Joel Friedman on Pinpointing Profitable Patrons  
Reprinted from the Eprarie Interview

CHICAGO Currently, technology companies are analyzing data more than ever to ensure that their product is reaching the right type of customer. Joel Friedman of sat down with ePrairie to discuss how his company provides the software and targeting strategies to provide such a service.

Joel Friedman  NAME: Joel Friedman
 TITLE: President/CEO
 CURRENTLY LIVES: Chicago's Lincoln Square
 GREW UP: Hyde Park, where my father was a professor at the University of Chicago, and then later in  
 the south suburbs
 FAMILY: Married with a daughter and two young boys

ePrairie: Please tell us about your company.

Joel Friedman: is an application service provider to the marketing research industry. We provide Web-based software that allows companies to create and deploy Web surveys, and once the data is collected, to analyze and chart the results.

When this market was young (three to four years ago), we knew the industry was going to move to Web-based data collection and analysis. The tools and resources needed to provide these Web services were going to be priced beyond reach of all but the largest companies.

We saw an opportunity to provide an extensive set of software tools to small and mid-sized research companies at a reasonable price. We believed (and were proved correct) that these smaller companies would jump at the chance to have the capabilities to compete with their much larger competitors.

Because we are completely self-financed from the sale of a previous company, we have weathered the dot-com storm quite well. Our business model has left us debt free and our independence has provided us with a high degree of flexibility.

eP: How long has been in existence?
JF: About three-and-a-half years. We started development in January 1999 and had our first sale the following September.

eP: Why would technology companies choose to use your services?
JF: We offer an extremely sophisticated product with a great user interface at about one-third the price of our competitors.

eP: What is your position and role at
JF: I am CEO and president. I have been with since its inception and have about 20 years experience in the marketing research industry. My understanding of the market has allowed me to play a key role in the design and functionality of our products. Now, I spend a lot of my time extending our relationships with current clients and building relationships with new clients.

eP: Please tell us about the size of your company and describe the people you work with.
JF: The team is a tight-knit group of individuals whose skills really complement one other. The core team is made up of myself and Paul Vriend, who is a key stockholder and vice president of business development. We also employ a number of very talented programmers and Web designers.

eP: In the past year or so, has been conducting business alone or have you sought assistance from other companies to sell or better your product? Have you provided those services to other companies?
JF: We have taken a two-prong approach. While we actively recruit new clients and firms, we are also licensing our products and technology to value-added resellers (VARs) and other resellers.

eP: Please elaborate on what VARs and resellers are to your company and how they are different from new clients and firms.
JF: Our VARs are integrating the suite of tools with other applications (such as direct mail, advanced statistical tools, data mining and corporate reporting tools) and reselling it as part of a larger package.

Our resellers, on the other hand, are selling the tool "as is" to their clients. Some of the resellers are selling it as representatives of and others are rebranding and positioning for other markets.

We are primarily focused on providing applications to the marketing research industry, but has applications in many other markets. It really is an application that allows for a two-way dialog over the Internet by delivering rich media content over the Web and collecting feedback from the viewer.

Because the tools have built-in programmable functions, they are also being used for educational testing, manufacturing process evaluations and corporate database integration. There are number of other interesting applications and we are always looking for partners who would like to help us adapt and resell the tools.

eP: Regarding our current economic situation, have you or your company tried new strategies or different approaches to business development compared to a year or two ago?
JF: We have been pretty lucky. Our market has stayed very strong and we have continued on the marketing path set out in our original business plan. As we have increased revenue, we are spending more money on marketing, including a larger advertising and trade show budget. We are also expanding in the European market. In the long run, we feel this will offer some protection from the fluctuations in the domestic market.

eP: What type of service does offer that your competitors do not?
JF: Most of our competitors offer a fairly simple product. Their primary market is small businesses that want to perform their own market research. We, on the other hand, have focused on marketing research companies that act as resellers for our product. This means that our product needs to be extremely flexible so it can conform to a wide variety of research designs and methodologies.

We also have a strong set of analytical tools. Most of our competitors have only the simplest analytical capabilities. We offer a full suite of analytical tools including full reporting, charting, advanced statistics, full crosstabs and data transformation. Most of these tools can only be found in dedicated, standalone software packages.

Finally, we are very focused on integrating our tool more directly into corporate databases and intranets. It is one thing to collect data from customers and clients but to integrate the process into the corporate database allows for a much greater understanding of the data that is collected. It also provides corporate managers with instant access to critical data.

eP: Say I am a prospective client. Is there anything more I should expect from you or your company other than the service?
JF: We are always improving our product's usability and functionality. Our knowledge of the industry allows us to build new functions and features before our clients request them. Clients are always very surprised to find that a feature they really wish was available has already been implemented into our applications.

eP: Describe a typical office day for you and your co-workers.
JF: The nature of our business has allowed us to develop new ways of conducting day-to-day business. The Internet is our primary business tool. Support, sales and product development are all Web-based. This gives our staff a great deal of mobility. With a cell phone and wireless Web access, we can conduct business on the golf course or at your kitchen table just as well as from our central office.

eP: Do you or any of your co-workers play music while you work?
JF: Most of my time is spent on the phone with clients so I need to keep the background noise fairly low. When I play music in my office, it is usually classical music. Paul and his minions, on the other hand, have eclectic tastes and you will hear everything from Fugazi and Radiohead to Medeski Martin & Wood.

ePrairie: Describe your interests or hobbies.
JF: Before I had children, I used to do quite a bit of bicycle touring in the U.S. and Canada. Its much harder to do so now, but I do try to get out and ride locally a couple times a week. I also try to take the bike with me if a business trip takes me to good place to ride.

eP: Anything extra to add?
JF: I am thrilled to be able to do business over the Internet. Its ever-changing technologies are a welcomed challenge. It provides us with unprecedented freedoms and new opportunities seem to jump out at us at every turn.




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