SurveyMonkey CEO David Goldberg On Swinging Into London To Build Out A Global Enterprise Business


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At 14 years old, SurveyMonkey, the online feedback and survey company, is “not quite a startup anymore,” says its CEO David Goldberg. But the last year has marked what you might call a second childhood of sorts for the Silicon Valley company: a large raise of funds (some $850 million, all secondary); a launch of a whole new product branch (enterprise); and, now, for its hattrick, a new international push. It’s the third of these that has brought Goldberg — a seasoned enterpreneur, investor and husband to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg — to London, to meet with me in a bar high above the city in the Shard, a new skyscraper near London Bridge.

We’re meeting here because although SurveyMonkey is announcing a new office in London, along with a hiring push for 50 new staff in sales, marketing and business development, it hasn’t yet found a place to call its own. Where will the company look? The answer is still (ahem) up in the air. Not in the glitzy Shard, where the rents are too high; and not necessarily in Shoreditch, where many other startups have laid down roots.

As it turns out, the Shard — with London spread out beneath us — is a fitting place to meet. SurveyMonkey is arriving here with opportunity in its eyes. London will represent its biggest investment yet outside of the U.S., and it comes directly as a result of its bigger enterprise push. It comes also as part of a concerted effort by the UK government to bring more tech business to London, including encouraging a new work visa scheme, faster broadband and more companies to commit to investing here.

Today the UK is SurveyMonkey’s biggest market after the U.S., with 1.5 million users, a position that is built on enterprise and customers across organisations like the National Health Service, the oil company BP, local councils and universities, and “100% of the FTSE 100” says Goldberg.

Many of these have started out as individual accounts, and so these are connections that SurveyMonkey hopes to reinforce and expand under its new enterprise licensing scheme; and, down the line, with more analytics services to make the most of the data that the surveys snag.

While I had Goldberg’s attention, I got an update on what else might be happening at SurveyMonkey:

Acquisitions. It’s an obvious way for companies from the U.S. to scale business abroad, not to mention a way to bolt on new technologies, so will the be a route for SurveyMonkey?

Goldberg says that for the moment there are no acquisitions on the cards for customer scaling purposes. “There’s not a lot of anything of any scale out there,” he told me. “That’s not to say we wouldn’t buy something. We have been looking internationally but haven’t found anything.”

As for technology acquisitions, that’s a different story. The key with SurveyMonkey is that it’s launching a new business area with enterprise, and that could lead it into offering new products and services, some of which may get built internally; and some of which will not.

One of those areas could be data, and specifically big data analytics. “How do we collect data and how can we help people make decisions?” Goldberg asked me rhetorically. “To call what we do a survey is very narrow. It’s data, and that’s a very, very big space.”

Data intelligence could also be one way that SurveyMonkey could stay competitive against the likes of Google Surveys and (to a lesser extent) Formstack.

Although SurveyMonkey counts the public sector as a strong vertical for its services, one company Goldberg rules out as a target of any kind is YouGov, the UK-based polling company. “That’s not a space we want to be in,” he said, noting that SurveyMonkey in fact already has its own panel business.

And there remains a plan as well to continue to expand partnerships and integrations via SurveyMonkey’s API. Integrations like these are an important customer retention tool: “Those who use us and also use MailChimp and Eventbrite churn from us at a lower rate,” Goldberg notes.

Funding. The money that SurveyMonkey raised earlier this year — which included significant contributions from Tiger Global, Social + Capital, and others — was “100% secondary,” he said, with the funds going to employees and investors.

“None of it went into the company,” he added, meaning that any acquisitions that it would make will come from its own cash reserves, as well as debt if needed. In 2012, SurveyMonkey made $62m in EBITDA, and $113 million in revenue, he tells me. It has not disclosed 2013 revenues. That funding round, he pointed out, which valued the company at some $1.35 billion, will put off questions of an IPO for some time to come.

Image: Flickr

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