The defacto standard for online surveys, SurveyMonkey, just added phone polling to its services. What's remarkable about the addition is that it came via an acquisition. The company now owns Precision Polling, a site for creating and executing polls over the phone.
Precision Polling is built on top of Twilio (our Twilio API profile), a telephony platform. Using it, the guys behind Precision Polling, whom we first interviewed in May, were able to focus on the user interface instead of building their own phone server. "The beauty of Twilio," CEO Gaurav Oberoi said, "is that we were able to focus on the market and the product and our customer needs. And not focus on the plumbing."
The simplicity of the service likely appealed to SurveyMonkey, which has become popular with its easy toolset to create web surveys. In fact, Precision Polling referred to itself as "a SurveyMonkey for the phone." What Precision Polling didn't have yet, according to its founders, was distribution. Oberoi told us SurveyMonkey has the distribution side figured out. "They have eyeballs and if they put great products in front of them, they'll make more money," he said.
We've seen other mashups acquired, such as Siri in April, the largest mashup acquisition ever. According to TechCrunch the Precision Polling price is "relatively small," though the founders tell us they're pleased. The positive sign for other developers is that it was bought at all. There is one danger in using APIs that make key parts of technology easy: it's harder to defend against large players simply copying your product, rather than buying it.
Not the case here, said Oberoi and CTO Chuck Groom. "They really bought the company for two reasons," Groom said. "The first piece was technology and the second was us personally. Our core competency is survey design and analytics once you have the results." For SurveyMonkey--or any other player--to re-create Precision Polling would have taken a lot of work.