group of people sitting around a conference table
At PureSpectrum, innovation is not just a buzzword; it’s one of our cornerstones. We foster an environment where ideas are not only welcomed but encouraged. Let’s take a peek into one such feature innovation – the IR Generator, a tool designed by our very own William Van Heusen to streamline and expedite finding the feasibility of a project on the PureSpectrum Marketplace platform.  

How did your journey at PureSpectrum start?

I started in operations, and I really feel like that gave me a good foundation for being a salesperson, having an understanding of the day-to-day work and how we deliver projects. I think that’s a really important perspective to have as a salesperson because it just makes it a lot easier for me to understand what our clients are looking for.

What gave you the idea to build the new IR Generator feature? What use case did you have in mind?

AI emerged in our industry in early 2023, and I did know right away that we (PureSpectrum) needed to be a front-runner. We needed to be because it’s ultimately going to define the next phase of the industry. The next generation of research is going to be entirely influenced by AI. So we need to be utilizing it, understanding it, and thinking of ways to incorporate it into our products.

At the beginning of this year, I realized that everybody’s talking about generative AI and the applications, and about the ways that it’s going to make our lives easier. So I just kind of put that lens on the work that I do on a day-to-day basis and thought about what things I’m doing now that could be automated or if not automated, could at least be streamlined. And at the end of the day, a lot of incidence finding is what we call desk research. It just seemed like a natural place to try and see how AI works, and I’ve been super impressed with the results that it’s able to generate.

Once the tool was built did you start showing it to clients right away or during your sales pitches?

I didn’t show it to any clients until I was in Austin, TX at IIEX NA, which was in May 2023. My boss encouraged me to show it to clients, and at that conference, every single person who was on stage was talking about AI, ChatGPT, and generative AI. It was the buzzword of the entire conference. Initially, I was a little shy at first to share the tool with people, because I thought I was just going to be another one of these people who just won’t stop talking about AI. What finally gave me the confidence was I’d actually built something using it rather than just talking about the potential effects of it. I feel like clients were more receptive to seeing something that somebody actually built and who uses it, rather than like, AI is so scary and has no other context.

How does the tool work?

Using IR Generator to find out an estimate of your project’s feasibility will spit out an incidence rate in seconds, rather than minutes, so it is a great time saver. It’s just such a faster way to find an estimate, but I think it’s important to remember that it’s just an estimate, as this technology is very nascent.

The IR generator is a great starting point tool when you need to spit something out quickly. That is when I use IR Generator. And for me personally, when I’m doing bids, I usually incorporate it into my process where there are a lot of different ways to estimate an incidence rate, so it is definitely part of my toolbox. The PureSpectrum Marketplace will also tell you in real-time what your actual incidence rate is, so you can always make adjustments to your fielding strategy based on what you’re seeing live in the field. Our platform is always calculating the most recent incidence rate.

Do any competitors have similar feature/tool?

I’ve not heard of anybody having a tool like IR Generator. From chatting with people in the industry, I don’t know of anybody who’s used ChatGPT for feasibility purposes. I definitely have heard people using it for other research applications, like generating a questionnaire. There’s obviously the entire conversation around synthetic data going on, but regarding incidence rate, I have not heard anybody else using a tool like IR Generator.

What are your thoughts on the future of helping create these new forward-thinking tools, and do you have any other ideas in the pipeline?

There are certainly other tools out there that people could identify that utilize generative AI. However, at the moment I’ve been busy selling and gearing up for our busiest time of year, Q4. But also, I very much want to connect with the product team and understand how we can make IR Generator even better, more accurate, more reliable, and how to iterate on it. Ultimately make the tool into something we’re really confident in and proud of.

Also, I think it’s about empowering the team to be innovative, and that they too can build a tool like this. Literally, I did this just by talking to a chatbot, so if I can do it anybody can.

How do you feel about the future of AI in our industry?

Complicated. There’s a lot to unpack there. It’s going to be an arms race, both in terms of firms integrating it with their products in a way that delivers value to the customer. There’s an arms race on the quality side, which I think everybody is pretty aware of. There’s a lot. It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens, and I don’t want to feed the flames of people saying it’s like an existential threat. However, I don’t believe it’s the next existential threat, but it’s going to cause disruption, and we’re going to have to adapt.

What inspires you?

Food inspires me. Whether it’s steak and lobster or a fried chicken sandwich.  I love cooking for my friends and family too. Nothing is as relaxing or as rewarding to me as filling up a table for all my friends and family to eat. And the late chef Anthony Bourdain is someone that I’m very fascinated by.  I definitely have my ethos around food coming from him:  If someone’s offering it to you to eat, you got to eat it. Someone put hard work into that! 

Recently in Italy on our Honeymoon, my wife and I went to this upscale Italian restaurant. Keep in mind I hate mushrooms, which is crazy, I know. I’m totally a foodie, but not when it comes to mushrooms. At this restaurant in the hills over Florence, the waiter took away our menu, and said, no, the chef is just going to bring you food. You don’t get to order. I was like, okay, cool. That was going great until he brought out the first course. It was a risotto appetizer with Porcini mushrooms and I looked at it and I was like, oh no, I have to eat that. I can’t not eat that. My wife was a total trooper too as she doesn’t love mushrooms either, but is not as grossed out by them as I am. So, I had one of them and she ate the rest, we were a good team on that. I was like, I can’t send this plate back with food on it. 

What’s one thing you’re really good at cooking?

Honestly, it’s so cliche, but I’ve honed in my spaghetti bolognese and I even make the noodles from scratch too.

What is the best part of working for PureSpectrum?

Really it’s just the company itself, they make it feel like employees matter. I feel like that’s really rare these days to have a company that makes the employees feel valued in terms of being taken care of. At the end of the day all companies exist for a business purpose and the business purpose isn’t to take care of employees, but the good companies do that anyway. It comes from the top too. It’s cool working for people that I see as the absolute leaders of our industry. Like Michael McCrary, Mark Menig, and our APAC team. Those guys are absolute rock stars. I don’t get to work with them often, but I know because clients tell me, that those guys are the best in the business.

About PureSpectrum 

PureSpectrum offers a complete end-to-end market research and insights platform, helping insights professionals make decisions more efficiently, and faster than ever before. Awarded MR Supplier of the Year at the 2021 Marketing Research and Insight Excellence Awards, PureSpectrum is recognized for industry-leading data quality. PureSpectrum developed the respondent-level scoring system,  PureScore™, and believes their continued success stems from their talent density and dedication to simplicity and quality. In the few years since its inception, PureSpectrum has been named one of the Fastest Growing Companies in North America on Deloitte’s Fast 500 since 2020, and ranked for three years in a row on the GRIT Top 50 Most Innovative List and the Inc. 5000 lists.