Thumbspeak – Mobile Panel Platform – Dean Wiltse gets back into the game.

After being in the Market Research business for 10 years and leading Greenfield Online public and then overseeing the merger/buyout of Perseus and Websurveyor into Vovici – Dean Wiltse is back in the game – with ThumbSpeak.

As mentioned in my previous post, we’ll be profiling innovative companies that are attempting to change Market Research and data collection and looking beyond traditional models. This is our first post on this.

What is ThumbSpeak?

A mobile panel. Where users _actually_ take surveys using smartphones (iPhone, Android devices etc.)  Users download the app – and the App then “pushes” surveys to consumers. Consumers get points/rewards (like with most other panels) for completing surveys. Thumbspeak sells access to these users to market researchers who want to tap into them.

Why is it unique?

Traditional panel providers like eRewards, Toluna, SSI have mobile panels – as in they have users who have (or have used) a smart phone – but the surveys are still conducted over the traditional web interface. Thumbspeak is solely focused on the mobile platform. All their data-collection efforts are going to be in the smartphone — at least for now. They have an iPhone App out – the Android app will come out soon in the next few months.

Next – they are recruiting via developers. There are over 200,000 apps in the App-Store – and most of them are Free. Which means there are approximately 100,000 – 200,000 developers developing for the Apple eco-system alone. If you add in the Android platform and the Symbian/Palm OS platfrom – there are a LOT of developers trying to make money off smartphones. Not all can make money. They need a better monetization model than simply ads. Ad’s in mobile work to some extent, but because of real-estate restrictions – you cannot make a ton of money just on Ads. Thumbspeak has the ability to make these developers some cash – but being the conduit between users who want to pay, who need access to mobile users and want to conduct market research, and the development community.

What’s the business model – aka – is this real?

So far it seems. The typical going rate for an iPhone completed panel member is ~$6/Completed Survey. This revenue can be distributed between the developer and Thumbspeak – and given the fact that Wiltse has a deep background in the panel business from GreenField – I don’t doubt that he can sell panels! Wiltse was the CEO of GreenField with a 400M market cap. He also has a good background in software development when he led Vovici and oversaw the Perseus/Websurveyor merger.

Challenges/NaySayers?

Couple :

  1. Critical Mass – Any panel company requires critical mass – its the chicken and the egg problem. Wiltse will have to overcome that both from a sales and recruitment standpoint.
  2. Competition – Toluna, SSI, GMI and eRewards – have a combined market cap of about a 500-800M – So you are talking about the big boys here. If they smell blood – they’ll come after this – I would not say this is that bad – very likely one of them just buys Thumbspeak?

Related posts:

  1. Mobile Apps and Users
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About Vivek Bhaskaran

Vivek Bhaskaran is the President and CEO of Survey Analytics.