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Transformation Spotlight: Interview With George Terhanian, CSO of Toluna

Dr. George Terhanian is a Scholar and a Gentleman. Seriously. It’s a venerable compliment that rarely applies to folks nowadays, but George is the epitome. A former English Literature teacher (he has an Ed.M from Harvard & a PhD from University of Pennsylvania) and one of the most gracious people it’s ever been my pleasure to meet, he is quite simply a class act. Add to that his stellar record in driving the future-forward strategy for Toluna and you get one of the great leaders in MR.

Unlike some of the other interviews in this series, George and I do not know each other well. We have chatted at events and exchanged the occasional email, but this is the first time I have had the opportunity to really sit and chat with him for more than a few minutes. It only reinforced my opinion of him and I think you’ll agree after watching our interview.

So why is George part of the transformation series? He has been one of the leaders shepherding in not just a transformation in his company, but also helping to shape the future of the research industry in the morphing of Toluna from a panel provider (always an incomplete description of their offering)  into a personal data engagement network, as evidenced from this presentation by Toluna CEO Frederic-Charles Petit from ESOMAR Congress 2012: 



With 17 offices in Europe, North America and APAC, Toluna works with many of the world’s leading market-research agencies, media agencies and corporations. Toluna’s survey research has informed stories in the Financial Times, Advertising Age and Time Magazine. Toluna pioneered a one-of-a-kind approach to recruiting and engaging members through, its online social voting community.

Recently, the company launched SmartSelect which is a respondent-level methodology designed to ensure more representative, reliable market research data. Further, Toluna provides a comprehensive technology suite, enabling hundreds of market research organizations and agencies worldwide to create surveys, manage panels and build online communities. Toluna’s products include PanelPortal, AutomateSurvey & QuickSurveys.

This spate of new product releases are all designed to lay the groundwork for the vision of the future that Frederick-Charles laid out and much of the vision and responsibility to make it happen comes from George. It’s an ambitious goal but one that is very likely to be achieved over the course of the next 5-7 years.

Toluna is a Private company now, but as of 2010 when they were still public their annual revenue was $73.64M. Although I can’t confirm it, I think it is reasonable to assume that the company is within striking distance of $100M which certainly would include it within the Top 25 of global research organizations.  A significant portion of the industry’s online research volume flows through them, and increasingly both supplier and client organizations are using their product portfolio to empower their own research operations. They are a major player any way you look at, so as they continue down the transformation path their evolution will impact the industry as a whole, causing even more change. George is at the center of this nexus of change and his views on where Toluna is today and where they are going are very instructive.

Without further ado, here is my chat with George. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


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