CRC 2019 Podcast Series

2019 CRC Series – Jonathan Ephraim – IntelliSurvey

Welcome to the 2019 CRC Series. Recorded live in Orlando, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Jonathan Ephraim, Preisdent of IntelliSurvey.

Find Jonathan Online:




Find Jamin Online:




Find Us Online: 






Hi, this is Jamin. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. The next set of episodes are conversations I had at this year’s Corporate Researchers Conference or CRC. This is put on by the Insights Association in Orlando, Florida. I had quite a few interesting conversations highlighting specific companies that exhibited this year as well as a couple of speakers, Wells Fargo, IBM, etc. I hope you have a really good rest of your day and enjoy these short episodes.


Hi, this is Jamin. You are listening to Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Jonathan Ephraim, IntelliSurvey founder, co-founder, excuse me, right?


Yes, that’s correct.


Longtime competitor and friend. Sir, thanks for being on Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thank you for having me.


So we are on the show. They’re getting ready to release the hounds. We’re by the food. We may be eaten alive. Hopefully, they don’t mistake us for chicken legs. How are you doing?


Oh, I’m doing very well, thanks. I’m doing very well. This is a one of our first conferences. It’s the first conference like this that we’ve presented at, and we have a display. So it’s been fun to see people. We ordinarily are sitting in the background, and it’s nice to be in front.


So, IntelliSurvey, this is my perception, not necessarily reality, but IntelliSurvey from a brand perspective is these really intelligent people that have built this great software and service. Probably the thing that has always stood out to me, and Jamie and I used to lament our org structure is that you guys built your platform instead of having like full-time employees to program all the surveys, you actually created a network of people that were able to use your platform. Is that accurate?


No, it’s funny after all these years…


Well, wait the smart people is accurate, but the network part isn’t. I love…


Yeah, the network part isn’t. Yeah, what we did that was, I think quite different from others was, obviously, we separated out development from project management, but we didn’t separate out project management from programming. We always thought of that as them as being one function that there was a project manager who was a programmer. And one of the things that we did quite differently was we hired people who were more liberal arts-ish. When I say liberal arts-ish, I mean that not necessarily they were…


like linguistic type framework or…


Well, just people who were creative and good with words and good with problems. And those were the people that, I think, in many other platforms are the project managers, who are then interfacing with someone who’s a little more engineeringy, who’s like actually doing the stuff.


So you have one in the same. So then you trained those people on how to use your platform.


That’s correct. That’s correct. And we built a programming language that basically is very close to plain English that people can then just affix what amounts to a programming attribute using basically something very close to plain English. It’s something like “randomized:why,” which tells the system that you have to please randomize this on my behalf. And because it’s relatively close to plain English, anyone can do it. There are a lot of capabilities in the system, so it’s not the sort of thing that someone picks up right away. We are expecting in the next, I’d say three to six months, to come out with something that’s a more gooey DIY and we’re excited about that.


The thing that I really like about not having a gooey is, if the programming language is structured in a simple way, you actually have a lot more flexibility and you don’t have the overhead of a gooey. So it gets really, really easy to create surveys quick. So we used to do, we called them John Henry. Do you know the reference? So there’s this little kid’s storybook where a slave with two hammers and a mechanized steam engine, both are drilling two tunnels for train tracks at the same time. And whoever gets through first wins, right? Human versus machine. And so we would call it… We would do like a scripted version. So like you’re describing versus the gooey version of the platform. And it was really interesting to always see that the scripting version always won by a little bit or a lot in some cases.


And we found that as well in that. But on the other hand, I would say that one of the learnings that we’ve had over the last four to five years is we’ve been getting ready to… We were pushing scripting versions for a long time. And invariably the person who’s like us, who we talk to when we demonstrate our system says some variety of this. He says, “Look, I know that what you’re doing works. And I know it’s faster to use scripting, but my people, they can’t.”


They don’t want to do it.


They don’t want to do it. And maybe they can’t do it. It’s just too much for them. A scripting language is just for whatever reason too much for them. And one of the things that we’ve found, as we’ve been optimizing our approach for the gooey, is that certain aspects, if you time in motion a gooey, the same way you time in motion scripting, you can actually get it pretty close, but you really need to think from a time in motion perspective. You also need to really constrain the functionalities so you hide the complexities from the garden variety users that really don’t need to be able to, let’s say, order things in sequential groups in a particularly funny way,


I want to get a license like just a demo license. I’m really intrigued on the programming language part of it. That seems like so fun to do that, anyways.


Well, you’re officially out of Decipher now, right?


I’m 100% out. No interest or anything along those lines. That’d be really fun to do. I think it’d be interesting to do a blog post on—you could even co-write this— on the John Henry or time in motion. You know what I’m saying? And the trade offs that are involved when you start moving to a gooey, like a SurveyMonkey. I liked the tool and it has its place. It’s just like for me not my preferred way of doing stuff.


But I think one of the things that those of us who are… I still script surveys, and we have a team of 70 people that are scripting surveys. So we’re big believers in that ecology. But one of the things that we’ve found as we’ve scaled is that going to larger populations, you need things that are more gooey-ish. Not everyone’s going to be on the gooey. I think the power users are always going to have a preference for scripting. However, that’s not to say that the people who, if you think of the core workflows, if you can get people for whom scripting is too much to participate in the workflow so that they can sort of work together with the people who are scripting. And that requires a more, gooey-ish interface or a more iterative interface that can be exposed to people for whom scripting is too much.


One of the things that’s interesting about your story is you just basically said it a minute ago. You guys haven’t been at conferences. Like you and I have never, I don’t think, met face to face.


We have not.


Which is every one of the people that I have competed with, I’ve met for years.
at these conferences. And yet you’ve had tremendous success as an organization, in growth and brand. So like are you changing a behavior now? Is there something we should be looking for on the horizon with IntelliSurvey?


Yeah, I think we’re going to be significantly more forward than we have in the past. I think we’ve done very well within our market. We’ve grown by, we like to think, providing exceptional service. And so, every once in awhile some new substantive group comes along and finds us and that excites us. That’s been the approach we’ve had really for the first… I mean we’ve been doing this since 2001, so 17 years or so. And it’s really only in the last year or two that we’ve started to be more forward. In part, that’s because I think we want to expand to into populations a little bit more aggressively.


I think that’s really smart. I think the premise or mantra, “Do good work: get more work” in this industry has served you very, very well and will continue to be the bedrock of your organization. Now, that you start investing in the sales and marketing side of things, it’ll be interesting to see how you guys achieve your full potential, right? I mean there’s a limiter with word of mouth. So, as you get out there do presentations, like you are; be on the show floor, like you are; be on the podcast like you are right now; all of a sudden, there’s an elevation that starts happening with the brand that otherwise you just can’t get.


And I think at our core… I mean you guys were software guys, too, and I remember hearing that you guys had… It must’ve been about eight or ten years ago. The time is tricky for me, but I remember we started getting a lot of inquiries from your customers, from Decipher’s customers, and they said some variety of, “Hey, we used to have this code that worked and it doesn’t work anymore. Can you guys help us?” And we could tell that what you guys had really done was made a real commitment to being scalable. Cause as long as your custom, you’re just not that scalable. And that worked out very well for you guys. We’re dimmer than you were.


That’s not true.


But it’s taken us some time to learn that lesson. But I think from our side, we think we have a good set of code and, obviously, there are network effects and all. And so, if we’re really going to be valuable the way that someone like Qualtrics or someone like Decipher has been able to, we simply need to be out there and get more users, so that’s what we’re doing.


IntelliSurvey is the name of the company. Oh, really quick. I wanted to ask you, can you give us just the highlights of your talk?


Sure, the highlights of the talk we’re going to be presenting with our friends at Mondelēz with whom we’ve been working for a few years, and they have undertaken to bring some of the most complex research projects that are done anywhere in-house. Most of these kinds of projects, we understand, are done by agencies or consultancies, and they brought them in-house. They did so, in part, because they wanted to really acquire a sort of granular depth of knowledge about their market that was within their organization. And we’re talking together with Mondelēz about some of the hurdles that we had to surpass in order to help them be successful in that regard. So that’s what we’re talking about. Hopefully, it’ll be interesting for folks.


Yeah, that’ll be really fun. I’m looking forward to that. I’ll try to attend that. All right, great. IntelliSurvey is the name of the company. Jonathan Ephraim is the one of the cofounders and my guest at the Happy Market Research Podcast. Thank you very much for being on the show. It’s an honor to have you. Everybody else. I hope you found value here. Please take a screenshot, share five-star rating, Have a great rest of your day.