Back in 2006, two enterpreneurs called Kraig Swensrud and Sean Whiteley started a business based around the idea that Salesforce could be used for more than just helping salespeople organise their accounts and targets. Kieden, as the startup was called, created an add-on for Salesforce that let users create and manage Google AdWords advertising campaigns, and in that same year, it was acquired by Salesforce itself, where the two held various roles and Swensrud eventually became the CMO. Now the pair have left the mothership to forge out into the startup world again. Today they are launching GetFeedback to fill what they see as yet another hole in the market: mobile-first customer surveys.
Swensrud says that GetFeedback is launching with an unspecified amount of seed funding from Salesforce itself, along with some unnamed investors.
Today is GetFeedback’s official launch, but in beta, GetFeedback had already picked up some 1,000 customers. They include Appirio, Amazon.com Student, Dropbox, Heroku, LinkedIn, Salesforce.com — and a few out of the blue sporting outfits, the Association of Surfing Professionals and the North Face.
For those who follow the world of online marketing, you will know that the survey market is big — worth some $2 billion, according to one estimate — but also very crowded. SurveyMonkey and Google are among some of the larger companies, and lots of startups like Loop, Zoho, Polar and others are also vying for business in the same space.
Swensrud says that what’s still lacking, though, are great experiences that are mobile-first. “It’s a mobile revolution,” he told me. While online surveys have largely replaced more analog paper and in-person feedback gathering (although some of the wave-makers, like Panorama Education, have adhered to them anyway), today the game is changing again.
“There are a host of companies in the $2B market for online survey and research software,” he says. “But many of them have been exclusively focused on delivering browser-based surveys, which translate horribly onto smartphones and cause response rates to plummet, while some of them focus on specific niches in the enterprise such as market research.
“Audiences now expect every experience they have with every company to be engaging on the devices they carry with them 24/7: the smartphone and the tablet,” he says. “Furthermore, the adoption of modern mobile apps such as Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have retrained audiences to expect engaging, fun, simple, visually-rich experiences on these devices.”
Indeed, GetFeedback includes a lot of bells and whistles that are already commonplace in mobile media experiences elsewhere: the ability for those conducting their surveys to customize the look and branding as well as add images and video to complement text. The surveys as well are responsive, automatically resizing to whatever screen and platform where they are used.
But the promise of mobile will also make it a contested space: indeed SurveyMonkey, one of the bigger players in online, browser-based surveys, hasn’t yet make a real splash in mobile. But now that it is taking its own growth efforts up a notch (with a new enteprise service and more concerted international expansion), it may well choose to focus more on mobile either through inorganic acquisition or through an in-house developed offering.
Some of the premise of GetFeedback is about getting in on the game early — this year there will be 1 billion smartphones shipped and that number will go up to 1.7 billion by 2017, says IDC. And some of the premise is addressing what is already a need today. “Already, around 50% of all surveys are opened on a smartphone or tablet,” he says. “How will businesses evolve in this rapidly changing world, and how will businesses continue to make great decisions?”
For now, the service GetFeedback.com is pitching itself as a freemium product, with a basic offering at no charge, and a monthly pay-as-you-go subscription, based partly on a maximum number of responses generated and partly the level of technical support desired, ranging from $20/month (for up to 100 responses) to $125/month (for up to 10,000 responses). This includes also includes a self-service plan.￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼
A video of how the service looks is below.
GetFeedback – Product Overview from GetFeedback on Vimeo.
San Francisco-based Fleksy has launched its in-app SDK integration for iOS via four new partners who implement the software in their own apps today. These include Launch Center Pro, Wordbox, GV Connect and BlindSquare, and were chosen from a number of potential partners to help Fleksy demonstrate the power and range of its virtual keyboard.
Operating on iOS as a replacement for a default system component like the keyboard is not an easy task; Apple will not allow third-party devs to replace some system features like the keyboard, browser, messaging or calling app in the same way that users can do so on Android. Fleksy is attempting to get around this limitation by providing an SDK that third-party devs can use to build Fleksy into their own apps one at a time, in much the same way that Google makes it possible for devs to build in an option to have their software open links in Chrome on iOS.
These four launch partner apps are all available right now in the App Store, and take advantage of Fleksy’s unique ability to interpret a user’s intended input regardless of where they strike on the screen to different ends. Fleksy co-founder and COO Ioannis Verdelis explained to me the selection process for this first batch of apps in an interview.
“We’ve had a lot of interest [from third-party devs] really since our first release of the app on iOS,” he said. “We’ve picked four partners who worked with us through the beta process of the SDK, and we’ve tried to have one app that addresses the accessibility market, BlindSquare, and then we picked other popular apps that we think have meaningful use of text input in their design.”Click to view slideshow.
GV Connect is a Google voice client where you can use Fleksy to send SMS messages; Wordbox is a text editor; and Launch Center Pro is “a bit of everything,” says Verdelis, with shortcuts that help people navigate iOS and get things done quicker. For these first four partners, he notes that it was important not just to get partners who would use the keyboard in interesting ways, to help showcase the possibilities for others, but to use people who helped define the product, too.
From here, Fleksy intends to continue to be selective about SDK partners and work with third-party devs to launch their integrations for a little while, but eventually the plan is to open it up for anyone to use independent of Fleksy’s involvement. Revenue for Fleksy differs depending on how each dev makes their revenue, Verdelis says, with some like Launch Center Pro trying things like offering it up as an in-app purchase and then sharing revenue from those sales, and others going for a more straightforward licensing fee.
Fleksy launched as a standalone third-party keyboard on Android out of beta last week, and Verdelis says they’ve racked up over 100,000 downloads since then. On iOS, they’ve had over 500,000 since launching their standalone app, but the SDK is the focus here in terms of business targets, so watching to see how the stable of Fleksy-using apps grows from here will be key.
Mozilla, Deutsche Telekom, LG, Qualcomm, TCL/ALCATEL ONETOUCH, Telefónica, ZTE and a number of other tech companies today launched a new initiative that aims to promote the open Web device ecosystem by “encouraging API compliance as well as ensuring competitive performance.” The Open Web Device Compliance Review Board (CRB) will operate as an independent not-for-profit organization, but its standards will be based on Mozilla’s principles of user privacy and control and will also form the basis of Mozilla’s Firefox OS branding requirements.
The idea behind this alliance, the members say, is to ensure that these devices – and for all intents and purposes, Firefox OS-based “boot-to-Gecko” (B2G) phones are currently the focus here – can be brought to market faster. The alliance also hopes that it can support device manufacturers by setting performance standards and minimize their costs for compatibility testing.
In order to do so, the group will set minimum quality bars for performance that will ensure that “performance is similar to any other OS running on a similar device.”
It will also ensure that developers can expect a set of open APIs that will be available on all certified devices. For the time being, though, the group hasn’t certified any specific devices yet, but plans to do so in the near future.
The CRB’s board includes four members from Mozilla, two from Qualcomm and one representative from ZTE – one of the first companies to bet on Firefox OS.
“Users want a wide selection of devices and great apps. Operators, device OEMs and vendors want to be able to develop and test quickly and independently, in order to get new products to market. The CRB will enable partners to do so efficiently, reliably and confidently,” said Andreas Gal, vice president of mobile at Mozilla and the president of the CRB in a canned statement today. “This is the next step in building the ecosystem and will make it easier for partners to get a wide selection of high-quality solutions into consumers’ hands quickly and efficiently.”
The old thought experiment asks: If you could travel back in time to prevent someone’s birth who would be capable of great evil, would you do it? Admittedly, sometimes while browsing Facebook I wrestle with this myself when I think about Bitstrips and its founders Dorian Baldwin, Jacob Blackstock, Shahan Panth and David Kennedy. The social comic creation app makes for some truly cringeworthy posts by friends and family, but my personal distaste doesn’t negate the fact that these things are being used, and used frequently, by people in my network who’ve never even heard of Path or Snapchat.
Bitstrips has been on a bit of a tear lately, too: In the past two months alone, users have created over 30 million avatars on the service. The idea is that you use the app to create an avatar (which sort of resembles a Nintendo Mii) to use in comics that can be assembled quickly using pre-made elements via an easy-to-understand composer. You can use your friends, too, and the team pumps out new scenes daily so it appeals to a group with a wide range of creative impulses.
Recently, Bitstrips has seen a lot of growth coming from international markets, and it has occupied the top spot in the App Store in over 40 countries (and took the crown in the Entertainment category in over 90). CEO Jacob Blackstock attributes its recent rocket growth to the launch of its mobile apps.
“Bitstrips has been growing steadily for a long time, but the launch of the mobile app made it possible for people to create comics anytime, anywhere,” he said. “Life is full of moments that are made to be ‘bitstripped,’ and now people can share those moments instantly in comic form. It’s this instantaneous aspect of the mobile experience that enabled Bitstrips to go viral so rapidly.”
Blackstock added that it’s especially impressive because it was intended as a completely soft launch – they didn’t spend any money on marketing or do any press outreach. It’s definitely true that for me, awareness of Bitstrips came not from any tech publication or online hype, but from seeing it crop up like a new and invasive species of persistent weed in my FB timeline.
The success of Bitstrips not only here in North America but also abroad is also something that has surprised Blackstock and his co-founders, he says. Its user base is truly international, with cites like New York, London, Hong Kong, Mexico City and Lima providing many of those millions of avatars, which now total more than nine million worldwide created in the less than six months since its launch.
“What makes this truly remarkable is that Bitstrips is only available in English so far, and people from so many different places are turning the same comic scenes into their own creations uniquely relevant to them,” Blackstock says. “We do have plans to translate the app for our more popular non-English markets, and down the line even add localized content.”
The new investment from Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures should help it with those goals, and Blackstock said they made sense as a partner because of their “global perspective,” which he says will play a “pivotal role in helping us evolve Bitstrips to become a global brand.”
SF-based Buffer, the social media scheduling tool has officially launched its Buffer for Business product after a small private beta that ran during the past few months. Buffer lets users schedule updates and deliver messages via Facebook, Twitter and other social channels, which has become a key ingredient for any brands with an online presence. It arguably always appealed to business users, but the new Business product offers detailed analytics, collaboration with entire teams and easy export of your data for use in other applications.
Buffer for Business has already had a material impact on Buffer’s bottom line, even in its limited beta release form. Co-founder Leo Widrich says that over the course of the beta, they’ve signed up 400 paying users already, which amounted to $23,000 in revenue in a single month, or roughly 10 percent of their overall revenue. Business clients offer a significant revenue opportunity for Buffer, since it can sell better to institutions and organizations with deeper pockets than it could with its original product.
According to Widrich, Buffer took a consumer turn last year as part of a concentrated effort to attract individual users, and that resulted in partnerships with various companies including Feedly and Echofon. To a certain extent this worked (individual user growth was on a roll partway through last year), but the company also determined that a specific focus on business would also be beneficial to its bottom line.
They offered the Buffer for Business tool in a limited beta beginning in July as a result, which includes roles for team member that determine how much access they have to scheduling and posting, as well as improved analytics that provide a deeper dive into stats like engagement, retweets, favourites, posts per day and more. All of this is visible in a custom business dashboard that provides simple charting, comparison tables and interactive graphs.
New users can kick off a free trial, but subscriptions begin at $50 per month for a maximum 5 person team, and range up to $250 per month based on the kind of service required. The service should help Buffer evolve into something that appeals to organizations of all size, but it also has to contend with heavily entrenched industry players like Hootsuite, so we’ll see how it turns out.