A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week:

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What: Survey Analytics, based in Seattle

Who: Vivek Bhaskaran, 31, CEO and co-founder

Mission: Develop online surveys that help corporations gather accurate data about customers or employees.

Data banking: “As companies grow larger, it becomes more difficult to assemble a collective wisdom about themselves or their products,” Bhaskaran said. “With an online survey, they can find out what their customers are thinking about the services they provide. We can tabulate the data in many different ways, separating first-tier customers and second-tier customers and presenting the aggregated preferences and opinions of each one.”

Employees: 10

Financials: The private, self-financed company pulled in $3.2 million in revenue during 2006. “Software isn’t necessarily a high-capital business,” Bhaskaran said. “It can be bootstrapped.”

Flip side: One important distinction is between a legitimate survey and a scam. “There is a difference between a marketing gimmick and a research model,” Bhaskaran said. “There are some that tell you if you take their survey, you will get an iPod. This is only a way to collect e-mail addresses.”

Return to sender: Direct-marketing pieces are a success if they get a 2 percent return rate; Survey Analytics exceeds that level. Even so, it is difficult to get the majority of recipients to respond. If surveyors have established a relationship with the recipient, the best they can hope for is between 20 and 40 percent. A human-resources department surveying a company’s employees might pull in 60 percent, and a perfect score is nearly impossible.

Carrot and stick: With this in mind, the company isn’t above providing incentives if it will get the needed data. “We sometimes provide incentives for participation, and establish user trust,” Bhaskaran said. “But we still haven’t come up with a formula to establish credibility.”

— Charles Bermant