Stefan Debois is the founder of Survey Anyplace, a software used to create surveys, assessments, and quizzes. What makes the company different is its commitment to fun. “We want the survey to be a fun, relevant experience for the participants. The more relevant you make it for the participants, the better data you will collect,” Debois explained.
Why did you start the company?
I’m an engineer. I worked for a long time at consulting companies. I always dreamed of making a software myself and putting it on the market. In 2013, I started with the idea as a side project next to my consulting work. I programmed a significant portion of the codes as I was still working for another company. By doing things in parallel, I was able to start the company and still have an income.
How did you get the money to start the company?
It was a combination of personal savings and some government subsidies. After a couple of months, I looked for business partners. We also worked to quickly sell something to customers. Incoming money from customers is the best money you can have. We sold some services because it would give us immediate cash, even though the company is now primarily focused on software. That gave us an opportunity to work closely with customers and figure out what they really want from a software.
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What’s the biggest mistake you made when you were starting the company?
If I could do it again, I would devote less time to customer projects. At the start, we needed to do that for quick cash. We earned some money, but it didn’t become a mainstream product offering. It was a street with a dead end, so to say. It’s not so much about the money, but the time that we lost.
What’s the smartest thing you did when you were starting the company?
I’m an engineer, so I made the product myself. Sometimes, engineers stay too involved in the product, which keeps them from the CEO tasks. That’s something that I quite quickly handed over to the technical team. Thanks to those technical people, we’ve succeeded. And I can focus on marketing and the more strategic tasks in the company.
Running the Company
How do you manage cash flow?
We don’t have really sophisticated systems or metrics. We have an internal revenue number that has to pay for the incoming costs. It’s quite predictable. We have a small credit line if we have a time when we’re in need of cash. If something bad were to happen, we also have some personal funds to use.
What’s the most challenging thing about running the business?
Allocating time, because time is a finite resource. I’m the CEO, but I’m also doing a lot of marketing. I used to do a lot of technical work, but I’ve completely handed that over.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the business?
When any customer signs up without you knowing them beforehand. It’s rewarding to see when customers sign up from faraway countries. In the beginning, when you start the company, a lot of customers come from your personal network, so it’s rewarding when someone signs up who doesn’t know you at all, because that means they like the product.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
I would spend time trying to build a network. I had a good network from my previous job. Spend time trying to build a network beyond people you know already. Build good habits and reach out to people systematically.
What’s next for Survey Anyplace?
We just had a major refresh of the software. For marketing, we want to push content creation and make a pool of content that we can reuse on different platforms. We want to get more traction from different channels, especially for organic search.
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