The market research industry – estimated to be worth some $40 to $70 Billion globally, depending on what you include – is attracting an increasing number of startups seeking to disrupt it. As a startup in that space, we often get asked what our take is on this topic. Here are some thoughts from Nico Jaspers who co-founded Dalia in 2013 and Dan Foreman, the former president of the global association for market and opinion research ESOMAR and a board member at Dalia.

Let’s start with you, Dan: you’ve been president of Esomar and are one of the most prominent players in the industry. Can you tell us in one sentence what market research is and why you think it is important?

Dan: Not sure if I can describe it in one sentence (laughing). To start with, I actually prefer to call it the “insights profession” as many activities in the space go beyond classic market research. But whatever you call it, I see it as one of the most influential professions the world has ever seen: from improving the texture of toothpaste to predicting trends in e-mobility or understanding voter behavior, the tools and processes developed by this industry provide the information for decisions that directly or indirectly affect a huge share of global economic activity. At the same time, leading companies in the industry have been extremely slow to innovate for almost 30 years, which makes it an incredibly interesting space for technology-driven startups.

Nico, what is your take on the industry and how does Dalia fit in?

Nico: I certainly share Dan’s excitement about the industry – after all, this is why we founded Dalia! But I have a very special take on the question of innovation (or the perceived lack thereof): over the past four years we’ve engaged with hundreds of stakeholders across the entire value chain and one of the key learnings was that the industry has been relatively slow to innovate not despite its importance, but because of it. If you are a decision-maker at a large multinational organisation where the success of a new product directly affects the fortunes of hundreds or even thousands of employees, or if you are a policy maker whose decision affects the lives of millions, you really want to make sure that the information that you base your decision on is rock-solid. Established players have spent decades building a reputation for high-quality data – this is something that you can’t just ignore as a startup.

Dan: Yes, this is a very interesting point and it’s true that innovation without the context of the industry dynamics won’t get you very far. After all, you’re not selling innovation per se, but high-quality insights that enable people to make smarter decisions.

Nico: That’s why, we’re not only thinking about how to develop new technologies that make data collection more efficient and universal, but also how to find the right market for these technologies to be applied in a commercially successful way. And in some cases, this can mean to work with established players, rather than against them, to help them become more efficient.  

This sounds a bit abstract, can you be more specific?

Nico: Ok, let’s take a concrete case. Research agencies or in-house researchers often have established toolboxes to generate insights, for example conjoint-analyses to measure consumer preferences for different product attributes. We’re not experts in all research techniques and so can hardly claim to be a great disruptor here. But our technology enables us, for instance, to reach audiences across the world in a very efficient way, which is particularly valuable in countries where traditional approaches have limits. There are lots of cases where large research or fieldwork agencies need to fill gaps in accessing audiences and we can leverage our capacities to to help them out. In other cases, where we are experts, we generate new types of information ourselves, for example by leveraging smartphones to create better data on brand equity or by deploying thousands of micro-surveys to measure changes in the prices of black-market products – developing these and other areas are the work of our insights lab.

You’ve been hiring quite a lot of people recently. Which of your career opportunities are interesting for experts in the insights or data collection industries?

Nico: We’re always looking for bright people! At the moment, the most exciting opportunity for commercially minded talent is in leading our client development strategy for our market research services area (which is the business line where we enable other research organisations to get better access to audiences around the world). This is an extremely interesting position as it involves negotiating high-volume, strategic deals with customers from around the world, inspiring and growing a team of client service professionals, developing marketing strategies and ensuring that we offer world-class client services as we grow. For this position, we’re looking for truly entrepreneurial people who want to take the next step in their career.

Dan, you know the insights industry like few other people do. Why would a high-potential client services professional join Dalia, especially considering the muddy winters of Berlin?

Dan: The winters might be muddy, but apart from that, I think Berlin is one of the most exciting cities in Europe with thousands of startups, plenty of open spaces and a very welcoming culture towards foreigners. But to answer your question: Dalia is one of the most exciting startups that I’ve come across anywhere, not only in the insights profession. They’ve won several awards for their work, have a great team with experts in engineering, data science and product development from all over the world, and best of all, a raft with which to navigate the Spree during the summer. I think for anyone with a commercial background and looking for a leadership role, Dalia is a perfect match: they are one of the fastest growing startups in Germany, are backed by some of the most reputable VCs in Europe, have an office dog, pinball machines, lots of nice team activities and an amazing spirit. This really is a unique opportunity!

Excellent, thanks to both of you for taking the time!

Do you combine entrepreneurial spirit with an unwavering client success mentality? You might be the perfect new addition to the Dalia’s team. We’d love to chat with you about the opportunity over coffee sometime, so don’t hesitate to apply! Check out this position here!