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SurveyMonkey, Bringing the Public's Opinion to Your Doorstep


The history of humanity is full of innovators and entrepreneurs who used their visions and hard work to create a technologically and culturally progressive society.

From Thomas Edison to Elon Musk, we've seen how ideas can transform our culture while creating a fortune out of them. Some of the less-noticed but equally valuable innovations are SurveyMonkey's successes in bringing the public thoughts on various topics to everyone who'll read them.

Surveys are an important part of everyday human life. They're needed to measure the opinion and preferences of the people in different areas such as elections, choices between rival products, and the way people want to spend their free time. With the rise of the internet, several survey companies appeared on the market, but SurveyMonkey has managed to reach the top, generating billions to its founders Chris Finley and Ryan Finley.

As the founders of the biggest online survey company in the world, Chris and Ryan were faced with difficult challenges that required special ingenuity to overcome. This is their story.

Monkey See - Monkey Do

The story of how Ryan got the idea about SurveyMonkey is entirely circumstantial. He was working at a Sonic Foundry, a video management company. One day, the marketing department contacted him and asked him to create a survey and sent it to the user base.

Easy as taking candy from a baby right?

Not exactly.

Ryan found out that there aren't any good survey tools that he can use to complete the task. Almost all available tools were poorly designed and frustrating to use, so Ryan began to think differently - how about creating a survey tool that he himself could use if needed?

For the next few days, he was trying to find a way to do surveys without having to go through thousands of survey papers. It didn't take long before Ryan realized that he could use the Internet to do the survey without having to call people or meet them in person. However, due to the lack of marketing budget, Ryan had to be extra creative about the name - easily memorable and intuitive to use.

He developed the platform himself and together with his brother Chris, launched it in 1999 by the name SurveyMonkey, as monkeys are a symbol of curiosity.

The small amount of money the two brothers invested was enough to keep the simple software up and running. Over the next following years, the service was gaining traction without the need for more funding. As time passed, the company started to expand and increasingly gained attention, slowly increasing sales and profits. Its simple interface allowed customers to create surveys and then share them with everyone who wanted in, allowing for fast and organic expansion of its user base.

While things were looking up for the brothers, they were also looking for a place to move their business - specifically the West. Portland was one of their top choices, so in 2004, they finally made the move. Go Timbers!

In Portland, the two visionary brothers worked hard to expand their business all over the Internet. By 2009, they managed to ramp up sales up to $30 million without adding any new services or running special marketing campaigns.

Now, it was time for some big changes!

Getting Backed by the Big Boys

As the company acquired more and more users, capital, and revenue, investors started noticing SurveyMonkey's potential, leading to Spectrum Entity and Bain Capital buying SurveyMonkey in 2009.

The new owners, deciding to invest additionally in the company, brought a CEO with the experience to take SurveyMonkey to the next level. The person they had in mind was Dave Goldberg, an amazing leader who had previously helped Yahoo become an internet giant. Shortly after Dave took over, the company started to evolve into a data platform offering a wider range of services in the survey sector.

As SurveyMonkey grew, they started to gain the attention of big funders, receiving $100 million from the Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and SunTrust Robinson Humphrey in 2011. For 2012, SurveyMonkey reported a revenue of $113 million, and a year later, they raised $800 million in debt and equity. Their funding run didn't stop though - in 2014, they raised $250 million in equity from CapitalG, T. Rowe Price, Baillie Gifford, and Morgan Stanley.

What started as a casual survey task, turned out to be a leading generator of online surveys all over the globe.

The company is also known for having an elite customer network used by businesses and various academic and political institutions, as well as individuals from all levels of society, with non-governmental and nonprofit organizations, and HR departments, making up the rest. It's first enterprise-focused product was released in November 2013, and some of its first customers were Hearst Corporation, Yamaha, Aetna, the New York Giants, etc. Big names!

The Canadian company Fluidware, the creator of and, was acquired by SurveyMonkey back in 2014. A year later, the company acquired the marketing content automation company TechValidate, upgrading the quality of its services even further.

What Doesn't Break You, Makes you Stronger

Dave was the genius behind the business model of SurveyMonkey, and the brain behind SurveyMonkey's mission - power the curious! He not only cared about the users of the platform, convincing them to ditch the paperwork, but he equally cared about his employees as well. Unfortunately, he unexpectedly died in May 2015, but his legacy remains strong to this day, as he was replaced with Zander Lurie as CEO.

Under the new leadership, SurveyMonkey became known for its innovation process, as it focused on building two core values: creating business-grade solutions that allow its customers to have better survey results; and leveraging on the scale and data SurveyMonkey was collecting, allowing customers to build datasets based on flexible panels of respondents. Users of SurveyMonkey can also compare their survey data to others and gain a deeper understanding of their data with the help of SurveyMonkey Benchmarks. Today, SurveyMonkey's data is one of its major strengths!

SurveyMonkey Reigns Supreme!

SurveyMonkey is now the leading online survey company in the United States. The business's successful expansion also brought in a new wave of tools and innovations. Some of these new tools were Wufoo, Zoomerang, and Precision Polling, while in March of 2019 SurveyMonkey acquired Usabilla, an Amsterdam-based app survey website.

Later that year, the customer experience management company GetFeedback from San Francisco was also acquired by SurveyMonkey. This guaranteed progress across the board, and the company has kept pushing forward!

Currently, SurveyMonkey has somewhere around 33 million customers, which is more than a stable source of income, making it the leading company in the field of surveys, and one of the leading companies in terms of data!