In this Episode – Chris & David chat with Alamgir Mand of Tap Research:
Want to make more money per user? Of course…. Want to implement money making elements into your apps that users might actually enjoy? Heck yeah. Then listen in as the founder of Tap Research introduces his “polling” solution – where advertisers and researchers are paying $.25 per completed poll per user. Listen to end to learn how:
- Co-host Chris has used in a few of his apps
- Why polling and how you can use to reign in design costs
- How to get started
- Where to add and which apps Tap Research works best with
Resources and Links Mentioned in this Episode:
Chris: We’ll introduce Alamgir Mand in just a second. He has a new company called Tap Research, in fact a new name for a new company. It was formally Pocket Panda for all those users of Pocket Panda out there. New website and everything up, tapresearch.com, same cool products and Alamgir Mand welcome to the show.
Alamgir Mand: Thanks Chris, it’s awesome to be here.
Chris: Yeah tell us a little about Tap Research, what you guys do. You can do it better than I can.
Alamgir Mand:Yeah what we’re essentially trying to do, our mission is to take the old archaic world of market research and surveys and polling and sort of update that, throw that into 2014 with the recent movement we’ve seen in mobile. It’s basically we take apps, users, and market researchers and we throw them all into this mix where you have short form surveys and apps that, you know, have all the incentives aligned. And basically what you get in the end is a bunch of great mobile answers from users on their devices.
Chris: Yeah and just a little bit of background. I met Alamgir Mand because I found his service and implemented in one of my products. And one of the really cool things is if you do incentivize polls where you can say hey get 10 coins or unlock this next level for completing a poll, it’s sometimes more fun for the user than watching a video or doing something passive. You know people like to play with their phones and even answering questions is kind of fun. And I think Alamgir Mand has definitely tapped into that. And then it pays very well. So is that something you share?
Alamgir Mand: Yeah, so in terms of a revenue model for an app developer, you know we’re looking at 25 cents per qualified completion, 7 cents for every unqualified completion. So it’s definitely a good tool for app developers to sort of broaden and diversify their monetization scheme across their apps. I know a lot of people are using things like offer walls, banner ads, video ads, you know native ads have been pretty popular recently. So you know we’re just trying to put something else into that hat of tricks.
Chris: Yeah it’s really cool. It’s a nice alternative and then it pays very well. 25 cents, you know my goal for some of my apps is if I can monetize it at 25 cents then the app is going to be a runaway success even if there’s only, you know 200 downloads a day. That adds up pretty fast, so 25 cents is really good and even 7. You know I’ll have to look at my performance, but I mean maybe you can tell us across the network, a high percentage of them are qualified leads right, or qualified respondents?
Alamgir Mand: Right, right so I mean part of it is a function of how tightly the targeting is around the surveys. Since the surveys can be targeted by geo, they can be targeted by age, they can be targeted by gender, and also by a screening question. Luckily recently we’ve had a lot of general population surveys where people just want to ask questions and they just want to get a holistic view of what the population is saying. But yeah in terms of the fill rate and in terms of getting the surveys out to the users, you know qualifications have been a great thing even when genders and locations are asked for. We have access to enough devices there where as a market researcher, you will get your answers pretty damn quick, within 24 to 48 hours, usually.
Chris: Yeah so not only for the people paying for the polls but then the publishers, the 25 cent number isn’t something like oh only 5 percent of the respondents are qualified. You know it’s in Alamgir Mand’s best interest to provide a lot of qualified respondents so he’s trying to match up the best polls with the best apps. So the payments of 25 cents I’ve seen them well over 50 percent of my respondents are in that 25 cent tier, so there’s no like sneaky tricks here. This is a really interesting, cool way to monetize your apps. So check out tapresearch.com. So what are questions for you? You’re doing polling now and one of those challenges I think is it’s like chicken and egg stuff with all this where you need to grow your mobile app base enough so you can get more advertisers. Is that kind of the main challenge is finding more people to recognize polling as a viable means of gathering information?
Alamgir Mand:Right, right, so in any startup when you’re trying to build a two sided marketplace, it’s a daunting task, right. So usually the way you do it is you try to reduce the number of miracles you have to achieve, right. So getting a bunch of market research customers is one miracle. Getting a massive pool of devices and apps and users to deliver them to is another miracle. So you know definitely on the customer side of things, it’s been hard. It’s been pretty difficult to convince traditional market researchers that this is the new form of polling. You cannot take a 40 question behemoth of a survey and just slam it and you know squeeze it into the mobile form factor. It doesn’t work like that. And they’re slowly figuring it out because our completion rates are unprecedented in this industry. Usually surveys get around a five percent, less than five percent…usually around one to three percent completion rate. We’ve seen completion rates of upwards 70 percent. And that has everything to do with how we mobile optimize the surveys. How we control the number of questions you can have, control the number of answers per question. And really make the experience geared towards mobile. But it’s going to be, we’re at that cutting edge of this industry where you are trying to be that innovator and there’s always resistance against the innovator.
Chris: You know this is the outsider’s perspective with absolutely no data to support this opinion, but I would think that the 40 question polls are self-selecting for people who don’t have anything better to do. Like you’re getting like the losers of the world to answer 40 questions at a time whereas you’re kind of showing that with your response rates of 70 percent. Like you get such a bigger variety of people and the kind of people that you want, people that are doing stuff and too busy to take a 40 question poll.
Alamgir Mand: Exactly, exactly so that is the main draw of our platform. A lot of these market research companies, when they make a 40 question it’s meant for a sample. A panel of people who have selectively opted in to taking these surveys, and there’s a bunch of biases that happen there so there’s professional survey takers, they know they’re getting paid, they know they have incentives. They’re taking surveys over and over and over again. There’s nothing but fatigue there. So what we’re trying to do is draw from the massive greater population. We’re talking about 100 million people in the US, the massive greater population and then getting a pulse, essentially, of what that body of users is thinking about, any given topic.
Chris: Price wise how do you compare with more traditional polling techniques?
Alamgir Mand: So right now I believe and there was just a study done by a market research company, and we are the cheapest solution on the market right now. So I can’t really give you an idea off the top of my head, but to give you our price point you can get 10 questions, 1000 responses for around 1000 dollars. And that’s about 25 percent of you know what the major market players are getting right now. Or they’re giving out right now. Our surveys should…if you were to go to a pew or to a more traditional market research company like Qualtrics, you’re going to get charged about four x. So that’s another one of our draws is that we’re affordable.
Chris: And I think you nailed it on your comment on polls. It’s an affordable way to get a poll for something.
Alamgir Mand:Exactly, we’re not the survey that you take when you get off an airplane and we’re going to pay you 100 bucks to sit there for half an hour and start answering like tons of questions about how did you like the design on the barf bag and did you like skymall. Like you know we’re not…we’re definitely trying to catch users at a very specific time in their app experience which is they’re pressed for currency or they’re pressed for in app purchases. They don’t want to spend the cash; answer 10 questions, they’ll do that any day.
Chris: So you’re going to need funding.
Alamgir Mand: Right, right. And we’ve already got funding. So we actually raised around this September and so we’ve been up for about six, seven months now. Top VCs in the valley. So it’s definitely been an adventure so far. Pushing really, really hard and trying to iterate fast and move fast and break things.
Chris: So our last guess David, our last guest was 21 years old.
David: yeah I think or 22, I’m not quite sure about that.
Chris: Yeah and then Alamgir Mand, you’re 23?
Alamgir Mand: Right.
Chris: Man we are like…dude are we interviewing all the future leaders of mobile? It’s a lot of fun. Don’t let us down, no pressure Alamgir Mand.
Alamgir Mand: Don’t jinx me.
Chris: Yeah future leader of mobile right here guys. Yeah but that’s great man. That’s a huge… I mean you’re right out of college. You went to Cal business school or what is it? What do you call that? You went to Cal but you went to business school of Cal, right?
Alamgir Mand: Right the Haas business school, yup.
Chris: Do you have any development or engineering background?
Alamgir Mand: I actually don’t have any background in terms of formal education but I’m entirely self-taught. So my career sort of started a little early. In my sophomore year of college I started my first sort of company I officially raised an institutional round for I guess or institutional funding. And that company was called Tagster and we were sort of trying to build this four square like platform for college. And I didn’t know code at the time. And it sucked seeing all of my cofounders around me sort of jabbing away at the keyboard on their IDs and coding away. And I just felt so useless. I was like I can’t let this happen again. So you know I actually after that startup, I worked at Facebook for a little while as a PM intern. And they have such a huge hacker culture there that I sort of started getting into it with a little bit job descript here and there, jQuery, little bit of css. You know building basic pages. And then after Facebook I went onto cofound a gaming company, a mobile gaming company called Cardboard Box games. And that’s where I got the majority of my coding experience. You know I learned everything, I built a rails backend. I build a J2EE backend. Sort of like a restful service for our game to use. I dabbled in a little of Cocos2dx on android. So I definitely dove head first.
Chris: So you didn’t do code academy or anything? You just kind of dove in?
Alamgir Mand:You know the head first books? They’re my hero.
Chris: That’s O’Reilly publishing right?
Alamgir Mand:Right right
Chris: That’s a great…I have a couple of them too. When I was lying to myself about being a developer.
Alamgir Mand: O’Reilly, Apress, you know C++ primer. I’ve got that book, everybody’s got that book. But definitely the O’Reilly books are a godsend.
Chris: How much of tap research did you develop or code?
Alamgir Mand: yeah so I’ve coded actually quite a bit. So most of the…so basically the entire developer side of the front end. So developers when you log into the website, you sign up for an account, you see all of your graphs, your metrics. That’s pretty much all of me written in backbone JS. And then I also built out our mobile web surveys. So when you’re in the games and you get pushed out to the browser to complete one of our surveys, that’s me. Also done backbone.
Chris: your other two startups, now I know I asked this question in the previous interview. But I forget the answer. So what were the results of the first two Tagster and Cardboard Box, love that name, Cardboard Box apps or games.
Alamgir Mand: yeah they failed. I have no shame in saying they failed. It was a great learning experience.
Chris: Now I do remember. I remember the answer. Yeah but you know what, and I think we said this last time. Dude a badge of honor getting in there, digging in, and failing. If you’re not learning then that’s a problem, but if you’re learning man it’s better to have loved than lost. It’s better to have started a company and failed than not started a company.
Alamgir Mand: I think when people ask me for advice and now when you…when you’re in the industry and you’ve done three companies, even if you’ve failed the first two people sort of ask you for advice right? And I’ve had people who are trying to go do their first company and they ask me should I do it. And I’m like look, I give them the 411. You are probably going to fail and they sort of look at me where man you’re such an ass. Why would you tell me that, right. And I’m sort of like look it’s not about you failing or not, it’s about you getting that first bit of experience. You need to get that under your belt. You need to dig underneath and get into the trenches and know what it is to do wire frames and mock ups. Know what it is to develop it, to iterate it…
Chris: …interact with designers, yeah
Alamgir Mand:Or even design it yourself and then sell it. Get it used by people. It’s a really warm feeling. Like this one story with Cardboard Box games, we set out to build that company…and it was sort of like you can think like a 21 year old, 20 year old bunch of guys that they just want to build a kick ass games right. You see all these indie dream stories, super meat boy and bastion and what not. And you know we want to build this cross platform, real time, multiplayer, synchronize RPG and sort of take Final Fantasy tactics to the next level. And we spent 8 months building that game, no pay for ourselves. And it was a kick ass game, but we didn’t know anything about retention. We didn’t know anything about monetization. We just wanted to build a kick ass game. And it had its own warm parts. I remember we got around 150,000 downloads and I remember one of my friends from high school one of my classmates rather hit me up on Facebook and he’s like hey I just saw someone playing your game on the bus. And I was like wow. Like that blew me away. And I was like that’s awesome, that’s why you do this. Because someone on the other side of the country is on a bus playing your game. That’s a warm feeling. And it happened to me again when I was actually, I interviewed for Zynga after Cardboard Box failed and one of the PMs that interviewed me came up to me and said, “Hey you made Adonia right?” And he’s like, “You know what, I spent money in that game.” And I was like no way. And lo and behold it was like I looked back to our Facebook page and there he was like six months ago like trying to ask us about the balancing of one of the characters in the game and how he could spec it right.
Chris: It might have gotten you a job at Zynga.
Alamgir Mand:Yeah it’s really serendipitous when stuff like that happens. And it’s just unbeatable.
Chris: And not like the goal for all of us to get wildly wealthy and mega rich, but Mark Cuban I’m a big fan of him. And he says and I think a lot of people say this…all you need is one. Then you can work 10 years and the fifth one works and everyone can call you an overnight success. It really is that…now with mobile everything is so global. I mean you really only need one and you’re set for life, I mean literally set for life. So you know these are…I’m addicted to this startup. I really like the bootstrapping stuff but I recognize the need for funding like in your case no doubt. But yeah it’s just the idea of finding a problem and saying I’m going to be the one that goes and solves that problem and I’m going to be the one that takes this vision and makes it a reality. It’s like a superhero type of lifestyle. It’s really exciting and really fun.
Alamgir Mand:It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s definitely high octane stuff.
Chris: Yeah it’s gotta be a personality type. Because you look at sales people and they’re like these different type of people. And they’re not like accountants and they’re not like even executives at public companies. They’re a different breed. And I think entrepreneurs are too it’s like we have our own little club and way of thinking about things. Yeah it’s just…I know I get excited talking to other entrepreneurs like the energy level just ratchets up with each other talking it. It’s just really cool. Okay so what’s going on with Tap Research, I don’t know a year from now?
Alamgir Mand: So right now we are focused on sort of building up the two side market place. At the moment it’s all sales sales sales. We’ve got the distribution that we need to get a survey done in a really short amount of time and with a really good normalized population. And it’s just about ramping up the sales you know. We’re trying to get big name clients everybody from the CPG industry to brands to PR firms. And it’s just about…I can’t really disclose the names sorry about that. But you know we’ll have a TechCrunch article coming out soon hopefully in the next few months talking about some big name clients that we’ve gotten.
Chris: We’re going to have you on in six months so we can talk about them then.
Alamgir Mand: yeah for sure I’m totally down to do that. In one year where I hope we’ll be is the survey monkey of mobile. I think is the goal that we’re going for here.
Chris: And that’s a great segue. So one of the questions I have for you and I already know your answer to this, was okay we have let’s say it seems like we have about 1000 steady listeners and then some of our better episodes have like 2500 downloads. And we’re pretty new so it’s like a growing audience, thanks guys for listening. Let’s say there’s 1000 people out there, publishers wanting to make more money with their apps or offer more creative ways for their users to engage with monetization. What do you recommend they have a start engaging with that research?
Alamgir Mand:Yeah so you can go ahead and head over to tapresearch.com. Sign up for a developer account. Everything is self-service at this point. We started out with a little bit of hand holding but now you can go grab the SEK, you can get your API keys, and you can integrate it. So basically the process goes is that you can sign up all the way to the point where you have your app integrated in test mode and then once you’re ready to push your app to the store, all you have to do is email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll turn it live for you and basically then you’re free to go and start earning cash. You know and I’m always available. You can email me at Alamgir Mand@tapresearch.com. Hopefully Chris will include an email in the description.
Chris: Yeah we’ll do. I was trying to feed you into saying that developers should use your tool to do market research.
Alamgir Mand: Oh right, right. Yes, yes. Thanks Chris.
Chris: We’ll have this nailed down and in six months we’ll be perfect on this.
Alamgir Mand:Yeah I mean it’s a great tool like a few of our sort of beta customers if you will have actually used this as a way to get ideas about app development. It’s not just about what kind of app do I have to develop, but things like creative comparison. Comparing icon styles, comparing character art or art styles. You know really straight forward things if you want….developers have been developing and sort of iterating in the dark. A lot of them do. They’ll operate just off of intuition right. Like oh I think we’ll take a mixture of art from World of Warcraft and League of Legends and we’ll slam it together and that’s going to work.
Chris: It’s really hard to be lean and agile with the seven day wait time on Google with iTunes store and then it takes a while for downloads. It’s hard to be super lean because you have this delay. It’s not like a website you know. Sorry but yeah It’s not easy to get this information like you would with a website let’s say.
Alamgir Mand:Yeah you’re totally right. You are investing a ton of time into developing an app or any game, why not sort of make some of that risk and get some opinions and some answers from the market. These are the people…the people that you are asking are the ones playing games. They are the ones who are actively downloading these games from the store, playing, trying to spend money, spending currency. They’re very engaged in what they do and they’re the ones you want answers from. It’s a pretty obvious benefit to running surveys on mobile which is at developers, hey you got questions, you can get answers from this massive group of people.
Chris: Save 2000, 3000 on a redesign and get it right by dropping 1000 on figuring out what the market wants up front right.
Alamgir Mand:Exactly you can save more than 2-3k. Let’s say you develop the completely wrong game. You could have saved yourself that as well
Chris: What kind of profile attributes can you select when you’re looking for an audience?
Alamgir Mand:So you can target by geo-location, you can target by age, you can target by gender. You can also put up a screening question so if you want to ask do you play sports games and people answer yes would be able to go into the survey. Yeah you only get charged for completed responses so it’s pretty customizable and pretty practical in terms of who you want to reach. For example if you wanted to reach like middle aged males, that’s totally doable. Or if you wanted to reach women that are from 18 to 34 because you’re developing a sort of female oriented game, that’s totally doable as well. And if you’re targeting the coasts opinions on the coasts and so like the Midwest, that’s also possible. So the options are pretty much unlimited.
Chris: Yeah that’s cool. So I’m realizing on something, the interviews are new for us. And I’m realizing David has the worst job in all of podcasting is being an interview partner with me because I talk a lot. David..
Alamgir Mand:I was about to say David’s not saying much.
Chris: I mean his English is great yeah.
David: Well you guys have been doing so great, I didn’t want to interrupt. That was super interesting. I think just in terms of what I wanted to say before was that your completion rates are probably so high because when I’m looking at your website it seems like the types of questions and the way you optimize that for mobile allow you to create a really beautiful experience unlike anything that comes to my mind when I usually think about polls or surveys. I think about like a lot of paper and a lot of stuff that I need to read. And seems to really beautiful and really optimized for mobile. And as you guys probably know, when you’re listening to the podcast I’m pretty bullish about user experience. So I do actually like how you focused on the user experience here.
Alamgir Mand: Yeah David that’s a great observation. You know that is one of our major differentiators is our form factor. And like you said, when you think of surveys you think of something that’s like a behemoth right? Like a monolithic, 40 question, 10 point scale all the way from…
Chris: Yeah long questions. Like the question itself is multiple sentences.
Alamgir Mand:Yeah exactly and then it follows up like things like typing in this question you answered this. Now like answer this question. So we’re sort of controlling that environment. And this is where we’re a bit controversial in the market research industry is we hold the survey to ten questions, our multiple choice questions for example are held to four answers. We might be increasing that to five. But even that for us is a major product decision where it’s like look going from four answers to five answers is going to be a major addition in terms of a mobile interface. You’ve got only so much real estate. So you know we’ve got the deal with these sort of issues here and there. But you’re right, you’re totally right. Where we focus on really clean UI, something that you want to touch and feel and play with. And something that when you do answer it, things animate and things animate out. It’s very gamey. And also you know and the SDK we definitely try to keep the players inside of the game. So you know a lot of other SDKs will throw up a full screen takeover and whatnot. We’re pivoting to this model where we’re a layer on top of the game. We don’t want to take the player completely out of the game. And that’s also something we have had to consider. The mobile form factor does not come without its disadvantages. For example we have to think about biases in terms of answer placements right. Your thumb for example has a sweet spot on the screen and if we put an answer there, we’re obviously going to be pretty biased towards that answer. So we have to mitigate for things like that. Also scrolling is a big problem. For example if you hold the device in landscape, you might have to scroll to see all the answers. So we have to answer these questions where it’s like okay do we want to force the user to see all the answers or do we leave them alone. And this is all from like the market research perspective which is always trying to isolate biases and errors and margin of error. So you know those are small issues we have to solve. But it doesn’t go without saying that making these surveys mobile optimized and making the UX really mobile and built from mobile has been a huge factor in those 70 percent completion rates.
Chris: Yeah well it’s good work man. It shows. It shows that you guys focus on that.
Alamgir Mand:Yeah I mean it’s definitely been our strategic beach head. You can’t go on mobile without building for mobile. I mean a lot of other surveys that you might see on your phone sort of…they use the default browser inputs but in the end they just look like crap.
Chris: Yeah. Well I love the trend for describing startups as a this for that. And you said like we want to be the survey monkey for mobile and I think that’s a really great goal. And it seems like you have all the pieces there where you’re making publishers money and publishers will then be more likely to adopt implementing this in their apps. And it seems like you’re solving a real need. It just seems like you’ve got everything going right. So it will be real interesting to follow the company. And also what do you call me? Am I customer or publisher?
Alamgir Mand: yeah you can be both Chris.
Chris: Right now I’m a publisher I guess. But yeah it’s really cool, really interesting. Alamgir Mand I really appreciate you coming on the show the second time and look forward to following up in like I don’t know. We’ll see where you’re at in six months and you’ll get to share all this amazing growth you’ve had over the next six months.
Alamgir Mand:Yeah thanks Chris. It’s been a great honor. No problem coming up the second. Definitely wanted to get our name out there and thanks for interviewing and letting me share some of my stories.
Chris: Yeah it’s been fun.
David: Thanks guys
Alamgir Mand:Thanks David
David: Thank everybody for listening. This was Alamgir Mand, thank you very much. It was a great interview. I think we had an awesome conversation. So don’t forget to check the show notes you can find them always on appbusinesspodcast.com. We’ll have the links on the sides of the things we discussed and see you next time.