Exclusive Interview: Marc Thomas, doopoll

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doopoll was founded by Marc Thomas, Steve Dimmick and Sam Goudie, with the aim of opening up the decision-making process to a wider audience by removing the barriers to inclusive and honest feedback.

Our technology partner, Technology Connected spoke with CEO Marc Thomas to find out more.

What is doopoll?

doopoll is a survey tool, which allows people and organisations to gain insight, build large mailing lists, and let everyone have a vote, in real-time, on any device.

Launching in 2015, we raised a seed round in 2016 from Development Bank and Konrad Litwin and set about working to get our unique real-time survey product to a wider market.

Since then, the product has developed into a huge market. Every day, we add new customers from microbusinesses to FTSE 100 companies.

There’s a lot that is innovative and unique about doopoll but a few of the most loved features are the live results, our email data capture is super high-performing (43% on average), and we also see 3-4x the response rate to our surveys versus industry competitors like SurveyMonkey.

What have been your proudest achievements and biggest challenges so far?

First and foremost, we’re proud of having made a startup work for the past 5 years, far outliving the average lifespan of a startup, without having to raise funds more than once.

It hasn’t been easy, finding the right product market fit, building an engine for growth, hiring the right people (and the right number), acquiring customers, retaining customers. These are all difficult challenges and I’m proud of how well we’ve performed in every area.

Probably the most rewarding moments of doopoll have been when we see organisations we’ve grown up with, or admire, using our product to generate huge engagement from their customers or stakeholders.

On a business level, last year, we made some big changes to our business model focused on helping build our SME customer base. That paid off big time. We grew a key segment of the revenue of our business by 75% every month between September 2019 and March 2020.

What do you think the biggest advantages of being a tech company in Wales are?

There is a fairly good tech community in Wales – although it’s nascent and a company in Wales does have its challenges.

The tech ecosystem simply isn’t as strong as other areas. In particular, we lack expertise in crucial areas such as growth marketing (we went to Silicon Valley for help with this specific area),  access to funding can also be difficult, (although Development Bank are making big steps towards improving this). Accessing talent can also be an issue and we actually became a 100% remote company in 2019 to make hiring easier.

The innovation ecosystem that exists in places like Cambridge/London or Berlin doesn’t exist here and collaborating with universities is a pain because of their cost structures. That means R&D in businesses suffers.

These are huge barriers that we will need to overcome in the next few years if we want to establish a healthy ecosystem. However, we also don’t have any of the baggage that comes with having an ultra-developed ecosystem like Israel’s or Silicon Valley, which can work to our advantage.

In Wales, we have an exciting opportunity to build an equitable, innovative environment for tech startups to grow in, that benefits normal citizens.

What would you like to see happen to the industry in Wales and beyond?

I think the best target for the industry in Wales is to get relevant expertise into the ecosystem.

Our experience of trying to understand how to build a marketing engine for doopoll was that we couldn’t find anyone in Wales who we thought could help us with both theoretical and practical advice, ultimately we worked with Demand Curve, a company in Silicon Valley, to get the practical hands on experience into our business so that we could run growth ourselves.

That’s one example of where it pays to have expert advice from people who have recently (in the last 5 years) built a tech company with a software as a service model. Currently, there are no people in Wales who have done that, successfully exited, and who are willing to pay that back to the community in the form of mentorship or training.

Bringing this kind of relevant expertise into the ecosystem will create leverage for startups of all kinds to grow profitably.

What does your organisation have in store for the future?

We’re focused on helping people make better sense of the data they’re gathering through doopoll and helping them to get more of that data.

To that end, we’re exploring ways of helping customers build better personas from their data, as well as making it easier to generate visual reports from their responses that they can share with their team.

What is the best piece of advice you've been given?

Ben Horowitz said: “If you are a founder CEO and you feel awkward or incompetent when doing some of these things and believe there is no way that you’ll be able to do it when your company is one hundred or one thousand people, welcome to the club. That’s exactly how I felt. So did every CEO I’ve ever met. This is the process. This is how you get made”

What is one piece of advice you would give?

When something’s not right, let people know with warmth and kindness. Be fair and be good.

And don't let anyone tell you that socks are compulsory at any meeting (I refuse to wear socks with loafers).