Death of the focus group? How dscout uses photo and video surveys to give brands better user insights

James Risley

In today’s digital world, it can be hard to really know a customer. Sure, a company can analyze behavior to track engagement or run surveys to gather some info, but it’s often not providing a full picture.

When users buy something online or download an app, it’s not always clear how that purchase fits into their lives. Chicago startup dscout offers a way for companies to better understand their customers with a mobile research platform that incorporates video, images and text to provide wide-ranging feedback.

“Often our customers are very technology-driven and often have a tremendous amount of data that starts giving them an understanding of what people are doing with their services. But data begets curiosity,” said founder and CEO Michael Winnick. “Behind every retention curve, click, [and] page view, there's a person there.”

The company works with a variety of companies, ranging from big names like Target to small startups looking to tweak their products before release. Not only do they get pictures, videos and text from a user’s daily life, but dscout can also help provide insights into that data.

These literal snapshots into daily life can come from dscout’s pool of “scouts,” or a client can invite their own participants. Either way, this moves the company beyond the traditional focus group model to provide a better picture of how a product could fit into a user’s current activity.

“Qualitative research is a $6 billion market, and 90 percent of that is still spent on focus groups,” Winnick said. “We think we can tap into that market share.”

Winnick spun dscout out gravitytank, which was acquired by Salesforce last year, and has already raised $3.6 million in funding. The company has about 50 employees right now, with plans to grow.

“Big picture, the opportunities are enormous for our business and the field writ large. The search for human understanding and being able to tie that to the decisions companies have to make is going to go up substantially,” Winnick said. “To me, our mission as a company is we want you to be able to learn from your users, be inspired by them, connect with them, every day.”

Image via dscout

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