WEVO is known as a next-gen user research platform that enables teams to effortlessly uncover customer insights. To learn more about the company Pulse 2.0 interviewed WEVO co-founder and CEO Nitzan Shaer.
Nitzan Shaer’s Background
WEVO is the fourth startup that Nitzan Shaer either co-founded or joined early on. Shaer also co-founded High Start Group and served as COO of Mobivox; the head of the Mobile Phones Product Group at Skype; Entrepreneur-In-residence at Flybridge Capital Partners.
“The question that has always driven my career, regardless of where I worked, was always ‘How can we help make human experiences better?’” said Shaer. “That question first occurred to me when I started out as a product manager at Microsoft, which eventually led me to become a leader of Skype’s mobile group. Along the way, I traveled around the world to study different cultures and diversities of perspectives, because how else are you going to understand what works for humans – and I’m using ‘humans’ in a truly global collective sense here – if you only see it through one cultural or geographical lens?”
Formation Of WEVO
How did the idea for WEVO come together? The idea for WEVO originated while Shaer was working at Skype.
“Skype at the time was selling to 127 countries and territories around the world, to very different market segments: young and old, consumer and business. Skype as a company prided itself on being customer-centric and intended to build on customer feedback in order to prioritize product features and marketing campaigns,” Shaer shared. “The problem with that, ironically, is that it’s a pretty daunting task to get the feedback of a wide diversity of customers when you’re using expected norms and practices; in other words using traditional, yet limited, user research tools: usability studies, interviews, and surveys. Building them, analyzing them, and recruiting the audience was an immense, ridiculously time-consuming undertaking. And then, given the practices of UX research at the time, you’re asking a dozen people or less what they think of a new Skype feature or something. And those dozen people have to represent the viewpoints of millions of people? It was hard to get done what actually needed to be done. Because that infinitesimal number of people giving their feedback leaves a whole world of doubt, figuratively speaking, for decision makers who need to commit millions of dollars and hundreds of personnel hours to an initiative and hope it works.”
Shaer pointed out that this raised the question “How can this be done better?” And that’s how the seed for WEVO was born.
“But it took two startups later and meeting Janet Muto (co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer) who held a similar observation from her time as CMO at Constant Contact. We decided to start WEVO with the dual goal of making user research dramatically easier and making it much more reliable than traditional tools. The rest is history, and now multiple Fortune 500 firms around the world are relying on WEVO to generate rapid and reliable customer insights, and they’re based on test panels of more than 120 people. And we’re a company of less than 50 people at the moment. So clearly, we’ve been able to serve a real need,” Shaer added.
What has been Shaer’s favorite memory working for WEVO so far?
“The highlight of any week for me at WEVO is when I get to see a new customer react to the first WEVO test they’ve just run. Typically, there’s a widening of the irises, an excitement you can feel over Zoom and one or more Eureka! moments in which they’ve uncovered something that could delight their customers, that they didn’t realize before,” Shaer replied. “Sometimes those discoveries are obvious to them, but more often, they’re the game-changing “Wow, I thought I knew our customers, but I had no idea they thought XYZ” moments. And I see this, our team sees this, all the time with not just UX researchers, but with product and marketing teams. Typically these roles are the most customer-savvy and customer-smartest in the company. And I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing that outpouring of remarks and surprise, and often we’re just excited as they are about the on-flow of what they are going to do next to make their experience better. “
Challenges Faced Building The Company
What have been some of the challenges Shaer faced in building the company and has the current macroeconomic climate had any effect on the company?
“Let me start by saying there are many many challenges in building a startup. And if I’ve learned one thing about this process, it requires many passionate and committed people as well as a huge dose of good luck for this to work. One of the biggest challenges is separating your own convictions and product vision from the real-world needs and wants of a customer. In other words, you need to know when to push forward on building the product vision; and when to listen to what advisors, investors, and even customers want— even if they can’t yet envision your dream,” Shaer acknowledged. “As a startup is first and foremost a team sport, finding the right people to add to the team is a #1 priority. Sometimes you feel the pressure to add people because you are short on time. But you know that as you are building a company for the long term, those compromises do not pay off. Especially in this environment, the dilemma between growing rapidly vs. profitability is a big tradeoff. While we focus on growth, we understand that our primary goals are to delight our customers and build for them a sustainable business. Hence, we prioritize customer delight above all else.”
What have been some of WEVO’s core products and features? WEVO essentially enables both UX researchers and non-research-trained practitioners like marketers, designers, and product teams to run reliable and high-volume user studies practically and effortlessly. And WEVO gives organizations the right user insights and the high confidence they need to make key decisions about their digital experiences.
The company does this with:
— Global network of panel companies to build fresh, high-quality panels of lookalike audiences from 30 million consumers and business decision-makers. These are real people, not professional test-takers, which our customers tell us they appreciate.
— Audience Expectation Measurement which uncovers the gap between what your customers expect to find during their experience, and what your experience actually provides. It answers the question “How well does this experience deliver what your customers expect.”
— Sentiment Map that shows exactly what visitors experience. The hotspots on the map provide an unframed view of what works and doesn’t work in the experience. And our customers can read users’ verbatim comments as they scroll the page or click on areas that show high customer like or dislike.
— Diagnostic Scores where WEVO scores and benchmarks each experience on key diagnostics. This measure what was users’ first impressions; did they find the experience engaging, intuitive, trusted, and valuable–and they make it easy for customers to assess and compare experiences.
— Test Compare lets researchers see how their concepts or designs stack up against previous versions of their own experiences, or even competitive sites, to see what works and doesn’t.
— Key Findings are the result of WEVO’s own UX insights team’s review of the qualitative and quantitative test results and WEVO’s database of historical test data.
— Usability Metrics measure Task success rate, Time on task, and Ease of task to answer the questions “Could users do what we wanted them to do, and how hard was it to complete?”
Evolution Of WEVO’s Technologies
How has WEVO’s technology evolved since launching?
“The technology has largely stayed true to our original concept. Obviously, our features have evolved as our customers have shared their suggestions and requests, and their workflow tools have evolved. For instance, because Figma’s become the prototyping standard, we have the capability to run tests off Figma. And both WEVO and Figma started around the same time. So we’d love to become the standard for UX research ourselves,” Shaer answered. “Where WEVO’s biggest shift has been is actually our audience. WEVO was initially launched to help marketers improve their online conversion rates. As our product matured, I realized more than marketers could find value in our promise that “no digital experience goes untested.” So we started working with UX researchers, product managers, and designers, in addition to marketers.”
What have been some of WEVO’s most significant milestones? Shaer cited a few:
— From a customer standpoint, signing their first and tenth Fortune 500 companies as customers
— Topping our industry with the highest NPS score, and being ranked highest among competitors on every single criterion of comparison (as rated by customers on G2).
— Recurring revenue of $1 million, then $5 million, and looking forward to when it soon will be $10 million
— Growing the team from 10 and we’re on the way to 50.
— The release of WEVO 2.0 where we enabled our customers to test entire online journeys and not just single pages, and get an overall score for the experience. And recently, WEVO 3.0 where our customers can see what their users are doing, not just saying.
Customer Success Story
When I asked Shaer about a specific customer success story, he revealed a deal the company has with Mastercard.
“Mastercard came to us with an ambitious mandate requiring an equally ambitious strategy: to test every single digital concept or experience before it goes live. They had a checklist of what they wanted in a UX research platform. Their dream candidate had to: Deliver reliable, not anecdotal, results; Be effortless for anyone, regardless of role, to use; and de-risk every new product or service Mastercard develops,” Shaer noted. “We ran a pilot program with them, the results were spectacular. And now WEVO, this much smaller, tiny startup company (for now!), is the significant user research platform for this global financial giant so they can reliably score every experience, prototype, or concept before they put it into the market. They can see what could be successful and should proceed, and what needs work. And those ideas that need work can be run through WEVO again, or scrapped before any more effort is spent on non-starters. That’s the 39,000-foot story. But let me take a step back here for a moment. What a lot of people don’t realize is that UX user research studies take a lot of time and effort. And the demand has been increasing exponentially for their talents because everyone lives, works, and shops online. To run a study of, say, eight to ten people about what they think about your digital experience takes 50 hours.”
This is known as the standard for actual user researchers who know what they’re doing and have been trained in methodologies and practices that involve:
1.) Coming up with the questions to ask users–and making sure the questions are not leading or biased will help people tell you what you want to find out.
2.) Finding the actual user panel: recruiting them, and pre-qualifying them to make sure they’re who they say they are/representative of the group you’re trying to study. Scheduling the interview. Finding replacement panelists if people cancel or flake on their appointment.
3.) If you’re doing a video study, you have the hour you interview the user, you take notes during the hour, and you take a few minutes after the interview for any final first impressions. Then you have to go back over the interview with fresh eyes and a fresh brain to see what you might have missed. You need to edit that interview down to its most salient moments because you need to create a highlights reel for executives and stakeholders to see for themselves what you learned. Now do that eight or nine more times for each interview.
4.) Then, you have to create a final report and/or Powerpoint with summaries, charts, graphs, and visual elements that support what you found. Perhaps you need to schedule another hour or two for share-outs with people.
This is 50 or so hours of time for people who do this for a living. If you are a marketer or a designer who doesn’t know how to run a research study, and you have to suddenly start doing them, there’s a lot of trial and error and checking your work with actual UX researchers. It is another job on top of your job, practically.
Plus Shaer also told me what WEVO does for Mastercard and for all our customers is:
— Cut down that 50 hours of a person’s time investment to basically 30 minutes
— Create a summary of the study’s key findings that any job function can use and understand
— Deliver more reliable results, because WEVO panels are 120-150 people, not a dozen or less
— Provide diagnostics that break down how clear and appealing the proposed experience is
— Automatically generates visual analysis showing the areas that attracted people and helped them move forward and areas that they found confusing or disliked
With WEVO, Mastercard is able to run more user studies quickly so its global operations can iterate, evolve and stay competitive and keep its end customers happy. And there’s the opportunity to make more consumer-based discoveries into what underserved populations need from their online experiences. It goes back to the need to expand from one’s cultural or inherent perspectives. Getting out of the echo chambers of confirmation bias, or hunches, or what the highest-paid person in the room wants. And WEVO is excited to help expand the conversation because we’re really committed to the idea that more reliable user research, plus the potential of AI, will truly build a better internet for all.
WEVO’s funding to date is $15 million through a seed round of funding. And WEVO generates revenue through a SaaS model, specifically a subscription that is based on level of usage.
Total Addressable Market
What is the total addressable market (TAM) size that WEVO is pursuing? Shaer analyzed that this market is currently valued at about $70 billion based on his research.
Differentiation From The Competition
What differentiates WEVO from its competition? “WEVO leads the market in delivering the most reliable user research, that is produced in the most effortless way. Traditional user research tools rely on 10 users per study. WEVO on 120-200. Traditional user research tools require 50 hours per study. WEVO is only 30 minutes,” Shaer affirmed. “WEVO has the highest customer satisfaction of all solutions in the category – according to customer reviews on G2. WEVO has the highest NPS and outperforms competitors on every single criterion. Literally.”
Future Company Goals
What are some of WEVO’s future company goals? “We aspire to build a world in which every experience is built on reliable human insight and is a delight to the user,” Shaer concluded. “We plan to reach $100 million in annual revenue within three to four years.”
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