Interview: The founders of doopoll

In the latest Tech Dragons interview, we speak to the founders of polling platform doopoll: Steve Dimmick, Marc Thomas and Sam Goudie. The company was named Welsh tech start-up of the year at last month’s ESTNet Awards.

TD: Can you tell us a bit about your business, please?

SG: I’m one of the co-founders and the head of product at doopoll. We’re a decision making platform that focuses on honest, instinctual responses and fast feedback.

Our initial prototype was built in one week from concept to presentation. Coming from a creative / design background, I had become increasingly frustrated with not being able to build the ideas I had in my head. Learning development was an empowering experience, and doopoll is a product of that.

TD: What makes it unique?

SGWe put a high value on making the person giving their answers feel empowered; our responsive results screen is a good example of this. When someone knows their individual answer will make a difference, and they have no fear of reproach, they will give honest answers. That’s important for lasting change.

We’re working hard to remove barriers to inclusive and honest feedback, whether that is a matter of engagement, accessibility, technology or hierarchy. You’ll make better decisions when you can trust the results.

TD: How does it benefit customers?

SDdoopoll benefits its customers by building a bridge between them and their audience; be that audience fans, constituents, customers or colleagues. Our customers can ask challenging and provocative questions, triggering honest and insightful responses, allowing our customers to make decisions in a quicker and more considered manner.

TD: Why did you set it up, and how far have you come?

MT: In a previous company, we were doing a branding project for a client. They kept toing and froing about the decisions that were being made by the team in charge of it.

After each meeting, the client’s junior and mid-level staff would report back to their bosses who would overturn the informed decisions that had been made because they preferred x or y. That’s not good management or decision making.

We decided to create doopoll to bring in the missing voices and to back up the decisions that had been made with data. Also, we wanted to solve the problem of people feeling intimidated about contradicting their managers.

That’s why doopoll is completely anonymous. We’ve seen a lot of people responding to that same idea: they struggle with giving honest feedback because they’re worried about the reprisals. Companies around the world are already using doopoll to get better data and involve more people – we’re really proud of that.

TD: What’s been your biggest success and your biggest obstacle?

SD: Our biggest success to date has been the fantastic progress we’ve made from building a prototype in a week, to now having a product that’s being used on every continent, by some of the world’s biggest companies. All ahead of gaining investment.

The biggest obstacle we’ve faced is that much of what doopoll offers is new and can be disconcerting to people who have ‘always made decisions in this way’ or have ‘always gathered feedback and opinion like this’. Quickly people are realising the benefits of doopoll over legacy processes and products, though.

TD: What do you think of the Welsh tech scene? How is your business contributing to it?  

SDThe Welsh tech scene is growing quickly, despite primarily being boot-strapped. I also feel it could benefit from being more ambitious in pushing for bigger customers outside of the UK and Europe; often the lowest hanging fruits will be those businesses we walk past on our way to work, but the juicier deals will be with global or continental companies and organisations, with presences outside of our homeland.

We realised this early on that we view ourselves as a company based in Wales, but we have a very global mind-set and our first major customers are global businesses. We have users on every content except Antarctica.

With regards to our contributions, well, we’re all members of CardiffStart (in fact I’m writing this while on the monthly #CDFtoLDN bus organised by CardiffStart group in conjunction with Business Wales and WelshICE) and try to help out wherever we can.

We definitely believe, to paraphrase Chris Coleman’s squad ahead of the Euros, that together we’re stronger. So, while we were thrilled to win The Sir Michael Moritz Tech Start-Up of the Year award recently, it was no surprise that we knew all of the people we were up against more as allies than enemies.

TD: Where do you see yourself in five and ten years? 

SG: We’ve been talking a lot recently about where doopoll will be in the future. The ways in which we interact with technology are changing; we’re entering the post screen age. We make thousands of decisions every day, often away from a screen. Detaching doopoll from computers and devices is something I’m very excited about.

TD: What advice would you give to someone looking to set up a tech start-up?

MT: Don’t get sucked in by start-up jargon or culture. People think you have to do x or y to make your start up work or look credible. What it comes down to is this: your idea has to be good, you have to have a clear sense of why you are doing something, you have to be able to connect those two things. Everything else is stuff that you can work on later.