SurveyMonkey is a company that has had some serious trials and tribulations in recent years. The company was founded just before Y2K with an ambition to re-imagine what surveys could look like. SurveyMonkey’s CEO, and the husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Dave Goldberg, tragically died a couple of years ago.

After Goldberg’s death, SurveyMonkey got an odd choice of CEO in the form of ex-HP and Microsoft executive, Bill Veghte. It seems I wasn’t the only one who was dubious about Veghte’s credentials, he held the role for less than 6 months, due to strategic differences with investors, primarily on where to allocate talent and resources. He was replaced by Zander Lurie in January 2016.

A complex history of ownership and investment

The company was founded and majority owned by Ryan and Chris Finley until 2009, when it was sold to a private equity consortium. In 2010, the company received $100 million in debt financing from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. Following that round in 2013, the company raised $800 million in debt and equity valuing the company at $1.35 billion. Finally, at least when it comes to fundraising, in 2014 the company raised $250 million in equity financing from Google Capital (now CapitalG), Tiger Global Management, Baillie Gifford, T. Rowe Price and Morgan Stanley.

Enterprise expansion and M&A activity

All of that funding certainly isn’t based on a consumer-facing tool and so SurveyMonkey has also broadened its enterprise-focused offerings – in April 2015, the company announced a new data platform called Benchmarks. This allows users to compare their survey results against competitors. M&A has also been a common occurrence – SurveyMonkey has acquired three other survey tools, Precision Polling, Wufoo, and Zoomerang, as well as a 49.9 percent stake in the UK-based Clicktools. In August 2014, SurveyMonkey acquired Canadian company Fluidware, the creator of FluidSurveys.com and FluidReview.com.

Putting that 20 years of data to good use

SurveyMonkey is today rethinking what it does and is launching a series of products that it believes will help fulfill a broader range of enterprise needs beyond simply surveys:

  • SurveyMonkey CX takes the popular Net Promoter System to the next level. The aim is to deliver richer insights for businesses via visualizations and analysis tools
  • SurveyMonkey Engage (coming later this year) is an employee engagement offering. Based on five engagement factors that measure engagement throughout the year. Businesses can pinpoint areas of improvement and drill down by team, function, location, and other key demographics
  • SurveyMonkey Audience is redesigned and built directly into SurveyMonkey and is the company’s traditional product focus. Beginning today, SurveyMonkey Audience is available internationally in English with the fully integrated international panel and localization to follow later this year
  • SurveyMonkey Apply is a new collaborative candidate selection solution for grant, scholarship, fellowship and enrollment programs

A more modern take on surveys

SurveyMonkey is also rethinking what the survey experience should look like in a world where machine learning and new communication channels change the equation. Specific changes include:

  • SurveyMonkey Genius estimates how a survey will perform and helps survey creators make them faster and easier to complete. A result of pouring survey behavior over the company’s history into a big pot and crunching the numbers, Genius acts as a coach, providing key metrics and actionable recommendations
  • A new Survey-Taking Experience aims to make surveys feel more like conversations. Fewer steps and auto-scrolling save respondent’s time, and the new design is optimized for mobile
  • SurveyMonkey is meeting respondents where they already are via integrations into Facebook Messenger and Slack, and new ways to engage them with features like Quiz Pro
  • Perhaps uncomfortably close to Facebook’s own native survey options, integration into Facebook Messenger allows businesses to poll directly and get instant feedback
  • Quiz Pro aims to deepen engagement with custom quizzes designed around key moments for business, including corporate training, compliance, customer engagement, student testing, and more

MyPOV

While surveys are still important, increasingly they are being replaced by new approaches and new communication platforms. For SurveyMonkey to continue the success it’s seen over its first 20 years of its existence, it needs to ensure that it embraces these new approaches. NPS is one area, in particular, that is impacting upon enterprises’ use of surveys. There are, however, a number of startups trying to add value to organizations using NPS and it will be interesting to see how well SurveyMonkey can move to these newer ways of surveying customers.

Hopefully, the organizational chaos is behind them and the current CEO will remain in place long enough to bed in a new strategy and approach. Time will tell.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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