Our Founders: David Brain

Learn why David Brain (or DB as he's known in the team) started Stickybeak, and why they've got a tikka masala to thank.

February 8, 2023

David, tell us a bit about you and your background

I was lucky in my career in that good and new roles came my way just as my feet were getting itchy in the old one and so I always stayed in someone else’s business. I became adept at growing and improving and buying and selling those businesses, but I never started one myself. Perhaps I was a bit afraid or lacked a career trauma to drive me to it?

Why did you decide to start Stickybeak?

One day I was watching a research presentation given by my now co-founder David Talbot in which he talked about a huge problem with traditional research panels, which was all the more shocking because he was a hugely experienced researcher. Whilst the panels boasted thousands of respondents, only a small minority actually answered questions and some groups (like younger adults) were really hard to get to. Hence the expense and unreliability. At the time we had this conversation, traditional panel based polling had just spectacularly failed to predict the election of Trump and the vote for Brexit.

Later that night, over a curry, we wondered out loud why this was when we knew where these hard to get to groups were - they were on social media.  But we also realised that if we got to them when they were doing something else (chatting or scrolling) we needed to do it in a way that they might enjoy - or at least not hate. 

Traditional research panel interfaces were designed in the desktop PC era and are tedious interrogations.  So we decided an interface that might have a chance at solving this would have to be fast, cool and fun.   Inspired more by Tinder and messenger apps than application forms for mortgages if you like. I knew Brody Nelson and Kyle Hickey (both digital business builders) from some of my other business interests, and as is often the way, one thing led to another and a business plan was hatched!

And what are you most excited about for the future?

That we can help people in marketing and communications test their guesses a bit more. I never met a brand manager who got into the business because they wanted to book meetings and write briefs which is what a lot seem to end up doing.

Most want to provide a better service or product or experience for their consumers and they all spend a lot of time thinking about those consumers.  But directly asking them questions is hard especially for many young and mid level managers, given the problems with traditional panels and their slowness and expense.  And that makes them risk averse.  “I’m not sure how my customer will react to this new creative or packaging so I’d better stick to what worked in the past or what my boss likes” -  sort of thing.

But if it takes 24 hours and a few hundred dollars to test your idea, why be so conservative?  Even younger and more junior managers can spend that sort of budget.

We sit across Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter and so we can get to just about any consumer or interest group anywhere in the world - we have the world’s biggest panel if you like. And that means brand and communication managers have the chance to test their guesses and ideas in ways they never could in the past and I hope become more effective in their jobs and maybe have more fun on the way.