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Fireside chat with David Brain, Co-Founder Stickybeak

Who is David Brain?

I am a Brit living in New Zealand; married with two almost grown up children. Sometimes it’s a bit quiet here compared to London, but it’s not a bad place to escape the pandemic. Most of my career was spent running PR and advertising agencies and agency networks mostly for American companies in Europe and in Asia. For the last 13 years of my corporate career I was with Edelman on the holding company board, helping Richard Edelman grow the firm from $250 million to over $900 million in fees and to be the biggest PR and digital agency in the world. Four years ago the endless travel and jet lag got the better of me and I left with no real agenda as to what to do next other than to work with people I like on interesting projects and where I could add value. That took me to some board roles with a public company and a charity, but it also took me into start-ups. And start-ups felt to me a little like agencies did before they became huge businesses and so I decided that was where I wanted to spend the bulk of my time.

What’s the story behind Stickybeak?

I invested and took a board role at a start-up (now one of New Zealand’s most successful tech companies) called Parkable (sort of Air BnB for parking spaces). Through that I met other investors and founders and began to take a real interest in entrepreneurship. And then one day I saw a presentation from a research company about how quantitative research (polling) was broken because many segments of society won’t go on panels and the segments that do will often be answering questions for their income and so are less than representative. Hence some of the high profile mistakes the industry has made in recent years. The presenter that day was David Talbot and so we went for a curry later that night and decided that a platform that could link real people in a conversational and almost fun way with marketers questions would have a future. Facebook and instagram provided that link if we could only build the technology to recruit, question and analyse the responses of the up to 3.8 billion people that spent their time there. That’s what Stickybeak does. It allows marketers, communication execs, business owners and journalists to quickly, cheaply and easily run their own public polls with pretty much anyone anywhere except China!

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

The early beginnings were actually quite easy. David and I quickly found some partners; Brody and Kyle are developers and had helped build Parkable and Andrea was from New Zealand’s best known market research company UMR. The combination meant that we had most skill sets covered off at founder level. We all threw in money and time and bootstrapped the thing to the minimal viable product and then launched it…..big…..we launched it in London, New York and at the Cannes Festival of Creativity where all the creative agencies gather. This is unusual as most start-ups launch small and work their way up, but we were impatient and wanted to recruit some beta customers fast. The whole period up to the launch was fun and comparatively stress free because the product was still all in our minds and had not yet hit the real world. So little disappointment!

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

My Co-Founders. I am very lucky to have stumbled on a group of such talented, dedicated people and I enjoy working with them every day. I have been in business long enough to know how rare that is. Other than them, I get a real kick every time I see a client use the platform to run a poll. We work for some very big companies and I see them making more and better decisions because of the data they get from Stickybeak but I also love that book clubs use us to choose their next title and stag groups to decide on party venues.

What is your vision for the future of Stickybeak?

To democratise research. Any business anywhere should be able to poll any group of people anywhere to help them make better decisions and they should not need to use expensive research agencies and slow and unreliable research panels. And for those being researched, it should not be an experience akin to root canal work.

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

Stickybeak has had not been affected by the climate as we interest, sign up and onboard clients remotely. However, in talking to our clients and seeing how users are employing the platform I would advise not to assume that customers will continue to behave as they have in the past and that the best way to find out how Covid has changed the way they think about your product or service is to ask them.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

Zoom for demos and meetings like everyone; Slack for all our internal comms; HotJar to see how people are using our site and how the survey chatbots are performing; Trello for some projects; we use Sanity as our publishing CMS; Google for hosting and all the wonderful basics like Docs and Data Studio

What books do you have on your nightstand?

The Sea of Cortez, John Steinbeck; The Mirror and the Light, Hillary Mantel. I’m taking a business book break. They often seem to impart knowledge, but don’t do enough for your imagination.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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