Two years ago Jonathan Allen was working at a market research firm helping companies who wanted to learn more about their customers, their product-market fit, and make informed decisions about the future. But he soon became frustrated with what he saw as an incredibly slow timeline, with in-person focus groups or research campaigns requiring weeks of turnaround time.
Searching for a faster-moving work environment, Allen cold-emailed the CEOs of several Atlanta startups and wound up at SalesLoft after a meeting with CEO Kyle Porter. There he learned about SaaS (software as a service) and last year, used that knowledge to launch his own startup. Coming full circle, Gauge is a SaaS product that provides a smarter, more efficient, and more user-centric method for companies to obtain consumer insights.
The Gauge platform allows users to answer short (we’re talking 5 questions) surveys on their product or brand preferences, purchasing decisions, or behavior, and win gift cards and monetary credit. Companies can tailor the questions or audience on the backend and get results immediately.
Allen recently closed a pre-seed round of half a million dollars which included $75,000 from the Engage fund, the enterprise-backed startup catalyst program in partnership with ATDC and the City of Atlanta. He’s been hard at work developing the platform to get it ready for Engage’s corporate partners to take a look and pitch them on his improved customer feedback experience.
Allen shares more on his journey to the startup scene, how Gauge is built with the user in mind, and how he plans to hit his high-growth goals.
Gauge is a consumer insights platform that lets companies gain feedback from their target customers within minutes. We do this through our network of GaugeApp users who are paid to give feedback to brands from their mobile device. With a gamified and rewarding experience for our users, we’ve been able to create an ecosystem that lets brands get feedback on business questions or on their customers’ experience within minutes.
Please describe the market/industry impact.
The research industry has not evolved to truly meet the needs of companies who want to make data-driven decisions in real-time. We believe this is partially because of the way brands get feedback from customers, which typically don’t incentivize them to give feedback or use surveys that are incredibly long. We keep campaigns to less than 5 questions and reward users competitively for every response. This allows us to get brands feedback in real-time while being able to interact with their customers in an authentic and rewarding way.
What is your revenue model?
We are a SaaS company which uses a credits system. Companies choose a plan that meets their business needs and are given credits to obtain feedback within our platform. If the plan a company is on runs out of credits, they can are easily purchase what they need.
How did you come up with this idea?
With a background in enterprise sales at a market research firm in Atlanta, I worked with companies that were doing complex in-person experience campaigns, spending tons of money for the data, and still having to wait weeks for the feedback. When I left the research firm to join SalesLoft, I saw first-hand the need for a much more intuitive and quick research tool and quickly realized the disconnect in the research industry was a lack of focus on the UX of respondents.
You recently closed on a first round of capital. Who were the primary investors and what will the money go towards?
We closed a $500,000 pre-seed round which allows us to rapidly grow our user and customer base. At the close of the round, we hired a principal engineer and are searching for others to join our hyper-growth engineering team.
When will you next be raising?
We are on track to raise our seed round of $1.5 – 2 million at the end of Q1 / early Q2 of next year. By then we’ll have hit our revenue and active user goals which will allow us to go for market domination with our now proven hypothesis on on-demand insights.
You just joined the inaugural class of the Engage fund/program — congrats! What are you excited about?
I’m most excited for our opportunity to really sit down with corporate sponsors and adapt our product to fit their market needs. I know we’ve create a great product and team, but this program will help us refine our focus and kick off partnerships with the largest companies in the Southeast.
Why is Atlanta the best place to build Gauge?
There’s an incredible tech ecosystem in Atlanta and I’m an example of how it works. Two years ago I was working enterprise sales at a research firm with no knowledge of the startup community or growth opportunities in the market. By simply emailing the CEOs of Terminus and SalesLoft, I scored meetings with both and ultimately went to work at SalesLoft to gain mentorship and knowledge of the SaaS space.
I truly believe that’s something that is special about Atlanta; everyone wants to help and it radiates through town. That’s a culture we at Gauge are creating internally and it being in a market where you can work closely with other companies and partners to quickly accelerate your market position is something I’m proud to say makes us competitive.
What are your priorities over the next year?
With the close of our fundraising round we have a lot of work to do. We created a syndicate of amazing partners including the Dorm Room Fund by First Round Capital, Engage Ventures, and angel investors that include executives with domain expertise from almost every industry. Now it’s time to take that capital, invest heavily into our team, and work closely with the corporate sponsors from Engage to 10x our business.
As we prepare for our seed round in early next year, we have some lofty goals to hit and I’m 200 percent confident that we have the right team in place, product/market fit, and investor backing to hit them.