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10 years intervista

Dino Demarchi
Julia Urbahn intervista Team

Dr Julia Urbahn remembers

In the beginning was the panel….

Yes, intervista started with the idea of continuing to build, maintain and market a high-quality panel. But of course that also has a history. Actually, it all began when I started my job at a market research institute in Munich. That was in the year 2000, we were a start-up and definitely among the pioneers in online research and panel building in Germany. At that time, “online” was still in its infancy and was still very “university-based”. But that’s how you learned the subject from scratch.

Soon after I moved to Bern and started my job at Swisscom, we came up with the idea of a customer panel there – and that was actually the foundation stone for intervista.

By the way, you can find out more about Dr. Julia Urbahn and the whole intervista team here: Our team

 

 

The SBB joins in

Coincidentally, a good friend from my student days was in charge of market research at SBB at the time. Of course, they also talked about the customer panel over a glass of wine in the evening. She said that something like that would probably make a lot of sense for SBB – and so the idea of a joint panel was born.

And then we were faced with a ridiculous-sounding but real problem – what should the baby be called? Even before SBB was on board, we didn’t really want to brand the panel as a Swisscom panel, but rather make it something more “neutral”. So we brainstormed coffee break after coffee break in our café at Swisscom, unfortunately (or thank God) I have forgotten the many discarded ideas. “Allegra” was a favourite for a short time – but then we thought it sounded too much like a women’s magazine. At some point, the rather conservative but appropriate name “intervista” came up. It works well in all languages (that was our goal), the URL www.intervista.ch was still free, so: Go for it!

The first logo

Our first logo from 2007. By the way, the idea for our logo, the “Pinöggel”, as Christoph says, came from a graffiti on a construction fence that I once photographed in Basel. The first intervista logo was designed from this.

So now we had a name, a motivated team at Swisscom and SBB, which Christoph soon joined on the SBB side, and a panel software provider who supported us in word and deed. The panel set-up could begin and progressed quickly.

 

 

 

Innovation Award from Swisscom

An anecdote on the side: At that time, Swisscom had an innovation prize for which internal projects could apply. We did so without much hope of success – because a customer panel seemed a bit too specific for us. But lo and behold, we won! The prize sounded unbelievably great at first, even for moderate football fans: two tickets to a Swiss match of the European Championship 2008! Well, the game was then rather modest, it was Switzerland’s third group game in the “Joggeli” against Portugal. The fact that Portugal had already qualified and Switzerland had been eliminated did not add to the quality of the game or the suspense 😉

So far so good – the joint customer panel grew and grew.

New meeting platform for business market researchers

At that time, I was contacted by an acquaintance from Germany who had moved to Switzerland to work for a large company, where she was a one-woman show on the subject of Mafo. She longed for exchange with other market researchers. So we gathered our contacts in the corporate Mafo scene to initiate an exchange among corporate market researchers. It worked, and at the first meeting, which took place at Swisscom, a number of colleagues came, mainly from the large companies in Bern. It became a regular meeting, soon nationwide, always at one of the participating companies.

Of course, the meetings were also about our constantly growing customer panel. Some of the company market researchers signalled interest in using it for their studies. And there we had the dilemma – on the one hand, the demand was nice, but on the other hand, even when interpreted generously, it was certainly not part of Swisscom’s or SBB’s core business to sell market research services.

The panel is outsourced

The unspeakable was then spoken by Christoph in Vienna. We visited the GOR together in April 2009. Shortly before we went home – as is appropriate for tourists – we had a piece of Sacher cake in the sun. And Christoph suddenly said, “Let’s outsource the panel. Then we’ve solved the problem of not being able to offer it to others.” Sounded adventurous at first, but we dared to write a business plan and raise the issue in our companies. And lo and behold – the sky did not fall on our heads and we were not dismissed without notice. Open ears were there and then very soon even lawyers from Swisscom, who turned our idea from a pipe dream into a set of contracts over several months in patient meetings.

In general, we were incredibly lucky to always and exclusively meet people in our environment who were well-disposed towards us and our project.

In the photo on the right: Christoph and Julia at the GOR 2009 in Vienna.

10-jahre-intervista-gor

intervista launches as its own company

In April 2010, the time had finally come – I gave notice at Swisscom, found a small office room and could start. Christoph remained largely employed at SBB, so I was a little uneasy. After years in a large company with dozens of people around me, meetings, hallway conversations, open-plan offices, suddenly: silence. Alone in a room in a shared office with an NGO. Hardly any phone calls, few emails: silence.

Then came Moritz, our first employee, and with him some life into the joint. We already had orders at that time, one of the first was a very elaborate online diary study for a colleague from our now quite large network of in-house market researchers. Many hours in the office and garden went by while we worked on the report, apparently not unnoticed by the client: at the presentation, he greeted me with a grin ranging from worry to “Black or red?” What was meant, of course, was the project balance sheet. It was deep red, by the way.

10-jahre-intervista-panel

Panel provider or full service?

More or less consciously, we quickly abandoned our original plan to sell the already high-quality intervista panel purely as a data source. We were and are simply market researchers with heart and soul, so it quickly became clear that we wanted to offer full service. We had learned customer orientation from our previous employers, methodological competence was also there – and so our first customers were satisfied with the services of the mini-institute and continued to commission us.

Nevertheless, the panel remained the “heart” of our business, it was nurtured and grew steadily. When the magic number of 10,000 active panellists was reached, it seemed an incredible size to us at the time and was duly celebrated.

On the left you can see one of the early panel layouts.

Our first offices

On 1.6.2011 we moved on from the shared office, it was time for more space and the recruitment of new “intervistas”. The new office in the Mattenhof quarter in Bern now already had three rooms – and was above a funeral parlour. Since we mostly went to our clients anyway and they didn’t come to us, the hearse in front of the door didn’t bother anyone. The pride in our first own company sign prevailed – think big!

Our first “real” office on Zieglerstrasse with the team at that time (from left: Hearse, Patricia, Moritz, Julia, new company sign, Christoph).

We stayed in this office for some time, gained important clients, expanded our portfolio to include qualitative market research and continued to grow our team.

Until this office was also bursting at the seams and it was time to move again. We found something suitable in Bern Breitenrain on Spitalackerstrasse, only a few hundred metres away from the first shared office, and moved in on 1 December 2013.

10-jahre-intervista-office-bern

And intervista grows...

We continued to grow and were now about 10 people. As probably every SME founder knows, this marks a magical boundary beyond which a company changes and has to change. Things that had previously run “just so” without structures and processes were now formalised – e.g. bookkeeping, time recording, budget control, holiday calendars. Fortunately, Christoph has a soft spot for these things.

And this is where I first come to talk about our relationship as joint company founders: We have always complemented and understood each other wonderfully, even though (or perhaps because) we tick so differently. Christoph is very good at business figures, administrative things, structures, processes and has also developed more and more into an IT expert. I’m not particularly good at all that, but have always been primarily interested in market research questions, methods and data analyses. Without Christoph, I would have probably run the company into the ground a hundred times over from an economic point of view.

And on it goes – on 1.12.2015 the office at Spitalackerstrasse was also too small, we had to move again. This time we could do it with a shopping trolley, the new office was only a few 100 metres away in Optingenstrasse. And here we come full circle, if our story had already come to an end – our current location is on the other side of the road from the shared office where it all began. From here you can quickly get to all kinds of festivities in the city centre, e.g. the Christmas market.

intervista Bern Optingenstrasse 5, Bern

New office on Optingenstrasse

We got our new, beautiful and large office with a lot of luck – we visited it, were the first interested parties and accepted during the viewing, even though it was in the middle of renovation and you couldn’t see much because of all the renovation covers. Simply because we felt comfortable there. But maybe it wasn’t luck, but symptomatic of us and the company’s success – we decided many things relatively spontaneously and partly on gut instinct. They were (fortunately) almost never wrong decisions. Today, this is probably called “agility”, a characteristic that we definitely want to preserve – even if we will continue to grow.

Real milestones in more recent times: Zurich, Axinova and "the 100,000".

While there has been steady but rather slow growth in 8 years up to this point, we really picked up speed in the last two years. A very important milestone was the establishment of the Zurich office on 1.4.2019. New city, new office style, a largely new team at this location. This brought an unexpected drive into the company. Even though Bern-Zurich is really a stone’s throw away, our Zurich clients appreciate the new location. At least as important: the potential of qualified personnel interested in our jobs doubled. A stone’s throw or not – most colleagues don’t want to commute every day.

Another milestone was the merger with Axinova AG and the associated expansion of our product portfolio, the establishment of our own IT department and the enlargement of our management team.

And last but not least: in summer 2019, our panel passed the 100,000 mark!

100,000 panellists: we are celebrating digitally for the first time.

10 years intervista

And here we are – 2020, 10 years of intervista, around 30 employees, more than 100,000 panellists.

But what will happen next? In terms of content, we will certainly focus on our core business of quantitative and qualitative market research, but also pursue other important business areas such as AI and its application in the area of data collection and analysis. Of course, we also want our panel to remain one of the biggest and best in the country.

And apart from that? We have a really great team; it’s rare to find so many people “in one bunch” who come to work in the morning happy and motivated. We want to keep that at all costs: Customer orientation, professional competence and this team spirit.

Finally, we would like to thank all our customers. Without their trust, intervista would not exist.

Thank you very much!

 

Julia Urbahn, 25.11.2020

Julia Uhrbahn
Julia Urbahn
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