In Challenge to SurveyMonkey, SlimSurveys Bets Big on Brevity

In this “always on” era of online products and services, there is a time-saving appeal to the product introduced today by San Diego-based SlimSurveys. It’s designed to help businesses gather feedback from customers without sucking up too much of their time.

“We wanted to build a company from the perspective of the survey respondent,” CEO Sean Callahan tells me. So SlimSurveys has developed an online platform that limits each survey to just seven questions, enabling customers to quickly rate their satisfaction in various ways, so the survey experience will last no more than 30 seconds.

Think of it as the Twitter of surveys, Callahan says.

It’s not just a clever turn of phrase. Callahan, along with SlimSurveys co-founders Rodney Rumford and Daniel Marashlian, have been steeped in the ins and outs of Twitter at their previous venture, a photo-sharing platform that was founded in 2009 as TweetPhoto. They quickly expanded their TweetPhoto API beyond Twitter to include Facebook, Foursquare, MySpace, and other social media networks. Callahan says TweetPhoto empowered third-party application developers to quickly add media-sharing capabilities to their apps without taking on the job of building and managing the infrastructure themselves.

SlimSurveys mobile product shot (courtesy SlimSurveys)

SlimSurveys for mobile

“We grew that company rather quickly, from zero to 30 million [users] in just 18 months—and that was just our website,” Callahan says. Now he is looking to follow a similar strategy with SlimSurveys.

In an e-mail this afternoon, Callahan writes that the startup’s ultimate goal is “disrupting the survey industry and turning it into a time-saving experience for millions of consumers…We want to build an amazing product people love to interact and express with on a daily basis.”

But there’s little doubt that the SlimSurveys founders hope to repeat the broader success of TweetPhoto as well. The photo-sharing startup raised $2.6 million in venture capital (from Qualcomm Ventures, Anthem Venture Partners, Canaan Partners, and Eastman Kodak) before changing its name to Plixi, and getting acquired (by Seattle-based Lockerz) for $10 million.

The Plixi/TweetPhoto team stayed on with Lockerz for two years, and Callahan says they all wanted to stay together for their next venture.

Of course, the SlimSurveys founders acknowledge that they also are facing an 800-pound gorilla in SurveyMonkey, the Palo Alto, CA-based online survey provider founded in 1999. SurveyMonkey claims to be the world’s largest survey company, with over 1 million survey responses every day, and was valued at more than $1.3 billion after it completed a $794 million debt-and-equity financing round completed earlier this year.

So Callahan is casting SlimSurveys as the “anti-SurveyMonkey,” and arguing that the simplicity and brevity of SlimSurveys’ questionnaires assures higher customer response rates. SlimSurveys says it also makes it easy for businesses to add photos and images to their survey questions, and customers can embed surveys on their own websites.

SlimSurveys screengrab

SlimSurveys product builder tool

“We learned from Twitter that people have a short attention span,” Callahan says. “We’re not your typical SurveyMonkey, where we give you all the tools under the sun to build your surveys.”

In a statement issued today, Rumford, who is SlimSurvey’s chief product officer, expands on that premise, saying, “The current offering of survey tools on the market has not changed much in a decade. Most surveys today look just like they did a decade ago. Antiquated, ugly, radio buttons everywhere, complex matrixes and lots of questions. This is a time drain for consumers. It was time for the survey to be re-imagined and reinvented and this is what we have done with a focus on the consumer experience with our product.”

So far, SlimSurveys’ co-founders have been developing the software themselves and funding the corporate development out of their own pockets. But with today’s product debut, Callahan says he expects to raise a seed round between $500,000 and $1 million in the next month or two.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Paul

    With Survey Monkey, you can always choose to make your survey less than 7 questions. If that’s the value prop they have over Survey Monkey, that’s really flimsy. I personally use Fluid Surveys because the pricing is better for SMBs (unlimited responses still with the smallest paid plan)