I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want…

Streetbees has taken the idea of market research and bolted it to technology to make the user feedback instantaneous, informative and therefore valuable. Here, Tugce Bulut, founder and CEO, tell us what roads Streetbees will go down next.
Streetbees Founder

I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur – I simply ended up starting a business doing something that no one else was doing. Now Streetbees has been going for six years and employs 140 people. We have raised over USD75 million to support our technological developments and our geographical expansion and we have offices in the US, UK, Portugal, Switzerland and France. Streetbees has high contribution margins and I am confident we can take it all the way to IPO.

Streetbees makes sense of the complexity of people’s everyday lives. It started as a market research tool for companies to understand human behaviour so they could identify products to bring to market. But now we are going beyond that by offering intelligence.

The business really brings together my experience of working as an academic researcher at the World Bank conducting anthropological studies and then later as a strategy consultant. In that role I was working for Just East pre-IPO trying to understand if countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Russia offered good opportunities for the business. Surveys on how often people eat takeaway did not really capture the information we needed. We wanted to know what made them make that choice, and why on that particular night rather than another night. It’s difficult for those being surveyed to articulate and remember those details. The only solution is to talk to them in the moment, while it is happening.

So rather than asking people multiple choice questions about the choices they make we use technology to capture the moment – at speed and on a massive scale. Now, for example, if someone is ordering a takeaway they can just go on the Streetbees app, capture the moment and tell us what’s going on. That means we can instantly quantify how many takeaway dinners are being ordered on a given night. More important, we can also understand the full context and the reasons why people do what they do.

»We are able to show clients what really influences people’s decisions«

The beautiful thing about qualitative research is that you get the full complexity and the granularity you need. Our customers can see how people actually interact with their products. But the scale of our research also allows us to crunch through the numbers. We collect the data qualitatively, but at a massive scale, which allows quantification.

The motivation for the consumer to use us depends on the person. Users get paid for the information they give us and at the very beginning we were attracting those who just wanted to make some pocket money, even if it was only USD10 a month. But in the last few years we have discovered a new motivation: people want an outlet to share what’s going on in their lives. They want to be heard and listened to. 

Users contribute in a way that’s easy for them: taking a video while eating or taking pictures in a bar. We get millions and millions of those every month and then AI classifies the data, indexes it, tidies it up, clusters and then quantifies it. So, if you need to know, for example, what percentage of people aged 18–25 prefer gin and tonic on a Friday night, I can get that data in a national representative and statistically significant way. Within three months of starting Streetbees we signed Coca-Cola and Unilever as clients. That shows how strong our idea was. Especially as at that stage we didn’t even have the technology yet. There was no app to collect the data nor even a dashboard to show the data. But our customers believed we were offering an amazing solution and even put down money for us to build it. 

Today we have an incredible client roster. Pretty much any CPG (consumer packaged goods) company you can think of works with us, including Unilever, P&G, Reckitt Benckiser, GSK and Pfizer. We’re also in the furniture space with Ikea. We are still at the very beginning of our journey with these customers but our goal is to capture 10 per cent of the budget they allocate for intelligence. 

The reason they have faith in us is because we go way beyond typical market research companies like Neilsen as well as consultants like McKinsey and BCG. That’s because we gather data on such a massive scale, in the moment and in people’s own words. That means we are able to show clients what really influences people’s decisions. Our AI algorithms also automatically calculate the demand spaces and forecast them as well, for a fraction of the price that other consultancies charge. So we help CPG companies make innovation decisions but we are also working with some equity trading companies, taking business from the likes of Bloomberg, to help them make equity decisions.

Today, we have 4.2 million consumers providing input but it’s a controlled market. We could easily have 10–15 million users if we opened to anyone, but we don't want that, because we would rather go really deep on our understanding of our users. We want to make more and more stories in the app available for existing users, rather than letting the user numbers go wild. As the business grows and we have more and more stories in the app then we will admit more users.

Covid changes behaviour

Covid, of course, has been a tough period and, like other companies, we had to move our entire operations remote overnight. But it also gave us opportunities. Our customers soon realised that their traditional ways of operating just would not work in this new world. They needed to understand how human behaviour was shifting. They also realised that traditional providers like Kantar and Nielsen could not capture that complexity in a timely way. We have real-time data pipelines and we could change the reporting schedule from quarterly to weekly overnight. Our customers were able to act on this data. For example, Unilever was first to market with a hand moisturiser that had antibacterial capabilities because we provided the data for it that people felt their hands were getting extremely dry from all the sanitising handwashing.

Another insight from Covid is that although people are talking about making healthy decisions, when we actually look at their day-to-day life that isn’t really happening. The context of homeschooling, working from home, as well as the stress and anxiety induced by the pandemic is missed in traditional research.


Understanding the data

The mission for Streetbees was always to create the world’s largest intelligence platform that helps decode human behaviour. Decoding human behaviour is not just about chocolate and crisps and coke. It's also about understanding when we feel anxious and why. It’s about understanding the triggers in life and why a certain group of people in one city are happier than similar people in another city. As our data scale increases so will our ability to explain things like stock prices or healthcare trends. This will provide all sorts of companies with the understanding of human behaviour.

»Decoding human behaviour is not just about chocolate and crisps and coke. It’s also about understanding when we feel anxious and why«

What we do now was not possible five years ago. There’s a reason why Streetbees exists now: AI. Our users talk to us in their native language and that is translated into English using AI. Streetbees was an international business from day one and we were operating in 40 markets within 12 months of starting so it’s in our DNA to be able to work with multiple languages. In some cases, for example with Arabic and Mandarin, our embeddings are in the native language because the language structure is so different and if we translated first and then tried to analyse we would miss a lot.

We want to make the experience of using data in business for everyday decisions fun and as easy as using Google search. Where we are aiming is for businesses to write a query in a search box, such as information on growth opportunities in the takeaway market in Israel. They could then press a button and receive the answer within seconds. They won’t need to wait for two months for field research. In fact, one of our goals is to make all those field research agencies, market research companies and consultancies redundant.

We know that six years in to this journey we still have a long way to go. We had a dream and we started the platform. But the dream keeps getting bigger and evolving with the addition of amazing people to our team, because they have their own dreams. For me, that’s the most fulfilling part of the job – to learn how we can go beyond what we originally imagined.

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This article is part of the 'Lakestar Briefing', a periodical publication about Lakestar's portfolio companies and our network of inspiring minds we like to work with. If you wish to subscribe please click here to fill out your name and email.