Stephan Eyeson was the final speaker of the night at the recently concluded B is for Building campfire event.
For Stephan, being the last on the podium turned out to be a good thing as the community members had loads of questions for him. Stephan was charismatic yet genuine, and he was spreading knowledge nuggets gained from running Survey54, like confetti everywhere. We were intrigued and wanted to know more about the critical work he was embarking to provide surveys for emerging markets. Tolu and Papa met Stephan at WeWork in Victoria, and below is an edited version of our conversation. Enjoy
BTNG: Who’s Stephan Eyeson?
Stephan: I am a curious individual that likes idea, innovation and interested in developing markets.
My curiosity led me to study Theology at University for my first degree. I like to describe my course as the study of God basically in different religions. Later on, I went to Loughborough University to obtain masters in innovation management.
I would say Theology makes you go deeper to find the meaning of things. And this has helped me tremendously by shaping my approach and methods for doing things. It’s provided me with a balanced view to deepen my interest in culture, development and anthropology. The sort of learnings that underpins my startup Survey54.
BTNG: How did the idea for Survey54 come about?
Stephan: The idea came when I was working at SurveyMonkey. I realised that there’s a massive value in using day-to-day research as a baseline for decision making. One can find that virtually every idea or product can be tested.
You could get surveys for your pre-launch product idea or even name. When launched, conduct user testing to understand usage etc. And so many other use cases throughout the product life cycle where research is needed to make qualitative decisions.
However, when it comes to Africa and other emerging countries, we usually don’t have the data or resources obtainable to conduct the research. Where available, research activity is generally done offline rather than online. Offline analysis is commonly carried out by agencies who charge a lot because it’s too labour intensive. Into this vacuum, Survey54 steps in to provide the means and data readily available to get the needed insights.
The problem lies in understanding diverse communities in the U.K or America. For instance, how do you know how minorities spend their earning power? Or what sort of advertising turns them off – which might be appropriate in other regions? And a million other questions that could provide you with the intelligence to make a financial impact.
BTNG: What sort of use-cases or questions can the average clients use Survey54?
Stephan: There are a few use cases, but the main one revolves around the idea or product feedback. For instance, you could create a survey to find out if your product will serve a particular demographic or culture.
For brands that are already established, you can carry out audience measurement, where you can ask questions like; have you seen my advert? If yes, what did you think about it? When last did you buy my product?
Or you can carry out concept testing or idea testing. Even test names. For instance, we worked for a large corporation recently to get the name of a new product. We were testing what words resonates with their target audience. For instance, the words ‘cavity protection’ made a connection, whereas ‘teeth whitening’ not quite. Of course, both signify dental protection.
BTNG: Out of curiosity, how does your product handle the various cultural nuances and lack of education across large paths of Africa, yet deliver reliable results?
Stephan: You can regard us as a platform that allows companies to do things they would not normally do. However, we are only the go-in-between to reach and communicate with customers via channels such as USSD, SMS, mobile etc. The key thing to stress is that we offer the avenue but ultimately, not responsible for the questions.
However, we provide some best practices and help in shaping the survey. Things like keeping surveys short and precise (max of five questions), to encourage completion rate while ensuring valuable insights is obtained.
In the future, we are looking to provide additional services like voice surveys to understand the tonation and sentiment of that customer.
BTNG: From BTNG B is for Building, I know you had a teachable story of how you formed your team – what’s the one thing you now know and want everyone else to know about building a team?
Stephan: Its a balance of getting the right people on board with the right skillset. It’s easier to determine skill set but gets more tricky to know if they’re the ‘right’ people for your team.
Everyone we have working on Survey54 is a long-term thinker. You want people that want to be part of the new journey. You need to ask the difficult questions; Where do you want the product to go? If this works, would you want to leave your job for it?
In regards to getting my team members, I reached out via cold email through Linkedin. I believe that most Africans desire to do give back to Africa. It might be some innate feeling of responsibility. This made me specifically reached out to only developers of African heritage, and I got loads of responses – probably out of every 15 emails I got about 10 answers.
BTNG: Let’s go tactics; a lot of people want to do a side gig but kind of feel they can’t let their current employer be aware of their intentions. How did you navigate that?
Stephan: First of all, you have to make sure it’s not in the same line of business. So for instance, if you work in a bank, and your plan is a fintech play, you’re likely to run into a conflict of interests with your employer.
As long as there are no apparent conflicts and you can’t organise your time to not infringe on your employer’s time, you’re better off disclosing your side gig.
BTNG: On the surface, it appears this is an excellent time to be a minority founder in the U.K as we have more events, communities, etc., do you feel success is not far away? Or are there critical areas you would like to see more help?
Stephan: I don’t think success is far away if you create your own luck. It takes grafting and time. My belief is that if I had more hours in the day to meet more people, reach out, then I would have more results. The more persistent you apply yourself, the higher the chances to have an opportunity come your way. While it’s true you will receive more rejections from doing more, but definitely more yes as well.
To your specific question, I don’t feel I have enough data to comparing the environment for minority founders right now to clearly say this time feels different.
BTNG: What’s the big play for Survey54 – when can we expect you to make headlines for all the right reasons?
Stephan: At the moment, we’re getting people to test our product, and once that’s done, we will move to phase 2. Right now, it’s all about getting the flavour of what people want in a product while delivering the value we envisage.
Hopefully, you will be hearing great things from us in our phase 2
BTNG: To wrap up, what’s the ideal impact you would like to see yourself doing in 10 years?
Stephan: I would see myself investing in companies. I definitely hope for the opportunity to work towards having a mini ‘city’ somewhere in Africa where I can put all my ideas in one place.
October 4, 2019
Stephan Eyeson was the final speaker of the night at the recently concluded B is for Building campfire event.Read more
October 4, 2019
In emerging economies, elections can be messy affairs. Votes are miraculously ‘lost’, voters routinely intimidated, an inadequacy of polling stations, and trusted officials are rarer than albino elephants.Read more