of understanding and trust that what’s actually happening in sample today is still good, and maybe even better than that expectation that they’d-the myth that they’d been sold, was the hardest part. It’s still hard today. There’s still the prevalence of belief of this panel process that started in 2000 to 2005, when the reality is that every sample company uses their own assets. They use various marketplaces, various brokers, they use routing. They use all those yield management capabilities to deliver a quality product. It’s just that most buyers either don’t want to or are afraid to go down the rabbit hole with their sample partners. And that was probably the biggest disconnect was the difference between what buyers thought sample was and what it actually was.


So a lot of underneath the hood there, right?




And I think that kinda serves the overall point, which is trust is paramount in this space because what you just said is complex, and actually the execution is infinitely more complex. And brands just don’t have that opportunity for the head space for that.


They don’t. And they don’t, and I think that was one of the challenges was as brands and as research partners wanted to have greater control and greater insight into sampling, you had that learning curve to be honest, and that’s always been a challenge. So I talked a little about pushing sand uphill, convincing them of the model, but there was, again, it’s going down the rabbit hole. And would often say to an individual client, “Do you really wanna go down the rabbit hole of how a sample actually is created today?” And to be honest, there’s still people who don’t. They would prefer it to be the other story.


I definitely get the sunshine and rainbows view, but I think reflecting back to the early days of e-Rewards, which of course you remember, they were commanding a very different price point than the rest of the market, all predicated on better sample. The point is that people were buying based on the brand promise. And I do think that that definitely plays a major role still today, especially in the framework of an open marketplace like what you’ve created. And so to that end, how are you, or are you monitoring overall sample quality?


Well, I love talking about sample quality because it means so many different things to so many different people. I think that for most part, people have a hard time defining with numbers what quality actually is. You know bad quality when you see it in the data. That’s easy. But without a bad data performance scenario, you, it’s hard to measure necessarily good quality. And so the way we look at quality at Lucid is, one, you gotta start with table stakes, which means anti-fraud, high security, and basically uniqueness of respondents across supply. And that comes from our, not only investment in millions of dollars but also research of how other marketplaces handle security fraud and quality control from a multiple vendors standpoint, companies like eBay or Amazon, and really understanding the investment required from a marketplace to control for those factors. And it’s an ongoing fight to manage fraud and manage security across a marketplace of any size. And then you have data quality, and data quality assumes that the respondent is real. But is the data actually any good? One of the thesis that we came up with is that our clients, the buyers, are reviewing all of the data in every single survey, and so they know what quality is. So we created concept of an acceptance score, which is, how much of every supplier’s sample is actually accepted by the buyer after they’ve scrubbed it? And of course we have to weight it by, surveying by buyer in order to get a good score that’s fair to all participants. But what it does show is, on a relative basis, is once supplier rejected or accepted more than the other supplier across the board. And that’s really helped us understand which suppliers are performing and which ones are not without us having to come and define what data quality is as a marketplace. The other thing that we look at is consistency, and this is of course very important for things like trackers and for pre-imposed or any kind of data replication scenario. And so because we see so much supply so often, we can actually measure its consistency period over period. And right now we measure the consistency of all the vendors on a quarterly basis. And then finally, we’re able to measure each supplier against an offline norm, which I think is really important to understand the difference between a panel or a sample source and what’s normally expected in a market. And that’s a scenario where we work with Chuck Miller to design that survey instrument and measure against offline norms. But it’s important to note that we built the quality program at Lucid by partnering with the largest research firms out there. So we partnered with Hall and Partners, Lightspeed, Ipsos, and three or four other. Like GFK as an example. All of those companies helped design our quality instruments so that they could measure the supply chain on our end.


That’s super interesting how you guys are addressing that. I know some companies, some agencies are incorporating not just Captcha but also red herrings-




Type questions in order to help control that side on there. And so one of the things I find interesting is how it’s almost self-solving as research companies become better at fraud detection and bots get smarter and smarter. There’s still earth elements that can be incorporated to protect the value of the insights.


Fraud is a constant cat-and-mouse game. I remember at OTX in 2003, when we were infiltrated by some, or we thought were some Russian hackers who had built a script to automatically sign up for various panels using Yahoo. And then had found a mechanism to create completes through auto-completion of surveys. So this was 2003. And we found that it was happening because every single ID from a particular supplier was the same version of an email address but up by one digit every single time. And that was a big enlightened moment in 2003. We were like, oh, it’s not the suppliers necessarily. It’s that these outside forces are coming in who are trying to gain the system for their own benefit, and really started all the different types of security and fraud detection you can use. Red herring is a great version of that. Attention checks, Captcha. A lot of the work we’re doing now is actually more technical than human based where we’re requiring server to server connections between platforms so that a user can’t manipulate a link and create a survey or create a complete on their end. I know that’s in the weeds, but what it really means is we’ve had a huge investment on technology, not just with us but between data collection partners and survey platforms and sample suppliers to make the process of sampling more secure and make it less able for a third party who’s trying to beat the system to even get into the game, period. And that’s had a huge impact on that acceptance rate, and we track that very closely obviously. And it’s actually gone down precipitously over the past year, mainly because of technology integrations with all the players in the business to eliminate the ability for a person to actually intercept part of the process and game it. So that’s had a huge impact on success of removing fraud from insights.


Recently at IAAX, they had the pitch competition as part of the Atlanta-based event. A lot of fun. I was blown away by the volume of blockchain startups. But how are you seeing blockchain impact our space? Specific in the sample area, obviously.


Well, I think the first thing it’s doing is sucking up all the innovation. I say this kinda tongue and cheek. That literally it’s with the rise and fall of the price of Bitcoin, the amount of investment time, energy, and attention has waxed and waned, which I think is just a sign of the times. It kinda reminds me of the Internet bubble. At that time I was on the let’s-go-Internet side of the equation, and there was so many existing players that said all the same things about the Internet that people are saying today about blockchain. It’s very reminiscent of, oh, you can’t do this. The technology won’t actually work. There are too many things to be integrated for it to be successful. At the same time, you have the blockchain innovators who are saying words like, “We’re gonna disrupt the panel and it’s gonna change everything.” And I think it’s gonna play out similarly to the Internet bubble, meaning that they’re probably right on the blockchain side. But it’s the time scale of when they’re right that’s gonna really matter. We’re going through a process at Lucid today of trying to partner with as many blockchain companies out there to truly understand their approach. As a marketplace, we want to support different products and services that help improve the value of research. And if blockchain can reduce fraud, if blockchain can reduce or increase uniqueness or improve incentives, there are lots of mechanisms where if the blockchain thesis is correct, the value of a survey increases. And so we wanna support platforms and technologies that do that. And so we look at ourselves as being an engagement or a scaling process for blockchain versus us trying to solve it ourselves. When will it become important is a different question. And I just don’t know the answer, if it’s next year or five years from now, but I do believe that blockchain will become an important part of how we deliver and execute insights across the board.


What’s interesting is where you guys sit in context of most other companies in the sample space is you have visibility of the individual respondents. So it seems like it creates this interesting intersection point of visibility across that individual person. And to that end, it seems like it would make sense if there was blockchain developed inside of your panel, for brands to start incorporating their panels. I call them panels. What I mean is their customer lists, really, to be able to deploy alongside of what you’ve got going on.


If a brand could add their CRM data with confidence and with security and privacy built in and then be able to tie that back to insight data seamlessly, so everything that, all the data’s been collected via CRM or point of sale now becomes part of the data stream of every single survey moment that you create, whether that survey is for custom research but also for CSET. It all is tied together but also protected from that, from data leakage, because one of the big challenges if you start using your CRM database and opening it up to a lot of different providers in order to expand your data insight ability, there’s data leakage. But with blockchain, there would be no data leakage because of the nature of the blockchain itself.


There is a taller hill with more sand, my friend.


Well, you probably would not be surprised that our friends at IAAX and Lindy have helped us understand that we can play a role not where we try to solve for blockchain, but to support the blockchain providers and how they’re approaching the broader marketplace. And I’ll go back to we’re blockchain neutral. We have no desire to “pick a winner” or to create a blockchain company who are programmed within Lucid. Our goal is to increase the value and trust of the marketplace, and if a blockchain platform does that, then it’s very important for us to scale it very quickly. So that’s the scenario where if suddenly fraud can be reduced or the value of the data stream in a survey could be increased, then it’s in our best interest to help that technology, whether it’s blockchain or anything else scale pretty quickly. And we are in a unique place in the industry because we run the marketplace, and we have a ton of information around all the different respondents that are taking all the different surveys globally right now.


If I understand the technology correctly, I don’t think that there could be 20 winners in this space, right? So there is definitely an opportunity for a king-maker play here. So it’ll be neat to see how that all unfolds.


I don’t know, honestly. I honestly don’t know how all that would play out, and if there’s a winner-take-all blockchain scenario, or if there’s a scenario where different chains actually focus on different parts of the problem set. I do think one of the challenges of a lot of the blockchains kinda pitch decks that I’ve seen is trying to be all things to all people and tackle everything. And I believe that’s more likely that traction will occur because different parties will focus on different aspects of the value chain with this technology, and then it will scale from there. Honestly, I think that it will be quite impossible to “king make” this early in the evolution of blockchain and insights.


For sure. And a little bit more on this subject. The economic model is gonna be interesting too because that kinda gets to my point of while you could have lots of specific use cases, everybody’s gotta get paid as we all know.


Apparently everyone wants to get paid.


So anyway, so I wanna talk a little bit about what you’ve got going on. What do you have that is adding a lot of value to the marketplace? Both in terms of from brands’ perspectives as well as agencies.


So one of the big things we’re really focused on right now is helping our clients better understand the quality of the data that they actually house. And a lot of this is focused on advertising and marketing in the brand space itself. And we started working on advertising effectiveness a couple of years ago with our proof products where we could take the scale of the marketplace and apply it to helping brands understand lift and effectiveness of their work. And in doing that and in analyzing the data with them, we quickly realized that one of the biggest problem areas is not how good is my creative or how well am I executing the campaign. It’s that data that I’m using to target in the first place is terrible. It’s like the open secret in advertising is that the data itself isn’t very good at targeting, and there have been a number of articles that had come out that it’s, there’s a 50/50 shot of everyone’s ability to target just for gender, which is funny because we almost have a 50/50 shot even without trying any targeting. So our clients on the agency side and on the research side have really been focused on, how do we know that the data that we’re using, whether it’s our internal data, our third-party data, is actually targeting for the right audience itself? Before we even go into a campaign, before we even start. So we’ve built a whole product, which is getting a lot of momentum right now, which we call data score. And we go ahead and test using our platform whether or not the audience in your data set is who you think it is. A simple example would be a luxury car intender. And sometimes these data sets are created from a lot of math and a lot of behavioral models where people have clicked on certain ads or searched for certain things or been to certain Web sites, and they’re bucketed as luxury car intenders. And the number of luxury car intender cookies or identifiers that you can purchase far outnumbers the population in the United States. And so there’s obviously something wrong here. So we literally take that data set and we ask the people. We have one of the largest platforms in the planet that can ask people questions at scale. And so we use that capability to measure, of that data set, how much of it is the audience that you’re looking for against what you would normally expect in the population? And we’ve gotten a huge amount of support from the ARF, from our D and P partners who wanna be able to differentiate quality on their platform between data sets. Obviously the brands want to be spending the money in the right way with the right audiences. And agencies wanna be able to demonstrate to their brand clients that the work that they’re doing is actually improving. And so taking a data set and measuring it is a way for them to pick a data set that’s gonna perform better than based upon the brand associated with it. So this data score product is building a lot of momentum. You’re gonna see more and more work on that along those lines over the next coming months in the back half of the year as we scale it up.


Very exciting. My guest today has been Patrick Comer, founder and CEO of Lucid. Patrick, thank you very much for joining me.

Ep. 115 – Matt Dusig, Co-founder and Managing Director at InnovateMR

Our guest is Matt Dusig, Co-founder and Managing Director at InnovateMR. InnovateMR is a panel provider which has created the Pegasus Sample Access Platform, allowing users to employ a DIY sampling solution. Prior to starting InnovateMR, Matt has founded and harvested 3 other companies and invested in many others.

In this interview, Matt covers building successful partnerships and teams in entrepreneurship, how he determines investment opportunities that works for him, and the what InnovateMR offers: quality, price, and trusted expertise. In hearing about his background, we learned particularly about staying ahead of the curve in technology and market research.



LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mattdusig/

Twitter: @mattdeuce



Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/happymrxp

Twitter: @happymrxp

Instagram: @happymrxp

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch/

Hi, everyone, I’m Jamin Brazil and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast, today my guest is Matt Dusig, co-founder and managing director at Innovate MR, Innovate MR is a panel provider who has created the Pegasus Sample Access Platform which allows users to employ a DIY sampling solution. Prior to starting innovate MR, Matt has founded and harvested three other companies and has invested in many others. Matt, thanks very much for joining us today.


Thanks, Jamin, excited to be here.


So what did you parents do and how did that affect your early career?


Yeah, that’s a great question, so my dad has always been an entrepreneur all through growing up. He owned various businesses, and I think what I learned from him was mostly from being scrappy, when you’re running your own company you know it’s do or die, you have to be creative, there’s no safety net, and he was just, and is, he’s still alive, is just a super creative person, always looking for solutions to problems, which my wife might tell me I shouldn’t be solving all of her problems, but that’s a whole different story. And I just think that that was a key motivator that he started businesses, and that it was possible to do it, that was what I was going to do also.


That’s interesting so you knew you were an entrepreneur very early on in your career?


Yeah, I had, in college I had a side business doing graphic design for just companies and clients, and that was how I made extra money.


You have a co-founder who has been with you, gosh, since your early days, right, that’s Greg?




Four companies together. I mean, that’s insane.


It’s actually five, it depends on how you’re counting.


I’m apparently not counting well enough.


There have been some failures in between.


Wait, say that again?


I said we’ve had some failures in between that we don’t always talk about but there have been five companies and in fact if you go all the way back to college there was a sixth company. So Greg and I, our relationship goes back to being six or seven years old. Our families were friends growing up, on the block, and so we’ve known each other our whole lives. My sister, his brother were friends, and then when he joined the fraternity I was in in college, we became best friends again and then college roommates, and it was in college that we actually started one of our first businesses.


What year was that?


Now you want me to age myself, OK.


Well, yeah, I do want you to age yourself.


That was 1989 that we became roommates together. In order to launch the business, we had to promote it, and in promoting it we went down to CompUSA or Circuit City, one of those stores, it had a 30 day return policy and we bought a fax machine, and we used that fax machine to send out promotions to different clients that we were looking to solicit and when we didn’t make enough money within about 28 days, we took the fax machine back to Circuit City.


That’s brilliant. That’s brilliant, just classic entrepreneurs.




So 1999 you guys started GoZing [ph]

I believe, very, very, very early in not just the online sample space, but the internet in general, what was the motivation for starting GoZing?


In the late ‘90s, mid to late ‘90s of course the internet was booming, companies were going public, billionaires were being made overnight and Greg and I just looked at ourselves, we both had day jobs and we said, you know what, we should do that, we came up with this concept of doing advertising on mobile phones and at the time mobile phones could only receive text messages, so that was the only way you could send out a promotion, or we called it couponing, at the time, so you would send out coupons to your mobile phones, and we went to Greg’s mom with this concept, and his mom and dad decided to fund it, and so we decided to quite our jobs and said OK, here we go and of course we were way too early to mobile advertising at the time, probably ten years too early. At the same time while we were trying to get this business up and running we heard about a research agency here in Los Angeles where we’re located, that was interested in getting feedback from people as they were exiting theaters, but they wanted to collect the data mobile, instead of doing it on clipboards and paper and pencil and that was Shelly Zalis [ph]

and OTX and that was our first introduction to market research.


That’s so crazy to me, OTX has been, you’ve got Kristen Luck [ph]

of course who’s come out of that company, you’ve got Patrick Comer [ph]

and a few others, it’s interesting how OTX, and especially in the LA market has had such a broad, long term impact.


Absolutely, and Kristen and I joke about how in 2000 we were both in the trenches, basically doing the research and sampling project management, at all hours of the day, back and forth. My wife used to say on Friday nights that we couldn’t go out to dinner until Kristen told us we could go live with sample.


Man, if I had a nickel every time I’ve heard that, right? You’ve got to remember, so Kristen and I having worked together, in fact, she’s been on the podcast twice now, for so many years, she’s – there’s not a lot of people that have the work ethic that Kristen does, maybe say it that way, she gets it done, it’s amazing.


Yeah. Absolutely.


So fast forwarding to another start up of yours, Instantly, what technology challenges did you encounter?


Well, so after we sold GoZing in 2005 to Greenfield Online, Greg and I sat out of the industry for three years, we always knew we wanted to get back into online sampling, we felt like our job wasn’t done, and so the original name of Instantly was YouSamp [ph]

and the goal of YouSamp was as it sounds, was that you could sample yourself, and we were going to build the industry’s first DIY platform allowing research agencies to log on and access a sample companies panels, and a lot of people in the industry thought we were absolutely out of our mind, that that was never going to happen, and of course I knew looking at the trends of online ad buying that eventually online sampling would be automated and would be made DIY and/or API driven as well. And so that was the original impetus behind starting YouSamp and we knew we had to first build the core of a sampling business, we had to build technology that allowed us to procure and maintain panels and as well to run sampling projects. And only after that technology was built could we actually then layer on top of that a solution for clients to log on, and that was complex, you know, how do you price sample when a client is buying it themselves, what is they say it’s 100% incidence, but your job’s really five percent, what if the client says it’s a five minute survey but it’s really 50 minutes. Just all sorts of complexities like that that we have to solve for.


One of the interesting parts about this integrated or I’m calling it now the whole product and research, right, is the brand has a need and then they manifest that through a survey or something else, a discussion guide or what have you, that’s the methodology side of it, and then they get people to fill it out so there is a sampling component and then they have to do the analysis and ultimate reporting. So each one of these bricks that I just described through the market research process what’s happened in the last, honestly in the last probably 24 months and a lot more in the last 12 months is there’s through API there has been a lot of integration, you’re seeing it with Qualtrics [ph]

leading that charge, and other survey platforms, obviously the Zappy [ph]

model is playing out well. Do you think similar to GoZing, you guys were ahead of the curve maybe just a little bit too far with Instantly or YouSamp?


We definitely were, we were pushing a boulder up a hill, there was limited awareness about platforms, there was caution about whether the information and the data delivered would be representative and of high quality, and there’s – the sampling industry has been a little bit of a Wizard of Oz industry, there’s this giant curtain and behind the curtain there is a wizard pulling strings and I don’t think the world has really understood how sampling companies get the job done, just that they do. And so unveiling a platform that allowed a client to see all the switches, might have been a little bit daunting, but we had to educate a market so we were definitely a little bit early, now if you look at the industry we launched that platform in 2009, 2010.




So eight, nine years later, there’s probably ten platforms out there that you can log onto to buy sample from.


Yep. Yeah, exactly, right. So when you think about those lessons that you learned, the GoZing model, I didn’t actually realize that you started on mobile phone advertising and you’re exactly right, it was ten years too early, until you got real adoption and saturation in this space. Marketing research didn’t truly adopt it until about ten years ago, maybe less.


Yeah, so.


Yeah, so how do you apply that learning to Innovate MR?


Well, I think every time you start a business you have – you fail in certain ways and the only way you get better is by learning from those mistakes and trying not to do those again. So the number of times that me, Greg, and George, all the founders of Innovate, the number of times that we are looking to make a decision and we accept the concept that well, in this particular instance we might not know the best solutions, so let’s ask for some advice, let’s not just make a decision and you know, and screw it up, or we look at different scenarios and say well, we’ve done this before, we know that this – going along this path is not going to work well, because of various reasons, and so I think all of that experience over 20 years of really screwing up, has really helped us make Innovate more successful. We have had to be very scrappy, because in this business unlike GoZing and YouSamp, Instantly, we didn’t raise any institutional money from professional investors.




And so there’s been no safety net. We’ve had to be scrappy and careful and frugal. Really what the main focus for us has been around automation and efficiencies, and when we were building technology, even for our team, we count the number of clicks it takes for them to actually accomplish a goal and then we look at it and say is there a way we can remove steps and if we can, then our team just gets significantly more efficient. We actually recently removed off of sales force for tracking all of our bids and booked sample jobs and used our own internal tools for that now, and the team is just celebrating the amount of steps that were removed in the process, and so that just allows our team to be more efficient and hopefully allows us to run a more profitable business.


Yeah, I think this principle of eating your own dog food in our world, that is market research technology, is probably one of the things that has set the winners from the losers, Decipher, of course being my experience, it was entirely birthed out of my personal pain around marketing research process and just creating these short cuts whether it was a single click to a native PowerPoint presentation, right, to monitoring field and tab, efficiency gains are what has been the differentiator for companies like yours in this space, but I want to target – talk a little bit about, you mentioned advice, do you have, when you’re making big decisions or whether they’re strategic or just tactical in nature, do you get advice from the market, that is to say customers or do you have some trusted advisors, where do you go to for that.


Yeah, I’d say we, between the three founders here, we have a rolodex of people that we can reach out to for various situations, whether it’s banking and financing needs, or it’s technology questions, or operations decisions, so we all just have different people we can connect with, sometimes it’s inside the business, and sometimes it’s outside. We don’t profess to be experts in operations and sales and marketing and technology, we bring on people that we know that can facilitate whatever the need it. As founders we’ve broken up the company into divisions where our core competencies lie, so George focuses on sales and demand side, Greg’s core competency and relationships relied on the traffic and supply side of the business, while I over see technology, product and most of the corporate affairs of the business.


Do you think that delineation of responsibilities is one of the keys for the long term partnership success that you and Greg have had?


Yeah, I think it allows us to be – to not step on each other’s toes and to trust each other that I know that is Greg is the best at what he does and I know George is the best at what he does, and they trust me when it comes to technology and marketing and taking care of dealing with the lawyers and all the corporate stuff and I think when partners don’t trust each other to do the work, that’s when things start to fall apart.


You mentioned at the beginning of the conversation that you’ve had a couple failures, I think this is a really interesting topic for those who are either currently starting or have started or are thinking about starting a technology company or any company for that matter, how did you deal with that failure?


You know what, I’m a person who walks around with a glass half full. My perspective is, if you don’t try, you don’t get, so it’s OK to fail as long as you keep trying and you’ve exhausted all efforts. We have two businesses that Greg and I ran besides the three sample companies that we’ve launched and one business was in 2006, and it dealt with putting audio tours onto iPods, so that you could go to Paris and walk around the city with your iPod and go to different stops and hear a professional tour guide giving you information. Of course, this was before the iPhone, this was before GPS, and even before apps could be installed. So talk about being too early, GPS apps, location based services would all allow you to walk around with your iPhone and then the iPhone knows you’re standing under the Eiffel Tower and could actually start giving you a history lesson, so that business was just too early. We accepted the idea that it was just going to be difficult to scale, we kind of just shelved it. We had another business that in 2006 that we also were launching that dealt with online file storage, so think of the time, DropBox, and Box. net, and other online file storage solutions that were being built on top of Amazon’s S3 Storage Solution, we had investors tell us that we were crazy, that online file storage was dead, that it was never going to happen, that people weren’t going to trust storing files in the cloud, and yet we launched a business called File123, specifically to do that, and we missed the mark, we were right there at the time of DropBox and all of these other services, they were all in their infancy at the same time as us and the lesson that we had was that we built too big of a product. The product had too many features, we spent too much time in development, and the challenge was that it wasn’t what a lot of people call today a minimum viable product. It was a big giant cruise ship, and it was much harder to turn and pivot once we got client feedback on the solution, and so that was a big learning experience for us and we shelved that product. Luckily there was a business that came long called NeatReceipts [ph]

and NeatReceipts was a solution where you buy a scanner and you scanned your receipts into NeatReceipts and it produces expense reports for you. They actually wanted and online file storage platform, and they actually did buy the business from us, it wasn’t a billion dollar outcome of DropBox but at least it was better than just keeping the software on the shelf.


That’s the truth of it. That’s – it’s satisfying no matter what the exit, right. You’re right in terms of a multibillion dollar transaction would be taking on the helicopter ride, I’m still waiting.


That would have been a little bit better, yeah.


What three pieces of advice would you give CEOs of startups based on your experiences?


Well, having been what I’ve been through, with different relationships with investors across the first two sampling companies, I lean very heavily towards building more traditional businesses that have visibility around cash flow and client bases and can generate revenue, from the beginning. Well, I understand that some businesses are such a big concept that you have to go raise money, and you have to race against the competition in order to win. That’s not really something that appeals to me. So when I talked to young entrepreneurs about their business, I’m always trying to figure out if there’s a way that they can build their business, so lean and find clients that want to pay for the services so that they don’t have to raise money. So that one day, they can- if they want to raise money, then they can do it at their own terms because they’re already cash flow positive and profitable. So I don’t know what the three pieces of advice are specifically, but I try to guide young entrepreneurs that I talk to, into being realistic. Sometimes they come to me with financial projections, one, two and three years and they have this new idea for a business, they’ve maybe never launched a business before and in year two they’re going to be doing 30 million in revenue, and I just tell them to go back to the drawing board, think smaller, if not realistic, most businesses won’t do 30 million in their second year-


Or a million?


Or a million. And so, and the problem is that they base it in the amount of money that they have to raise, they based how many people they have to hire around that $30 million. And then what happens is, if they go raise money, they’re chasing cash burn and now you have a ticking time bomb. And if your investors don’t like your progress, then they’re going to oust you from your own business. And that happens time and time again, it even happened to us at uSell. We built a phenomenal business. That business was scaling very rapidly, from zero dollars in revenue, just me and Greg in the first year, to 50 million in annual revenue and 200 plus employees after five years. But surprisingly, the investors didn’t like the business. And by all accounts, it was one of the fastest growing companies in most of their portfolios, but they didn’t like it because they didn’t like the valuations of other sampling businesses at the time, and we had no control over that. You know, a big advice that I do give entrepreneurs who do raise money is, is around managing expectations and very carefully managing expectations of investors. It’s a different part of the job, than just running the business and knowing, oh I’m a sampling expert. I understand sampling and sampling platforms, better than anyone else. I’m not the greatest at managing investor expectations. That’s not my core competency. And it’s good to know, your strengths.


Yes, I’m with you a 100 percent on that. I think it goes to sort of the difference between institutional investor mentality, which is oftentimes more cautious, as opposed to the entrepreneurial. Which I mean, anybody that’s cautious as an entrepreneur is not an entrepreneur. At the end of the day, you just have to be almost data impervious, right, to step out and start something new.


Blind optimism.


Right. Yes. Well said Sir. Exactly right, blind optimism. I equate it to being, like a goalie in soccer. You have to literally believe that every time somebody is approaching to shoot, that there’s no way in hell they’re going to be able to score on you, right? And even though you’ve just been scored on three other times, it’s just like impossible. You just have to have that brain space. Blockchains coming up a lot, right? Especially in your space. Are you seeing that impacting Innovate MR?


I don’t think there’s any impact on the sampling industry yet, and I think a lot of companies are trying to discern, if it’s something real that we have to pay attention to. We joke internally here that every 12 to 18 months, there’s a new catchphrase that we’re all paying attention to. Maybe it was mobile a couple of years ago, many years ago it was AI, then now it’s blockchain. I know of a couple of companies, that are investing in different ways that blockchain can be used within the sampling industry. Either, to maintain better transparency and visibility or better pricing or to enhance quality, really understanding the nuances of buyers in this space. I’m still not yet seeing exactly where blockchain provides real value and so, I would say that we’re paying attention, but we’re not doing anything yet.


There’s so much hype around blockchain from just the automation of systems, the shortcuts there but then also, the other part of it is around the security or the comfort, that somebody is who they say they are. Like is there an opportunity for blockchain, to create improved quality of respondents?


Well, this kind of goes back to, what true sample was doing many years ago. Which is try to score panelists and provide peace of mind, to research sample buyers. The struggle there was that many of the biggest sample companies, if a billion dollars is spent in sampling the year across the industry, a majority of that call it 75% is probably represented by the big sample companies. And so if they don’t jump on board with a solution, then it becomes hard to provide kind of end to end value or, thorough value. So would sample companies being willing to put transactions into a public ledger or, a shared ledger? And those transactions were about who this panelist is, maybe without some PII, not exactly sure how PII would work with regards to that. But, are they willing to put transactional data and say, this is panelists Id, this is my panelists Id, One, two, three, four, and here’s the information about them. And then, another company B can do the same. And there could be comparisons so that everyone is- we’re trying to get to a point where, a panel can actually be scored. And say, you know what, I have a confidence because I can query the blockchain to know, that these panelists are more valuable than others, or more real than others or more transparent or consistent. But beyond that, I’m not exactly sure. I know that there are other people that have ideas, around pricing models and buying and selling of panelists within the blockchain. But I think on this one, with having had businesses like my podcast tour company or my online file storage business, or even various things we did at uSell, we were leading trends with regards to building mobile panels at the time, and the industry wasn’t ready for it. In this case, I’d rather be a fast follower. Let the market figure that out. Let other people figure that out. That’s not my core business. And if someone presents a solution that provides value to my business and to my clients, then we would love to explore it.


What is Innovate MR offering right now, that can add value to brands in market research companies?


Our primary client base, our market research agencies, they could be brands, corporations that have a research department. Innovate MR, is not a market research company. We’re a data collection and samplings solutions company. Businesses come to us to either help them program and host their surveys, but primarily to find audiences around the globe, to fill various needs. Whether it’s consumer or be with audiences, that’s our full service business, but what we’ve done with the platform that we recently released, which is called Pegasus. The goal of Pegasus is, to help brands and agencies get faster answers. And so in the same way that you can log onto Google AdWords, you can log onto Facebook ad manager or a twitter or other ads based solutions and you can log on and say, I’m looking for 18 to 34 men and women who live in California and let’s just say on Facebook like Starbucks. In the same way on Pegasus, clients can log on and do the same thing. Say I’m looking for, this demographic in this geographic with this psychographic attributes, and I want those people to take my survey. And how many people can you get me within what time frame, and much will it cost. And that’s the primary function of Pegasus today, but Pegasus is just the foundation of what could be Innovate MR in the future. If you want to build solutions that deliver faster insights to corporations, then the starting foundation of that platform has to be the delivery of audience sample, people that will actually provide those faster answers. Owning proprietary panels and then having a platform on top of it to deliver those panelists to surveys, is the first phase. The second phase of Innovate, is figuring out solutions that provide value to corporations, that can deliver on that thesis of faster answers.


What set you apart, from the other sample providers, is it Pegasus?


Well, Pegasus is definitely one of the key differentiators of the business. And having built, I’ve personally built and Pegasus was primarily built out of my concepts of where DIY sampling can go. I built seven or eight different sampling platforms, over 20 years. And so like we were saying earlier, when you build something and you screw it up, the next time you build it, you do it better, but then you screw something up. And so I think with Pegasus, we’ve really built a solution that solves a lot of the problems of the past and provides great value. So that’s a key differentiator. But I think that experience, there aren’t many founders or CEO’s in the sampling industry that have done it three times. And I have been doing it for 20 years. So if you look at the leaders in the sampling industry today, there’s probably only one other company whose leaders have been doing it equally, as long as us. So I think that experience and know how, is what is delivering success for our clients. Whether it’s through Pegasus, some threats are before full service sampling. Getting the job done, really comes down to experience and know how.


So are you seeing that as really buckled the trust factor, as one of the big drivers for the marketplace?


In order to provide good value and good quality, we can’t be the cheapest, and we don’t want to be the cheapest. There are solutions out there that are perfectly cheap, and you can go there and you get what you pay for, but I can’t provide the handholding that client’s needs at the lowest price. I also can’t build and buy the highest quality panels if I’m also the cheapest, but not the most expensive. Innovate is kind of a mid priced sampling company. We are aggressively creating proprietary panels, and that has a cost. If you’re business that’s just brokering or reselling other people’s panels, then that’s just an arbitrage play where you can make pennies on the dollar, and kind of buy and resell someone else’s panel asset. But we’re building this panel site called, Point Club. It’s actually on its second version. We call it internally Point club Two panel. But we’re inventing right now, and developing a third version of it, Point Club three point out. That really takes user experience to the next level. I think we all know that surveys are not easy, they’re not necessarily fun either. And while we like to think that people take surveys just to give their opinion, that’s really not the case when it comes to online sampling and online panels. People are doing it for rewards. Now, if you’re a frequent flyer of Delta and they send you a survey over email, and they want your opinion about a recent flight, yes, you’re going to do, you’re going to provide that survey because you believe in that brand and you want to provide feedback, to make the brand better and you don’t need a reward for it. But when you’re doing anonymous surveys for corporations and research agencies around the world, it’s all about the reward. And so, we’re building a great panel site. We can only control the experience before someone takes the survey and after they take a survey. And in order to create that great experience, it costs money. And when we do that and invest that money, it creates a better panel asset. And when we create a better panel asset, we believe that it provides better quality and better value, for our clients.


Yes. I feel like there’s tension right now in the market between the automated sample deployment piece, which largely blinds the ultimate consumer, the insights, data quality in favor of CPI versus what you’re describing, which is a higher, probably a higher level of service, much higher level of service and presumably higher level of quality in the sample, given that you’re paying more on the incentive side.


Yes, absolutely. And I don’t know if there’s even tension. I mean, I’m a huge believer in automating between different samples supply sources, at least on our team recently launched a blog series called, The dirty little Secrets Of Sampling. But the secret of sampling was always that, you would go to sample company A and they would then in order to facilitate enough sample and fill the quotas of the client, they would have to go to traffic company B, C, D and E, in order to get enough traffic screened, in order to find those audiences. And that was in the old days of sampling that was done over email. Email traffic company B and say, hey, can you deliver me 100 completes? I can only pay you a buck 50, that’s my budget. And they deliver traffic through your system, off to your client’s survey. Now, that whole process has been automated. I think nowadays clients are more concerned with- most clients are concerned with getting their quotas filled, at a reasonable price, on time and to a level of quality that they feel comfortable with. So of course, we always try to use our proprietary panel first. We’re investing in it and aggressively building it. But any sampling company that tells you that they don’t use partner traffic to help fill quotas, is not being truthful because I know everyone in the space and they all do it. And all we’ve done with automation is by streamline the delivery. And streamlining delivery, has actually meant that we can bring our prices down for our clients. So there’s been a benefit to clients, by automating delivery of traffic. And then, how each sampling company screens that traffic and provides layers of quality, before delivering that person into a survey. Is the nuance that allows a client to think, believe that you’re delivering quality.


Yes. One of the trends I’m seeing, with especially startups that have been in place for the last maybe 24 months, if visible in the last 12, is that they have their proprietary panel, right? So it’s like they’ll have a million people in the US. You launch your project through their system, their people take the survey or participate in the exercise or session or whatever it is, right? But in a lot of times, that’s happening in a faster time frame than in what would be necessary in traditional surveys. Are you seeing this as a channel strategy partnering with these types of companies, or is this not even a trend, that I’ve incorrectly recognized? Shouldn’t be the first time, by the way.


I am seeing a lot of businesses pop up that have different use cases, whether it’s polls or surveys or different types of chat solutions, that on this site they say that they have millions of access to millions of panelists. And the first thing I think of is that, they’re probably buying panelists from companies like mine or other marketplaces that exist, in order to find those audiences. So the evolution of creating automation around the delivery of panelists, whether it’s a marketplace or it’s a sample company like mine selling access to a panel, it means that businesses can create new and unique solutions on top of that foundation, but then sometimes they promote the panel as though it’s their own. And I tend to think that, a lot of those businesses are accessing third party sample, through automated sources.


My guest today has been Matt Dusig, Co founder and Managing Director at Innovate MR. Matt, thank you very much for your time today.

Ep. 114 – Alex Gelman, CEO of mTAB

Today, my guest is Alex Gelman, CEO of mTAB. mTAB has a platform for integrating and analyzing data so that brands make the most informed business decisions. Prior to founding mTAB, Alex worked as business consult at McKinsey and KKR.



Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/happymrxp

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LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alex-gelman-2373034

Twitter: @Alex_Gelman

mTAB: https://www.mtab.com/


Hi. I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. Today, my guest is Alex Gelman, CEO of mTAB. MTAB has a platform for integrating and analyzing data, so that brands make the most informed business decisions. Prior to founding mTAB, Alex worked as a business consultant at McKinsey and KKR. Alex, thanks very much for being on the podcast.


Thank you so much for having me, Jamin. It’s great to be here.


So I don’t think a lot of people in the industry know much about you. I thought it would make sense to maybe look kind of at your early days. Could you tell us a little bit about your parents, and how they affected your career?


Sure. So my parents are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. They immigrated to the–to the States, and as good Soviets, they were both engineers by background. In the US, my mom was an engineer at a hospital, a plumbing and HVAC engineer, and at nights and weekends was a real estate agent, and my dad built houses. He had a small construction company where we lived, and with his bare hands and a–and a few workers, did house renovations and built houses with his bare hands.


It’s interesting–and so the entrepreneur elements of how–sort of your DNA, I guess, clearly started from them as an example.


Oh, absolutely. So hard work was always–was very much the immigrant mentality, and very much the American dream. I mean, they came over with nothing, worked hard, and were able to provide my family, my brother and I, a very lovely middle-class life. And so hard work was always drilled into us, and then math. Like very good executives, they had a clear KPI and it was one KPI and that tracked, and that KPI was our math scores. So I was–my brother and I were always pushed to have great math scores. And here’s a–here’s a–one little anecdote that you will–you’ll appreciate. They used to drive around–they used to put me and my brother in the backseat of the car, and drive to not particularly–I grew up in Long Island, right outside of New York City, and they would drive to not particularly nice areas in New York, or not very high-income, and tell us, “Would you like to live here?” And my brother and I would say, “No, no, we don’t want to live there,” and they’d say, “Well, this is where you live if you don’t do well in school.” And then they would drive–I’m not making this up–and they would drive then to, you know, the north shore of Long Island past the mansions, and say, “Would you like to live here?” And we would say, “Yes, we want to live there,” and they’d say “Well, this is where you live if you do do well in school.” And so math and hard work were always drilled into us, and now my brother runs a quantitative hedge fund and I’m the CEO of a data analysis company, so I guess it worked.


That’s so funny. My best friend is from Romania. His mother moved him and herself here when he was in seventh grade. The culture–he didn’t actually speak any English at that particular point in time, and then moving right at that middle school period, which is such an inflection point for, you know, everybody, but, you know, for him, even more so, he has that exact same mentality in terms of his work ethic, and how he has really bootstrapped–like 100% of bootstrapped his life. And, I mean, this year, he’s going to make–I can’t tell you how much, but he’s going to make a lot more money than I’m going to make, how’s that? And it’s just predicated on his work ethic. I’m hearing a lot of narrative nowadays around how the Internet has created clear access or opportunity for everyone across–and getting rid of really the socioeconomic opportunity that has traditionally existed for wealthy kids, or kids of wealthy parents, because it was a lot–in those days, it was a lot of, you know, who my parents knew, that basically got me into that job. And now, because of the Internet and having direct access to markets, it’s–you know, you’re seeing a lot of hustle coming out of kids who don’t have very much or nothing, except maybe a cell phone and Internet access.


Yeah, that–I agree with that. Look, there’s a lot of luck, too. I was lucky to have been born a white male in the United States. I was lucky to have been born with two parents who valued education and loved us. So there’s an element of–you know, you can’t deny the element of luck, but yes, the value of hard work and hustle was absolutely driven in to us at a young age, and I think today’s world makes it possible that if you do work hard, you really could–in a–in a place like the US, you could really achieve whatever you want.


For sure. So McKinsey, KKR, big deals. How did you wind up in those large consulting organizations?


So coming out of college, I knew I wanted to go to a–work at a large consulting firm, largely because I viewed my 20s as more education. So I wasn’t really looking for a job, I was looking for business boot camp. I knew I wanted to go run a business some day, and I just thought, you know, my 20s is the time to learn. Quite frankly, with both of those jobs, and I’m not going to go back and tell them this now, but, you know, they could’ve paid me nothing and I still would’ve taken them. It was just a fortunate coincidence that they paid me, largely because I was going there to learn, as I viewed my 20s as a launching pad for the rest of my career. So my first job, McKinsey, was, I just wanted to learn Business 101. I went to Dartmouth where I was a philosopher major, and economics double, but, you know, liberal arts major, didn’t know anything, and so I went to McKinsey to learn Business 101, and there I really learned the value of how to talk to the C-suite. It’s something that consultants are excellent at that market researchers actually could really learn from consultants. And then I went to KKR to learn how to talk to investors and boards and capital owners, which is a very different language than talking to the C-suite. And so those first years were really formative, and I was very fortunate to have some of the best business education in the world.


So then how did you wind up in marketing research?


So honestly, luck, random. So after KKR, I went to business school at Stanford and I started a–essentially a small private equity fund. It’s called a search fund, is the concept. But essentially what I did is I knew I wanted to run a company, but I didn’t have any good ideas on a company to start. So I figured, “Gosh, there’s some probably really great companies that are out there that are already being run, and I would love to scale them and take them to the next level, and so let’s go and buy these companies and grow them as opposed to start something from scratch.” The problem was I didn’t have the money to go buy a company. So I made a deal with essentially five of my professors and then 20 of their wealthy friends, and the deal was as follows: why don’t you guys pay me a little bit of a salary, not a lot, just enough for me to live and eat indoors, and I will go travel around America for two years, and I’m going to look for a really good company to buy. And if we find a company that we all like, you guys put up the money to buy the business, and I’m going to move there and become CEO. I was not necessarily looking at market research. I was looking at lots of different businesses. They had lots of–we had various characteristics of businesses we were looking at, and I really love data and analytics businesses, but honestly I stumbled upon mTAB, fell in love with the business, fell in love with the industry, and said, “This is it. This is the one.” And so the investors put up the money, we bought the business in May 2015, and I moved from New York to southern California, and I’m still here, three years later.


Not exactly in line with our normal conversation, but what would you see–you know, going through that process, what was like the plan B if mTAB–like, was there–was there another business that you thought, “Eh, this–if mTAB doesn’t work out, this is next in line”?


So I was towards the end of my search process. There were actually a couple of other businesses that we looked at before mTAB, and we walked away because they weren’t–for whatever reason, we decided that they weren’t the right business for us. There was no plan B after mTAB, actually. We were–we were on our last dollars, when we were working with mTAB, and I don’t know, I guess I would’ve either gotten a job, or tried something else entrepreneurial. I doubt I would’ve gotten a job. I–the entrepreneurial bug had bit me, and I was pretty set on starting something or buying something.


I–the few interactions that you and I have had inside of the industry over the last few years, I would–I would concur, from a character perspective. A CEO is a CEO, you just can’t help it.


I don’t think I’d make a very good employee. I feel bad, because I have very different expectations of my–of my teammates, but I don’t–I–Lord help the person that I have to work for, so.


Let’s talk a little bit about mTAB. What is the core offering, the value prop? And who is your target customer?


So we help market researchers analyze, visualize, warehouse their mark–all of their data. Within large Fortune 500 companies, we act as the single source of truth for the market research or consumer insights departments. We also work directly with large market research firms, as well as small market research firms, but really our target audience is the big global enterprise dealing with lots of disparate market research data, and needing a way to get their hands around it.


This goes back a few years, about six, but I was helping Visa, I was on a small committee, working with the CMO at the time, on their data strategy. And through the discovery process, I identified that they had 13 NPS studies going on simultaneously, and the end result of that was, I mean, obviously, costly, but more impactfully was that you’re getting variance on the data by data source, and because there wasn’t this complete view of–or single source of truth, it was creating confusion in terms of, you know, what companies–what the company should actually do. Is that–is that a good example of a company that should’ve used you at that point in time?


Oh my goodness, that’s a perfect example, and you can come work for us as a–as a head of marketing, if this podcast–if this podcast thing doesn’t work out for you, Jamin. I mean, that’s spot-on. So when we were doing diligence on mTAB, I’m a–I’m a pretty diligent person, and we met with about 60 customers before doing the acquisition. And when I asked, “Why do you use mTAB?” and I kept asking “Why do you use mTAB?” to customers, and they–and here was the modal response, which is: The data is always right. Before mTAB, there’s spreadsheets sitting on 13 different computers, and you know the intern last year did something with the variables, but you forgot what exactly it was, and the Japan file is sitting over there and it’s not connecting to the Argentina file for this reason, and it’s a disaster, and nobody trusts the numbers. Once it goes into mTAB, it is–it is fact, and so–that’s what folks need, they need the single source of truth. They can’t have SPSS and Excel files on different people’s desktops and sitting in different data vendors’ proprietary tools. So what we do is we suck up all of that data, all the regional data and all the trended data, and all the different studies from data vendors, and we put it into one easy-to-use tool, so that there’s no debate about what the numbers are. And you can move onto the more interesting things like analysis and insights and storytelling, which is what market researchers ought to be doing.


So the–so there’s a couple things I want to piggyback on. I don’t want to lose sight of the importance of story, but before I get there, I viscerally connect to that. I know that, you know, as a primary researcher even back in the ’90s, we would conduct research, and then you would wind up with–you know, you’d of course do a bunch of analytics on that data, and if you have multiple analysts going through it, or even yourself and then some time passes, and you go back to reference, “Oh, which one is my–is the correct SPSS file?” or whatever data format you’re using at the time, it can get–confusing is an understatement, and there’s a lot of rework and even risk associated with using the incorrect or not-final data file.


Oh, absolutely. And we make sure that–that’s one of the services we provide, is that once a file goes up into mTAB, that’s it, that’s the final file. Which is why we are so rigorous about doing lots of process checks here, is we have to have 100% accuracy, because once it’s in mTAB, it has to be right, because that’s the value proposition that we’re selling to our clients.


The other part that you talked about is the story. I’ve heard this a lot lately, most recently by Rozhie [ph] of LinkedIn, and then Edwin Wong of Buzzfeed, story trumps numbers. Not in the way that–you have to have the numbers, and the numbers have to be right, nobody’s saying anything different. But the way that the people connect with the–the people being inside of the organization–connect with those numbers isn’t through a pie chart, it is through a narrative that is being built out in the organization, and that the more compelling that story, the more the organization is willing to adopt it and then make the necessary changes. Are you seeing in your customers these types of trends?


Absolutely. That’s why they–that’s why they come to us, is they don’t want to spend any more time mucking around with the data. They realize that that is something they should outsource to somebody else. They should outsource the merging together of data files, and they should be the ones focused on building out the story. And so when our customers interact with our software, they already–they–in an interactive dashboard, they press a few buttons, they export it to PowerPoint–they have a native PowerPoint–and they just build onto that story right away. And so when you look at–when you read something like the Grit Report, and you look at the amount of time that market researchers are spending cleaning, shaping data, and building PowerPoint slides, it is crazy. It’s crazy. They need to be thinking and developing new experiments and syndicating the story, writing the story and then syndicating it out throughout the organization, not mucking with data and building PowerPoint slides. And unfortunately too many market researchers are still doing that, because they don’t have a good grasp on the data, because they’re using outdated tools and methods.


That’s so funny. I’m really believing that that’s such an important message for market researchers to hear right now, and that is historically we have spent between 80 and 90% of our time simply doing research logistics, and now we’re at the stage where we need to be inverting that, and spending maybe 20% of the time or less on the logistics, and a lot more in the added value and uncovering the why, and then the–and then helping the client develop that story that is compelling, and that can be adopted inside of the organization.


Well, just [INAUDIBLE] table stakes now. It’s just table stakes, and the tools are just making it easier and easier that the C-suite doesn’t want to hear, “Oh, we spent a lot of time on logistics.” They just want to know the answer.


Exactly. So what three lessons did you learn as a management consultant that helped you–are helping you with the strategy of mTAB?


So it’s funny that you asked the question that way, because as a management consultant, I’ve been [INAUDIBLE] to create buckets, and typically I create buckets of threes, so my team always makes fun of me, because I always say, “There’s three things here.” So what three lessons did I learn? Well, you know, this is one that I thought about–it’s interesting you ask that question, because I’ve been thinking about this a lot for the last three years, because when I was a management consultant, we’d often come into companies, and we’d–there’d always be–there would often be comments of, “That’s not a new answer. Why’d they hire McKinsey? Why’d they hire Bain or BCG? They should’ve just asked us. You know, we knew that answer,” and internal departments, very often the market research department, would get frustrated that management hired these consultants to come in for millions of dollars to give them the answer that the market research department already had. And they thought, “Oh, you know, this is–this is–this is just garbage and nonsense that they’re hiring the consultants.” And, you know, I actually feel bad for the researchers, because they’re kind of right. They’re–they had the data all along, they had the answer all along, but they weren’t being listened to. So I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about, “What did we do–what did I do as a management consultant, what did we do at McKinsey, that we can take some of that and infuse it into the mTAB product, to empower market researchers to have a seat at the boardroom table, just the way the consultants do?” So there were–there are three things that I think that consultants do really well that market researchers can learn from, and that we’ve tried to take and infuse into the mTAB product. So number one, storytelling. So we talked a little bit about this, but I think it really is worth mentioning again. Consultants don’t just come in and say, “Here’s your data.” They come in, and they say, what was the situation, what’s the complication, what’s the resolution? Typical structure of a story. And they give an answer. So they don’t just deliver a 180-page deck that’s full of data and says, what are all the respondents said, and every variable by every single cut. They pull a select slide, and they build out and they tell a story. Number two, they’re hypothesis-driven. So I find that too many market researchers boil the ocean. And by that I mean, they get a data file, and they go, “What does the data file say?” Consultants who are hired at obscene rates for 10-week periods don’t have time to do that. So instead they come in and they say, “Here’s a hypothesis I have, and here’s what I’m going to test,” and they still go about it in a–in a scientific way. They run a–they have a hypothesis, and they test it, and if they–if the hypothesis fails, they’ll reject it, and they’ll take a new one, but they don’t boil the ocean and say, “What does the data say?” but they run tests. And the third thing I think that consultants do really well that market researchers can learn from is they break down silos. When you go and you hire a Bain or a BCG or a McKinsey, they’re flying around the entire organization. You know, they have access to all the data, and they have access to every department, whereas market researchers, I’m still surprised by how siloed they are, and even within the market research department, you have one person that’s doing–working with syndicated research data one, and another one is working with syndicated research data two, and a third one that’s working with proprietary data, and when you ask them, “Well, how are you looking at your–the cohesive set of knowledge?” they go, “Well, that’s not my job. I’m only the Cantor data person, or the GFK data person, or the Qualtrics expert. I don’t look at the cohesive set of knowledge.” And so I think market researchers are doing themselves a disservice. So what we’ve done is try to infuse some of that value that consultants bring into the mTAB product to empower market researchers to be really internal consultants within their organizations. So all of the hard work that is the table stakes that we talked about before, we take that off of clients’ hands. We have a–we have an analysis and insights department that will bring together lots of different data sets from across time and across geography and across different data vendors. We’ll put it into one tool, we’ll visualize it, and we’ll do it across all of the departments and all the sets of data, so that a market researcher can come in and just say, “What do we know about X?” and see the answer across the entire suite of knowledge, and then instantly, at their fingertips, be able to export a PowerPoint slide that’s already designed for them. That really is the power of what we’re trying–what we’re trying to do here, which is really empower the market researcher, because they are–they’re such an important and critical voice within the org–within these larger organizations, and it’s a voice that I think has gone a little bit quiet as there’s louder people out there shouting, but it’s often that quiet knowledgeable voice that has the right answer. So it’s our goal to empower the market researcher to raise their voice and be heard throughout their organization.


It’s a lot of context that’s missing from primary market research that you’re providing the customer. So when I think about all the projects that I’ve done, the thousands that–and that’s just because I’m old–that I’ve done, most of the time, I am dealing with, to your point, a siloed dataset from which I then think come up with, derive, and answer. But you’re absolutely right–God, it’s true, the millions of dollars I’ve paid consultants to answer questions for me, and they’ve only polled 60 industry experts or what have you, as opposed to the thousands that you might see in a normal study, and they’re coming up with meaningful–and the way that they’re doing that is this triangulation of context, where the business is right now, and then the primary research. So it is the case that they’re incorporating this syndicated data, but they’re also doing–adding the storytelling and qualitative elements on top of it. And I think you’re absolutely right, there’s a ton that we can learn as researchers to help uncover and address the why, and really make impact inside of the organization as opposed to being more in this defensive role that I think a lot of researchers find themselves today, where they’re trying to be the protectors of the methodology.


Our goal is to empower researchers to go on the offense. Our most impressive clients, what they’ll do is suck in various forms of syndicated data, and not just one set, but two or three sets, so that they’re the experts. There’s so many market researchers I ask, and I say, “How are you analyzing and double-checking the data from your market research provider?” And they go, “Oh, I ask them for cuts of the data.” And they’ll wait a week for a cut of the data from their syndicated data provider. That’s crazy. You have to–you have to have your hands around the data. So our best clients, they’ll suck in data from three different market researchers, then they’ll link that data set to their front-end survey, whatever they use, let’s say Qualtrics, and then they’ll pull in their proprietary data, just as you said, and overlay that, and then they’ll have a view of, “OK, with all of the data we have, let’s triangulate from the syndicated data to our own proprietary data to our sales and marketing data, what’s actually happening.” And those are the most impressive market researchers I see, and they–we have some of those as our clients, and those are the ones I’m most impressed by.


So I always end the interview with an opportunity for you to either inform the audience on something that you’ve got, like an offering that you have, that you’re particularly excited about, or, you know, some other key insight. So what is it that mTAB has to offer right now that can add value to brands?


I think we talked a bit about that.


I think you might be right.


I think–I think–I think we talked a bit about that, but I think that two of the more–the bigger things that we’re working on right now, we’re really spending a lot of time on our data visualization platform. We’re trying to make it easier and easier and easier for people to get to the numbers. But in a way, they still have the feeling that the data is accurate, and they can still work with complex data. There’s too many visualization platforms out there that A, are just not suited for market research, or B, just dumb it down too much, and aren’t really sophisticated enough to deal with 22 geographies and 10 years of history and four different data vendors. So we’re building on an incredibly sophisticated data visualization platform that still is incredibly intuitive to use. That’s one of the things we’re most excited about, and on the back end side we’re building out more and more connectors to this front-end survey tools. So whether you’re using a Qualtrics or a Decipher or a Confirmit or SurveyMonkey or just have raw SPSS files, we don’t care. We want you to be able to plug in all of your sources of data and get it into your data warehouse so you can operate from that single source of truth.


Interesting. My guest today has been Alex Gelman, CEO of mTAB. Alex, thank you so much for joining me today.


Thank you, Jamin.


Have a great day, and thank you, everybody who’s listening. How are the levels? Testing, testing, testing. Yeah? Are we recording? Hi. I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. Today, my guest is Alex Gelman, CEO of mTAB. MTAB has a platform for integrating and analyzing data, so that brands make the most informed business decisions. Prior to founding mTAB, Alex worked as a business consultant for McKinsey and KKR. Shit. There are–today, my guest is Alex Gelman, CEO of mTAB. MTAB has a platform for integrating and analyzing data, so that brands make the most informed business decisions. Prior to founding mTAB, Alex worked as a business consultant at McKinsey and KRR. Alex, thanks for being on the podcast today. Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listen-

Ep. 113 – Reflecting on the Interview with Ryan Barry, CRO of Zappi

In this episode, Alexandra and Jamin breakdown some of the key points of the interview with Ryan Barry, CRO of Zappi. In particular, they cover some pitfalls to avoid in consulting firms, the power of Zappi’s company culture, and the opportunity that tech brings to market research as well as the greater responsibility on researchers to bring analysis.

FIND US ONLINE: www.happymr.com

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LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch/


LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryan-barry-8354036/

Twitter: @RyanBarry401

Zappi: https://www.zappistore.com/web/

Ep. 112 – Ryan Barry, CRO at Zappi

Ryan breaks down how tech is transforming market research. While technology has removed some of what market research held at the center of it’s offerings, Ryan shows how tech also presents fertile new grounds for opportunities. With a focus on bringing the industry into the offensive, to take advantage of these new opportunities, Ryan shares a bit about how Zappi is implementing new tech and business models now. He also shares with us a bit about his background and some of the lessons he’s learned through his career.



Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/happymrxp

Twitter: @happymrxp Instagram: @happymrxp

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch/


LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryan-barry-8354036/

Twitter: @RyanBarry401

Zappi: https://www.zappistore.com/web/


Hi. I’m Jamin, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. Today I’m joined by Ryan Barry, chief revenue officer of Zappi. Founded in 2013, Zappi partners with leading research companies like Kantar, MMR, and BuzzBack to turn their methodologies into insight products. These products are used by the likes of McDonald’s, Amazon, and Verizon. Prior to joining Zappi, Ryan worked at Lightspeed and has founded a nonprofit that engaged millennials in charity work. Ryan, thank you very much for joining us today.


Thank you so much, Jamin and Alexandra, for having me. It’s my pleasure.


Well, we’re really excited. I have been following your company closely, you know, since your launch in 2013, really since you joined in two-thousand and-I think it was fourteen. But before we get into ZappiStore and the work that’s happening there, I’d love to start with your roots, you know, background in marketing, of course, and then later you graduated with a marketing research degree, your MBA, I think, from the University of Georgia. Why did you choose marketing research?


It’s a good question. So I was a bit of a-I guess you’d call me a late bloomer. So I was raised by two beautiful parents who hustled to make ends meet, so, you know, that’s how I sort of came up. And early in grade school, in middle school, whatever, I was always selling something, I was always marketing something. And I didn’t know that at the time. And I also spent too much time in high school probably having fun, so when I got to college I was a bit of a-you know, what am I going to do. And I started taking these business classes. So I just loved marketing. And, you know, the plan was Madison Avenue, and I’m speaking metaphorically. I thought I was going to go work at a big ad agency and be a planner. And, anyways, right before I graduated university I got an opportunity to design a program for the Market Research Association. So this is a long time ago before the merger, all that fun stuff. And I went to the MRA New England conference, which oddly I was the president of like ten years later, and I fell in love with it. And I met some, you know, early days fairly senior employees at a company called GMI, which was founded in ’98 by Rob Monster, which eventually became Lightspeed. And I decided to join and haven’t looked back since. And I decided to join frankly, Jamin, not because of market research, but because I was able to join this sort of not-quite startup but business that was still figuring it out and at an early age I just got access to do a lot. And then the economy crashed about three weeks after I joined. So then, you know, I was right out of school doing a ton of different work that I had no business or experience doing, but the amount of learning I got in those early years was just unbelievable. And then as I started to grow I realized I work with people and I study people-what a cool place to earn a living. And so now I do consider myself part of the community. I mean, I don’t think I’d ever leave this industry. It’s-I mean, the amount of friends and people who I respect that I’ve learned-that I’ve got to know along the way are-I mean, there’s just so many of them. So, yeah, probably like most others, Jamin, by accident.


So you were part of GMI. Was that when Rob Monster was CEO?


It was just around the time he was leaving. It was at the time when the company, they were going to bring in sort of private equity leadership to hedge the losses, kind of focus on growth, understand core competency, and so when I got there the company was a software platform, a panel company, had some full-service capabilities. There was quite a few product offers, and within that first year it was, “Oh, wow, we have this thing called a panel asset. It’s very profitable, and maybe we should just do that.” And so I was kind of part of- Well, I was a consumer of that pivot, if that makes sense.


What’s really interesting about that, Rob Monster’s vision was this-He even coined the term data ecosystem, Microsoft being one of his largest contributors. In fact, I even think there was C-level executive of Microsoft that was sitting on GMI’s board in those days. And the vision, this is early, right? I mean, this is early 2000s when it started taking shape. The vision that Rob had was to bring about a holistic approach to research where a company like Microsoft would be able to create almost an insights product similar to, in a lot of ways, what ZappiStore is doing today. Did that-Did those early days help inform your decision on joining ZappiStore?


You know what? I wasn’t there early enough. But I’ll tell you something with my experience at Lightspeed did. So I was-I used to manage the southeast business. And then I started looking after a lot of-this is now still pre-merger-a lot of the enterprise accounts, and we were trying to figure out how does a company who programs surveys and provides access to sample add value in the enterprise. And I partnered with Marketing and Planning Systems, which is now part of Kantar, and we had this really cool program, which you probably know about because it ran on the Decipher platform, where we basically built this ecosystem of tracking quick-hit surveys, ad hoc surveys, for Walmart. And it was this awesome program, and we ran it for-I mean, it was-It’s no longer a thing, which is why I’m now publicly talking about it. It’s a really cool ecosystem, and it was the beginning of-We sort of thought of this way to do research on demand before it was really a thing. And so it was that thinking. I said, oh, there’s-you know, there was a very high-performing program for us when I was there, and I said, oh, there’s something to this. That eventually I looked back at and laughed, and I said, “Oh, that’s-that was sort of some type of Zappi thinking before Zappi was a thing.” The reason I decided to join Zappi was I was doing a couple of projects at night. I had a dog business with my wife, a nonprofit. But I felt like I had learned everything I was going to learn doing what I was doing. But I didn’t want to go work on a widget or a toy, and I think there’s a lot of-I was listening to your and Merrill’s [ph] interview earlier this morning, and I think the conversation you guys were having about the eight-year-old kids chasing the soccer ball left and right, I mean, there’s a lot of that that goes on. And so I wanted to make sure my next step was something that could make impact. And the idea of what Steve was trying to do with Zappi, while raw, you could see it. You could see where this could go and the potential. And so then what really made me decide to join Zappi was Steve. I met him; we hit it off right away and realized the two of us have extremely complementary skillsets. And so, you know, Steve is now one of my really close friends and we work so well together because of that complementary nature. So it was, you know, the ability to build a business the right way with somebody who I believed in working with that was really what got me here. But I just saw the opportunity, if we execute it, of what this business could be.


That’s really interesting. Did you work with the Hummingbird product for project management inside of GMI?


I did. That was a-I mean, that could have been its own company.


Yeah, just for a little bit of inside baseball, I was selling into-selling Decipher into then GMI. As GMI went through its re-org, one of the assets that emerged that was very interesting was this Hummingbird product, which is this very sophisticated CRM that supposedly-and I didn’t interact with it directly-but had broad-reaching application even outside of market research.


Yeah, it was pretty clever. Tom-If Tom Ottersburg[ph] is a subscriber of yours, I’d shout out to Tom, because he was one of the architects behind it. But you could run the whole life cycle through it. So I came up as a project manager. And so you could like-you could see every element of the project in this system, and it was-I think it was one of the things that when Kantar eventually acquired GMI it was one of the main assets besides obviously the panel base. So when I came to Zappi and, you know, like most startups you start running your CRM out of Excel files for a couple years and then, of course, like most other companies, we then get it to run in Salesforce. There was definitely a few days where I was, like, “I wish I still had Hummingbird.”


That’s great. So, in those early days at Lightspeed, were you predominantly focused on sales?


No, I got into sales because I always wanted to run a business. And Dan Fitzgerald [ph]-I have a lot of mentors in my life. Dan Fitzgerald was running their commercial business at the time, and I always had a good relationship with him. And I had spent the first couple years just doing project management, account management, and I wanted to learn. You know, I think work is mostly about learning, you know, so I’m trying to learn every day. And I felt as though I wasn’t going to learn much else executing work, and I wanted to get another lens on the business. And if I was eventually going to try to run a PNL, I thought having a number, having a quota, being responsible for the commercial side of the business was something I needed to get some more exposure to. So that’s what got me into sales at that time. So that was probably two years in. And then the rest of the time I was in some sort of commercial role from there.


One of the things I attribute GMI and later Lightspeed’s success or now Lightspeed’s success to on a growth basis was its ability to apply outside marketing and sales techniques. That was largely brought in by Dan Fitzgerald. That was under his leadership that, you know, whether it’s direct-or actually improved direct sales took effect. So did you have exposure in terms of the pre- and post-Dan Fitzgerald?


Oh, yeah. I mean, so Dan was just coming in when I joined the company, and within a year that place was tight-I mean, systematic process, I mean, the place was just run like a machine. And, I mean, those high growth years that GMI had, I mean, it was consistent 35-40% growth, and the business was already fairly big at that time. Yeah, I mean, so Dan’s still a mentor of mine, and now I can-I’m pleased I can say he’s a friend of mine. I still call him for advice today. I mean, and that business was humming for a good few years. And obviously Lightspeed is a very big business now, so they’re doing different things to continue their growth and evolution. But, yeah, Dan’s the best. I know we both have a good relationship with Dan. So I still feel like I’ve got a lot to learn from him.


Yeah, that makes two of us. So while you were at Lightspeed you started a nonprofit, Doing It for the Kids. You talked a little bit before about your desire to have your own business. Was-Maybe talk to us about what the Doing It for the Kids was. And then I think you ran it for about 12 months. What ultimately happened with it?


Yeah, for sure. So one of my best friends and I, we were up-So I lived in a post-college frat house for a couple years too long, like probably many people do, many people who live in cities like I do. So I lived in a big old ugly house in Boston with a few friends, and my college roommate and I have always had a very competitive business type of friendship. So we both went to business school together, and so, you know, we would-Anyways, we’re sitting there talking. We’re, like, all these brands are trying to get access to Millennials. Millennials are trying to do the right thing for people in the world and society. They don’t want to write checks to bureaucrats, but they like having fun. I mean, you see all of these like social Boston sports or social New York sports or whatever they might be. And so we just had this idea where like if we could throw amazing competitive events, volleyball tournaments, golf tournaments, 5Ks, whatever, have brands offset a lot of the opex, they’d get access to a very high demand group of people, millennials. Millennials would come and have fun. And because the events themselves wouldn’t cost much because of the fact that the sponsorship would offset it, we could just make the money go directly to kids. And so we partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Boston. And I vividly remember that the CEO of Boys and Girls Club of Boston, Josh Kraft-his dad you probably know is Bob Kraft, who is a CEO of the Patriots-I remember sitting there. We just had this random idea with two PowerPoint slides, and, anyways, he let us help him. So we built a brand. We built a Web site. We held a bunch of events. We raised some money. And then my partner Tyler was going to pitch to find more partners, and he met Bert Jacobs, who is the CEO and cofounder of the Life Is Good company, which is a business that stands for optimism. And you probably know them as an apparel company with really cool outfit-you know, for T-shirts that have inspirational optimistic phrases on them. And he had had a nonprofit, as well as an apparel brand, and there was a pretty significant gap between the two businesses that he was trying to bridge. And so we sort of said, you know, why don’t you come in and do this for our business, so Tyler, my partner, went and did that. And I was at the same time going through some evolution with my wife, who was a CPA and hated her job, and she wanted to do something entrepreneurial. And so I decided to sort of stay at Lightspeed. Tyler went and did that at Life Is Good and, you know, has gone on to have an amazing career so far since then. And my wife was basically a CPA, and she would come home from work every day just like miserable. We had this really crazy hound dog named Wallace, and he needed to get exercise. But we didn’t want to pay to have it walked around the block, and we said what if we just had a business where we took other people’s dogs to do what we do on the weekends, which is bring them in the woods, let them get off the leash and have some fun. And so that ended up being my new side hustle, my new project. And we-that was real fun. I mean, we-I remember sitting by the phone waiting for the first customers to call. And we built a nice little business. By the end of it, we had 12 employees. And frankly, Jamin, I was at a crossroads: Am I doing this full-time or am I going to go do Zappi? And so obviously we’re sitting here talking about Zappi, so you know what I ended up doing. But, yeah, those were the two kind of things that were happening at different points in time, both of which I learned a lot from.


It’s interesting that you-a side hustle sounds like it’s been either a consistent desire or a part of your life. And it’s no wonder that you started with a-with ZappiStore and then moved into the chief revenue officer role. What was your-Where was your competence placed in ZappiStore? What was the real big aspect that attracted you to it?


Well, what attracted me to it was something has been wrong with this industry for a while and I could see the end coming of-you know, there’s always this reputation in our industry that, you know, how many years did we both go to conferences and you hear this is the year of mobile and then nothing sort of happened. And, I mean, it was a good few ARF conferences where you’d see keynotes-and not to pick on ARF-I mean, it was all the conferences, but-and, you know-But I also saw the rest of the world starting to be exponential in change and evolution, and I want to be part of it. And so I was looking-Frankly, I was looking at a bunch of businesses, you know, to try to see what was next for me. And as I was in a role where I was trying to evangelize what Lightspeed did in the enterprise, I said, “OK, so there’s a gap in service there. What could be the thing?” And then I met Steve, and it was this-it was an idea. You know, it was an idea with a prototype and it sort of worked, and I said, “You know what? There’s something there, you know.” So it was-I knew there was something wrong. The way research companies make money has been broken for a while. The way brands get access to and use insights when they need them, and it’s also longitudinally it’s been broken for a while. And so I just thought if we could pull this off there’d be-we could add a lot of value. And frankly I thought the other part of it is how many startups don’t get to do viable, tangible market research. Could we eventually not help those businesses instead of just helping Coke, Pepsi do more research? So that was part of it. The other part honestly was culture. It was abundantly clear to me, as I said a few minutes ago, Steve and I had-you know, we had a synergy between the two of us, and I wanted to do something where I could build culture and build it in a way where people wouldn’t have the Sunday scaries, where they’d be fired up to come to work. And so that was the other reason. I just figured we’re going to-if we’re going to, you know, have a blank canvas and both he and I are both aligned kind of on a principle basis about, you know, the importance of people, I was all in. So I remember kind of I was going back and forth pros and cons with my wife for like a month, and eventually my wife said, “You just need to make a decision.” So I’ll never forget we went to a reggae concert. The next morning I woke up. The first thing that popped into my head was Zappi. I called Steve, and, you know, I’ve been running ever since.


So let’s dive in a little bit in the subject of culture. Two things stand out. One is your enthusiasm and joy and desire to have fun. The other thing, of course, is this constant learning or growing, developing. What are the core beliefs or the DNA of ZappiStore today?


It’s a good question, and I think culture is something that evolves. And it evolves sometimes for the better and sometimes, you know, a business evolves for the worse. I mean, so there’s a couple of things about Zappi’s culture. I believe people should bring their entire existence to work, good, bad, and ugly. So you see me as I am every day. I talked-I was just on the phone before this with one of our biggest clients. I talked to him the same way I would our office manager, the same way-I mean, everybody-I’m just me and that’s it. And I think everybody is empowered to do that. We run a very flat company, which means we value candor, honesty. You know, you’ll very rarely go to a meeting at Zappi where there’s not a fairly intense discussion happening, and it’s important-There’s a great book, right, Kim Scott [ph], who has worked at I think all the big companies, all the famed companies, about radical candor. And that’s something we really subscribe to in that if you really care about people you can be really honest about things. And so that honesty is important. We’ve also been really fortunate to have a company where 23 countries are represented on our staff. And naturally being a software company you have a diversity of personality types. You have type As like me, but you also have logicians. So our CTO and I literally could not be more different people. We approach problem-solving completely differently. But the byproduct of the two of us sitting together is a much better decision than one of us would make in isolation. So that level of inclusive listening and courageous honesty are key things that we strive for. And because we’re flat we also give people the autonomy to make decisions and work on stuff, which I think is important because if everybody is just following one of us then we have to wait in line and, you know, the amount of time spent putting stuff up the flagpole, down the flagpole, it’s just not productive. And so we follow a pretty simple rule here or anybody can make any decision as long as they take the advice of people who are affected by it and listen to it. And so that’s been a key part. And as we’ve grown, we now, we’re no longer six of us sitting around a table. There’s 220 of us. So it’s, there’s different evolutions. Some people you hire aren’t necessarily gonna fit in that environment, or sometimes the environment needs to adapt to fit in other people. And so you’re kinda constantly going through that change. But I just this morning was on a call with a new employee. I try to talk to everybody as frequently as I can. And I won’t say where he worked before, but he worked for one of the big companies in this industry, and he said it’s the first time in ten years he hasn’t had the Sunday Scaries. And I was just like, it was really cool to hear that as we’ve continued to grow. So that’s a little bit about our culture. We just think if everybody can lead and own what they do, and ideas and innovation can come from everywhere, then we can continuously grow and get in front of where the world’s going, not get stagnant.


I think one of the brilliant things, the ZappiStore did democratization of insights. And you touched on this earlier. You took what was a $50 or a $100,000 price point product and through automation created a still profitable solution for large research companies, like Millward Brown. And, but then it was sold at a price point that was-I think your Web site says you have products that are under $2,000. So very, very cheap, and yet still very valuable in the context of the sponsors and the insight companies that this is coming from. In those early days, was there tension with, should we just build competitive products versus Millward Brown and bringing those to market? Kinda like Confirmit did in a lot of ways or Qualtrics. Or was the idea, let’s start a channel strategy with those large research companies?


It’s a really good question. And I think in any business where you’re disrupting the way things are, there’s gonna be tension throughout. So we have some amazing partnerships with Mark Research and Acacia Avenue and Kantar and MMR and some other organizations where they’ve got truly great thinking, truly great methods, databases that are really valuable. And those partnerships have been fruitful, and they’ve evolved over time. Some of our partnerships, like you know yourself with the businesses you’ve been a part of. Some partnerships work better than others. And also, our business has been evolving from a product market fit and go-to market perspective because, at the end of the day, we’ve really been cranking for four and a half years. And so there’s been that. So there’s one cost. Our platform is expert led, so everything on the platform has to be really grounded in proven, valid measurement methods. So we actually do have products that are our own. But, and we’ve always had products that are our own, but we don’t, we put them in a place where they’re appropriately positioned in our portfolio of what they can and can’t do. The other thing is we’ve always had a channel partnership strategy. But there’s-I mean you know yourself from Decipher, there’s a different level of desire to blow things up when you’re talking to the enterprise relative to the service providers that support them. And so we’ve kept that pressure on so that what we can do technologically isn’t stifled by anything else other than what the market demands versus some politics or agendas or what have you. And so we’ve continued to innovate, and that’s evolved the way channel works at Zappi, but we still have so many amazing partnerships. And the ones that I mentioned are still thriving and growing. But they’ll be times where there’s just a discrete choice model doesn’t have a lot of unique thinking in it, but where there’s value is consulting on top of it. And so you can see ways where that continuously evolves as our, frankly, as our capability continues to grow. But I view what we do as a way to allow agencies, consultancies to make money when they have really tangible, credible, valuable, intellectual property, but also to make money to put their brains to work instead of having to do a lot of the nuts and bolts work in between. My opinion is that helps the clients with, it helps them sell more stuff.




Develop their brands, etc.


The interview, which is not yet public but on, that we did with Adam Sykes from LinkedIn, Rougier, he actually said they’ve moved more and more away from ConJoin into using Facebook ads as a way to test the concepts. So they don’t care about exactly- it’s not about the ad. It’s about the, which one of the sales is winning. And so it’s just another example of where outside technology is displacing what has traditionally been the realm, solidly in the realm of market research. And why this subject is so important to us as researchers, and so when you dig into these conversations with customers, as you’ve so succinctly said, getting to the why, this versus that, is critical for the brands to be able to understand. It isn’t that 46% prefer. It’s why that is the case. And then the application of that to real life.


Well, it’s true, Jamin. I mean think of the opportunity we have. If the whole marketing industry is becoming programmatic, and there’s about a million ad tech toys that are getting Silicon Valley money chucked at them-


That’s right.


All this programmatic data lacks why data. And we’re-I mean it’s not-that’s what we have. We have this ability to bring that to the party, and technology gives us the ability to scale it. Some of the stuff we’re working on is being able to codify and scale expertise of people so that you don’t always have to do research first. You can first look back at what you know. But if we can give why data in this programmatic world, we’re not talking about an industry under duress. We’re talking about an industry that should be thriving. And that’s what, I mean if you were, I think you’ve probably heard me speak at one conference or another. Sometimes I’m pissed off about it because I just think we should be the industry that’s growing the fastest. I go to too many enterprises where research is still the department that goes to cover someone’s ass. And it’s like, oh God, if we just played offense, we could change all this. And we should because we have the skills to do it.


I think, I don’t think we played offense in a long time. I mean-


I know. It kills me.


It does me too. And this is so, so getting under this banner of why, which is honestly part of the, and I hear this in every single conversation, every single interview that I do, whether it’s in the, what Alexander’s producing at MRX News. Every single day it’s all about the why. And that’s where I think qualitative is emerging as this kind of, we’ve deprioritized that, honestly, from if you look at how Google’s treating ad testing and whatever. It’s all about data-driven insights. But we’re, they’re not taking the time to understand the why. And actually, that’s one of the reasons that we’re, that there’s been material misses, I believe, in political races. It’s very interesting from an opportunity perspective how we could punch through if we can, as researchers, inverse the model, where before we would spend 90% of our time in just the logistics of gathering insights and maybe 10% on the insights and packaging of those insights. And change that so that we’re spending more time with the brain matter, as you said, as opposed to the autopilot.


Have you followed any of Diane Hessan’s work that she’s been doing with politics using Communispace?


I’ve heard her speak a few times but not actively following it.


You should probably have her on at some point. She basically has been using market research communities to talk to Americans about how they feel about policy. And the level of insight that she’s getting is insane. And you’re not gonna see it in poll data that is on Nate Silver’s blog, which is also valuable. But two hours before the election, Hillary was gonna win. Two hours before the end of the election, Hillary was still gonna win. And so there is also value in that why data. I think the other thing too is we’re, we’re on this, we’re talking a lot about why data in a programmatic world. But machines, technology also allow us to get to a place where why, why something happens can quickly result in the what to do about it next. Because you can see a world starting to-I can see a world because I’m part of the technology organization where social media Web, social media analytics platforms, platforms like Zappi, Market Mix Model, Sales Data, these ecosystems can start to create and have handshakes of data where I could start to see-I’m already starting to see this happen with some of our bigger users where they do a concept test. And because they’ve come back and taught what happened, they’re like, “Hey, do this. Talk to this retailer at this price point. And if you do sales from-” You’re starting to get to action as a result of it because there’s a lot of knowledge in this industry that, unfortunately, just still lives in a PowerPoint. So it’s something that, it’s kinda one of the things we’re pushing forward is how do you get people not only to why something happens but what to do about it.


So one of the things that I noticed is we’ve evolved thinking about the fulcrum platform, what Patrick Homer’s doing, specifically, how, moving into more and more of an automated procurement process of respondence. It does seem to be the case that CPIs, or cost per interviews, are continuing to go down. That could be good news and it could be bad news. Good news in that research is cheaper. Bad news is in that some people might be questioning the validity of a 20-minute survey when you’re paying a respondent a quarter. How is Zappi wrestling with, or dealing, ensuring the overall data quality of sample through an automated work flow?


That’s a good question. It is. And I have a lot of opinions about this because it’s a world I came from. So it’s obviously, it’s baked into what we do here. So a couple things. We are an expert-led product company versus a survey platform, and so everything’s kinda pre-built. And so what that means is before we put something on production or we try to sell it to our customers, we will validate it. And what I mean by that is we’ll align source composition by country, and we’ll run a bunch of sample through the product to make sure that the answers are gonna be consistent and reliable. And as an example, when we put the version of link on Zappi, which is Millward Brown’s ad test, we ran a ton of side by sides to make sure that a user would make the same business decision using Zappi with a one-day turnaround versus using Millward Brown with, say, a 10-day turnaround. And so at the product upfront level, we marry source composition, and that’s standardized. So, and then at the customer level, same thing. We’ve built a sample platform on Zappi where-we’re not a sample company. We never will be. But we’ve built a sample platform that allows us to understand the composition of respondents using some, using our data science team but also this platform so that we can have a consistent framework for screening to our surveys for all of our quick-service restaurant customers, for all of our telecommunication customers that allows us to have a very consistent sample frame but gives the customer the ability to drill into people who eat ten Big Macs at McDonald’s on a Friday night. You can drill down on the data if you want without screening at two-percent incidents. The other thing is because we were a startup, we didn’t have Legacy 45-minute trackers to deal with. So nothing we do is above 12 minutes. I think our average global interview length is eight minutes right now. So if you build the mobile friendly surveys that are short, you naturally can start to do this. Now what we’ve been doing a lot of, because we’re not a service company. Our, we, our partners will either configure Zappi products or consult off the back of them, but the majority of our user base is configuring a project, launching it, and getting a report emailed to them. And so we’re not naturally going in and cleaning open ends and all that other fun stuff. So we’ve been doing a lot to detect gibberish, engagement using some data science techniques to remove it from surveys. As you move into the programmatic world, you obviously have to be more mindful of things like bots. And so we’ve been building capabilities to make sure that we can detect and remove bots and gibberish from surveys. We do all the duplication speed check, all that sort of quality rigor in place. But I think the big thing is we get a, before we decided to advance down the programmatic path, which I’ll tell you we’re-I’ll say this probably for the first time in the open. We’re leaning in to programmatic sample hard. And I’ll tell you why. We did side by sides with all the panel companies, and I saw a negligible difference in quality. And in some cases I saw a higher level of engagement using the sense and lucids of the world versus kind of just purely relying on traditional sample. And so that’s given us great confidence to kinda continuously move in this direction. And part of it is because you’re not just talking to people who are on panels. You’re able to get access to people who are not gonna be in panels but really wanna read about whether or not Tom Brady’s gonna retire. And they’re willing to take a six-minute survey to get access to that premium content. And so there is definitely, I’m seeing real immense value in it. And I’m less concerned about the incentive, because the way those companies incent is different than two dollars to take a survey, which is the world I was in many years ago. So it’s gonna be an interesting space to watch, and then you look at companies like Survata who aren’t even programmatic. I mean it’s just publisher-based sample, and that’s a really interesting data layer to consider. And that’s another one of our partners that we have a great relationship with. So I think we’re gonna actually push pretty hard on this front because, well, we’re finding it’s a more scalable way to do things.


Love it. So last question. This is the opportunity for you to tell the listeners what you want them to know about ZappiStore. As you know, our listeners are insights professionals, both buyers and users of insights. So what is Zappi working on today that you’d love the audience to know about?


Well, thanks. Thanks for the bounce pass, Jamin. I appreciate it. So we just, we’ve spent the last year and a half working with our top 20 customers, really understanding how we can give them value. And we’ve built capabilities around that. As a result, we decided to rebrand the company. We’ve moved on from being the app store of quick and dirty research tools. We’ve merged with a company called Intellection Software, which has really advanced capabilities in data management. And so we’ve dropped “Store.” We’re now just Zappi. We’re focusing on building a set of expert-led capabilities, specifically today to answer questions around product development and advertisement, and then giving customers a place where the data that they collect that gets more value from them. So instead of the first things one of our clients does is doing another concept test, first thing they’re starting to do is actually go in and look at what they already know. And that’s by enabling advanced statistics and on-demand kinda meta-analytic capabilities. So that’s what we’re doing now. We’re working on a ton of stuff to continuously land the ability to bring people right to the answer. That’s vision stuff that we’re aspiring to. But right now we’re end-to-end platform for testing and learning throughout the ad and concept development process with a whole host of analytics capabilities on the back end. So that’s what I would say. I would also say the thing that our clients like about us is our people. We do sell software. The guy who runs my America’s business was a former Head of Insights. The gentleman who runs our Canada business used to be on the client’s side. Our Head of Partnerships used to be a senior executive at GFK. So we’ve really focused on making sure that we bring a lot empathy to what we’re doing so that we understand not just that our software toy is cool but how our users get value out of it. I just recently welcomed one of our clients to our teams. This was a Global Insights Director from Coca Cola. And now she’s, Patricia’s working with a lot of our clients to actually help them transform insights around what Zappi does because, frankly, Jamin, I think too often innovation is like a Zappi or a Remesh or a Voxpopme or a KnowledgeHound or a lot of these really cool players that are emerging in our space. We suffer because our clients apply our technology to broken policies and ecosystems. So, and frankly, I spend a lot of time consulting brands on how to make something like Zappi actually work, because if you just apply Zappi to a broken process, it’s just another thing. That’s been where we spend a lot of energy.


More of the insights of Frankenstein. My guest today has been Ryan Barry, Chief Revenue Officer at Zappi. Ryan, thank you very much for joining me today.


Thank you, Jamin. It was an absolute pleasure.


Thank you everyone for listening, and have a great-

Ep. 111 – Kristin Luck, Global Strategic Advisor

Kristin Luck, advisor to countless companies and founder of the Luck Collective as well as WIRe, shares her perspective on the industry trends. With a keen eye on marketing research’s victories and failures in the past, she diagnoses what we should be keeping our eye on for the future.



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WIRe: https://www.womeninresearch.org/