Pollfish: The App as Channel

Pollfish: Is that Smartphone a Channel in Your Pocket or Do You Just Want to Ask Me Something?



Calm down, California. You’ll get over this. Someday

Unless you were sealed in a time capsule circa 2000 alongside your Nokia 3390 (dig that 459-character text limit. Wish Twitter did that) you’ve heard of apps. While Apple didn’t create the app, it did create the app market and infrastructure, which has been a runaway commercial success, adding in total about $60B to its bottom line.

Apps are first cousins to SaaS systems, though they differ in a couple of significant ways. One is that apps are frequently hardware dependent for performance and driver reasons (your software may need to talk directly to that GPS chip, BT module, radio receiver, et al). Another is that apps are a bit of a throwback to the quickly vanishing world of desktop software, though what resides on your chunk of silicon is no more than a stub that communicates with a cloud-based backend.

Apps also don’t have to reside on smartphones; if you’ve used Slack on your desktop, you already know this. And plenty of SaaS companies are building app front ends to their SaaS systems, though most don’t make any money from this; for most customers, an app interface to the product they’re subscribing to is considered a tick list item.

Still, life should be great for app companies. Everyone has a smartphone, the Apple App Store has over  two million titles,  Google another two million, and as of this writing, well over 100 billion app downloads have taken place. If anyone’s even counting anymore.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is there are four million apps. The world is swimming in apps and a lot of people aren’t buying any new ones.  When your smartphone was young and fresh and dewy eyed, you were eager to pimp up your screen with all sorts of colorful icons. But, after a while, the bloom came off the rose and you stopped. The chances are you spend about 85% of your interacting with the same old apps (unless you use Snapchat, in which case you spend 85% of your time trying to learn how to use the thing). With today’s technology, it’s relatively easy to build an app and very hard to make money  doing so. Every time an app company approaches us to write about them, we always warn them we’re going to want to know how they intend to make money. A lot of them disappear at that point.

Another problem facing app makers is their channels are sharply limited. Only one really counts, the app store. Google’s store is an incremental opportunity. Let’s not discuss Microsoft and apps right now.

While we’re all sobbing over the hard times facing app people, let’s not forget another group of people currently leaving tears on their pillow. Those are the political pollsters. You may have noticed that on November 8th, 2016, a presidential election took place and it was Dewey Defeats Truman all over again, only with a great deal more wailing and gnashing of teeth. (California still hasn’t stopped drumming its patent leather Buster Browns against the pavement and we’re afraid all that thrumming is going  to trigger the San Andreas fault.) You’d think that with Big Data and Hadoop and all those scenario boards on election night it would have turned out better for Hillary Clinton, but we all know what happened.

Were thus very intrigued when we heard about Pollfish, a new platform that offers the potential for some revenue healing for app companies and redemption for the polling establishment. We sat down with CEO John Papadakis to find out more.






Pollfish Company Profile

Company HQ:New York City
Market/Industry:Market Research / App Monetization
Company Principals:John Papadakis, CEO
Founded/Years in Business:May 2014 / 3 years
Company Development Type:VC funded, privately held
Number of Employees:20
% of Revenue Growth Over Last Years:100% quarter/quarters
Notable Customers:T-Mobile, Microsoft, Oracle, Milliard Brown
Company HQ:
New York City
Market Research / App Monetization
Company Principals:
John Papadakis, CEO
Founded/Years in Business:
May 2014 / 3 years
Company Development Type:
VC funded, privately held
Number of Employees:
% of Revenue Growth Over Last Years:
100% quarter/quarters
Notable Customers:
T-Mobile, Microsoft, Oracle, Milliard Brown

Softletter: John, what was the inspiration for Pollfish?

John: We were looking for new ways for app monetization. As you pointed out, for most applications there’s one channel of distribution. In-app advertising has limited appeal as a revenue generator. App makers are always under tremendous pressure to keep prices low.

Simultaneously, we were watching the problems pollsters are facing. Landline polling is dying as the old telephone network fades away. Face-to-face polling died some time ago. Email response rates to surveys has plummeted to record lows. Current social networks have not proved that effective as polling systems. We saw an opportunity to solve three problems at the same time. Provide an alternative way for app developers to monetize, turn apps into an alternate channel, and offer polling experts and researchers with a new means of gathering data and generating results.

How does Pollfish work?

The system works by your using our publicly available SDK posted on our website to build a “take a survey” invite directly into your app and reward the participant directly and immediately for doing so. For example, if someone was playing a game, you can reward them with a “power up” or extra equipment with which to complete a quest. Or you might offer them a gift card. The incentives are managed by the survey creator via the SDK.

The next part is for a company to visit our site and submit a survey to be transmitted to the Pollfish channel. They create the survey on our site, then deploy it to our app channel. We can turn a survey around quickly. Some are up for only a few minutes, while most are completed in a few hours within the same day.

Can you do demographic selects?

You can preselect by gender, age, country, state, city, carrier, device type as well as a custom screening question such as “do you own an SUV” (to qualify only SUV owners for example).

That’s not bad, but we notice you don’t have any business qualifiers built into your selects.

Right now, our emphasis is on B2C and political polling. But depending on the type of survey you’re doing, you can use the screening question to address some B2B issues.

Surveys can be up to 17 questions long; after that, response begins to fall off. We think the optimum length is 10 to 12 questions.

What are the most common types of surveys launched via Pollfish?

I’d say the top three are:

  • Political research
  • Advertising research
  • Product design

There are of course a wide variety of other types being launched.

How large is your channel?

We can reach 350M people worldwide. We’re in every country, but our reach in China, Japan and parts of Africa is limited.

How does the app company benefit?

John: The company creating and deploying the survey pays a dollar per response. We revenue share that $1 with the app developer. The split ranges between $.30 to $.60. The maximum number of responses a survey can accept is currently set at 10K using our DIY tool. For a custom-developed survey, our network can handle several hundred thousand respondents.

How many companies are currently participating in the program?

Currently over 10K iOS and Android apps have had our SDK integrated into them. The types cover a wide range of categories, from games to weather apps.

Softletter Your growth, channel size, and number of companies participating are impressive. To what do you attribute this?

John. Several factors. From the developer’s standpoint, the ability to leverage your app as a channel provides you with a nice supplementary income. App companies are desperate for new ways to monetize their software. We provide a real opportunity to do that.

Another factor driving our growth is we can leverage the app channel to greatly lower the cost and speed of research. We don’t need to go into the economics right now, but a dollar a response is very cost effective.

Also, the reality is that current polling systems are falling into increased disfavor. Our customers are very happy with the results our surveys provide. As we improve the technology, our ability to micro target is going to continually improve. And a polling system that provides immediate rewards for participation is powerful. Can I ask you, how many surveys have you seen that say they’ll enter you into a drawing for something if you participate?

Quite a few.

Have you ever participated in some of these surveys?


Did you ever receive anything from one of these drawing?


There you go.

What do you think is the future of this technology?

Surveys generate data as does ownership and usage of a smartphone. We believe marrying the two over time will change many aspects of polling and research.

Contact info:

Website: www.pollfish.com

Email: John Papadakis

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