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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Startup Spotlight - JoeMetric - Not Your Average JoeMetric
Columbus, Ohio - Knowing the customer is the most important consideration for any business as they develop and fine-tune their products or services. But really knowing involves substantial time and resources in developing a market research plan to collect, record and analyze data on those customers. The goal is to compile enough solid information so a company can make strategic and calculated decisions to identify and satisfy their customer’s needs, instead of making decisions on gut feelings or intuition.
One local company is making the market research process much easier and more efficient, with the development of an iPhone Application that provides companies with their customer’s opinions through surveys.JoeMetric provides an interactive interface that makes it simple and affordable for organizations to develop and distribute customized surveys directly through the iPhone. The information gathered in the surveys provides invaluable and instant consumer feedback for the company to make strategic decisions going forward.
JoeMetric is lead by a team of talented technology and business consulting professionals with many years of experience at major Fortune 500 companies. ChiefJoe, Adam Winter,
has held senior technical roles at companies ranging in size from startups to large companies like Dell, IBM, ADP, and Sandia National Labs. HeadJoe, Stephanie Rucinski, has provided her strategy expertise to consulting firms such as Accenture, Fortune 100 companies such as American Express and Mass Mutual Financial Group, and several east coast startups.
At the time of this interview, JoeMetric had not been officially launched in the iPhone App store but was waiting on final approval.
Mark Subel – TechLife (TL): How did you come up with the name JoeMetric?
JoeMetric (JM): The name came about with a little creativity and a lot of luck.Our original company name was SpotWurk, and, with some hindsight, we can now see why that was not the best choice.Luckily, we found out that another company in a different industry had already filed for a trademark on that name, so, to be on the safe side, we decided to come up with another one.JoeMetric is a mashup of the idea that “Average Joes” can now, with the touch of a button, provide their opinions in a way that matters and is measurable through metrics.Switching names had to be one of our better business decisions – people seem to really like the name, and they absolutely love our logo that goes with it.
TL: How did you get the idea to develop the JoeMetric iPhone App? Did you have previous experience in the market research industry?
JM: JoeMetric evolved from a concept that was hatched at Startup Weekend here in Columbus.We first looked at an existing business called Mechanical Turk, which is run by Amazon.com, that asks people to perform tasks or answer some questions; in return, those people get paid a few cents.If you ever used Mechanical Turk, you know that, while it is a cool idea, the user experience is very poor.Our original idea was to improve the look and make it easier to use.At the same time, we were all watching the adoption rates of smartphones and realized that we should be riding on the coattails of an idea that was already catching on extremely quickly rather than improving something online.We also talked to market researchers who told us they struggle with gathering relevant information, particularly online, because they aren’t able to talk to consumers as they are living their lives.And with that, we saw a great opportunity to create an iPhone app that would be able to solve many of the problems encountered by people trying to gather information.So we evolved from creating a better online interface for an existing service to creating an entirely new, mobile experience that is JoeMetric.One of our original founders, Dan Rockwell, has a lot of experience in the qualitative research area, so we were fortunate to build on his expertise.
TL: Tell us a little bit about the process from a company’s standpoint, from creating and launching their surveys to collecting data about their customers.
JM: Creating a survey couldn’t be easier.All a person (and it can be a person, by the way – our platform is open to entrepreneurs, companies, and anyone looking to gather data) has to do is log in on our website, tell us the questions they want to ask, the demographics of the people they want to answer the questions, and how many responses they want.Once they give us this information, the survey is sent to iPhone and iPod Touch users who fit a particular demographic profile.When the specified amount of responses has been collected, the survey is closed out, and can no longer be accessed by respondents.The collected data is then aggregated into reports and sent out to the person who conducted the survey.The process is simple, fast, and efficient.In addition, future surveys can be built using pre-designed templates – so if you don’t know how what questions to ask, we can help you.
TL: What are the advantages of companies using JoeMetric as opposed to conducting market research online or through other means?
JM: An iPhone is such an amazing technological marvel, and it is one that people carry with them everywhere.These two facts alone make JoeMetric incredibly advantageous to data gathers.First, think about the iPhone as a data collection tool.Online and other mechanisms can only ask limited question types: true/false, multiple choice, open text.With JoeMetric, survey questions can include asking someone to take a picture, record a voice response, circle something on the touch screen, or record time or GPS information.All of a sudden, the data set that can be collected becomes far richer.Secondly, the iPhone is with a consumer at all times.Data can be gathered while a consumer is in the moment.Now you can ask, “What do you think of the store display?” while the consumer is looking right at the display, not three weeks later when they are sitting at their computer.This is important for a few reasons.First, data that is collected in the moment is more accurate than data collected after time passes.Secondly, you can now get instant feedback about an event, promotion, meeting, etc. while it is happening, and you can use that feedback to make immediate improvements.
TL: How do you attract consumers to take the surveys provided by companies? What do they receive in return?
JM: Boy, were we wrong about this one.Initially, we thought that consumers would want to take the surveys simply because they would get paid to do it.Even though the amounts are not high (approximately $0.25 to $1.25 to take a 1 – 12 question survey), we still pay lots more than many of our competitors.But what we found out was that even though people like to get paid, people like to have their opinions get heard even more.iVote, which is a one question polling app for the iPhone, not only doesn’t pay for opinions, but it has a Pro Version that costs $0.99.So people are actually paying money to give their opinions away for free.iVote has over 74,000 users, so the numbers speak loud and clear.
TL: Have you had any other experiences developing iPhone Apps or was this a new process for you?
JM: While this is our first iPhone app, our team has considerable experience in designing data collection and reporting web-based applications. Working with Apple in developing for a beautiful, but closed platform has been an interesting experience.
TL: With over 85,000 iPhone Apps available now and growing every day, what are some of the challenges you have in advertising your application?How do you stand out or plan to stand out from the crowd?
JM: Getting noticed is going to be a challenge.Luckily, we are unique in that we are actually paying people for their time.If consumers use us simply while they are waiting in line, watching TV, sitting in an airport, etc., they can earn money to offset the price of their monthly phone plan.That is an opportunity that many people find attractive.Even so, we are going to have to have a focused marketing campaign for the consumer.Posting on iPhone user group sites, advertising on Facebook, and on-the-ground campaigns are all ways we are going to attract the attention of the consumer.
TL: What challenges did you run into when creating and developing the App (technical)?
JM: First and foremost, the number of people are strong in programming Objective-C is small, but growing rapidly. That presented challenges for us particularly early in the life of the company in finding experienced developers. Then, the lack of memory management on the iPhone is a frequent obstacle. Many good developers remember back in the day when they needed to manually manage the amount of resources that their application consumed – but few remember how they did it, most of those skills have rusted over.
TL: Do you have advice for other iPhone App developers regarding the submittal process of your App to Apple?
JM: Yes, start early. Particularly your registration as an iPhone App developer if doing so as a corporation and not as an individual. Just being allowed to pay $99 to sign up took 6 weeks.
TL: Are you and your team originally from Columbus, Ohio? What made you decide to start your business in Columbus?
JM: Adam and I are both from out of state – Adam is originally from Pennsylvania, and I am from Massachusetts.We met in the MBA program at Fisher, and had talked from day one about how we wanted to deviate from the traditional MBA career path and become entrepreneurs.Columbus is a great a great city to be an entrepreneur, but an especially great city to be in the market research space.With plenty of Fortune 500 companies right in the city limits, and three of the top 25 market research firms right here in Ohio, we couldn’t be more pleased with our location.
TL: Have you received support from the Columbus Tech community in regards to your App? What companies or organizations have helped or supported you?
JM: We have been very lucky to receive support from all sorts of individuals and groups within the Columbus Tech community.For example, last year we won a $50,000 TechGenesis grant.This grant gave us a huge boost that allowed us to do research on the legal environment in our space, as well as to validate our pricing model and to understand the intricacies of our customers.IT Martini awarded us with the “Community Choice” last year.This award went to the favorite company demo at the event as awarded by the attendees.I don’t know how many were there at the time, but I believe the group is up to over 750 technology professionals.We were also able to take advantage of the Third Frontier internship program for one of our IT interns.Of course, there are the people at Tech Life – Ben and Sandy Blanquera, and the reporters who donate their time, like you, Mark.The list goes on and on.
TL: Do you feel that Columbus has a community favorable to iPhone App development?
JM: Absolutely. If you look at membership in the Columbus iPhone Development User Group (CIDUG), it is clear that there is tremendous interest. Enthusiasm for the iPhone (and other smartphone platforms) is increasing every month.
TL: Do you have any favorite iPhone Apps developed by local Columbus developers?
TL: Where or how do you think the Columbus Tech community can improve in the support of entrepreneurs like yourself?
JM: We have a great community here. There are a lot of great technologists, and the State of Ohio has been incredibly supportive.I say just keep it going. Where possible it would be great to reduce paperwork. Incubators can be great things; I know many are forming in and around Columbus.They should receive additional support. And my number one thing, the thing that is the key to success in cities such as Austin, Boston, and Silicon Valley – if you build a successful business in Ohio – DO NOT LEAVE. Stay here, mentor the next generation, and write checks quickly, early, andoften.
TL: What are the immediate goals and plans for JoeMetric in the near future?
JM: We are going to finish development on our survey app in December, and will be launching locally in January.At that time, we will be working hard to make sure everyone in Columbus who owns an iPhone will know about us.We will also be working with our strategic partner companies to seed the network with surveys.It is going to be important to make sure that there are lots of interesting surveys on our platform!With the feedback we get from our Columbus rollout, we will make the appropriate upgrades to our system.Then, once we gain traction in Columbus, we are going to hit the road to find survey takers all over the country, starting with SXSW next spring.We hope to get acquired in the next four years, so there is going to be a lot of work to do before that time!
If you’re a company that would like to get in touch with JoeMetric, simply visit www.joemetric.com or contact them via email, phone, Twitter, or Facebook: