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Ian Ash is Co-founder of Dig Insights, a tech-enabled insight and strategy consultancy on a mission to help insights teams answer the question “what next?” He is the Creator of Upsiide, an innovation insights platform that allows researchers and marketers to test ideas, concepts, and communications in a fast, clever, and cost-effective way. Ian has over 20 years of experience leading large-scale international market research projects across different industries. He provides his clients with expertise in brand valuation, data mining, customer segmentation, market optimization, concept testing, and usage and attitude studies.


tune in

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [02:58] Ian Ash discusses Dig Insights
  • [04:15] The genesis of Upsiide and its evolution into a SaaS journey 
  • [14:14] What are some of Upsiide’s use cases? 
  • [16:53] Ian discusses the ideal client profile of Upsiide 
  • [18:22] Upsiide’s survey on brand stances on social issues, with insights on political leanings and consumer preferences
  • [37:20] The evolution of Dig Insights’ team 
  • [40:03] Ian explains how private equity impacted their company’s growth and structure

In this episode…

In today’s rapidly changing business world, innovation is the cornerstone for staying ahead of the competition. However, an overabundance of ideas can make it challenging for brands to determine which ones will be the most effective.

Market researcher Ian Ash suggests that entrepreneurs can leverage the power of data analytics to make informed decisions about which innovative ideas to pursue. He shares his journey developing a SaaS product that offers a solution for global brands looking to unlock their next route to business growth. Ian explains how the service helps entrepreneurs test new products, services, communication, features, and designs cost-effectively and cleverly, making it a valuable tool for companies of all sizes.

Listen to this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast with Dr. Jeremy Weisz, featuring Co-founder of Dig Insights and Creator of Upsiide, Ian Ash. They discuss Dig Insights and the genesis of the Upsiide platform, its use cases, and its survey on brand stances on social issues, with insights on political leanings and consumer preferences.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Special Mention(s):

Related episode(s):

Quotable Moments: 

  • “To keep a panel of people interested in taking your surveys, you need to have a lot of surveys.”
  • “People like to have their opinions heard, as long as the survey is done in a truly unbiased manner.”
  • “People tend to overstate things that they’ll do.”

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:15 

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz 0:22 

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different I have Ian Ash of Dig Insights and Upsiide and Ian before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes people should check out of the podcast. And so, you know, when I look at some of the top agencies, I mean, this is kind of top SaaS and top agencies in the same respect. Top SaaS MailShake was a really good one, how they have grown to over 70,000 customers and they’ve been doing acquisitions. Zapier was a good one I, one of the founders of Zapier on Wade Foster, talking about their evolution in their journey. from an agency perspective, I had Jason Swenk, on who built up his agency to over eight figures and sold it and then has been buying up agencies, he also has an agency group. And then Todd Taskey was another good one. He’s got the Second Bite Podcast, and he basically matches agencies of private equity to help sell agencies. So we talked about the agency space valuations, how sometimes people made more on the second bite than the first, actually when they sold it. So that was also interesting, as well check out more on and this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25, we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships. And how do we do that we actually help you run your podcast, we’re an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast we do the strategy, accountability and the full execution. Ian we call ourselves the magic elves that run in the background and make it look easy for the hosts in the company. So they can create great content and amazing relationships. For me, the number one thing in my life is relationships, I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way over the past decade to profile the people in companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So we can all learn from them. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should have questions go to To learn more, I’m excited to introduce Ian Ash. He’s co-founder of Dig Insights. And they have the platform Upsiide, which we’re gonna talk about. He’s the chief strategy officer where he leads the development and adoption of their proprietary SaaS platform, we’re going to talk Upsiide is, by the way, spell U-P-S-I-I-D-E, and Dig Insights as approximately 250 staff across Toronto, Chicago, London, Ian thanks for joining me.

Ian Ash 2:43 

Hey, thanks very much for having me.

Jeremy Weisz 2:45 

Just start off and talk about Dig Insights and what you do when I go to your page, which I’ll pull up in a second. I see McDonald’s, I see Hershey’s. I see big companies, what do you do at Dig Insights?

Ian Ash 2:58 

So we’re a customer insights consultancy, so mostly will run proprietary or surveys for those companies doing a variety of things, everything from testing new concept ideas, to tracking brand equity to tracking the impact of innovations. They’ve had claims testing, price testing, sort of runs the gamut of what a full service market research company would usually do. And then on top of that, we’ve built a lot of proprietary technology, including Upsiide. Yeah, so this is Upsiide. So this is our SaaS platform. So this can be either fully serviced by our market research staff on your behalf, or it can be used on their own as a DIY, and we roll out programs across companies. So some of the companies you mentioned, for instance, like Coca-Cola uses us globally, within their innovation funnel to test early, early ideas.

Jeremy Weisz 3:58 

I mean, I don’t know if you say maybe Holy Grail is too strong Ian but like from an agency, having a SaaS portion is kind of a holy grail. So talk about that service to SaaS transition.

Ian Ash 4:15 

Absolutely. So we were founded in 2010. And we were a full-service market research company. And we right away sort of specialized in the very complicated our original tagline for Dig was complex question clear answers. And we focused on very complicated the tradeoff methodologies, conjoint discrete choice, that sort of thing, and predicting the results of changes that would happen that would impact their market success. And we sort of grew that very quickly, and we began to see a polarization in the market happening where, in the middle was where the traditional market reached which firms like the Ipsos is the cantar? Is it still around the multibillion dollar companies? And they were productizing fairly simplistic methods. And pushing them out the same questions were asked over and over again, that sort of thing. There’s a bunch of reasons for that, beyond just it being efficient and scalable. But that’s what they were doing. And then there were the new entrants, and so the new entrants being companies like Qualtrics, you may have heard of who sold eventually to SaaS for it believe it was 8 billion actually a number somewhere, but we saw a quick rise in that. And so at the time, the Darling in Canada was mission critical. There was Qualtrics, there’s a whole bunch of these SaaS platforms, automated methodologies that were eating the lunch of the Kantara. And the Ipsos is, we stood a little bit further towards the analytical spectrum of that, and we’re competing more with like the beans, and McKinsey’s for that really high end, complicated data science work, in addition to customer insights work, but we saw that there was a big opportunity that in more scalable methods, but we weren’t going to be able to do it just by doing fully service productized methods, because that was sort of disappearing. And that’s why we decided, all right, we’re gonna have to build our own technology, which, of course, we had no idea how to do, we’re completely out of our depth. And so that was a really hard learning curve, everything from, you notice the name upside the two eyes. And the reason why we did that was because we originally were a native app in the Apple App Store. And we couldn’t buy Dig, it was already taken. And we couldn’t use Upsiide, but one I already taken. And so we went with Upsiide. And then of course, everything sort of evolves and changes over time. And now we’re web app — or no, on the App Store. But that’s sort of where it all sort of started.

Jeremy Weisz 7:02 

Talk about that decision, then what did you have to because it is a huge decision. You’re diverting resources, people energy time, what were some of those steps that you took in the beginning? And take me through a little bit of the evolution of starting up the SaaS within the company. I mean, remember, MailChimp, I believe started as an agency, and they were doing email, and then they created the MailChimp, which I think sold for whatever, billions of dollars as well. So what did you do first, to go on this SaaS journey?

Ian Ash 7:45 

Well, firstly, the idea. And we realized that there were a couple of gaps in the way that market research was being done. At the time, when we first came out with Upsiide, most surveys were still written to be conducted on desktop or laptop computers. And the majority of people who started surveys, did it on their smartphone. So people were interacting with technology in an inefficient way, and not the way they wanted to take surveys. So he said, okay, first of all, if we’re going to do any technology, it’s got to be mobile first, because that’s how people want to actually answer surveys and the big platforms at the time, we’re not catered that way. And then secondly, we said, if we’re going to be on mobile, let’s make sure that the way that people are interacting with our app is exactly how they like to interact with mobile. So that’s why we use the swiping interface. And so the way quickly that Upsiide sort of works is, you’re showing a bunch of ideas. Now, we also have all the other questions that you would have in a regular survey, but you’re showing ideas, and you swipe left, and you swipe right on those ideas. And then after you’ve swiped on a series of ideas, the one that you like most, the ones you like most, or then put in a head to head tournament style. So what we’re actually able to do from that data is create not only a hierarchy of which ideas are best, but we actually can also run what’s called HP modeling in the background and create a share of choice. So we can say, if you turn that off, if you were to put this product in market, how incremental or cannibalistic would it be to your portfolio and where would it take its market share from just from this very simple interface now, you’re seeing other questions here like this emoji question. So it’s…

Jeremy Weisz 9:40 

People listening to the audio, there is a video piece and we are looking at the kind of interface here.

Ian Ash 9:48 

Yeah, so what I was gonna say was that since that launch, which was all it was at the beginning, was that the swiping it’s evolved a lot in We have a whole series of, you know, just everything you can do in a regular survey, like Survey Monkey or something like that is available through the platform as well. But what it holds true to is that everything we do, we always have some very cool analytics that we run in the background, and then provide within the platform. And we actually have provisional patents on some of the algorithms that we created to do that, because we were a highly analytical company to begin with.

Jeremy Weisz 10:25 

So you said, you need to evolve, right? And you said, first, it was mobile. Now, how did that original conception evolve to what it is now?

Ian Ash 10:37 

Well, we originally put it on the App Store, like I said, and we quickly realized that the economics of mobile app just weren’t making sense. And so without getting into a lot of tedium around the way that our category works, you need to keep a panel of people interested in taking your surveys, you need to have a lot of surveys. And so we were forced to run a lot of studies through Upsiide that was on the App Store so that we can keep people engaged and keep our monthly average user number high. But in many cases, those weren’t necessarily sold projects at the beginning. And so you kind of have those network effect issues, almost with anything you put on an app store where you need people to natively install an app. And so we realized, this is not this is not going to be profitable, if we keep it this way. So we did a couple of big things there. We said, one, the original version of the app that we built, we’d outsource the build on because we weren’t a tech company. And we didn’t know we were doing. And we said okay, well, we can either do one or two things, we can say. we can’t do this, it’s too expensive. We’re not going to make any money. Or we can actually build a tech company inside of our company, and really invest in this thing and build it ourselves and build it as a web app, and change the economics around it. And we decided, okay, well, we’re not taking any extra money for the next few years. Everything we make is going to be plowed back into during the company. And that’s and that’s what we did. Now, thankfully, you talked about at the beginning of this podcast, you quickly mentioned private equity. Thankfully, that paid off for us. And we grew the company incredibly quickly. We grew Upsiide incredibly quickly. And we were also lucky enough to find a fantastic private equity partner Behringer, who we’ve now been working with for a year and a half. And that’s been a fantastic experience as well. I love working with them.

Jeremy Weisz 12:41 

How did that come about? Did they approach you? Did you approach them?

Ian Ash 12:46 

No, we went to a formal process. Yeah, we went to, we used Canaccord Genuity. And we did the whole formal process.

Jeremy Weisz 12:56 

Were you, for this. Were you worried at all? Just about disrupting yourself?

Ian Ash 13:03 

Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s the challenge that all of the large service players have had in this category. Like I mentioned, the obsesses McCann, Tarzan, I have lots of friends in every research company. So I’m not gonna badmouth anybody. But what I will say is that it’s very challenging, even for us to change the way that you service your companies, and the way that people are used to being aligned with their clients, and also the way that they’re compensated. And the bigger the company, the more challenge that is. And so I think we were at the right size, the right time, we were nimble enough that we could actually do this hybrid approach, whereas I think a lot of the bigger companies really struggle doing the hybrid approach.

Jeremy Weisz 13:45 

I’m talking about with Upsiide use cases, we could see here, we’re looking here, this concept testing, message testing, creative testing, package design, testing. What’s a use case, I don’t know, you just did a study, but maybe was talking about a use case that people a company has used a platform, and then we can talk about like, are actually a recent one real time of what you actually just did. But what’s an example of a use case that you’ve seen with the platform?

Ian Ash 14:14 

I mean, the majority of our use cases are tests. So again, like I said, with that, the swiping interface, it’s about saying, okay, we’re gonna bring in this new flavor of chips, or we’re gonna bring in this new burger or this new drink, or this new, whatever it happens to be even a new claim, or a new ad. And we want reactions to these things. And we want to know if people liked them. We want to know of the options they’re presented with which ones do they like more or less? And then we want to know if we introduce it into market, is it going to be incremental or cannibalistic to our existing portfolio and so that’s the lion’s share of the use cases around Upsiide, but that’s because we have unique capabilities in that area. But like I said, data, we also have all the other questions that you can ask that you would in any survey. So other use cases run the gamut from completely ad hoc, random questions that they have that they want to be able to quickly get a response from sort of overnight. People use it for tracking studies, people use it for anything you can think you’d run a survey for people use Upsiide to do.

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