UU Innovation

Uttr rewards people for ‘uttering’ an opinion

2016-11-22

Uttr has every chance of becoming a so-called game-changer in the market research industry. After just one year, founders Erik Riddervold and Viktor Nordmark have an office in the most fashionable part of Stockholm, a monthly salary and a product that will soon reach the market. How did it happen?

The former Uppsala students Erik Riddervold and Erik Nordmark have developed an innovative method for market research and started a company with an office in Stockholm.

According to the two innovators, the answer is simply that Uttr is the first market survey that makes everyone happy; the client reaches people in everyday life who want to answer because they are rewarded for it.

“And those who help provide coffee, fruit or wifi get the opportunity to win additional sales and gain new customers,” says Erik.

Market researchers are otherwise about as popular as telephone sales callers. Their questions can be about important social issues, but just as often about the effect of a particular advertising campaign.

“People generally do not understand why they should spend time answering such questions. But Uttr is the first marketing questionnaire people actually want to answer,” notes Erik.

Combine two branches

Erik and Viktor met while studying for a Master’s degree in Industrial Management and Innovation at Uppsala University’s Ångström Laboratory. During a course workshop held at Drivhuset (UU Innovation’s collaborative partner for supporting student ideas) in the autumn of 2015, they were given the task of combining two different business sectors into a new concept. The paired branches were air travel and market research. The question of why anyone would want to answer questions voluntarily once again came up.

“I figured out that respondents could get something for their trouble,” explains Erik. “You might be sitting on a Ryanair plane, are hungry and discover that buying a sandwich will cost you one hundred crowns. Would you answer a few questions to get that sandwich for free? Sure you would!”

After just one week, Erik and Viktor had done a pilot test. Everyone who filled out a course assessment questionnaire got a cup of coffee at the Ångström Laboratory restaurant. The combination of poor students and free coffee was a resounding hit.

“We tested the concept six or seven times and had up to a 94 percent response rate. Usually it’s around 20 to 30 percent,” says Viktor.

Grateful for support

The two friends then contacted UU Innovation, where they received advice and help with financing. Funds were mainly used to develop a test platform to verify that people would use the service digitally, and that they were willing to log in via social media. Some were also used to develop an end-user agreement.

“Throughout our journey, we’ve enjoyed the fantastic support of UU Innovation business advisors Moa Fransson and Per Kjellin. They made us be pretty tough on our idea and really test it from all angles. It’s been very valuable,” says Erik.

Then a lot happened at the same time. In November, the two entrepreneurs moved into office space at Drivhuset and received funding from Almi. This money was used to develop a prototype and test it against a web hotel. And during January to April, they took part in a business development program run by Uppsala Innovation Centre.

“This helped us to confirm all the business hypotheses. We made many test surveys and learned a lot. In the summer of 2016, we got our first customer, Uppsala Municipality,” comments Victor.

Erik and Viktor placed a banana box of fruit on a bicycle equipped with the sign ‘Answer eight questions, get free fruit.’ After two days they had a hundred answers.

“It was fun but unsustainable over time. So we began to seek investors. Several became interested and the next planned step was to start our own company in September 2016,” adds Erik. But that did not happen.

Became partners in a new company

Erik and Viktor had always kept an eye on one particular big-name personality in technology investment and agreed a meeting with him.

“We were quite nervous. If he said that what we had was a bad idea, we would have been finished. But we hit it off at once”, say Viktor and Erik unanimously.

Now the three of them are partners in a new company whose business will include developing Uttr.

“We could have achieved something good ourselves, but it would have taken ten times as long. In addition, we now have two skilled IT developers with us full time,” says Erik.

But why the name Uttr? Viktor explains.

“We wanted the name of an animal so that we could have a mascot. Our choice was the otter, the small aquatic mammal that in Swedish is utter. Of course, the domain name utter was already taken so we took away a letter, ending up with Uttr, which is still pronounced utter. Then we realised that in English, utter means to articulate or express something – he uttered his opinion – for example. In other words, a perfect choice for market research. It couldn’t be better.”