Interview with John Hsu, Co-Founder of Surfmerchants

@stilllearning outdid herself this week for Mystery Shopper Magazine. She interviewed John Hsu, co-founder of Surfmerchants. This is the company behind SASSIE, Jobslinger, GeoVerify, and Presto Insta-Shops. It's a great interview. Read it here:


Create an Account or Log In

Membership is free. Simply choose your username, type in your email address, and choose a password. You immediately get full access to the forum.

Already a member? Log In.

Though I don't like beer, I would love to work in a place that knows their employees and value them instead of just being a number.

And I loooove the CSS Zen Garden website.

Wow. That was a fantastic interview. I learned a lot and have a new appreciation for Surfmerchants, the Sassie platform, et al. I especially liked the part on Presto and their struggles and successes in its development. I can see why they are trying to "grow sharks" and not "collect guppies" and it makes a lot of sense. It really makes everything kind of click into place.

Thanks Stilllearning, Surfmerchants and JJ.

There are two types of people in this world: Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.
@kimmiemae - I don't drink beer (or any alcohol for that matter) and have still been happily employed at SurfMerchants for nearly 14 years!

I just wanted to jump in here to add that since this interview was done we've added a Completed Shop Log. Mary did a great write-up on our helpdesk: []
OMG, this is exactly what shoppers wanted! Thank you and thank John and Tony! smiling smiley


I intend to live forever. So far, so good.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/02/2015 11:28PM by stilllearning.
@c_bot: Wow, you were there almost from the very beginning. It had to be fascinating watch the company blossom and, even more so, to be part of it! smiling smiley


I intend to live forever. So far, so good.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/03/2015 01:30AM by stilllearning.
@stilllearning: I think it's been too busy to be fascinating. winking smiley It's definitely been fun and rewarding, though.
GeoVerify is like any other commodity lock.

It is only designed to keep the honest people from accidentally opening the wrong door. I have tried using it in it's earlier forms and it was requiring more data than just the GPS in the device and I would fail to get a code about half the time when I had mobile data (4G), Google smart location running and was outside to get a good GPS fix.

The latest version is working much better. However, I can assure you that I was not doing the hardest mystery shop on the planet at a location in Hongwon North Korea.

Here is a Geocode for that location for 5 minutes ago:

And I even moved around the area a bit and tagged again a few minutes later:

I will share with the developer how I did this and nobody else, if they are interested in the methods I used. It was not that difficult and involved no coding and a rooted android device with a kernel patch.

I chose an impossible location to show that it is not impossible to fool the application. I did not even try to hide the source IP address used that is in the USA. Sanity checking as to the next IP address in the same city would be worthless in a real life situation.
I've known John for over 10 years. He is a combo of cool/geek in person, but mostly a really cool dude. He has an amazing heart. He's just a genuine gem.
JacobJ : Right on! Stillearning did a great job with this interview. She did her homework on us AND shoppers who work on our platforms, showed deep understanding of the subject matter and asked a good mix of tough critical questions, technical questions, business questions and human interest questions. We wish all reporters had the same mix of expertise, curiosity and fairness.

SoCalMama: Gonna put your quote on a T shirt to prove to my kids that there's some cool to go with the geek - thanks!!
What an awesome interview! @stilllearning was right ~ this was anything but a (yawn). smiling smiley

She obviously put a lot of time and effort into researching the company, it's founders, and their products to come up with the ideal set of questions. I loved the variety and depth of her perceptive questions, and it made for a very entertaining and informative read.

Highlighting the back story of the founders and how they started SurfMerchants was perfect ~ interesting and inspiring... how they took their smarts, skills, and creativity; recalculated their overall strategy and persevered; to start down an entirely new and different track to create a solid and successful company. It was especially interesting to find out how they almost 'accidentally' became major players in the mystery shopping industry, and how they developed their strategy to succeed in that industry.

I especially liked that @stilllearning explored the company's operating philosophy ~ proof that you *can* have fun and succeed at the same time. In fact, I think the 'fun' part probably has as much to do with the company's success as anything else! Also, illustrating how the company genuinely values their employees as individuals, puts together a team of not only brilliant and innovative but likable and reasonable people, and recognizes that everyone's ideas have merit regardless of their 'status' within the company. Plus, that a company can compensate their employees well ~ and still be so successful and profitable. (The opposite of what too many companies sadly seem to believe.)

Personally, I also enjoyed the look 'behind the curtain' @stilllearning got out of Mr. Hsu, at how the software we all use all the time came to be. How SASSIE ~ my favorite reporting platform for all the reasons pointed out in the article ~ came into being, and how it was revamped to be fluid and customizable, yet maintain a level of consistency between MSCs. (I'd actually noticed and wondered about that!) The part about the conception and implementation of Presto Insta-Shops was particularly fascinating ~ just a couple astute questions gave us a wealth of information about the background and future of this incredible (and wildly popular) piece of software. Plus it was interesting to know a little more behind-the-scenes information about the sometimes enigmatic GeoVerify app.

@stilllearning also asked several apt questions about what the company is doing to address shoppers' issues with all three pieces of software... and it's good to know that the company takes these concerns seriously and has (or is) already responding to some of them ~ and figuring out how to, and working on, responding to the rest. smiling smiley (Although the company didn't address the GeoVerify inaccuracy issue to my full satisfaction.)

@stilllearning always brings us the most interesting and entertaining articles and interviews, but I agree that she hit it out of the park with this one. She did an exceptional job of showing us there are real (and intriguing!) people on the other side of the software!

Happiness is merely life's way of keeping you off-balance.
Why thank you for all of your kind words and I agree it was one of the best interviews I’ve done, however we all know that an interview is a collaborative effort. The quality of the final product rests largely on the subject matter and the candidness of the interviewee. With SurfMerchants as the subject and John Hsu as the interviewee, it was like striking gold….twice. I couldn’t miss. smiling smiley


I intend to live forever. So far, so good.
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login