Survey Monkey is one of the most popular and often used survey tools for companies, individuals, and academic institutions for more than a decade. According to the company, more than 95 percent of the Fortune 100 companies use Survey Monkey in one form or another, and it is the tool of choice for graduate students performing research.
Over the years, the online site has expanded and improved its features and tools to accommodate the demands of its users, and though it faces increasing competition it has held up over time to be a consistent option for all types of people doing formal and informal research. What most people see is the Survey Monkey interface, but here are 20 things you didn’t know about what lies underneath that simple interface.
1. Founder Dave Goldberg had sold a successful business before starting on Survey Monkey.
While many people don’t remember Launch.com, it was one of the more innovative concepts of its time. That concept, allowing people to listen to music on their computer, seems like a no-brainer today, but that wasn’t always the case. Yahoo! saw the potential and bought the business for $12 million. For an under-30 entrepreneur, that was not a bad start.
2. Goldberg had connections to Google during his Survey Monkey startup.
If the name seems familiar, it is because Goldberg had been married to Facebook’s now famous Sheryl Sandberg when his untimely death at age 47 occurred in Mexico. Whether there were future plans to use Survey Monkey as a Google tool at the time is unclear, but Sandberg jumped ship to Facebook shortly after Goldberg’s death.
3. The company started with just a dozen people.
Considering the challenges that the business was faced with at its outset, getting 12 people to work in concert was no easy task. Today the company employs more than 700 people, part of that success is attributed to an early principle Goldberg established from the inception of the company.
4. The number one business principle that has been consistent from the beginning is, “be nice.”
This sounds completely contradictory to the generally accepted business wisdom that permeates the global marketplace. It is always about being hyper competitive and encountering people who basically are about as nice as an angry porcupine. In the early days of Survey Monkey, the idea of simply being nice was based on an equally simple reality: the people who will occupy the management positions in the future are the people currently working at the lower levels. They will remember how they were treated and take that knowledge and experience into how the company is run. Of course, this suggests that the new management hires will be internal choices, which also says a lot about how Survey Monkey continues to operate.
5. Another Survey Monkey business principle is not to forget the importance of short term tactics.
Entrepreneurs love to dream big but often forget that to get to the big dream you have to employ short term tactics to make progress. The two are not separate but instead complement one another. It is akin to fighting a war, where each battle won will define how the war will be decided. Over the past 15 years, this principle appears to have plenty of evidence to ground it firmly in the strategic long term plan, despite the growing competition.
6. There is a method behind the apparent madness of their freemium business model.
Survey Monkey generates millions of surveys every month, with most of them being freebies to individual users. At the introduction of this article it was said that most of the Fortune 100 companies do business with Survey Monkey. This is what the company considers to be the gas in the fuel tank. But there is a subplot behind the concept as well. Every person who is sent a survey is made aware of what Survey Monkey is and does. This makes it free advertising, and is one reason it is used in so many academic institutions. When those graduates go out into the real world to work, they will have a working knowledge of a tool used by many of the world’s largest companies.
7. Its recent IPO had middlin’ results.
Survey Monkey decided to go public in 2018 and the results were mixed. It took off to $20 a share but then settled down into the $13 a share range. There are many reasons for this, but the two most important deserve serious consideration for investors. First, the company is clearly the industry leader in its market. Second, the problem is that market is a niche market and doesn’t have many places to go based on its current business model. Potential competitors are focusing on enterprise sized systems, an area Survey Monkey had no interest in. The question is, how much can the company grow under these circumstances.
8. The company currently has more than 16 million users.
The number of those users who can be categorized as “active” is unknown. But what is known is that of those 16 million only about 600,000 are paying for the premium level services and, as pointed out earlier, are generating the revenue. This limits the potential for future revenue growth unless they move away from the freemium business model.
9. Of the 16 million users, 80 percent use Survey Monkey for business purposes.
This statistic obtained in September of 2018 shows that the company’s foundational revenue source is not likely to go away anytime soon. Many of the individual, non-paying users are likely to be startup businesspeople who are trying to get a direction for their business strategy, making them one-and-done users unless their business is directly related to surveys. But even these categories of users recognize the many advanced tools available to them, so the perception is that it is hard to consider using another business survey tool in the future. For academics, putting down on your resume your advanced knowledge of Survey Monkey is likely to give you an edge in your job search.
10. Respondents answer more than 20 million questions every day.
That number is staggering when you multiply it by the conservative 360 days (allowing for major holidays) comes to 7.2 billion questions every year. Not only is that a lot of traffic, it also shows that people everywhere are willing to answer survey questions of every type, making the value of the company consistent over time.
11. The company has its imprint in 190 countries around the world.
This is an amazing statistic when you consider there are 195 total countries in the world. Survey Monkey crosses a huge number of language and dialects in order to get its message across. Perhaps more importantly, the business is of interest to virtually everyone in the world. The fact that it is an online tool and is primarily used in business environments shows the importance of surveys at any level to promote your business and be successful. At the same time, with a base of 16 million users it’s not as if most people are using it.
12. There are no options to get paid for taking surveys created on Survey Monkey.
There are a lot of companies who advertise you can make money by completing surveys, usually for just pennies per questionnaire. For the record, Survey Monkey is not one of them despite the apparent logic behind the idea. They do have an option where you can answer surveys and earn credits that you can use to make charitable contributions to, but there is no for-profit option available to individuals or businesses.
13. They have graduated to making an app suitable for the mobile world of devices.
Because the company started back in 1999, it is easy to forget that it had its roots in a desktop computer world. It was only recently in 2017 that the company turned out a responsive design app that is available on the major mobile platforms. This makes perfect sense, as many people are likely happier taking a survey on the train or the bus from work than waiting to get home and fire up their desktop – if at all. The idea has an international application as well, as many of the 190 countries it serves are more likely to have a mobile device instead of a desktop computer.
14. Its mobile app introduced the added feature Quiz Pro as a learning tool.
Quiz Pro makes it simple to take surveys on the go. Though it seems it is designed for students (which it is) it has a number of business applications, including corporate training and compliance testing. Employees can meet corporate and regulatory requirements at their convenience, and immediately see their results – an added feature of Quiz Pro.
15. The company did get around to working with Facebook.
Its upgraded app allows users of Facebook Messenger to poll directly into Facebook Messenger and like Quiz Pro, see the results immediately. There is no evidence Sheryl Sandberg had any influence of this obvious partnership, but the idea was clearly a natural one even before she moved over the Facebook. Between the massive reach of Facebook and the 190 countries Survey Monkey has found itself in, businesses have basically a global reach for their products and services.
16. The company has integrated artificial intelligence into its essential services to businesses.
At the beginning, Survey Monkey was essentially a data gathering tool that provided basic analytical services. With the advances in AI and its investment in advanced technologies, it only made sense for the company to better serve its business paying customers by providing AI services on the go instead of the company having to do the analysis on their end. This increased the value of Survey Monkey’s data gathering mission by giving businesses more bang for their buck.
17. Employee feedback generally is consistent with the company’s stated work-life balance goals.
After reviewing almost 200 employee reviews there is a general agreement that the company not only seeks the best for its employees, but also achieves that in the minds of both current and former employees. It is a corporate culture that recognizes the importance of morale to every employee regardless of position, and is one reason why employees go beyond the free food as a reason to stay.
18. Employee satisfaction is largely based on which department you are employed at.
On the flip side of employee satisfaction is the criticism that there is not much upward mobility in certain positions – senior engineer is one example. Of course, not every organization will make everyone happy or provide opportunities for lifetime career advancement. The recent data shows that employees moving from one company to another will continue to increase for Millennials and their brethren for the foreseeable future. If anything, this criticism can be looked at as a warning to anyone applying for a position anywhere: keep in mind that the type of company you are applying to will likely directly impact your upward mobility.
19. Since the IPO, the company has begun to take a turn towards becoming a more formal workplace.
That IPO only took place in 2018, yet the ripples from transforming itself to a business that is being held accountable to public stakeholders is already showing. This influence has also impacted perception of department managers who are said to be inexperienced and lacking people skills. One way to look at this is to realize that Survey Monkey is becoming more automated (see the aforementioned mobile app and features) and the employees who are recognizing the changes are those who have been with the company the longest.
20. The majority of employees who have been with the company more than three years are both supportive and positive about the company’s future.
Whether you are a potential investor, interested job seeker, or just looking for a clue on the future of Survey Monkey, while there are criticisms by employees the majority of long term hires want to see the company be successful. Ask yourself how many employees are interested in their company’s future as opposed to the next raise or extra bennie. Though this optimistic perspective is subject to change, right now the future of the company is hopeful solely based on the people who make the company run.
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Written by Garrett Parker
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