How a phone call from George Osborne brought $1.35bn SurveyMonkey to London


CEO Dave Goldberg on why he’s coming to the capital

So why did George Osborne personally call SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg to set up a London HQ?

The company’s numbers may have been impetus.

Founded in 1999, the US company boasts 15 million users and corporate clients include Facebook and Samsung.

In the UK, it has more than 1.5 million registered users creating more than 100,000 surveys each month. Everyone from the NHS, BP to local councils are customers.

In its funding round in January, the free online polls company was valued at $1.35bn (£825m).

Welcoming SurveyMonkey to the capital, Osborne said: “From Silicon Valley to Shoreditch, this is credit to Tech City and the talent it draws. The digital economy continues to deliver jobs and growth, and the government is working hard to attract tech to the UK and is introducing coding to schools to equip our children with crucial tech skills. We welcome SurveyMonkey and wish it great success in bringing its business to the UK.”

Headquartered in tech mecca Palo Alto, the company employs 275 people. In its London office, SurveyMonkey would employ 50 people, initially in sales, marketing and business development.

But which London area would become home to SurveyMonkey’s newest offices? Would they look beyond Tech City? We chat with Goldberg, the CEO of the company since 2009, for answers:

Q. So Dave, tell us a bit about your background…

Prior to [SurveyMonkey] I started a company called LAUNCH Media which I sold to Yahoo!. I worked with them for a while and ran Yahoo!’s music business.

I joined SurveyMonkey in 2009 when Ryan Finley, the founder, decided to bring in some investors to grow the business. At that time it was headquartered in Portland, Oregon and employed just 12 people. But since then it’s grown by more than three times.

Q. What’s your strategy for growing the business?

Going international is a big part of the growth strategy for the business. When we started out we offered users the opportunity to create surveys in different languages but they could only pay in US dollars. We’ve made a lot of progress in introducing more languages and payment in more currencies.

People use SurveyMonkey to collect data from a group of people to make it easier to make decisions. So, we recently launched SurveyMonkey Enterprise, a collaborative product which allows users to have greater control and enables valuable data comparison.

The next phase of growth is hiring sales people – something we’ve never had before. This will be talking directly with the customer which we’ve never really done.

Q. What areas haven’t worked so well in the past?

We’ve done a bunch of acquisitions and acquired some things that weren’t a great fit. For example, we acquired Zoomerang [a similar survey service], and some parts of the business we didn’t want we sold. That wasn’t our original intention, but if it’s not a good fit, it didn’t make sense to keep trying.

Q. Why did you decide to come to London?

London makes sense because it’s an incredible hub for talent and it allows us to address our existing customer base. We always planned to be in London but the timing is a little sooner than we had planned, as we got some active encouragement from your government. That’s part of the reason it makes sense to come now. But also you guys are doing great things with open sourcing that we wanted to be a part of. Chancellor George Osborne personally called me to encourage us to come to London. We’re only going to hire 50 people at first, which is not a lot of jobs, so the commitment of the Chancellor was really positive. It’s something we haven’t seen as much in other countries, certainly not in the United States, so that’s definitely unique to London. It’s clear he cares deeply about making London a robust tech centre.

Q. What challenges do you have ahead?

Making sure we get the right people hired is the main challenge for us. There’s a lot of talent in London but it’s also a competitive place. The specific roles we’re looking to recruit are in sales, marketing and business development. We’re really building the same kind of team as we have in the US.

Another challenge is that the word ‘survey’ is not as well understood over here in London. When we talk about a survey, we mean what you guys would usually call a questionnaire. I like to say it’s two countries separated by a common language. When we say survey, British people kind of get it but you can see the momentary pause as they translate it in their head.

Q. How are you finding the hunt for premises?

We’re on the lookout for premises, in fact, we’ve had property agents already getting in touch. There’s no problem at all with availability but offices are expensive in London.

In Palo Alto, California, where we’re headquartered, you’d think offices would be cheaper because there’s a lot of space. But actually, there aren’t that many offices there and it’s harder to get the right location, for example, near the train station. So they ended up actually being quite expensive.

In London, there’s a lot of availability but it’s still very expensive.

Q. What’s next for the business?

We’ve got a lot going on at the moment. We want to grow the business through core use and new products. There are a lot of opportunities for international growth, particularly in non-English speaking countries, and we have new products coming out. We have something coming out in the new year…

Q. Can you tell us about it?

Errm… no. But it’s very exciting. Customers love our product and they tell other people, so it’s word of mouth. We’ve had very little marketing in the past but we’re looking at that now. It’s an exciting time for us.

Thanks for your time Dave.