In anticipation of the final round of the 2019 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for the $15,000 Grand Prize on March 7th in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp Student Union. Learn more and register to attend the competition here.
Zachary Wynegar ’19, Founder & CEO
DC: Tell us about your startup.
ZW: OpenPoll is a startup focused on changing the way opinion data is collected. Unlike other online survey tools, OpenPoll allows decision makers to distribute surveys using push notifications, see who hasn’t responded, and gather responses easily. Users heavily prefer OpenPoll over other survey tools due to the ease of use, short length, and rewards they earn for taking polls. Within a minute of publishing a poll, decision makers begin getting real time information from their audience without sending a single email. We offer completely free options for associations, with almost no limits.
DC: Have there been some key decisions or milestones along the way that have led you from an idea to now pitching for $15K?
ZW: We have a fully developed, tested, and released multi-platform product, developed a firm business plan with inherent defensibility, raised capital, achieved over 20,000 users, and successfully delivered on a U.S. Congressional race in midterms.
DC: What have you learned from the semifinals that will help you better prepare for Finals?
ZW: One thing that really stuck with me that I think we didn’t have enough of in our pitch is the value add of a story. While data and logically driven pitches are crucial, stories keep people intrigued and can seamlessly connect complex ideas in a memorable way.
DC: What has your startup been working on since Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals?
ZW: We have been half sales and half product development since the Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals. After talking to numerous mentors through the Dingman Center who are experienced in this industry, I was able to really hone in on what our differentiator is and how we can leverage that to penetrate the over-saturated, highly competitive, yet shifting online survey industry. This led to another sprint of product development which was well worth it. By the Pitch Dingman Finals we will have more tangible business metrics to quantitatively assess the performance of our product changes.
DC: What are some goals you are looking to reach before Finals?
ZW: Our primary goal before the finals is to gain user traction using our new product line geared towards groups and associations. Our secondary goals are to understand our user acquisition cost and scalable business practices for penetrating local markets. User and customer traction, in my opinion, is the most challenging phase a business goes through and the spot where a majority of businesses fold. Our primary goal is challenging and has substantial risk, as do most startups moving through the traction gap. However, after countless hours of user and customer interviews, having a real world product, and really developing a deep understanding of the online survey and market research industries, I am confident we de-risked as much as possible before getting to this point. It’s going to be interesting to see if our world view aligns with reality, and if our performance is sufficient to gain traction.
DC: If you win Pitch Dingman Competition, what will you do with the $15,000?
ZW: It would be easy for me to give an answer right now, but in truth, it depends wholly on the outcome of if we meet our near term goals. If we can prove an economically efficient and scalable method for gaining “good” user traction in the higher education ecosystem, the $15,000 will be used to penetrate into universities in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area, and hopefully generate a predictable ROI.