Getting feedback on a new branding choice or potential product is an important step for companies before embarking on a big project. But getting everyday people together in the same room at the same time can be hard and expensive, and can even lead to skewed results by not including busy people who don’t have time to come to the office.
Discuss.io is using webcams in an attempt to provide more accurate, quicker access to focus groups to get feedback on iterations without the hassle of traditional research panels. The company just raised $1.4 million to do just that. With today’s funding, led by Unilever Ventures, the company is looking to expand operations.
“We’re expanding headcount, bringing on salespeople, devs, more devs, do you know any devs?” Discuss.io CEO Zach Simmons joked. “It’s a decent amount of money, but also just a bridge to a future round that we’re setting up and actually just kicking off right now. ”
The company has seen rapid growth, with a 40 percent increase in sales last month, a jump from the average 20 percent it has been growing over the past year. The Seattle-based consumer research platform also raised $155,000 at the Seattle Angel Conference in 2014.
Unilever isn’t just funding this round because it’s a good investment though — the multinational brand, which owns everything from Lipton to Axe, is also a customer. The company is able to test ads around the world within 48 hours of creating them to get feedback and quickly iterate new designs based on that feedback.
“Unilever is our marquee client,” Simmons said. “They’ve incubated us and also see a ton of potential for being able to expand within their organization and organizations like them around the world.”
Simmons founded Discuss.io in 2012. The former Amazon Web Services product manager saw an opportunity to build a product from the ground up that took advantage of new web technologies to facilitate smoother conversations between companies and focus group participants.
“The competitors out there, they resell Adobe Connect,” Simmons said. “We came in with a … purpose-built video conferencing software just for the use case, which is dramatically better for those end customers.”
The company currently has 21 employees, with six based out their Seattle offices in the Wallingford neighborhood. Besides Unilever, clients include Home Depot, Logitech and Consumer Reports.