By Carlo Versano
SurveyMonkey ($SVMK) has been willing to sacrifice some of its top-line revenue growth in the short-term if it means it can funnel more money into its core products, particularly its enterprise software.
"That builds a moat around our business," said CEO Zander Lurie in an interview with Cheddar Wednesday. "[I] believe we will, long term, be able to deliver a business that can keep up a really healthy revenue growth rate with also superior free cash flow margins."
That strategy is a stark contrast to the "growth at all costs" mentality that's been the raison d'être for Silicon Valley's largest and most valuable companies.
But the optimism that revenue growth will accelerate down the road for one Silicon Valley's oldest dot-com companies seems to be filtering through to its new investors. SurveyMonkey shares soared more than 60 percent in their stock market debut ー opening at $18.75, well above the already higher-than-expected $12 IPO price, and rising as high as $20 in early trade.
The IPO was the latest strong showing from the tech industry, following Eventbrite ($EB), Farfetch ($FTCH), Sonos ($SONO), and others. And it seemed to back up the maxim that has been followed by younger start-ups like Allbirds and Casper: if you're going to do one thing, do it really well.
"If you aren't excellent at building and delivering great customer service and products, you will be disrupted," Lurie said.
SurveyMonkey focuses obsessively on survey and analytics software for individual and enterprise use, he said. And at a time of heightened privacy concerns and increased focus on how the stalwarts of Silicon Valley use the vast troves of customer data they acquire, Lurie pointed to his company's practice of zealously guarding the data it collects. But the mission remains clear.
"If you want people's opinions, you ask," he said.
That's how Jon Cohen, SurveyMonkey's chief research officer, spends his days.
In a separate interview with Cheddar, Cohen, who was formerly a political pollster, said the company was long known as the "easy survey tool" but is now home to an enterprise-grade product that supports corporate compliance and security concerns, as well as a machine learning tool known as "Genius" that helps individuals fill out questionnaires. Cohen said that focus enterprise software has been a key to its success, pointing to the $40 million investment by Salesforce's ($CRM) venture arm in the IPO as an "endorsement" of that.
SurveyMonkey was a pioneer of the "freemium" model. The company said it had 16 million active users as of June, with 600,000 paying for the premium service. According to its SEC filings, it brought in revenues of $121 million in the first half of the year, nearly a 20 percent increase from the same period in 2017. Losses widened, though, from $19 million to $27 million.
At its $12 IPO price, the company was valued at $1.46 billion, down from the $2 billion valuation it received in its last funding round in 2014. But with Wednesday's gains, its market cap rose to about $2.2 billion.
Among SurveyMonkey's largest shareholders is Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who inherited a 10 percent stake when her husband, former SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, passed away unexpectedly in 2015.
"That was a huge loss for the company," said Lurie, who took over in 2016.
Sandberg, who serves on the company's board, has said she will donate the entirety of her shares to The Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation.
For full interview click here.