Pinnion CEO Michael Yerkovich. Photo by Rachel Coward.

Pinnion CEO Michael Yerkovich. Photo by Rachel Coward.

Kirkland’s Pinnion Finds Answers in the Survey Space

Pinnion CEO Michael Yerkovich keeps a working polygraph in his Kirkland office. It’s not some dreadful managerial tactic to which he subjects his employees. Rather, the machine symbolizes one goal of the digital survey company: gathering truthful information. It also reminds Yerkovich of the user experience he wants his company to avoid — a stressful, offputting experience for both the inquisitor and the interviewee.

The Kirkland-based software-as-a service company is trying to create a better survey experience by providing pollsters an authoring tool that removes coding from the equation; just create your questions and you’re done. The platform is tailored for enterprise users, although there is a free option that includes a WordPress plugin, email distribution, and real-time results. Paid accounts feature SMS distribution, advanced formatting, email notifications, and a host of other features.

Surveys are a ubiquitous information gathering tool and come in many formats. Where Pinnion has an advantage over competitors such as Confirmit, Qualtrics, and Survey Monkey, Yerkovich says, is in the mobile space, which has been his company’s focus since its 2010 inception.

“As mobile started to get a larger and larger foothold, (our key competitors) tried to take something that was created for a desktop experience and get it to function in a mobile space,” says Yerkovich. Thus, he says, the mobile interface of most surveys is cumbersome. Pinching and swiping your screen to zoom in and out, touching an unresponsive selection, or accidentally selecting “option A” when you meant to select “option B” all make you want to chuck your mobile device into a river. Yerkovich says those frustrating miscues exist because of poor coding transitions from desktop to mobile. Pinnion was built to accommodate the mobile user so those headaches are nonexistent, and it’s flexible enough to translate to a desktop experience, too.

Time is one of Pinnion’s biggest clients. The national magazine chose Pinnion to run its popular Person of the Year poll in 2014. The annual survey generates immense traffic for Time — nearly 5 million votes were cast in the 2014 contest, won by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi — and powering the campaign was a boon for Pinnion in terms of exposure, portfolio-building, and experience. It also demonstrates that Pinnion isn’t strictly about surveys and polls. Users could cast their votes with the hashtag #TIMEPOY on Time’s Facebook page, via Twitter, or at, and Pinnion recorded and analyzed the votes as they were received. Managing the vote showcased Pinnion’s ability to support branding efforts and social media integration.

Michael Yerkovich, Ovid Stavrica, Darin Ault, and Robert Kohut meet in Pinnion's Kirkland office. Photo by Rachel Coward.

Michael Yerkovich, Ovid Stavrica, Darin Ault, and Connor Vincent meet in Pinnion’s Kirkland office. Photo by Rachel Coward.

In the past, Time has had challenges with its Person of the Year vote, particularly with hackers. Pinnion demonstrated its security capabilities as its relationship with Time developed. Malfeasance occurred during the 2014 vote, but Pinnion was able to keep things in check.

“I’ve lost a week of sleep over this, but our system has not gone down and they haven’t messed with our numbers, but they kept us on our toes,” says Ovid Stavrica, Pinnion’s chief technical officer.

Getting information-security approval from Time Inc. in the beginning now allows Pinnion to work with any of the media company’s properties, including People, Sunset, and Sports Illustrated. The successful campaign likely eases security concerns for potential clients.

“Our code is young, so we can go into so many different verticals, from hospitality to lead-generation for automotive or real estate companies, and of course editorial,” says Darin Ault, Pinnion’s business development director. Doors are wide open for Pinnion now, and that can be a happy challenge. Yerkovich and his team want to streamline, and they’re in the process of figuring out which vertical is best to tackle in terms of larger projects.


Editor’s note: The photo cutline has been changed to reflect Connor Vincent as sitting on the couch, and not Robert Kohut.