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vizulogo.bmpSince our initial tepid review of online polling company Vizu, its co-founders Mark Tilling and Dan Beltramo have gone underground and reemerged with vastly more ambitious product.

Earlier this year, Vizu got $1 million and began offering a way to let people post polls on their blogs or Web sites.

Beginning Dec. 15, however, it will give marketers and other companies an inexpensive and easy way to conduct instant surveys about just about anything, with much more sophistication. Below is an example of a poll on’s sex page, and below that a more generic poll about Christmas trees.

vizu.bmpVizu’s target market, Tilling says, is the “long tail of unanswered questions,” or the research that never gets done because incumbent market research firms and their methods are too expensive, complex and intimidating. Vizu lets marketers do snap polls, conducted across hundreds of sites instantaneously. While they may not be as scientific surveys produced by incumbent research firms, the polls can provide good estimates. Two weeks ago, when a poll was conducted about whether people approve of President Bush’s job performance, Vizu’s results were within a percentage point of surveys done by USA Today, Harris and Pew, says Tilling.

The founders demonstrated the latest product to VentureBeat, and we found it easy to use. Publishers can already sign up to indicate they are ready to accept the polls; they choose a minimum rate of payment (for example, they can pick $2 CPM, which means they get $2 for every thousand clicks on the poll) and there’s a place that explains easily how to place the necessary code into their site. Clients, or those who want to distribute the polls, will first be allowed to sign up Dec. 15. Vizu estimates for its clients how much money it will take to get a reasonable number (about 200) of poll responses. The rate will generally range between $200 and $500, depending on the audience targeted. In testing, some bankers have used the product to do quick polls to prepare pitches to prospective clients, Tilling says. Vizu splits the revenue with publishers 50-50%.

christmastrees.bmpThe poll widget is Flash, which gives it a spiffy look and several advantages over javascript. It lets clients rotate the possible poll answers within a poll. It also provides fraud protection. Flash can register — via Flash Shared Objects (more here) on a person’s computer — when a user has seen the poll. So if that user goes to another site that carries the same poll, to try to game the system by voting twice, the poll will not let the person vote again. Instead, the widget may switch to show other info or advertising. Further, if a person clicks in an area of the poll widget that lets them find the survey results, the widget can show an “interstitial,” or temporary advertisement for the few seconds it takes to calculate the latest results.

The co-founders previously ran the Redwood City food service supply-chain company called Instill, which raised $90 million in venture capital and is still private.

The co-founders say the research market is $24 billion a year globally, with the U.S. portion of that at $9 billion and growing five percent a year. The U.S online portion is $2 billion and growing at 25 percent a year, they say.

As mentioned, the company is backed WR Hambrecht + Co, together with Amicus Capital and angel investors including Ron Conway, Esther Dyson, Don Hutchison, and Mike Maples. Once this latest product launches, the company may try to raise another round of capital.


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