Sramana: What was the nature of the contract work that led to $30,000 of revenue and a new business model?
Matt Dusig: We were talking to a research firm in LA about wireless polling. They wanted to let people coming out of a movie theater be able to provide their thoughts and opinions about the movie using a wireless device. Previously that type of information was collected on a clipboard, which was tedious. We had a research executive who realized that if the data was collected digitally, their clients could get the information in real time. While we were having discussions about this project, the executive asked us if we would be willing to help find people to take online research surveys and studies.
Prior to this we had done a partnership with MyPoints, which in 1999 was still in their heyday. They helped us build a small database of people who were interested in doing things online for a reward. We sent out the email to people asking if they would be willing to take an online survey and we offered them $4 in cash via PayPal. We were getting paid $10 for each survey. We had 3,000 people take the survey over the weekend, and that is how we made the $30,000. The business model was to help businesses find out what people think.
Sramana: Were you able to salvage the company based on that idea?
Matt Dusig: That is exactly how we did it. This was happening around the end of 2000. The market was horrible at that point. We were doing anything we could to make money. I had a graphic design background, so I was designing websites for people so that we could make money. I tell people that just being in business is part of what brings in opportunities.
We figured out that we could go to market research firms all over the country and supply them with people who were willing to take their survey. A scenario could be Ford going to J.D. Power asking them to do a survey of Prius owners. J.D. Power can come to us, and we can give them a list of Prius owners to take the survey.
Sramana: How did you find people who were willing to take your surveys?
Matt Dusig: It was basically an affiliate networking model. We were paying publishers to drive traffic that landed on our website. Our website told people that they would get paid for taking surveys, they just had to sign up and tell us a little bit about themselves. The people would then tell us their age, income, demographic, where they lived, the types of cars they drove, beverages they preferred, and similar data points. We would then use that data to sell to research agencies.
Sramana: Were you selling the profile data to the agencies?
Matt Dusig: No, we didn’t sell the data. If J.D. Power came to us and asked for Prius owners, we would go to our database and email the Prius owners directly to offer them $5 if they would click a link and take a survey. The link would take them to a survey, which would be taken through J.D. Power web servers and they would collect the new data.