Poll Everywhere: Jeff Vyduna, co-founder

Jeff Vyduna is a co-founder and leader of the software polling venture Poll Everywhere. Vyduna was kind enough to respond to some questions I sent him about his involvement in an education start-up company, which helped me complete a fuller picture of his approach to being an entrepreneur in an emerging market.

Poll Everywhere is a software response system platform for conducting polls and being used as an automated response system (ASR). In education, ASRs are commonly known as “clickers”, which refers to the small hand-held device with buttons that students click in order to send their answer to a question or poll. The questions and polls are managed by the instructor for real-time feedback on what the students are thinking. Poll Everywhere is unique in that its system allows many commonly found devices to act as the clicker, thereby mitigating the costs involved with purchasing hardware. Poll Everywhere can be used with smartphones, web browsers and SMS messaging. Poll results are displayed and updated in real-time on a computer through the Poll Everywhere website, or through embedded flash objects.

Vyduna studied electrical engineering before becoming a senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting LLP from 2002 to 2007. During this time, Vyduna took a one year sabbatical to become a CIO for Colegio Interamericano, a non-profit primary through high school in Guatemala. Vyduna left Deloitte in 2007 to attend MIT’s Sloan School of Management. After finishing his program at MIT, Vyduna co-founded Condense, a software development company. Poll Everywhere is the premier software product to come out of Condense.

Vyduna has focused on being an entrepreneur for several years, with his engineering, consulting and MBA background all being part of reaching his goal to getting into a business that he liked and could showcase his talents in management and presentation. Vyduna’s motivation has been to take life into his own hands and have some say in his destiny. He likes challenges and thrives on them, and did not want to be a part of larger organization that may live or die without him. While his work as a CIO in Guatemala was education based, it was not a goal or specific intention of his to become involved in an education start-up. The education sector is Poll Everywhere’s largest user base, but it is the entertainment and business sectors that provide Poll Everywhere with a significant portion of their revenues.

Although Vyduna does not reveal the personnel behind Poll Everywhere, I believe it is likely to be a small company with core employees that attend to mission critical functions such as development, sales, software, and technology. Short biographies are given at the Condense website. As part of their business plan, Poll Everywhere employed a Sales Learning Curve as espoused by the Havard Business Review. This likely has kept staff at a smaller, manageable size while the company grows gradually in a controlled fashion, matching increased sales with increased infrastructure and resource growth. When I contacted Vyduna, he was working on-site at a large entertainment installation. My impression is that the leaders of Poll Everywhere are very involved and competent, being responsible for day to day operations.

After learning more about Vyduna and having contact with him, it is hard to not be impressed. Vyduna strikes me as someone that relishes the chance to explore and take charge of the situation around him. His consulting work and MBA at Sloan speak to his capabilities. Vyduna did wonder if his entrepreneurship was partially a result of his family upbringing. I’ve thought about this issue for myself, and I believe that there are elements of nature or nurture involved which can help a person be predisposed for starting new ventures.

Posted in: Week 04: Entrepreneur Bootcamp