SurveyMonkey in 2014

By Robert Burgelman, Robert Siegel, Sara Rosenthal
2014 | Case No. E524 | Length 22 pgs.

The SurveyMonkey case portrays the evolution of the company from its founding in 1999 through to 2014. SurveyMonkey was launched by Ryan Finley, a young computer science graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to address the dearth of easy-to-use, affordable online survey tools on the market. In 2009, Finley sold the company to Spectrum Equity and Bain Capital Ventures, having recognized the need for a partner to help the company achieve its full potential. David Goldberg, an entrepreneur and former Yahoo! executive, took the helm as CEO and immediately put in place his plan to set the company on track to scale at a consistent and rapid pace of growth. Goldberg’s primary initiatives in the early days were to hire a strong management team, rebuild the entire technology platform, and expand internationally. As it made substantial progress on these fronts, SurveyMonkey completed several acquisitions and began to expand its feature set and product offerings to include SurveyMonkey Audience (panels of survey respondents) and survey templates, among others. The company completed an $800 million secondary financing raise in 2012 to provide liquidity to employees and investors in lieu of an IPO and charged forward in its efforts to transform its survey tool to a full-blown platform. Though SurveyMonkey had established itself as the dominant player in the direct-to-consumer market by 2013, it began building out an enterprise offering to compete against the other large players in the growing enterprise feedback management space. Having achieved tremendous growth in its 15-year history, the majority of which took place since the 2009 acquisition, as Goldberg and his team looked ahead to 2014, they faced the critical question of how to prioritize SurveyMonkey’s avenues for growth—international expansion, quality initiatives, enterprise, platform growth—so as to best position the company to achieve its full potential.

Learning Objective

The teaching objective of the case is to help students explore the major strategic issues and tradeoffs that face a powerhouse technology company which must continue to innovate in order to stay in the lead.

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