Sometimes inspiration strikes in remarkable places. For Sam Jacobs, it was while alone in Qdoba, eating a burrito. When looking over his receipt, he noticed that at the bottom it requested the customer go online and take a survey, for a chance to win ten grand.


Sam Jacobs, co-founder of GoodSurv

“I started running through all of the reasons I would never do that,” he said. While the prize money was enticing, it was not worth the effort of logging into a website and inputting stats multiple times, all for odds that are extremely high.

What if, he thought, there was a better way to do this?

He took the idea to NDSU colleague, Rachel Black, and the idea for GoodSurv was born.

GoodSurv is a mobile app that gathers feedback from customers through surveys, or “survs,” and then shares the information with business partners through a web-based dashboard. No matter where they are, business owners can see to-the-hour updates on customer response.

What’s in it for users? The more ‘survs’ users take, the more points they can win by doing a ‘scratch-off’.  The more points, the more likely you are to win one of the grand prizes, like a gift card to Scheels or Buffalo Wild Wings. The app also highlights local business deals such as entree discounts or happy hour specials.

But Rachel and Sam wanted to go further, and use their app to give back to the local community. They decided that after every 50,000 surveys, GoodSurv will donate a thousand dollars to the Make-A-Wish foundation of North Dakota.

Rachel Black

Rachel Black, co-founder of GoodSurv

“We see service as the biggest key role in our entire organization,” Rachel said, stating that the app’s ability to give back to the community is what she is most passionate about.

For Rachel, the connection to Make-A-Wish is personal. At an event to raise awareness last year, she and her friends were confronted by a mother of a child with a granted wish, who shared her story and thanked them for their help.

“It was one of those moments of, ‘Wow this is really impacting lives,'” Rachel said.

The team contacted Make-A-Wish last February, and said they are excited about the innovative idea to donate through the unique outlet of a mobile app.

“The concept that you can actually make a difference in a worthy cause, through your mobile phone, at no cost to you… it hasn’t been done,” Sam said. “It’s transformative in the way we think about how groups collaborate to accomplish something.”

Both Rachel and Sam have never done anything like this before. But they never let that stop them.

“We had never created anything with technology,” Sam said, thinking back on the journey that has brought them to where they are now. “And there’s a huge learning curve. And… here we are.”

“Here we are,” Rachel said. “Still learning.”

Like betting all your money in a poker game, dedicating a year to developing an idea that may or may not be successful is taking a high risk – one that not many are willing to take. After all, it’s not often you meet a 23-year-old who willingly quit a full time job in order to start building a business from scratch with no prior experience, like Rachel Black. Or a 24-year-old finance guy who had an idea while eating a burrito, and then dedicated hours, weeks, and months of work to make that idea a reality, like Sam Jacobs.

But for them, it’s always been worth it.

“Every day is a different challenge, and I think that’s what we both enjoy,” Rachel said. “It’s not your standard office job.”

“I think win or lose, you build credibility by doing,” Sam said. “I think there’s something to be said for trying.”

He proceeded to quote Teddy Roosevelt, who once said, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

To be that man in the arena, however valiant, is hard. The behind-the scenes work of building GoodSurv has been a grueling year-long process, where everything from the logo to the color scheme has been scratched and redesigned, according to the team. Rachel described their first logo as “gross,” and said the initial design was so complicated she could not even explain it to others. Creating something that seems simple, they said, is actually not simple at all.

“You just go from one thing to the next,” Rachel said with a laugh. “You learn so much knowledge that textbooks don’t teach you.”

A vital part of the process, they said, has been the local support. In fact both Sam and Rachel agreed that progress would have been impossible if not for the support from the Fargo startup community. Without it, Sam said, “we would have given up.”

“It makes you believe that you’re not completely crazy,” Sam said, about conversations the team had with local entrepreneurs and businesses.

“Or not off in the deep end swimming alone,” Rachel added. “You see that people are doing it every day – taking ideas from being just ideas into something.”

The app itself is being designed by local Fargo companies, with Myriad Mobile working on the front end, and Blaine Booher of Clifton Labs doing the back end.

Rachel, who will be presenting at 1 Million Cups this Wednesday, said she is excited to speak in front of the community that has kept her and Sam energized throughout this process.

“It [1 Million Cups] is kind of like your ‘church’ for entrepreneurs, and innovative mindset,” she said. “You come out of 1 Million Cups and you’re just energized to get things done, and keep working, and keep striving for your goals.”

By the time Rachel presents for 1 Million Cups, the GoodSurv app will be available free for Android, and is currently ‘waiting for review’ from Apple. Sending it out for review was an exciting moment for the team.

“We have so many of these moments of, ‘oh my gosh, it’s getting closer,” Rachel said. “I was actually speechless when I got that e-mail response, I just looked up at Sam like, ‘look at this! Look! It’s actually happening!’”

Hear more from the GoodSurv team at 1 Million Cups this Wednesday, October 1, 9:15 a.m at The Stage at Island Park. Rachel Black will be presenting and Sam Jacobs will be taking questions.

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Marisa Jackels