Entrepreneur

Startup Spotlight: ‘This creep might save your balls’

The team at SurveyMonkey takes Movember very seriously. Over the course of the month, thirty male employees grew out their mustaches to raise money for men’s health. It was a time of struggle for some, and self-discovery for others. Today on this last day of November, the company held the Great Shave event at the Palo Alto headquarters to divest these gentlemen of their facial hair.

Movember first began in Australia and is now a global movement to support prostate cancer and testicular cancer initiatives. “Via the moustache, Movember aims to fulfill its vision of having an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health by continuing to spark conversation and spread awareness of men’s health issues each year,” says the organization’s mission statement. Over the past decade, almost 2 million “Mo Bros and Mo Sistas” have participated and raised $126.3 million for the cause in 2011 alone. image001

Last year, a few of the guys at SurveyMonkey decided to form an informal team. Their efforts were so popular that this year, the company formed an official partnership with Movember. SurveyMonkey employees not only sprouted ‘staches and fundraised, but they also offered the organization the resources at their disposal.

SurveyMonkey is a provider of web-based survey solutions. Customers easily create custom surveys online and distribute them to respondents. These surveys help them collect data of any kind that can be used for anything from business insights, to in this case, “who has the most iconic mo?” Apparently, men associate mustaches with manliness and distinction, while women generally find them creepy.

“It was interesting to watch the monkeys grow mustaches, and as we watched them do it, we wanted to do research,” said VP of Marketing Bennett Porter. “This is very important stuff, we wanted to get feedback on how America feels about mustaches so we could give our monkeys pointers.”

The surveys found that the top style is the ‘classic English,’ followed by the ‘Handlebar’, ‘Fu Manchu’, ‘Painter’s Brush’, ‘Pencil’, ‘Chevron’, and the ‘Walrus’. Apparently, the number one reason men don’t grow mustaches is because they think they look funny, while 36% of significant others are fine if their loved ones ‘bro a Mo.’

That said, one of the team captains was forced to shave his mustache for a wedding at the bequest of his girlfriend. Not one to be derailed, he grew a second ‘stache and had something to present at the Great Shave after all.

As part of the Great Shave, SurveyMoney brought a professional barber into the headquarters to bring all participants back to clean-shaven. However, a few men abstained from the proceedings to keep their mustaches for one more wild weekend and a few even contemplated maintaining the mustachioed look. IMG_0858

“Over the past 30 days, some people looked exactly the same as they did on day 1, and others looked like they were headed straight for a biker bar,” Porter said.  “We took an internal survey to crown the King of Movember and the winner was one of our guys in Portland, but it was kind of unfair because mustaches seem to grow better in Portland. Regardless, we are going to miss those furry little guys.”

Hipster points aside, SurveyMonkey raised around $2000 for men’s health. Porter said this endeavor was about more than fundraising; it  was also about promoting company culture and staying competitive in the battle to recruit talent. SurveyMonkey is hardly a scrappy startup anymore. It was purchased in 2009 by Spectrum Equity and Bain Capital, and today has 150 employees and a billion dollar valuation.

That said, SurveyMonkey, like the mustaches on of its employees faces, is continuing to grow, spreading the doctrine of accessible data, as well as mustaches, around the world. Check out the Flickr gallery the “Month of Mustaches” and this Movember infographic:

Movember infographic

Startup Spotlight is a new weekly series that features a company with a unique idea or story to tell. If your company would like to be considered, please submit an application at http://venturebeat.com/news-tips/.


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