Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 126 – Dave Carruthers, Founder and CEO of Voxpopme

Today, my guest is Dave Carruthers, Founder and CEO of Voxpopme. Voxpopme is a platform optimizes and automates insights gained from video.

Prior to founding Voxpopme, Dave had worked extensively in tech dating back to 2001.

FIND DAVE ONLINE:

Twitter: @DaveCarruthers

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

FIND US ONLINE:

www.happymr.com

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

Twitter: @happymrxp

Instagram: @happymrxp

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


[00:00:00]
Here is what you can look forward to in today’s episode.

[00:00:03]
I think this has been talked about in the podcast a number of times how difficult change is to implement and drive within the industry. There’s lots of reasons behind that, the status quo, and professional risk, and what if it doesn’t work? And as an industry we’re not, we tend to be typically risk-averse. It was tough in the early days for sure –

[00:00:30]
Over the last decade, the market research industry has been disrupted. Our largest agencies are struggling to keep up as their customers turn to newer, faster, and cheaper data sources. Now, we are on the edge of yet another major market shift. Now is the time for us to reassert ourselves as the rudder of the brands we love. Thank you for tuning in to the Happy Market Research Podcast where we are charting the path for the future of market researchers and businesses. Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. Today my guest is Dave Carruthers, Founder and CEO of Voxpopme. Voxpopme is a platform that is optimized and automates insights gained from video. Prior to founding Voxpopme, Dave has worked extensively in tech dating back to 2001. Dave, thank you very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.

[00:01:20]
Thanks, Jamin. Looking forward to the next half hour for sure.

[00:01:24]
So one of our core questions and it’s driven by the audiences’ interest is how did your parents wind up impacting who you are today and ultimately the success that you have had with Voxpopme?

[00:01:40]
I guess everything starts with our parents, our upbringing, our values. And it’s a bit weird because in my family no one else was really entrepreneurial, was within business. But even as a young kid I was always setting up these business, whether it was washing people’s cars in the neighborhood. Or setting up a magazine, and these kinds of different things. I was always looking at ways to make money. I think the biggest impact, in terms of career-wise, was probably my father. He was a computer programmer, so that definitely got me interested in technology from an early age. I remember seven years old, getting a Commodore 64, which dates me somewhat, as a Christmas present and learning to write these basic programs on that device. And tango to 20-20 run and all of this stuff. And it really started my obsession with technology and what was possible. So from an early age, I would say that that influence there was massive for me.

[00:02:56]
Commodore 64, so that was actually my dream device growing up. My parents wouldn’t support me for it though, unfortunately, because we went with the early adopter of Atari 2600.

[00:03:09]
Atari 2600, yeah, it was great. I just remember playing Football Manager on there and we had this army assault game. The amount of joysticks we went through because they were, you had to shake it left and right to run faster, and they weren’t particularly robust back in those days, the 27 minutes for the game to load as you put the tape in and stuff. It’s amazing to see where we have come now to VR and these immersive games we’ve got, and incredible really.

[00:03:43]
And then you have this whole, you can actually make a living streaming nowadays. So talk about a complete divergent path that I am massively envious of.

[00:03:55]
Yeah. I think there’s a famous cartoon about how you could make money playing computer games and it was satirical back in the ’90s, I think it was. And then here we are today with some of the best-paid reality stars are Twitch streamers. We have got e-sports athletes. So the world has changed completely for sure.

[00:04:24]
The whole Twitch thing, you have obviously been following some of the adoption of Twitch and how I believe, it’ll eventually overshadow in the next ten years what is professional sports right now. There is a lot of buzz around LA specifically thinking about Blizzard created their own gaming area, EA has one for e-sports now as well. So it’s just there is a lot that’s blowing up in that space. Have you been seeing any of that impact research?

[00:04:59]
Yeah. Well, Twitch is actually a client of ours. So we have actually done quite a bit of work with them getting to the voice of the gamer and stuff. Quite a lot of video feedback at events and capturing that. And also doing stuff within their platform to capture feedback on streams and things like that. So yeah, it’s a really interesting space and I think what you’re seeing, all of these pro sports teams have now got their own e-sports teams. Whether that be Madden teams or FIFA teams, or even the Call of Duty, and obviously Fortnite as a phenomenon seems to have taken over now as well. So yeah, I think that medium, the thought that there’s thousands of people watching someone play a computer game. For me, all it does is remind me of how bad I am at these various games, so I kind of tend to stay away from it. It’s certainly changed things for sure.

[00:06:07]
I play Fortnite with my teenage boys about once every two weeks and it is the most humiliating experience ever. What’s funny is, I have always prided myself on being a particularly good gamer. So right when World of Warcraft first came out, however long ago that was, 15 years or whatever, like 2000, is that right? Maybe 2002. I was early in that game with alpha access and then hardcore raiding nights, early morning Sunday mornings, it was a very exciting time. And then completely separated from that as I moved into the professional world, in a big way, and then now trying to get back into it a little bit. It is definitely the wrong size shoe for my foot, and it’s completely embarrassing.

[00:06:59]
Yeah, for sure. I was back in England at Christmas last year seeing family and things like that. And my lowest gaming point came as my six-year-old nephew beat me at FIFA.

[00:07:12]
Don’t you want to just punch him? I know he’s only six but there’s a little bit of me that’s like, “Mmm.”

[00:07:17]
Yeah, and the kid, he had so much attitude as well. So he was like, it was my brother was just couldn’t stop laughing.

[00:07:30]
Of course, because it’s just so humiliating, it’s hilarious. Are you seeing – So being early in the video space, as you have been, VR, AR; are you seeing entrants there or applications there for research?

[00:07:49]
Yeah. I think there’s some really interesting stuff happening in that space. I think the challenge has always been, historically, a couple of things has been. One is, the cost to create these environments and how do you create these virtual stores and things like that. It was starting at easy six-figures and stuff to do. And I think now you’re seeing more and more of this stuff being able to be put up and built far, far, far quicker and stuff. So I think there is definitely an increase in that. The challenge was always how do you make this scalable? This isn’t something that everybody has. You had to get people to central facilities and stuff. And while it was still probably there, now in terms of that adoption curve that not everyone has a VR set in their house. We’re still starting to see things like Google Cardboard, and everyone has got a smartphone, and different entry points for VR and creating experiences that can be done. So I think like any new technology, the adoption is becoming more mainstream as the entry point comes down and the hardware is in more people’s hands.

[00:09:07]
Have you done any personal, had any specific experience with VR?

[00:09:12]
Professionally or personally?

[00:09:14]
No, personally.

[00:09:15]
Personally, yeah, I have done quite a bit on the PlayStation gaming one. And then a few of the guys in our UK office have got pretty sweet Oculus setups and stuff. One of the guys brought in all of the sensors and full-surround sound and stuff, so, yeah, we have had some good experiences with that in the office. And it’s just, it’s incredible. You’re kind of like, “Oh, it’s just a game.” And as soon as you put that headset on you’re just completely immersed and just our brain can’t – just the signals are all there. I think it’s interesting to see is it the company Magic Leap with their new, they have raised hundreds of millions and yet to ship a product. And I think their first product just came out recently and it was a bit of a disappointing experience. Certainly, the reviews weren’t great because it had been pretty hyped and stuff. But I know Microsoft have just announced a new platform and that merging of AR with the real-world stuff rather than – I think the AR applications and overlaying into real-world environments is probably more interesting than the VR applications. How we can combine the digital and the physical, I think that’s super interesting.

[00:10:47]
There’s two points that I want to piggyback on. One is, personally, this last Christmas, we purchased an Oculus for the family Christmas gift. And we went on Steam and got a horror game. Everybody put the Oculus on and experienced this, basic, very straightforward walkthrough jump scare. And even though you knew at what point it was going to happen, it was so immersive that you would literally scream and almost fall over. It was just like that. You could be the sixth person in line and you still believed it when you’re in that “environment”, and I put environment in air quotes there by the way, because, as you know, it’s just not “real”. But I do think that thinking about what the focus group room looks like in 20 years from now will be completely different. And especially as companies like Magic Leap or whoever winds up driving it, get that light ware figured out, it’s going to be really impactful for researchers.

[00:11:59]
Yeah. I think that ability to showcase different content and different environments, and as I said, it’s becoming more scalable. I’m excited to see where that goes.

[00:12:13]
My kids are going to be permanently scarred, which is the second point that I wanted to make. I have a three-year-old, we didn’t let him wear the headgear of course. But he was able to watch what was happening on the computer screen as we were mirroring it. And there was this doll and its head would turn and follow you when you would walk through this room, of course, typical. And so he literally would, every time that he would see it, he would point at the screen and go, “Scary baby, scary baby.” And so he still says scary baby [INAUDIBLE] I know.

[00:12:42]
You’re going to be paying for that later in life.

[00:12:45]
Totally. That’s why I actually have to keep working is because all of the therapy that my children are going to be going through, having me as their father. It’s very sad.

[00:12:56]
There you go.

[00:12:58]
The augmented reality piece, I have seen a lot of, I have actually read quite a bit on how that will change our future. Google Maps, for me, being probably one of the most easiest things to tether to. I grew up in a world of Rand McNally, which is paper maps for those listeners that don’t know. Merrill Dubrow, you do know. And so as we would travel around the country, you’d always have to stop at gas stations once you literally ran off the map. Google Map now has just completely, it is just such a different point of reference on how easy it is to get around places, especially with traffic notifications and [INAUDIBLE] provided. So that’s very powerful. But then thinking about the consumer purchase process with augmented reality, the power really continues to get, whether it’s just product reviews in real-time on what you’re viewing, or pricing considerations, and it just keeps going on and on. You remember the old school shelf tests that we used to do, which were just static images and click tracking. Now, it’s a lot more powerful. Have you looked at what Betty, and I can’t remember how you say her last name, Adamou, I want to say. She recently came out with a book called Games and Gamification in Market Research. Have you had a chance to look at that?

[00:14:24]
No, I haven’t checked that out.

[00:14:26]
I have been following her and I have actually, she’s got an app that you can download and it’s basically just a story-based narrative that tracks consumer choices. And it’s a surrogate for traditional conjoint, but again, to your earlier point it’s expensive and time-consuming. So it’s not quite in line with what brands are demanding, which is feedback in two days versus two weeks or two months. So as that continues to, as the gamification of research continues to get cheaper and faster. I’m convinced it’s going to become a major part of how we wind up gathering consumer data.

[00:15:12]
Yes, 100%.

[00:15:14]
So a large part of our constituents are employees or aspiring employees in the insights world. What – if you were entering in this space in today’s modern frame, what would be some of the things that you would do in order to secure a job in market research?

[00:15:35]
I think – so the one fascinating thing, and I notice this from hearing a number of different people that have been on the podcast story, is no one really ever seems to set out to get into market research. You know, very few people were age 10 are telling their career adviser, “I want to be market research.” People always seem to come to this industry for different channels. I definitely think it was an interesting debate on LinkedIn yesterday I think it was, I think Ray Pointer started it. But it was around how – what were the requirements of the market researcher today, and how have they changed. Obviously the traditional skill set of the researcher is still a big part of that, but that’s important, those traditional softer skills, the psychology, the anthropology, that type of inquiring mind. But I think now you need to have that element of that data science background. It’s helpful if you know basic programming skills and things like that. So the ability to be able to hack data sources together, merge. We’re in a world where we’ve never had so much access to data from different third-party sources, and I think as researchers now, it’s incredibly important that we’re able to merge, synthesize, rationalize multiple different data sets and see how they correlate and interact, and be able to derive insights from that. There’ a real shortage of data scientists right now. It’s one of the top paying skill sets, because there isn’t enough people, it’s become such an important role for a company to be able to fill.  There are simply not enough graduates or people going through training to acquire those data science skills. If I was trying to get hired in the market research today, I’d double down in data science and really chin up in that area.

[00:18:00]
We were just talking with GoDaddy and – who was it – MasterCard yesterday. Both of those interviews talked about the need for data scientists, but what’s interesting is that role seems like it’s fitting more and more with R&D, and sometimes product as opposed to underneath the preview of market research inside of brands. Are you – with your customer base, are your customers predominantly market research? Are you seeing companies maybe in the user experience or data science area using Voxpopme?

[00:18:40]
Yes, I think predominately, our customers are more on the insights and market research side of things and I think that’s predominantly because, you know, a lot of what we do, even though it’s kind of qualitative at scale, it’s still a very qual-type output within video. Even though we’re collecting video at a far larger scale than traditionally you would have done and we’re able to automate the analysis, we’re able to quantify data from video, it’s still not really a huge data science change. I also think because of this lack of shortage – this lack of data scientists within companies, most of them are in areas of the company like BI and analytics, and sitting in, as you said R&D and other departments because potentially, at this stage, that’s where they could probably have the most impact and maybe MR hasn’t quite yet caught up to how it could be leveraging some of their skill sets more, combining multiple. It’s still – I think research is still very episodic and in the main, and still very kind of single source, single study. More and more I think we’re seeing brands looking at how can I merge transactional data with social data, with other streams of data to be able to answer business questions without conducting primary research. I think that’s the change. With all this data, you know, one of the things is it’s not going to stop the research we’re doing, but it’s going to change the questions we’re asking. Fundamentally, they’re questions we shouldn’t really need to be asking because we have that data available. It’s just we don’t have the people and the skills to unlock that data effectively right now.

[00:20:44]
So this tethering of data to workflow is a theme that’s been coming up for me over the last, I want to say, five years. But as I’ve been doing these interviews, three or four a week, I mean, it’s really punching through louder than I ever thought it would. You’re hitting to an interesting point, which is in thinking about UX research, that’s part of product as opposed to the market research division. And the reason it is, often times is it works in lock step with the cycle, the agile development cycle of the product team. Whereas research, to your point, fits more outside of that because of the length of time it can take to gather the insights. Is the utilization of video as relevant for UX researchers or is it predominantly used for the story telling inside of the insights division?

[00:21:48]
No, I think video has obviously been a massive part of UX for some time and with time to see more and more clients leverage our technology alongside other more traditional UX tools. So, a lot of the UX tools are great conducting the interviews, capturing, doing the screen capture side of things and things like that, but they are not able to really – a lot of them don’t provide any transcriptions with the videos, they don’t recognize key things that are happening within there. So, we’re starting to see a number of clients saying, “Hey, we’ve got all these videos form product X. Can we import them into your platform as an easier way to understand kind of what’s being said, splice them together to share with the product team?” And things like that. Because as we’ve seen very regularly, there’s loads of great platforms out there for capturing video. The challenge on most of this platforms, there’s very little out there to be able to quickly understand it and take snippets of the outcomes and turn it into something meaningful, which might be two to three-minute video that shows the pain points with a shopping cart. Like if you’ve done user testing, there’s no real quick way on a lot of these platforms to splice up OK, here’s five examples of people getting stuck with our advanced product filter. Whereas within Voxpopme, it’s very quick and easy to do that. Yes, there’s some interesting things we’re looking at in integrations into commonly used platforms like that.

[00:23:22]
So let’s talk about the early days of Voxpopme. What was your inspiration?

[00:23:27]
Yes, so some of your listeners probably know like we came into Voxpopme with no research background, experience, kind of stumbled into it. I’ve been involved in building technology companies, a platform that was very similar to yelp.com, been involved in building mobile apps and all kinds of early stage stuff. I’ve been at a conference and someone was presenting a social platform to change the world, as many of these pitches went back into those days, and it was all about how people can get behind different causes and convince brands not to do certain things. So maybe it was Nike, you shouldn’t be having your trainers made – your sneakers made in this particular country or you should be paying your workers this, whatever it might be. They were like, “This is what we can do and it’s gonna force brands to change.” One of the things we can do is post a video to the wall as to why you think. I remember thinking to myself and I said to the guy at the time, I was like, “It’s great, you’re trying to save the world, but it’s a huge opportunity you’re missing in terms of the business model. It should be how do you let people give feedback to brands via video?” Video was such a growing medium at that point. Everyone was, you know, the iPhone, we were at the second or third generation of the iPhone. So more and more people – everyone had a smartphone in their pocket. Things like FaceTime had just launched. Facebook was moving more and more to video. So we just saw this opportunity to connect brands and consumers. So, initially, we came up with Voxpopme app, which is still a big part of our business today, which is an on demand app. You want to get 100 responses from consumers in a couple of hours. You can push your question out, get those videos back really quickly. So I remember early in the journey, we were like everyone’s gonna want to watch these videos and really understand what the customers were saying. And very quickly we found out that no one had time to watch a 100 customer feedback videos and we needed to find a way to automate the analysis with things like transcription and themes, and sentiment, and things like that. But where we really kind of – where the things really changed was actually Manchester City Football Club in England asked if they could embed our technology into Vision Critical, the community platform at the time. And that kind of got us thinking about our business is great, we’ve got this app and some early interest, but it’s kind of limited by how many people we have by the app, what countries we have the app in, and things like that. If we could power video questions on any platform, so whether you’re using fuel cycle, goal tricks, decipher, Survey Gizmo, whatever platform you were using, if we could be the kind of intel inside to power video, that really was what changed the game and we started to see more and more companies wanting to add video open end questions into their surveys because they were so much richer than the text alternative.

[00:26:42]
Did you encounter budget mapping issues early on? What I mean by that was traditional brand –

[00:26:49]
I wish it was early on.

[00:26:51]
Good point.

[00:26:53]
You mean like we don’t now? You mean because it was something new that people haven’t really considered?

[00:27:01]
Precisely, right. Because you’re not – in every way, you’re doing qualitative at scale. So you’ve got this pre-conceived notion of how research is done. I’m going to do this qualitative, I’m going to do a survey, I’m going to have an answer or whatever, and what you’ve done is effectively created either another cog or replaced an existing cog. In either case, it’s definitely a change of behavior.

[00:27:26]
Yes, and I think this has been talked on the podcast a number of times how difficult change is to implement and drive within the industry. And you know, there’s lots of reasons behind that. You know, kind of the status quo and professional risk, and what if it doesn’t work. As an industry, we’re not – we tend to be typically more risk averse. Yes, it was tough in the early days for sure. I think what we found was that once customers find – you know, we had relatively low entry point in terms of how you can get started. And then once customers presented findings internally and all of the sudden, rather than people sat, looking at their phones, scrolling through Facebook while they were doing their read out, people leaned in and leaned forward. It was like hang on. That customer just said this or this is in there. All of the sudden, that was kind of the wow moment for our clients. It was – for the ones that have done video previously, who tolled and labored all weekend to try and find what the insights was in the data and try and use very, very basic video editing skills. And then try to download video, and then it didn’t play in their presentation. The wow moment for them was how easy we’ve made it, but for a lot of clients who haven’t experienced using videos, what they found was when they presented those insights, there was so much more – there was so much more buy in from stakeholders and executives because again, they were hearing that message directly from the customer. It wasn’t an interpretation. It was the customer delivering it in their own words. And, you know, when you combine that output with statistically significant, you know, robust quant behind it and you have this hybrid methodology, yes, that was powerful. But it’s still something we come across today because you know, is it replacing – is it an alternative to how they’re doing qual already, is it a faster, more agile way to do qual? Is it something that adds cost to their quant, but actually means they can do everything in one study? Yes, it’s still a challenge today for sure.

[00:29:46]
One of the key themes that has emerged is the importance of storytelling. Kind of going back a little bit to what you talked about in terms of skills, between soft and science skills. And in this framework, as Q plus Q is qualitative and quantitative are being blended more and more to enhance ultimately the stats so that they can be understood and consumed by the organization that then effects change. Video, of course, is playing a pivotal role in that storytelling. Are you doing a lot in terms of educating your users on how to effectively craft and then tell stories?

[00:30:35]
Yeah, I think we’re definitely trying to help them create that narrative and take that data and what is the best way to present this in a compelling way. Because with video it’s very important. Usually you’re going to take a handful of video clips that make a certain point. Pick a couple more clips that make a certain point, to build that overall story, and what you’ve got to be careful of is (a) that message that you’re delivering and story that you’re curating is actually the story that’s in the data. Because with just a handful of video clips, you can – it could be very easy to misrepresent the story that was in the data. So, we’re starting to do a lot of work with that, around automation. So, being able to summarize efficiently 100 videos and condense that down into three or four minutes of content that really accurately represents what was said in that whole corpus of responses. So, we’re trying to educate both how researchers can stitch together video clips to tell a story in a way that’s going to connect emotionally and resonate with the audience and drive home that point. But also trying to look at ways where automation can start to build on some of those stories and kind of really bring that to life.

[00:32:12]
How many employees do you have now? About.

[00:32:15]
I should know this, right? We’re just over 50 now.

[00:32:20]
That’s great. That is a tectonic shift in it for a CEO. I don’t know what it is, there’s something magical from 49 to 51 that happens. There’s this whole new layer of complexity it feels like. What do you see as the three characteristics of an all-star employee?

[00:32:36]
I think, like hiring is everything. You can have the best technology in the world, but if you have crap people, you’re going to have a crap company. So, finding those all-star employees is the most thing, and it’s the thing that keeps me up at night. I know we can build good tech and stuff, and just finding good people and nurturing them, and bringing them on as individuals and as a team is obviously one of the biggest focuses you can have as a CEO. So, I would say the three things that I look for when I’m interviewing people, curiosity. I think that’s massive. I think there’s not enough people these days that are curious. They don’t always search out answers. So, we’re really looking for people who are – they find solutions, they question everything. They’re constantly asking why, how do I make this better? And they’ve got their own initiative to get on with that. So, I think curiosity is massive. Hustle. It’s become a bit of, I guess, an overused word in the entrepreneur real circle, you’ve got to hustle, hustle. But it’s true. You want people who, they don’t wait – they don’t kind of always look for permission. They’d much rather do something, and try something and fail, than – and then seek forgiveness. So, they’re always kind of going out, they’re hunting down the opportunity. They’re looking to solve problems, and they just want to get shit done.

[00:34:12]
I like that. Curiosity to action to resolution. That is one of the core tenets, I believe of the successful life. If you can be just naturally curious, but then not stop there, but actually seek out the answers. When you think about it really, in a lot of ways, that’s exactly what researchers do, isn’t it?

[00:34:32]
Absolutely. I think you’ve got to – the best researchers are curious, and they put that to action. And then your answer to the final one was just having that customer focus. They put themselves in our customer’s shoes, and they’re constantly looking for that kind of win/win outcome. Trying to – which is back to that kind of solution. Solution, focus, curiosity, hustle.

[00:34:57]
Over 50 employees now, very successful company, great brand inside of the market research space. What is one of your secrets that drives growth profitability, or the success of a company?

[00:35:09]
As I said, obviously it starts with people, but once you find good people, essentially you’ve got to really trust them and empower them to get on and do stuff. And the only way that you can trust them and empower them to do stuff is make sure they understand the vision. So, one of the key things for our team is making sure from myself all the way down through the organization that people regularly – people really understand what we’ve got now, where we’re trying to get to in the short, medium, and long term. And how that’s evolving. And in an early stage company as I’m sure you can appreciate, given the genuine to cipher, that’s constantly evolving. And you’ve got to bring people with you on that journey because you can’t silo an executive team away and be like, well, we’ve got to hit this number, we’ve got to ship this product, we’ve got to do this. If that whole team isn’t kind of rowing together towards that goal, you’re just going to kind of tread water. So, the key thing has really been – and that’s tough. With ourselves, we’ve got people in Sydney and Australia, we’ve got a big team in the U. S. Most – half the people are in the U. K. And we’ve got people spread out over a lot of different offices and remote working and stuff. Being able to bring those people together regularly, make them feel part of something has been huge.

[00:36:42]
What is your sequencing to that? Are you doing a monthly all-hands? Or through email?

[00:36:48]
One of the things I do is a weekly video. Kind of the state of play, things that have happened. Call people out who have done great things. And just update them on the journey. We have a very transparent culture. People within the company know how much revenue we did. They know what our churn rate is. They know what big deals have closed, what big deals we won, what big deals we lost, who we’re hiring for. So, I think that culture of transparency, so that video is kind of like the sound bite, just keep everyone on there. And again, I know it’s not always me that does that. Some weeks it’s Tom, our CRO. Andy, or CTO. Different people across that executive team. And then, yeah, we tend to have kind of monthly, all hands, where people dial into. And then we’ll also do with smaller teams, quite a lot of kind of off-sites together. Usually that’s more of a functional team, so maybe the dev team will all get together and spend some time. Or the sales and marketing organization will all get together. We’re yet to have a kind of all-company retreat. I always see Zappi do that each year and stuff, and it looks – Ryan says it’s one of the best thing they do each year and stuff. So, yeah, we’re looking at implementing something like that. It just, trying to logistically, trying to get 50 people into one place is never easy.

[00:38:16]
It’s really difficult to do that logistically. On top of it, it can be really disruptive to your core customers, right? Because that means that there’s some level of service that may be sacrificed, perhaps increase delays in responsiveness, etc. And that was my – one of my bigger challenges when I would do a corporate retreat or take R&D out, or whatever. It basically shuts down that division, or you run the risk of alienating a subset of the employees that keep – the skeleton crew that keeps the ship afloat while everybody else is out having a good time.

[00:38:55]
Yeah, it’s something that we’ve been conscious of. As I say, historically we’ve done that as small teams or geographic groups of people. So, we’ve never kind of had that kind of all-company within there. But I think you’ve just got to try and structure that. But ultimately I think there’s things, measures, that you can put in place to mitigate against some of that. But it’s about, if constantly everyone’s working in the business – one of the big changes I’ve noted, personally, over the last 12 months is how do you as a leader kind of try and pull yourself out of the day-to-day to focus on real vision, more strategic things? I think it’s important, that’s not just a CEO change, that actually right across the company everyone starts to think about that. Everyone’s got their day job, but if people are just heads down five days a week, 40 hours a week, whatever that is, then people need time to think. And I think giving people some thinking time and some space, great things can happen.

[00:40:13]
I love that. So what is Voxpopme offering right now that can add value to brands?

[00:40:18]
Obviously, we’ve been absolutely laser focused on video and how do we remove that pain from video? The thing I’m probably most excited about at the moment is we’ve made a big push into customer experience. And kind of when I think about customer experience, for me that’s an industry where today it’s still reliant on this survey instrument. We’re trying to understand people’s experiences with brands by forcing them through a very structured 15-20-question survey about rating every facet of the business. Ultimately this is where a video really plays a role. When you’re talking about experience, that’s an emotional connection – a journey point within there. So, for us that’s about allowing people to give feedback to brands directly through video, and moving away from everything being about scores, and moving more into what are those customers’ stories? So, we’ve got a big focus on customer experience for sure. And then ultimately when brands are looking to do qualitative research in a more agile way, and turn projects around in two to three hours, Voxpopme is the company to call for sure.

[00:41:41]
Do you think that Voxpopme in some ways, or the utilization of video more broadly, is cannibalizing traditional focus groups or IDIs, or do you feel like it is overall augmenting the budgets – or budgets being bolstered in order to support this added benefit?

[00:42:01]
Yeah, I think any kind of new technology will always start to cannibalize a little bit of some part of the industry in some way. But for the main, it’s not I’m going to do this or this, it’s I’m going to augment, I’m going to do more. I think people – innovation and research has allowed people to do more with less, more faster. They’re not spending any less money, they’re just doing more research. So, I think what Voxpopme enables people to do is think and iterate more quickly rather than say it’s about how do you iterate faster, rather than do more research, and ask more question, rather than cannibalizing what they’re already doing.

[00:43:04]
Are firms like Firefly or different major players in the qualitative space, is that one of the big channel strategies for growth for you? Or is growth stemming more from brand relationships and deeper penetration?

[00:43:19]
I mean, for us, as a company, we definitely cross both sides of that. We have very strong relationships with the Cantiles [ph] and Nelsons, and the large agencies who are embedding our technology into different programs that they’re doing. Likewise, a lot of brands work directly with us. So, we’ve from day one had this dual channel strategy. I think when you talk to – on the brand side of things often that can come alongside the need for professional services, and talking with Braden, our SVCP at customer success, generally, of course, you know, well, that was one of the challenges you guys had during Decipher, how did you support that professional services or not. And yeah, that’s definitely something that we’ve been looking at is when we – as we expand and we do more with brands, we absolutely want to stay as a technology vendor and a technology solution that can be used in a DIY manner, or used by agencies for their clients. So, we don’t want to fall into the trap of becoming a research agency. I think we’ve seen that story happen to a number of technology players in this space and it doesn’t end too well.

[00:44:44]
I agree. I think it’s a trade-off of short-term boost to your P&L. But long-term value degradation. And you’re absolutely right. Everybody that’s entered into that, or made those transitions, has paid a price ultimately for it, and I’m not going to go through the names, of course. There is an inherent benefit of having services integrated into your technology solutions. One of the challenges though, beyond just the support side, is the overall evaluation of the company. But if you’re thinking about what’s best for the customer, I believe you always attain that best possible outcome for your business, whether it’s just continual growth or eventual sale. That it’s all about putting the customer in the middle of those decisions.

[00:45:40]
And we’ve took a strategic approach to that. You talked about the cannibalization of maybe things like focus groups and IDIs and in-person. We’re actually doing some really exciting work in that space, where we’re not going to get into that space, but our solution, lay it on top of what existing vendors in that arena are doing can add some real value and stickiness. So, actually, in-person becomes even more useful through the addition and augmentation of combining that with technology. Yeah, I think there’s a lot of opportunity out there and we’ve been a very kind of pro-partnership company.

[00:46:26]
My guest today has been Dave Carruthers, founder and CEO of Voxpopme. Dave, thank you very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.

[00:46:32]
Thanks, Jamin.

[00:46:36]
Next time on Happy Market Research, Ricardo Alvarez Diaz, head of insights for MasterCard. A ton of value relevant to doing business in Latin America. And probably the most impactful episode we’ve had so far about how to do storytelling inside of a brand. If you’re an agency or you’re employed at a brand, you absolutely have to listen to this. This creates a rubric for success.