Sramana: During the time you waited out your non-compete you started three other websites with varying degrees of success. What happened next?
Matt Dusig: In 2005 we went out to raise some money for our three business concepts. There is a lesson to be had in focus, and we had some challenges trying to do three different things. At that time we thought the incubator model was worth the risk, but it stretched our focus and budgets. We always knew as a fallback that after our three-year non-compete was done, we could get back into the business.
We told our investors that if none of the ideas we were pitching worked out, we would carry the corporation into the new entity as the major shareholder.
As it turns out, things were not working out and 2007 was rolling around. We decided we would head back into online surveying and that we would do it better than ever before. This time we knew everything to avoid and we knew everything we needed to develop in terms of technology. We also knew the key pieces we needed when it came time to build a team. We formed a corporation and brought all of our friends and family shareholders from the old corporation into the new business. We could not leave them behind and watch them lose their money. We started uSamp in April 2008.
Sramana: How had the competitive landscape changed between the time you started your first company and the time you started uSamp?
Matt Dusig: There had been some mergers and acquisitions, but we felt that none of the companies had done any real innovation. They were not doing anything different or unique. The reason the name is uSamp is that we felt there was a business model around self-service. We wanted to allow our clients to log on and buy audiences without having to call or email us. You could do your own sampling online.
Prior to that, everything was email based. Since then we have launched two great products that allow for self-serve products for research products. One is a professional product aimed at market researchers and the other is a consumer product. The consumer product is called SurveyBuilder. Although it conveys a similarity to SurveyMonkey in name, in reality it is a very different animal. It allows you to log on, create a survey or poll, and then pick a demographic to administer it to. You can select just men who live in Los Angeles. Within seconds, your survey starts populating with the right people.
Sramana: What is your business model? Are you a software as a service company?
Matt Dusig: We have a managed service model where clients can call and email us, but self-service is an area we push very hard on. What we had done that is disruptive to tool companies is that we have given the tool away free. If you want to come and run a survey and post it for 1,000 of your clients to fill out, we will let you do it free. Other tool companies require you to upgrade to perform a survey at that scale. Our application was built in 2011 with a state-of-the-art UI.
Sramana: If someone loads their customer database into your system, do they lose control over that database?
Matt Dusig: No. If you want to use your own customers you will maintain ownership of that data. We don’t muck with people’s data.