Quora, the question-and-answer site that has become the new obsessive past-time of Silicon Valley insiders, raised $11 million in a round led by Benchmark Capital, according to TechCrunch. The company’s co-founders, Adam D’Angelo, who was Facebook’s chief technology officer and Charlie Cheever, who was another early Facebook engineer, also invested. D’Angelo confirmed the round through Quora, but didn’t disclose the size. We have a Q&A with the pair here.
Matt Cohler, another early Facebook executive, joins the board from Benchmark. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch says sources are telling him Quora’s valuation is $86 million. The round marks yet another success for startups from former Facebook employees. Benchmark also backed Asana, the productivity startup from Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz.
Although there are plenty of wildly different takes on the question-and-answer idea out there like Yahoo! Answers, Hunch, Formspring and Aardvark, what makes Quora unique is its elegant community design. I’m not necessarily referring to the visual appearance of the site, although that’s very clean too. It’s the subtle incentives that Quora has built in to lure out the highest quality responses to a question.
For example, the default is not to answer a question anonymously. Having your identity out there makes you more accountable for the answers you give. Plenty of Quora’s users understand that others are judging them by the thoughtfulness of their responses. And because Quora takes the asynchronous ‘following’ model popularized by Twitter, great users can attract huge followings of people.
Another incentive is that there are voting features to push strong responses higher in the answer ranking and bury ones that are weak. When you add questions, auto-suggest will show you other similar ones. That discourages duplicate questions. There’s also a ‘Merge’ feature for topics and questions that works as another backstop for repetitive content.
The team has also been extremely careful about scaling the product to make sure that community members understand the tone of discussion. That’s why they haven’t opened it up to the public. They’re using an invite strategy, akin to how Gmail slowly rolled out to people.
So for now, Quora’s content is mostly insider talk about entrepreneurship, business strategy and technical approaches. We’ll be watching how it evolves as it grows up.
Tags: answers, questions
Companies: Benchmark Capital, quora