Atlanta Business Chronicle - December 18, 2000

Money flows to Webcast focus groups

Brian Moran Staff Writer

In a time when venture capitalists are anything but actively writing checks, ActiveGroup Ventures Inc. is collecting $2 million from local investors.

The Norcross start-up attracted the investment from The Robinson-Humphrey Netlanta Fund and other local angel investors. Other technology companies are struggling to survive as the Nasdaq's volatility has caused private investments to dry up.

ActiveGroup serves major consumer brands with online focus groups. The start-up company already claims The Coca-Cola Co., Delta Air Lines Inc., The Procter & Gamble Co. and BellSouth Corp. as customers.

The idea is to take traditional focus groups and broadcast them over the Internet to allow marketing officials anywhere in the world to observe the discussions.

The outside observers also can communicate with the moderator through a form of e-mail and direct the moderator to ask follow-up questions.

Casey Sweet of Quesst Qualitative Research in Brooklyn, N.Y., has used ActiveGroup's technology to conduct online focus groups. She said the main benefit is that her brand-name clients do not have to travel to be in the room to observe the focus group.

"There are different situations where you need different options available," Sweet said. "Some clients want to be in the back of the room; others just can't be there."

Atlanta marketing guru and Atlanta Business Chronicle columnist Alf Nucifora has committed to testing ActiveGroup's technology in focus groups he conducts early next year.

Nucifora said "Webcasting" or broadcasting over the Internet will replace traditional videoconferencing as the medium of choice for focus groups that cannot be attended in person.

"Videoconferencing is too expensive, and you have to go to a special facility," Nucifora said. "The notion of Webcasting will be a valuable learning tool."

Additionally, Webcasting allows for more people to be involved with a focus group, Sweet said.

"People who would not ordinarily go to a focus group can see what's going on. They can follow more closely rather than just go by reports and second-hand information," Sweet said.

Videoconferencing companies, such as FocusVision Worldwide Inc., have caught on to the idea of Webcasting focus groups, but ActiveGroup is the early leader, Sweet said.

David Nelems and John Gordon formed ActiveGroup a year ago. Both Nelems and Gordon have served as chief technology officers at marketing research firms.

"I'm not an Internet person that discovered marketing research," said Nelems, who previously worked with his father's marketing firm The Marketing Workshop. "I'm a marketing person that found a better way to research through the Internet."

Nelems serves as president and chief executive of ActiveGroup. Gordon is chief technology officer.

The company now has 15 employees and plans to expand its marketing efforts with the $2 million investment.

ActiveGroup is on track to record $350,000 in revenue for 2000 and projects growing to $3 million in 2001, Nelems said.

The company has previously received a cash investment from, a local Internet company that provides political consulting. has partnered with ActiveGroup to conduct politically based focus groups.