In conversation with Survey Monkey CEO Dave Goldberg

Image credit: Hideyuki Nakanishi

Last week featured a number of international tech events here in Tokyo, including the Tokyo Game Show and ad:tech Tokyo. I was asked to serve on some panels at ad:tech, and moderated a fireside chat with Dave Goldberg, who is a well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur and also the husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

For those unfamiliar with his work, he’s the CEO of Survey Monkey, a cloud-based, web survey development company, which raised $800 million from several investors (including Google) back in January. Prior to joining the company in 2009, he started his first media company, Launch Media, back in 1993, which was subsequently acquired by Yahoo for $12 million in 2001.

According to Dave, the Survey Monkey has acquired over 68,000 users in the Japanese market alone, and he says both user and revenue growth are strong. The company has 15 million users in total around the world.

Survey Monkey has acquired over 68,000 users in the Japanese market alone

Coinciding with this his visit to Tokyo, he unveiled a new feature for Japanese users called Question Bank. The feature aims to make survey creation easier and faster by presenting samples of recommended Q&A sets to reduce bias and give you more accurate answers.

Typically, when I have a chance to speak with entrepreneurs or investors from Silicon Valley, there’s one thing I can’t help but ask about. The most prominent startups in the Japanese market are from the gaming industry. But in the US, we’ve seen many exits for startups that serve enterprises. Why is there such a big difference in the two ecosystems?

He answered that there was a rise in the entertainment and consumer-focused gaming industry in the US, but the trend is changing. He says you can see user demographics changing at Evernote, as the service first targeted individuals but subsequently many office workers started using it to share documents with colleagues. Many companies have adopted it as a business tool, and he calls this phenomenon the ‘consumerization of business tools’. Dave adds that in Japan, when companies choose what tools should be used, it is typically a top-down decision where those at the top make their employers use the same tools. He notes this business culture gap makes it difficult for Japanese startups to succeed with business-focused innovations.

He closed with some sound advice for Japanese entrepreneurs:

Don’t fear failure, hire people who are smarter than you, and get all the support you can get.